Stan Ransom, The Connecticut Peddler, is a folk musician who specializes in singing and playing the guitar, the hammered dulcimer, the mandolin and autoharp and six and twelve string guitars. He also plays bowed psaltery, tenor banjo and dombek.
Songs: Many of his songs reflect the interests of the North Country of New York State, from the Adirondack Mountains to Lake Champlain, and also the whole length of Long Island. Many of his songs relate to amusing or dramatic events in New York State, such as "Champ," the Lake Champlain Monster, and the "Lake Champlain Ice Rescue." Other songs describe the beauty of the "Isles of Lake Champlain," or the peculiar problems of Plattsburgh, such as the "Plattsburgh Sewage Plant," and "The City with the Stereo Smell." His Adirondack songs, such as "The Adirondack Mountains," "Allen's Bear Fight," and "Adirondack Acid Rain" range from the historical to the contemporary.
Ransom has also researched the traditional music of Long Island, where he resided for twenty years. His songs span the distance from the days of Captain Kidd to the present, with such songs as "'Round Cape Horn," "The Loss of the Albion," "Acres of Clams," and "I Love Long Island."
Connecticut Peddler: Ransom, who has been singing and playing folk music for nearly sixty years, was born in Winsted, Connecticut, in 1928. In 1951 he took his stage and performance name from the nineteenth century Connecticut peddler, sometimes spelled "pedlar," who traveled around with a pack on his back, selling needles, pins, seeds, clocks, patent medicines and notions of all kinds to rural residents of nearby states. Unlike these early peddlers, who sometimes sold "wooden nutmegs" and other dubious items, Ransom's pack is filled with songs of all kinds and for all ages. He knows several hundred American, English and Irish ballads, as well as songs and tunes from other parts of the world, and he enjoys sharing them with his audience. Ransom was extensively involved in the traditional folk music revival on Long Island in the 'fifties and 'sixties and can remember "times in our Huntington home when more than seventy folk musicians were crammed into every corner of every room playing and singing." He also collects stringed folk instruments and gives talks and demonstrations of them.
Lumberjack: From 1943-50 Stan Ransom worked part time as a lumberjack and forest guard for the Connecticut Park and Forest Commission. He learned to fell and cut up trees, use an axe and two-man crosscut saw and to cut trails and fight forest fires in State lands in the Berkshire Mountains. This gives him a warm feeling of kinship with the Adirondack lumberjacks whose songs he sings.
Singing: Ransom comes from a musical family who was "always singing, playing music, and involved with choirs and singing groups." In 1940, at age twelve, he and a friend formed a guitar playing duo called "The Hartland Harmony Boys." In the Army of Occupation in Japan in 1946-48 he was a member of "The Yensmen," a choral group of the 19th Infantry Regiment. From 1949 to 1951 he was a member of the Yale Glee Club, singing under Marshall Bartholomew. After obtaining a Master's Degree in Library Service from Columbia University, he was a member of the University Glee Club of New York City, and later the Men's Chorus of Huntington, Long Island.
Folklorist: In addition to performing, the Connecticut Peddler is also a folklorist who has done considerable research and collecting of Long Island and Northern New York State songs. His discoveries have led to the identification of tunes and songs which had been thought lost forever. "I enjoy doing research on tunes and songs," he said, "because I feel I am contributing to the world's knowledge as well as learning more about the songs I like." His song, "The Ironville Mine," is part of the permanent exhibit on mining at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, NY. For his work as a folklorist and in recognition of his achievements in preserving and interpreting local and regional history, Stan Ransom was awarded a Certificate of Commendation in 1994 by the American Association for State and Local History.
Librarian: Ransom is well equipped to do research, from his occupation for over forty years as a professional librarian. He is the retired Director of the Clinton-Essex-Franklin Library System in Plattsburgh, NY, and the former Director of the Huntington, L.I., Public Library. "To me, the position of librarian is the most satisfying one in the world. I like books, and I like people, and the job of the librarian is to bring books and people together."
Black Poetry: During his previous job as Director of the Huntington Public Library, Ransom edited a book of the complete writings of the Long Island slave poet, Jupiter Hammon, of Lloyd Neck, Huntington, the first Black in America to publish his own verse. Since 1970, when the book was issued, Ransom has promoted the nationwide observance of Black Poetry Day on October 17th, the date of Hammon's birthday in 1711. Thne book was reissued in 1983. In 1970 Ransom was awarded a Certificate of Commendation for this book by the American Association for State and Local History.
Appearances: Ransom has appeared at the New York State Museum, on Open Mike at Cafe Lena in Saratoga Springs, at the Kent DeLord House Museum, at Sagamore Conference Center in Raquette Lake, at Shepherd Park in Lake George, and at the Champlain Valley Folk Festival. He also appears at Farmer's Markets, local schools and libraries, and hospitals and nursing homes, as well as local Coffee Houses.
Recordings: His first tape, "Down the Saranac," was issued in July, 1991, to a delighted local audience. It includes original songs of Plattsburgh and Clinton County, as well as hammered dulcimer pieces. The Glens Falls Post-Star called this tape "wickedly funny" for his humorous songs on the Plattsburgh Sewage Plant. His second tape, "Adirondack Sampler," is a 66 minute blend of traditional and newly discovered songs of the lumberjacks and their Adirondack hamlets, together with hammered dulcimer tunes. The Centennial Edition honors the founding of the Adirondack Park in 1892.
"North Country Christmas", released November 1994, is his third tape and first CD, and adds the beautiful voice and guitar playing of folksinger Marne O'Shae. It is a refreshing blend of familiar carols and Christmas music of special interest to residents of upstate New York and Vermont. In December, 1995, Stan released his 66 minute cassette and CD entitled "Songs of Lake Champlain," covering all aspects of this historic lake, especially "Champ" and "Piper's Refrain," the historic tale of the ghost of Fort Ticonderoga.
October, 1997 saw the publication of two recordings of traditional Long Island music, "I Love Long Island," and "My Long Island Home," songs Stan collected back in the 'sixties and now preserved on two hour-long cassettes and CDs. A 54 page spiral bound booklet, "Songs of Long Island," gives lyrics, guitar chords, and documentation to the songs in both albums, plus 14 tasty Long Island recipes and an extensive bibliography, mostly from Stan's own collection.
Ice Storm: Following the devastating ice storm of January, 1998 Stan wrote "The Ice Storm of 1998," and recorded a single on cassette that has sold more than 850 copies, with profits going to the American Red Cross Local Disaster Relief Fund.
Stan was delighted when Midwest Book Review stated: “Ransom’s is old-style folk music at its best!”