Oh, Didn't They Ramble

Rounder Records and the Transformation of American Roots Music

By David Menconi

Foreword by Robert Plant

Oh, Didn't They Ramble

Approx. 216 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 42 halftones, bibl., index

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-7499-5
    Published: October 2023

Hardcover Available October 2023, but pre-order your copy today!

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What is American roots music? Any definition must account for a kaleidoscope of genres from bluegrass to blues, western swing to jazz, soul and gospel to rock and reggae, Cajun to Celtic. It must encompass the work of artists as diverse as Alice Gerard and Alison Krauss, George Thorogood and Sun Ra, Bela Fleck and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, the Blake Babies and Billy Strings. What do all these artists and music styles have in common? The answer is a record label born in the wake of the American folk revival and 1960s movement politics, formed around the eclectic tastes and audacious ideals of three recent college grads who lived, listened, and worked together. The answer is Rounder Records.

For more than fifty years, Rounder has been the world's leading label for folk music of all kinds. David Menconi's book is the label's definitive history, drawing on previously untapped archives and extensive interviews with artists, Rounder staff, and founders Ken Irwin, Marian Leighton Levy, and Bill Nowlin. Rounder's founders blended ingenuity and independence with serendipity and an unfailing belief in the small-d democratic power of music to connect and inspire people, forging creative partnerships that resulted in one of the most eclectic and creative catalogs in the history of recorded music. Placing Rounder in the company of similarly influential labels like Stax, Motown, and Blue Note, this story is destined to delight anyone who cares about the place of music in American culture.

About the Author

The 2019 North Carolina Piedmont Laureate, David Menconi was a staff writer at the Raleigh News & Observer for 28 years. He has also written for Rolling Stone, Billboard, Spin and New York Times.

For more information about David Menconi, visit the Author Page.


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

"Balancing a determination to document the label's history, warts and all, with a loving appreciation of the music and the label's founders who facilitated it, Menconi charts the path Rounder followed from an 'antiprofit collective' into a cultural juggernaut. A masterful depiction of the indie label business and the roots music culture of the last fifty years."—Danny Goldberg, author of Serving the Servant: Remembering Kurt Cobain