Bill Christophersen and I formed the Manhattan Valley Ramblers in late 2006. Kristin and I were living at the corner of Broadway and West 103rd at the time so the name fit well with our location. Bill and I played our first gig as part of Make Music New York in the festival’s inaugural year, 2007.
Guitarist, singer and bandleader Danny Weiss introduced me to Bill. Kristin and I hired Danny along with Bob Green and Larry Cohen to play music at our wedding reception. As the festivities were concluding, I mentioned to Danny my search for a duo partner on the Upper West Side, who could sing and play fiddle. Without hesitating he said, “Bill Christophersen.” I said, “Who?” He said, “Bill Christophersen. When you and Kristin get back from your honeymoon, email me and I will send you his name and phone number.” I met Bill for tea at the Hungarian Pastry Shop a few months later and within a couple of months we were playing together weekly.
Bill and I started out with banjo-fiddle tunes and quickly moved into brother duets with me playing guitar. I loved (and still do) Jim and Jesse McReynolds’ version of Hazel Houser’s My Baby’s Gone. Bill had always loved the song, too. In rehearsal I watched how he moved from key to key on the fiddle in search of the right key. With his ear for harmony guiding me, I learned a tenor part on the chorus. I heard the New Lost City Ramblers’ sing Sara Carter’s Railroading on the Great Divide at Town Hall so we worked up a version. Bill continues to bring years of stored away Stanley, Louvin, Everly, Blue Sky Boys, and lesser known duets’ songs to the repertoire. His stream of fiddle tunes from old-time and bluegrass has never stopped flowing.
Our first gig of 2012 is at the Rockwood Music Hall on Sunday, January 15. The address is 196 Allen Street (just below East Houston) in Manhattan. We will do a single set from 6 PM to 6:45. There is no cover. A $5.00 per person donation is suggested. The Manhattan Valley Ramblers’ CD Ballads and Barnburners (Crusty Scone Records, 2009) as well as Bill’s old-time fiddle album, Hell and High Water, will be available for purchase.