Virtuosic instrumentation and ultra-smooth vocal harmonies have made the Laurel Canyon Ramblers one of the most successful groups performing tradition-rooted bluegrass. Led by banjo, guitar, and dobro player and vocalist Herb Pederson, the Laurel Canyon Ramblers represent over 100 years of bluegrass experience.
The Laurel Canyon Ramblers, named after a street in Los Angeles that crosses Hollywood Boulevard, were brought together when Pederson returned to bluegrass in 1994. The son of a policeman who was born in 1944 and raised in Berkeley, CA, Pederson had filled in for an ailing Earl Scruggs in the mid-'60s and had replaced influential banjoist Doug Dillard in the Dillards in 1968. Since leaving the Dillards in 1971, Pederson had recorded three solo albums, been a founding member of Country Gazette, and played on recordings by such artists as Linda Ronstadt, John Denver, Jerry Garcia, David Grisman, and Diana Ross. Together with Chris Hillman (the Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers), Pederson has recorded six albums with California country-rock band Desert Rose, and a duo tribute album to the early-'60s sounds of Buck Owens-style country music, Bakersfield Bound, in 1996. In addition to writing such standard bluegrass tunes as "Old Train" and "Wait a Minute," Pederson contributed to the soundtracks of films and television shows including Smokey & the Bandit, City Slickers, Maverick, The Fire Down Below, The A Team, The Rockford Files, and The Dukes of Hazzard.
The remaining members of the Laurel Canyon Ramblers have résumés nearly as impressive. Mandolin player and vocalist Kenny Blackwell, who studied with the late Jethro Burns, was a member of Richard Greene's The Grass Is Greener. Guitarist and vocalist Richard Reed, a former member of Byron Berline's Fiddle Band and Sundance, recorded with Earl Scruggs, Tony Trischka, and with his brothers, Dennis, Terry and Ronnie. Fiddler Gabe Witcher continues to be a longtime member of a family group, the Witcher Brothers. The Academy of Country Music's Bass Player of the Year in 1990, Bill Bryson was a member of Desert Rose, Country Gazette, and the Bluegrass Cardinals, and toured with Dan Fogelberg and the Doug Dillard Band. A talented songwriter, Bryson wrote several tunes for the Bluegrass Cardinals including "Riding on the L & N" and "Girl at the Crossroads," which was also covered by Larry Sparks and Jerry Garcia. The Ramblers reconvened in 1998 for Back on the Street Again. ~ Craig Harris