From Mike's daughters on FB yesterday...
Sarah and I said goodbye to our dad today.
He suffered a massive stroke on Monday and was sent to the wonderful hospice care at Hock Family Pavilion in Durham, NC on Wednesday. He passed quietly this evening, with both his daughters by his side.
He was the most reckless, fun loving, fearless, and hilarious person I have ever known. We miss you Dad.
Edited by - banjobart on 06/26/2021 17:11:43
Sad news, rest in peace...
Yes, sorry to hear this news. I understand from the anecdotes that he faced some trouble and adversity. My own experience is that he made some very fine instruments. I am grateful to own two of them. KIP -- keep on pickin', Mr. Ramsey!
Condolences to his family and friends. I have owned two of his banjos and thought they were fine instruments.
I am very sorry to hear this and send my sympathy to his family. Mike Ramsey made a good banjo.
I love Mike Ramsey. I met him accidentally at The City Tap in Pittsboro, North Carolina a few days after I missed my ride back north. He invited me to his shop and showed me all the banjos he was working on along with all the motorcycles he was working on. Banjos upstairs, Motorcycles downstairs. I can still see the rims outside drying in the sun.
I didn't have a banjo at the time so he agreed to make me one. I didn't have any money either. He told me not to worry, that he would make me one cheap and that he had an idea about how I could make some money. The next day I stopped in and there was this guy with Mike in the shop who happened to be a traveling Buddhist with a keen interest in banjos. He had already made one with Mike and was working on his second. The only thing was the guy didn't know how to play. I hung out all afternoon and played his banjo while they were working and Mike suggested that I give the guy lessons. So for the next month, every morning, I gave this guy banjo lessons and by the end of the month Mike had built me a new banjo. It turned out to be an even swap. Mike got a big chuckle out of the whole thing.
I had hoped I would get a chance to hang out with him again. I can still hear him in the corner shufflin' and scratchin' at his fiddle while I played one of his banjos. I can still hear his laugh too...but now he is like Saturn, somewhere up in space, celebrating Saturnalia:
drunk with delight & forever overturning social norms...
So sorry to hear this --he made beautiful banjos
Mike Ramsey touched many more people than he realized through his banjos and workshops. His daughters' words are a fitting tribute.
HERMES , thank you for your story as well. Inspiring.
This guy was amazing. Mike wanted to be remembered as the Johnny Appleseed of banjo builders. He made an enormous contribution to banjo players and our traditional music community. I can still see his smirk at commenting on how he hated cleaning up his shop. He had a quick wit and a great laugh. I miss him already. Rest in peace, friend.
Thanks Bart. Mike had made a bacon resonator pot as a prototype for you when you lost your source in the 1990's. Since it was a prototype it was black. Mike and I got to talking and we ended up a banjo we called Black Bart in your honor. I just re-fretted it with Evo Gold frets. It is a great sounding banjo. I had not spoken to Mike in a long time but had been in touch with his sister. May he find peace at last.
I remember when Mike’s banjos were THE hot ticket. The ink wasn’t dry on most of the ads for them, back then, before they were sold.
I had a ‘Student’ model of his for a few years, and it was nice and had that great sound to it that made his banjos so popular.
I remember once at a NW banjo camp many moons ago a lady sat down a couple chairs away in a class I was taking and got her banjo out. When she began to play it I asked her if it was a Ramsey based on the way it sounded to me. She held it up so I could see it and said ‘yes’ and told me she loved it.
I spoke to him once on the phone when he did a little repair on mine, and he asked me if I thought the Student model was a great value in a banjo for the money spent. I had to agree with him. I had been a happy camper.
Rest In Peace.
Beautiful stories about a beautiful human! It's always sad to lose a great luthier and craftsman. There are too few in the world overall.... my deepest condolences to his friends and family.
I was very sad to hear this.
I owned one of his banjos for a time, and have encountered many more. They were all lovely, and I'm sure will bring joy to many for years to come.
He helped carry the torch of his trade. I hope he was (and maybe still is) proud to see that it still burns.
My thoughts go out to his family.
The Maple Special (#141) Mike made for me way back in '96 is one of my prized possessions.
Mike was a great craftsman and a great person. His banjos have, and will stand the test of time
as some of the greatest openback banjos of our era. My favorites were always his thin rim, rolled
brass tone-ring models. You couldn't get more banjo for the buck, and his craftsmanship and artistic
talents were peerless. I count myself lucky to have one of his instruments.
Condolences to Mike's family.
