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Ramseur Records triples up, loses a headliner

by Carole Perkins

Dolphus Ramseur, head of Ramseur Records in Concord, NC has hit the trifecta with the July 22 release of the Avett Brothers new EP, The Second Gleam, along with Samantha Crain & the Midnight Shivers’ first EP, The Confiscation, and Sammy Walker’s album, Misfit Scarecrow.

Ramseur is a prospector of bands, mining his claims with extremely fertile hands, picking gold from crevices with knives and spoons, picks and shovels.

He discovered the bedrock band of Ramseur Records, the Avett Brothers, playing an outdoor gig in their hometown of Concord, a serendipitous meeting that shifted the plate tectonics of his company.

“I knew the Avett Brothers had something special,” he says. “I felt we could help each other out.”

Ramseur’s path from milltown to goldmine began when an early talent for tennis lowered the moat and opened the castle door for this young man whose parents were the first of three generations to escape the drudgery of mill work.

Traveling the world in the 1970s as a one-time junior tennis champion, he visited every record store he could, collecting music and developing relationships with the people who worked there.

A big fan of ’70s and ’80s post-punk music, his fascination led to a fortuitous meeting with English singer/songwriter Martin Stephenson who was interested in artists from North Carolina such as Doc Watson and Charlie Poole.

Stephenson visited Ramseur in Concord, recording with North Carolina musicians such as Sammy Walker and Etta Baker, spawning a hobby that became Ramseur Records in 2000 with their first release, a spiritual collection by Charlotte-based songwriter David Childers.

Sadly, the death of Ramseur’s father-in-law, with whom he’d been working, coincided with the Avett Brothers first release, A Carolina Jubilee.

He decided to make Ramseur Records his full-time career. Taking out a $15,000 line of credit, he knew he had to “sink or swim.”

“I was doing it all,” he says” I was putting out the records, booking all the shows and moving furniture on the side just to put food on the table.

“One day Scott Avett called me on the phone while I was moving furniture. He could hear me huffing and puffing. I had to confess that I was doing it just to make ends meet.

“Scott said something like, ‘Well now I’m fired up! We’ll all keep working hard and we’ll make it.’ He put a lot of faith in me.”

Ramseur and the Avett Brothers struck gold when they were selected to play at Merlefest in 2004.

“I knew if I could get them to the festival people would remember three words” The Avett Brothers.

“I like bands that are honest and real, with songs people can connect with,” he says. “If something sort of touches me or moves me, I want to share it with others. If they want to bark in a trashcan, we’ll put it out. I trust them to put it out and they do.”

Ramseur Records is unique in the rapprochement it founder has created with his bands and with the people he works with whose lucky heads have been knighted by Ramseur’s own Excalibur.

“My label hasn’t been as lucrative as some but I’m in a great position of surrounding myself with people I really like and want to be around,” he says. “Sadly, a lot of people work with people they don’t really like all of their lives, never seeing their families. I’m in a good position to be with people I really want to be with.”

Ramseur and his wife Dana’s two young sons help Dolphus out during the day, whistling to tunes like “Traipsing through the Aisles,” by Samantha Crain, the newest and youngest member of the Ramseur Records family.

“I trust their ears better than mine,” Dolph says. “Kids can usually cut to the core and spot something good.”

His eyes widen as he describes the anticipation of Ramseur Records three new releases in July.

“All three projects are special because they’re so different in nature, but are all heartfelt music. Sammy Walker is a forgotten folk singer; Samantha Crain is young and hungry; and the Avett Brothers have kept the ball rolling.”

Ramseur says that although the success of the Avett Brothers has “been a plus, we still conduct business the same Ramseur way by winning over one fan at a time.”

Ramseur Records will continue to manage the Avett Brothers and is supportive of their decision to sign with American/Columbia Records.

“We are much honored to be joining the team over at American/Columbia,” he says. “With Rick Rubin producing, I feel that we have found a great home for the guys in which they can expand on their artistic creativity. With the Avett Brothers and Ramseur Records, it has always been and will always be about the art. We have never put our billfolds in front of the artistic vision that we have shared. We are very lucky to have someone like Rick who also wants to share in this vision and help with his vast knowledge and experience.”

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