Willis Alan Ramsey, a singer-songwriter with deep Texas roots, released his first and only album, called Willis Alan Ramsey, in 1972 on Leon Russell’s Shelter Records label. The recording was a critical success that included “Boy From Oklahoma”, a tribute to Woody Guthrie. Jimmy Buffett and Jerry Jeff Walker, among others, covered Ramsey’s songs, but the song that became best known was a knockoff Ramsey called “Muskrat Candlelight”. Released by the pop group America, it was later recorded and retitled “Muskrat Love” by The Captain and Tennille and reached the Billboard Top 10, becoming one of the most popular songs of our time. Ramsey eventually left both Shelter Records and the United States, moving to Great Britain in the 1980’s to explore Celtic songwriting and instrumental traditions.
When he returned to the United States, he was reintroduced to Lyle Lovett, who had run the University of Texas coffeehouse where Ramsey played in the early 1970’s. He and Lovett wrote the song, “North Dakota”, heard on Lovett’s 1992 album, Joshua Judges Ruth. A few years later, Shawn Colvin recorded â€œSatin Sheetsâ€ which helped stimulate interest in a new Ramsey recording. Lovett, who called Willis Alan Ramsey “one of the greatest records of all time”, has since covered a newer Ramsey song, “Sleepwalking”. With a new album still in the works, Ramsey has begun touring for the first time in seven years, performing this year at the Smithsonian’s Woody Guthrie Tribute in Washington DC, the Kerrville Folk Festival, the annual Folk Alliance Convention in Cleveland, The Bluebird Cafe in Nashville and several shows around the Southwest.