Hard Travelers - History, Tributes & Photos

Group's Long History   

Group Tribute in Photos 

Refrow Tribute in Photos

Charity Work

 

 

Buddy Renfro Kenn Roberts Mack Bailey Mike Ritter

The History of the Hard Travelers:

The Hard Travelers are probably the longest running opening act in show business.   Forty-plus years later, they are still going strong, having worked with some of the top names in country, bluegrass and folk music, including Alabama, Kenny Rogers, Kathy Mattea, The Oak Ridge Boys, Barbara Mandrell, Randy Travis, Brooks and Dunn, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, and John Denver. 

The Hard Travelers include original member Kenn Roberts on tenor vocals, plus newer members Mack Bailey on guitar and baritone and tenor vocals, Mike Munford on banjo and harmony vocals, John Glik on fiddle, and Ira Gitlin on upright bass.  Mike Ritter and Ed Windsor were original members, as was Buddy Renfro, who passed away May 15, 1998.

The Hard Travelers, formed by students from the Baltimore suburbs attending the University of Maryland, consisted of the original personnel of Buddy Renfro, Mike Ritter, Ed Windsor and Kenn Roberts.  They played together for several years in the Washington / Baltimore / Annapolis triangle during the folk heyday of the 60's while they were attending the University, and thereafter.   The Hard Travelers appeared in the Washington, D.C. area at the Cellar Door and the Live Eye, where artists like John Denver, the Mama and Papas, and Bill Cosby got their start.  They opened for Ian and Sylvia at the Cellar Door in Washington, D.C. in 1962.

After releasing a single and recording an undistributed album, the Hard Travelers received many offers to start touring.  Faced with the need to make a decision, they opted to leave music as a career and went off to pursue their separate careers and fortunes rather than endure the rigors of "life on the road." 

There was always the lingering, "What if . . . " and, in December, 1985, just for fun, Kenn Roberts arranged to use the King of France Tavern in Annapolis for their one-time-only Reunion Concert.  (Editor's Note:  This concert was recently released as a "new-old" CD, available on the Hard Travelers' CD Page.)  When the event sold out and closed to standing ovations and pleas for encores, the Hard Travelers were quickly signed on to appear there for a weekend every month.   For years, lasting through 1997, they presented monthly, weekend concerts in which they shared the stage with "Friends" that have included Donal Leace, Jan Garrett, Bill Danoff, Allen Damron, Side by Side, Charlie Byrd, Steve Gillette and Cindy Mangsen, Josh White, Jr., Schooner Fare, Hobo Jim, and many others.

In 1987, they added Mack Bailey whose strong vocals have become a mainstay for the group. They also added two stunning instrumentalists: Mike Munford and Jon Glik. The Hard Travelers are also dedicated to finding ways to use the music as a vehicle to improve the world around them.  In 1988, they had their first "Hard Travelers...And Friends Concert" to aid in seeking an end to Cystic Fibrosis, the killer of the young.  Over the years this concert has become an area event.  The Hard Travelers have been joined by such renowned artists as Emmylou Harris, Alabama, Kathy Mattea, Kenny Rogers, Brooks and Dunn, and John Denver, and have raised over 5 million dollars for CF.  For more information on these concerts, visit the M.U.S.E. (Music Unites the Souls of Everyone) website.  M.U.S.E. was founded by Kenn Roberts as a charity organization to use music to benefit others, primarily through benefit concerts.  In addition, they are hoping to raise the public's consciousness regarding the plight of the Chesapeake Bay. They have written and performed several songs at various civic functions throughout Maryland.

The Hard Travelers have four CD's, some are releases featuring favorites from the height of folk music's popularity, and new original material written primarily by Mack Bailey and the late Buddy Renfro.  Coming together from diverse locations and vocations, the Hard Travelers continue to draw packed houses for an evening of humor and great music with something old, something new, and always something for everyone.

Group Photo Tribute:


 

Tribute to Buddy Renfro:

On Friday, May 15, 1998, Buddy Renfro passed away at his home in Shepherdstown, WV. He was 62 years old.

