David Felton, in his "The Lyman Family's Holy Siege of America writes:After Judy Silver went back to Kansas in 1963, Mel Lyman, who had been taught the mysteries of the banjo by Obray Ramsey in North Carolina, was hired by Jim Kweskin to play rhythm banjo. The choice was not entirely Mel's. He had been sentenced to either a job or jail after he was busted on dope in Tallahassee.MY TAKE ON THAT
I lived with Melvin, Sophia, and the kids in Goose Hollow in Portland (and in Marshall NC, and later with Sophie and Eben Given in Portland). I can tell you for sure that he knew how to pick his Whyte Laydie banjo (could play both the 1812 Overture complete with thrumming cannonade and The Flight of the Bumblebee) in any key without using a capo, and was already the best harp player I have ever heard to THIS date. He also had an encyclopedic knowledge of old time music and early jazz, as well as an extensive collection of 78 records. Obray was one of the many older musicians that Mel looked up on the marathon travels he seemed to do whenever Sophia got pregnant, as was the Rev. Gary Davis, etc. Mel LOVED Obray but certainly didn't learn the banjo from him....
Yes, he was probated to the Kweskin Jug Band. The "dope" was a banjo case full of marijuana as I recall. And I believe he was hitchiking carrying it.Maryalice Ogilvie Cheesman
Jan. 20, 2001