Rest in Peace, Mike.
You'll be missed and fondly remembered.
I met Mike about five years ago after I had purchased one of his Standard models on the Banjo Hangout. I was new to banjos and Oldtime music and fell in love with the dragon inlay Mike had placed on the peg head. The banjo turned out to be just what I was hoping to find. I called Mike with a few questions about the banjo and during our conversation discovered that we both shared interests in banjos and wine making. Being a second career retired winemaker, Mike and I made wine together one year. He also made be a 12 inch Woody model banjo with a wine glass and other inlays that I requested. Both these banjos are outstanding instruments and I play them frequently. Mike was a great craftsman that made me two wonderful banjos and many super memories I will fondly recall. Rest In Peace Mike, I will drink to you and play your banjos.
Bought my first Ramsey banjo directly from Mike in 1996, a simple fretless. I've owned several more over the years, and all were fine instruments. My condolences to Mike's family and close friends.
I somehow imprinted like a baby duckling on the banjos of Bart Reiter, Mike Ramsey, and Chuck Lee, and have more than one adored example by each, including shuttlecrafts to the stars built by Mike Ramsey. RIP.
Edited by - ceemonster on 06/29/2021 17:39:13
My Ramsey was the first good banjo I bought, from a distance of 4000 miles, on the basis of some browsing of websites, pictures on the Elderly website and the very few interviews Craig frailin Evans had at the time issued on his N American banjo builders DVD series. 9 years on and I've never regretted it for an instant. I'm sorry for the troubles he had in his latter years, but thanks for my banjo Mike.
I've owned a Fairbanks Electric and a Woody. Still have the Woody, wish I still had the Electric. Both are gorgeous tone machines. RIP Mike.
I've said it in the past, but I think repeating myself at this particular time is especially appropriate:
Craig, thank you so much for your banjo builders series (that includes a spot about Mike). At times
like this, it is very evident what an important piece of work you've done.
Because of you, folks who never had the opportunity to meet Mike and all of the others can get to know them
a bit, and your skill at interviewing, and making them feel comfortable talking to someone (you) who is obviously a friend and admirer,
set them at ease, and encouraged their personalities shine forth.
Your piece on Mike will last, and he'll live on even in the memories of folks who never had the privilege and the pleasure of meeting him.
Bless you. You've given an invaluable gift to those of us who were lucky enough to be included in your work, and to everyone who loves the banjo, and will see your documentary. Ultimately, you've provided Mike with one of the best and most appropriate memorials he could have.
Edited by - R.D. Lunceford on 07/04/2021 16:18:43
Farewell to an Old Time Character and a Banjo Building Genius: Mike Ramsey
Great article! Thanks Malcolm!
Yeah that's the Mike I knew and played music with and schemed banjo ideas with. He told me that the last thing first wife Patty did before their divorce was inlay the Chubby Dragon on Black Bart, the Bacon banjo we designed together. I was a bit wilder then, but never Mike wild. That banjo still get;s played regularly and I can't help but think of Mike then.
There's a near-mint Ramsey Bacon just up in the BH classifieds. I love this model, tone-wise and cosmetics-wise.
This might be a good juncture to savor again this classic from the Reiter Banjos site . . . Well, I could't understand how to get it pasted or inserted onto this reply. But it's at the photo page. You know the one I mean:
Edited by - ceemonster on 07/29/2021 23:39:05
I am sad to hear of Mike's passing. I'm so glad i was able to meet him several times- once when I was very new to OT music, at Mount Airy fest- and got a 'mini tour' from mike. I was in awe! What an amazing and creative human, so full of crazy life and wonderful viewpoints.
I still have my very first banjo I ever had, made for me by Mike in 1998. I still play it and it's one of my favorites, 11" pot with mahogany neck and the griffon inlay, and that great narrow brass tone ring. It's my first (and lasting) banjo love. Probably my most personally cherished banjo.
Later I had two more custom 12" 'sister' banjos made- one with a nickel fretless overlay. We called them the "Hog Sisters" because of the medieval animal pearl inlays I designed and had Mike execute. Fantastic pair of banjos. I still treasure my three Ramseys... and I so treasure my memories of meeting Mike.
Mike had profound influence on the OT and banjo world, and touched many more lives in magical ways than anyone could know.
Rest in peace, amazing banjo man Mike Ramsey.
'Keith D Tuners' 9 min
'Hardwick Banjo' 1 hr
'Mystery tone ring' 2 hrs
'Cheat a Keys' 4 hrs