DRAMTREEO (dram-TREE-oh) is an acoustic folk group based in Norfolk, Virginia, featuring the traditional music of North America, the British isles, and the seven seas, in an eclectic mixture of songs that reflect the joys and sorrows, the hard work and hard luck, the high spirits and low humor of ordinary people around the world.
THE NAME: Dramtreeo was named for the historic "Dram Tree" in the harbor at Edenton, North Carolina, where eighteenth-century sailors kept a cask of rum available for good-luck rations of a dram per man before outbound voyages. The inbound vessels would refill the cask and keep the tradition going.
HISTORY: Dramtreeo was formed in the fall of 1981, by Dave Walker, Meade Stith, and Bruce Lea. Jerry Cronin joined in 1982, but Bruce left for Philadelphia soon afterward. The band began playing regularly at Kelly's Tavern, at first with a sideman named Barry "Buffet" Bloom sitting in on bass; but in the summer of 1982, Meade's neighbor, Chip Vogan (who had originally suggested the band's name) came in to play guitar, and Dave took over the bass part. In that configuration, Dramtreeo began to develop its distinctive four-part harmony singing style. The next year, Dave quit the group to form "Now and Then". Marty Sachs stepped in to play the bass, but had been with the group only a year when his life was cut short by cancer. With the accession of Carlton Lillard, who replaced Marty on bass, the band assumed the configuration it would keep for nearly the next ten years. In 1992, ear trouble forced Meade to hang up his picks and take emeritus status. The group called on fiddler Andy Cleveland, to fill the gaping hole left by the loss of Meade's masterful banjo, and newcomer Jim Crutchfield came in to replace his tenor voice.
From July of 1982 through May of 1983 Dramtreeo was the featured group on weekends at Kelly's Tavern in the swinging Ghent section of Norfolk. In June of 1983, Dramtreeo was selected to play at Reggie's British Pub for the grand opening of Norfolk's Waterside Festival Marketplace. From that performance, Dramtreeo went on to become the unofficial house band at Reggie's, playing there nearly every month for fourteen years. Over the years, an increasingly busy schedule of festivals, concerts, and other appearances has forced the band to cut down on "pub gigs", but they still preside over special occasions at Reggie's, including St. Patrick's Day and Reggie's "Grand Losers' Party" on the fourth of July.
HONORS & AWARDS: Dramtreeo was recognized by PortFolio magazine in 1984 and 1987 as the best folk group in the Norfolk area. In the 1986 "Best of Hampton Roads" issue, PortFolio called Reggie's British Pub the "Best Sing-a-long Bar, when the Dramtreeo is playing their interesting mix of Kingston Trio, Irish, colonial, folk and bluegrass numbers. Rousing, honest, authentic." The group has also received a "Salute to Excellence" from the Governor of Maryland for its contributions to "Bay Folk", an album released by the State of Maryland in 1991 to benefit the Chesapeake Bay, featuring a variety of musicians including Mary Chapin Carpenter and Tom Paxton. Dramtreeo's second album, "Waterside", was selected as a "Top-Ten Music Americana" album in 1987. "Waterside" was also charted as high as #16 by the Canadian magazine OFFBEAT.
NOTABLE PERFORMANCES: In addition to regular appearances at Reggie's British Pub in Norfolk's Waterside and the White Horse Pub in Virginia Beach, Dramtreeo has been featured at the "Anheuser-Busch Classic" in Williamsburg, Va., on the PGA tour; the Third Annual World Folk Music Association Benefit Concert with former members of the Kingston Trio; with Jonathan Edwards at Maryland Hall in Annapolis, Md.; with Robin and Linda Williams at Willett Hall in Portsmouth, Va; with Tom Paxton at Town Point Park in Norfolk, Va; The Birchmere in Washington, DC, The Gold Hill Lodge in Gold Hill, CO; with the Kingston Trio in Newport News, Va.; and other public and private events across the continent.
FESTIVALS: Dramtreeo's festival appearances have included the Roots of American Folk Song series at New York's Lincoln Center; Harborfest, Norfolk, Va.; the Norfolk Family Folk Festival; the Norfolk Boat Show; the Rebel Marine Crab Regatta and Fest in Norfolk; Hampton (Va.) Bay Days; the Newport News (Va.) Fall Festival; the Newport News Centennial Celebration; the McLean (Va.) Folk Arts Festival; Williamsburg (Va.) First Night; the Chowan County (N.C.) Arts Festival; the Chesapeake Bay Folk Heritage Festival, Annapolis, Md.; the Blessing of the Fleet, also in Annapolis; Annapolis First Night; the Easton (Md.) Waterfowl Festival; and the New Jersey Sea Songs Festival at Camden.
BROADCAST APPEARANCES: The group has appeared several times on WHRO-TV and WHRV-FM public television and radio programs. Taped portions of their performances at Ireland's Four Provinces and The Birchmere have been aired on Dick Cerri's "Showcase Americana" for WLTT-FM in Washington D.C.