Jim Ratts, co-founder of the group Runaway Express, promises the Jan. 7 show won’t be a typical album release party. While the show celebrates the …
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Jim Ratts, co-founder of the group Runaway Express, promises the
Jan. 7 show won’t be a typical album release party.
While the show celebrates the anniversary of the release of
“Yeah, Buddy” album that was a tribute to Buddy Holly and the
release of the new, remixed version of the album, he said the play
list won’t be all Buddy Holly music.
“Yes, there will be some Buddy Holly songs,” Ratts said. “But
that won’t be all we play, because we are going to have a lot of
fun too, as we do at all Runaway Express shows. We will play some
country, up-tempo bluegrass and a little classic rock and roll.
That is all music we draw with from the 25-year history of the
band, and includes some cuts from the ‘Howlin’ at the Moon’ album
and the ‘Woodstock’ album and some original music, too. Since the
next day is Elvis Presley’s birthday, we’ll just have to include
some tributes to the king. Of course, we’ll try to do as many of
the requests as we can fit into the show.”
The Runaway Express album-release celebration will be at 8 p.m.
Jan. 7 at Swallow Hill, 71 E. Yale Ave. For information or tickets,
Ratts and his wife, Salli, are leaders of the seven-member group
that has been among the most popular local bands for the last
“We boast we have a repertoire of more than 2,000 songs, so we
have a lot to chose from,” Ratts said as he talked about building
the play list for a show. “I always try to build a play list for a
show that includes some original songs we always want to include, a
lot of the audience favorites plus one or two songs most people
have never heard us do.”
He notes the group is made up of outstanding musicians so he
arranges the play list to make sure there are plenty of
opportunities to showcase the individual talents of each of the
members of the band.
While the Jan. 7 is celebrating the 10th anniversary of “Yeah,
Buddy,” Ratts said this latest version isn’t really the same
“You may recognize some of the songs and even some of the
arrangement but this is very new and every cut is significantly
better,” he said.
Ratts said this party marks the culmination of more than a
year’s work to make all the music on “Yeah, Buddy” even better.
“Ten years ago, I was working with analog tape with only eight
tracks,” he explained. “I recorded eight tracks and then did what
is called a sub-mix, transferring all eight tracks from one tape
onto two tracks on a second, blank tape. Then I recorded the
remainder of the material on the remaining six tracks on that
second tape. At that time, I felt we had a very good album.”
However, he said ever since he graduated to using digital
equipment for recording, he dreamed of redoing “Yeah, Buddy.”
“I finally decided to tackle the project, and it proved to be
beautifully time consuming but I loved every minute of it,” he said
with a smile. “Basically, I redefined each of the tracks on the
digital equipment. Then I balanced and timed each track to flow
will all the other tracks as I readdressed every cut. I added drums
and some vocal parts so we have a new, more elaborate presentation
of great music.”
He added that, just like the music on the album, the album cover
had been redone to create what he calls, “an eye-popping
Jim and Salli both grew up in families where music was part of
their lives almost from the time of their births. Both pursued
music and formed a bond on and off the stage, as in addition to
being co-founders of Runaway Express, they are husband and
Musically, Jim had some success in the early 1990s as he joined
forces with Jim Ibbotson of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Jim
Salestrom as they formed the group the Wild Jimbos.
“We had a lot of fun and we had some success as the Jimbos,”
Ratts said. “Our biggest single, ‘Let’s Talk Dirty in Hawaiian’ did
well for us in the early ’90s.”
Ratts also started writing music early in his career.
“I guess when someone is as fanatical about playing music as I
am, it follows logically that I would want to incorporate my own
ideas into the tunes,” he said.
His music has been recorded by the Kingston Trio, the
Limelighters and the Dillards.
One of his most recent successes was the title tune of a recent
Runaway Express album, “Howlin’ at the Moon.” Ratts wrote the song
in collaboration with John McEuen a number of years ago and decided
to use it again on the 2009 album.
Well-known bluegrass musician Sam Bush recorded the song and
made it a single release that went to the top of the bluegrass
One of the results of the song’s success is Ratts has began
corresponding with individuals who program radio stations all over
“Our music, including cuts from ‘Yeah, Buddy’ and ‘Howlin’ at
the Moon’ are getting air play in Europe, New Zealand and even in
Japan,” Ratts said. “I find it amazing that, in the Dutch lowlands
‘Howlin’ at the Moon’ was recently album of the week.”
His work also has been recognized in this country. He and the
group have been invited to the tribute in Amarillo, Texas, the
hometown of Buddy Holly, and were guest celebrities earlier this
year at the Kingston Trio’s fantasy camp.
“In February, we have been invited to the three-day celebration
at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. That was the location of
the last Buddy Holly performance before the plane crash that
claimed his life,” Ratts said. “It is a big deal with a long list
of guest performers. I think it is going to be a blast and I’m
looking forward to it.”
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