 

 

 

   

Vintage Photos

Mack, Buddy, Mike, Kenn

Mack Bailey, Buddy Renfro, Mike Ritter, Kenn Roberts

 

Mike Ritter, Buddy Renfro, Kenn Roberts, Mack Bailey

Mike Munford, Mike Ritter, Kenn Roberts, Jon Glik, Buddy Renfro, Mack Bailey

 

Mack Bailey, Mike Munford, Mike Ritter

Kenn Roberts, Buddy Renfro, Jon Glik

 

 

Mike Ritter, Kenn Roberts, Mack Bailey, Ira Gitlin

Christmas Reunion Shows at Rams Head

December 22, 2001

Kenn Roberts, Ira Gitlin, Mack Bailey, Jon Glik, Mike Munford

 

"Music From The Mountains" at Maryland Hall

November 9, 2001

 Special Guest Jim Salestrom, Mack Bailey, Ira Gitlin, Mike Munford

 

Christmas Reunion Shows at Rams Head

December 21 & 22, 2001

Ira Gitlin, Mike Munford, Mack Bailey, Kenn Roberts, Jon Glik

Baldwin's Station

May 29 & 30, 2002

Mike Munford, Kenn Roberts, Mack Bailey, Ira Gitlin, Jon Glik

Cystic Fibrosis Benefit at the Baltimore Arena - Opening for Alan Jackson

September 13, 2002

Special guest John Sommers, Kenn Roberts, Jon Glik, Mack Bailey, special guests Jim Horn and Jim Salestrom

 

 

Group Photo for 2003

Ira Gitlin, Jon Glik, Kenn Roberts, Mack Bailey, Mike Munford

(If you need to use this photo for PR purposes, please use the larger version by clicking HERE, and click on right button on mouse, and use "Save as.")

 

 

New Group Photo for 2003

Kenn Roberts, Jon Glik,Ira Gitlin, Mack Bailey, Mike Munford

(If you need to use this photo for PR purposes, please use the larger version by clicking HERE, and click on right button on mouse, and use "Save as.")

The Hard Travelers - 20th Anniversary Concert

The Hard Travelers celebrate their 20th Anniversary with charity concert

In a concert fundraiser for The M.U.S.E. Foundation, The Hard Travelers were the honorees on the occasion of celebrating their 20th Anniversary of reuniting.  The concert was held at the Smith Theater on the campus of Howard Community College in Columbia, Maryland.   Guests included original Hard Traveler - Ed Windsor - and musical friends: John Sommers, Chris Nole and Pete Huttlinger, the latter two of whom created an overture of Hard Travelers songs. 

The Hard Travelers:  Ira Gitlin, Mike Munford, Kenn Roberts, Mack Bailey, and Jon Glik.

The guys are joined by Chris Nole, Pete Huttlinger, John Sommers & Kris O'Connor

   

 

 

The Gaithersburg Express

Wednesday, September 11, 1991

&

The Aspen Hill Express

Thursday, September 12, 1991

 

“Take Me Home . . . Clopper Road”

 — by Betsy Stieff, Express Staff Writer

  “Take me home, country road,  to the place I belong...”

    The next few words really should sing out “Montgomery County”, not "West Virginia," because that's where the inspiration for the popular tune sung by John Denver came from.

   The songwriter. Bill Danoff, and his former wife. Taffy, were inspired to write the popular tune as they were driving down Clopper Road 21 years ago on the way to a Fisher family reunion at the Izaak Walton League.

    "It was a real pretty old country road with farms and cows and fields. I thought it would be a great thing to write a song about so we started humming it right then," Danoff said.  He and his wife, who were then part of the group Fat City, developed the song and were later helped out by friend, John Denver, who put in his two cents worth and later recorded the hit.

   Why West Virginia if the country road was in Maryland?  Danoff admitted it just sounded good. He'd never been there he said, but he has gone since – to Harpers Ferry where the Blue Ridge Mountains reach the Shenandoah and "it's everything I said it would be - almost heaven,'' he joked.

 Concert to aid Cystic Fibrosis fight

    Danoff was also the talent behind the group Starland Vocal Band, responsible for the hit “Afternoon Delight.” The band broke up about ten years ago but will be back together for a very special performance – the 4th Annual Hard Travelers and Friends Concert for Cystic Fibrosis Sept. 20 at Merriweather Post Pavilion. This year Barbara Mandrell will headline the concert.  Kenn Roberts, a former Montgomery County developer and resident and a member of The Hard Travelers, puts this concert together every year to raise money to help find a cure for the nation’s number one genetic killer of children.

    The Hard Travelers is a group of seasoned performers that began playing together again in 1985 after 20 years apart. Not long after their reunion they did a benefit show for Cystic Fibrosis and were taken with a little girl that had the disease.  The little girl died, and the group decided then to dedicate themselves to fighting the disease.  “There have been a lot of breakthroughs in recent years....we have been involved in something that we can actually see the results,” Roberts said.

    Over the past years, the group has raised over $150,000 and this year they hope to add another $100,000 to that figure. 2,800 tickets have been sold this year but there are plenty left, Roberts said.  Roberts promises a family-oriented event. Danoff and the other members of his band are going to have their children do a number and children with Cystic Fibrosis will have their moment on stage.

