“Oh, Didn’t They Ramble”

“Oh, Didn’t They Ramble: Rounder Records and the Transformation of American Roots Music” – a history of the legendary folk label Rounder Records. Available Fall 2023, published by University of North Carolina Press.

Available for pre-order from bookshop.org, amazon.com and bn.com.

Readings, Events & Appearances

° Tuesday, Oct. 17 (7 p.m.) — Quail Ridge Books (Raleigh, North Carolina)

Testimonials & Reviews

Rounder Records made me, and vice-y verse-y.
— George Thorogood
, Rounder Records artist

Long one of my favorite music writers, David Menconi has blessed us with a wonderful yarn about the most unlikely of success stories imaginable. Rounder Records has long been the tiny label that somehow could and did. They were ahead of their times in almost every imaginable way and succeeded by going against every grain and trend. An excellent book and a blast to read.
— Patterson Hood, writer, performer and co-founder, Drive-By Truckers

The Rounders felt a calling to share what they loved and ended up making history while trying to preserve it. The sheltered sounds of traditional American roots music have gratefully been amplified by Rounder’s passion for sharing the good news. This was their business of music…The story of Rounder Records has been well and fully told in this fine book revealing a mission of the heart.
— Alison Krauss, Rounder Records artist

In the early 1970s, long before “Americana” was a Grammy category, Rounder Records created a culture that revolved around bluegrass, string-band music, blues, and protest songs. Rounder’s catalog eventually ranged from field recordings in the Alan Lomax archive to the multi-platinum collaboration of Alison Krauss and Robert Plant. Balancing a determination to document the indie record label warts and all, with a loving appreciation of the music and the label’s founders who facilitated it, David Menconi charts Rounder’s path as it evolved from an “anti-profit collective” into a cultural juggernaut. “Oh, Didn’t They Ramble,” is a masterful depiction of the indie label business and the roots musical culture of the last fifty years.
— Danny Goldberg, longtime record executive and author of “Serving the Servant: Remembering Kurt Cobain” and “Bumping Into Geniuses

What a thrill and a treat to read about the origins and utopian scheming behind this great record label. Dreamed up by anarchists, seed-funded by eczema disability payments, and proudly self-described as an “anti-profit collective,” Rounder Records became the home for what we now call Americana music. David Menconi’s “Oh, Didn’t They Ramble” captures this astonishing achievement in all its unlikely glory. From their muddy beginnings bridging the “marijuana-versus-moonshine divide” at 1970s folk festivals, the three Rounder founders built a veritable empire on their own terms, one that remained independent even as their artists performed on Saturday Night Live and won nearly 60 Grammys. If you cherish roots music, you owe Rounder a round. Menconi’s book is an occasion to lift a glass.
— John Lingan, author of “A Song for Everyone: The Story of Creedence Clearwater Revival”

David Menconi’s exhaustive take on the history of the legendary Rounder record label also stands as a succinct summary of the music industry in general over the last half-century. The “Rounder founders” successfully found a way to honor what came before while introducing a new generation to the best roots music has to offer, all the while unwittingly helping to create what some now call Americana. Menconi does a masterful job crafting a complex narrative into a thoroughly entertaining, and dare I say, even emotional, read.
— Michael Elliott, author of “Have A Little Faith: The John Hiatt Story”

Rounder Records is arguably the most successful, influential, and adventurous independent record label of the 20th century, and Menconi tells its story vividly and thoughtfully. In addition to tracing its history from “anti-profit collective” to roots music juggernaut, he uses Rounder as a lens through which to view the history of the music business and 50 years of American pop culture. At its heart, though, “Oh, Didn’t They Ramble” is a love letter to the old-time music scene of the late ’60s and early ’70s — a counter-counterculture full of string bands and fiddlers, weirdos and outcasts, obsessive fans and of course three young radicals who wanted to make sure the music was preserved and enjoyed. Menconi writes with authority and immense enthusiasm for the music, which makes his book a must-read for fans of roots music and anyone who might want to start their own Rounder.
— Stephen Deusner, author of “Where the Devil Don’t Stay: Traveling the South with the Drive-By Truckers

Reading “Oh, Didn’t They Ramble” brought back so many thoughts of my time at Rounder. I gained a fresh perspective of the Rounder experience, including all of the good and bad bits. David’s storytelling filled in gaps in my memory and helped broaden my appreciation for what the Rounders accomplished. I often think about the great people involved in that achievement and it is a compliment to the power of the Rounders’ vision which attracted so many of us to do the best work we could. The mission and the music were the driving force, but it was the people that added the special sauce and made the company special.  
— Glenn Dicker, co-founder of Redeye Distribution/Yep Roc Records

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