    “I’d love to see the place full. It’s going to be a wonderful night of entertainment and all the proceeds go to finding a cure for Cystic Fibrosis,” Roberts said.

    The Rouse Company is one of  the major sponsors and as owners of Merriweather,  the  company helped secure the location for the event. Other sponsors underwrite all the expenses, and the artists perform at reduced rate.

   “When we are as fortunate as we are to be able to play music and to have friends join us — it is such a blessing we feel we have a responsibility to give back, and through Cystic Fibrosis the Hard Travelers are able to give,” Roberts said.

 

Charity  Work:

The Cystic Fibrosis Concerts

(opened by The Hard Travelers and sponsored by them, along with M.U.S.E.):

  Year Artist Attendance

Raised

 

(1st)

1988

The Hard Travelers and Friends

188

$412,500

 

(2nd)

1989

The Hard Travelers w/ Glenn Yarbrough

753

$51,000

 

(3rd)

1990

Emmylou Harris

3976

$88,500

 

(4th)

1991

Barbara Mandrell

4366

$103,000

 

(5th)

1992

Lee Greenwood

2542

$122,000

 

(6th)

1993

Oak Ridge Boys

2735

$201,000

 

(7th)

1994

Kathy Mattea

3480

$323,000

 

(8th)

1995

Kenny Rogers

8211

$525,000

 

(9th)

1996

Alabama

10109

$561,000

 

(10th)

1997

John Denver

8323

$463,000

 

(11th)

1998

Randy Travis

7631

$452,000

 

 

1999

Alabama (Richmond)

 

 

 

(12th)

1999

Vince Gill

9861

$667,000

 

 

2000

Oak Ridge Boys

 

 

 

(13th)

2000

Brooks and Dunn

8955

$1,004,000

 

(14th)

2001

Alabama

8024

$931,000

 

(15th)

2002 

Alan Jackson

13311

$1,302,000

 

(16th)

2003

Martina McBride

12515

$1,120,000

 

(17th)

2004 

Reba McEntire

 

 

 

(18th)

2005

Brad Paisley

(19th)

2006

Alan Jackson

(20th)

2007

LeAnne Rimes

 

The Maryland Therapeutic Riding Fundraising Concerts

(anchored and sponsored by The Hard Travelers along with M.U.S.E.):

  Year Guest Artists  

Raised

 

(1st)

2001

Jim Salestrom, John Sommers, Chris Nole

51,000

 

(2nd)

2002

Jim Salestrom, John Sommers, Chris Nole

85,000

 

(3rd)

2003

John Sommers, Chris Nole, Mollie Weaver, Bill Danoff

155,000

 

(4th)

2004

John Sommers, Chris Nole, Mollie Weaver, Bill Danoff, Gary Muledeer

180,000

 

(5th)

2005

John Sommers, Chris Nole, Mollie Weaver, Bill Danoff

 

 

(6th)

2006

John Sommers, Chris Nole, Mollie Weaver, Bill Danoff, Gary Muledeer

 

 

(7th)

2007

John Sommers, Chris Nole, Mollie Weaver, Bill Danoff, Gary Muledeer

 

 

(8th)

2008

The Hard Travelers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Fundraising Concerts

(anchored and sponsored by The Hard Travelers along with M.U.S.E.):

Year Charity Guest Artists  

Raised

 

2003

The Yahweh Center

John Sommers, Chris Nole, Mollie Weaver, Bill Danoff

 82, 000

 

2004

The Yahweh Center

John Sommers, Chris Nole, Mollie Weaver, Bill Danoff

62,500

 

 

2004

Johns Hopkins School of Nursing

Chris Nole, Jim Salestrom, Bill Danoff, Mollie Weaver, John Sommers, & Jim Horn

270,000

 

2005

M.U.S.E. Foundation

Chris Nole, John Sommers, & Pete Huttlinger

 

 

2006

Johns Hopkins School of Nursing

Chris Nole, Jim Salestrom, Bill Danoff, Mollie Weaver, John Sommers, & Jim Horn

270,000

 

2006

Columbia Orchestra

Chris Nole, Jim Salestrom, Bill Danoff, Mollie Weaver, John Sommers, & Jim Horn

270,000

 

2007

Old Otterbein Church - Baltimore

The Hard Travelers

 

 

2008

Old Otterbein Church - Baltimore

The Hard Travelers with Bill Danoff

 

 

 

Many of The Hard Travelers' Concerts are under the auspices of the M.U.S.E. Foundation

(now closed) for the benefit of charity. 

 

 

 

 

 

This page was updated:  Monday, June 28, 2010 11:31:59 PM

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