|Annie Wilson (on guitar)
helps her husband John on
their ranch in Chase County
where they raised three
daughters. Annie is a former
teacher and Coordinator of
the Flint Hills Map and
Education Program. She
organizes the weekly Emma
Chase Friday Night Music
jams in Cottonwood Falls.
Annie enjoys pasture walks
where she gets ideas for her
songs about the Flint Hills.
|Jim Versch (on mandolin)
does custom painting and is
an awesome mandolin
player! He taught art and
coached volleyball at Marion
High School for 32 years.
Jim acquired his versatile
improvisational skills playing
in numerous bands including
a Celtic band in Nebraska
and the ragtime-classical
Prairie Goose Stompers.
Jim and wife Judy enjoy time
with children and
Tallgrass Express String Band began playing together in 2004. Founding members were
Annie Wilson, Derrick Doty, Charlie Laughridge, Loren Ratzloff, and Gary Rinehart.
Since then, the band has gained the talents of Carl Reed as of fall 2009 bringing his amazing
vocal, instrumental creativity, song-writing, and arrangement skills to the band. What did we
ever do without Carl? Jim Versch joined the band in 2013, and his versatile instrumental
style adds immensely to all the band’s tunes. Jim's wide knowledge of acoustic music and his
creative instinct for song arrangements have deeply enriched the Tallgrass Express sound. In
2014 Kim Schmidt came on board and contributed his rich musical talents both in fiddle-
playing and vocals. Kim retired from the band at the end of 2017 to tour with a fine rodeo
Founder Charlie Laughridge (fiddle, harmonica, mandolin, concertina and vocals), played
with us for ten years and is on all the band’s recordings including the recent double-CD "Sky &
Water, Wind & Grass." Tallgrass Express is indebted to Charlie for all his talents over the last
ten years. Founder Loren Ratzloff (banjo, mandolin and vocals) played with the band until
2012, contributing his versatile talents and entertaining wit. Founder songwriter-author
Derrick Doty of Council Grove was with us until 2006, and Gary Rinehart until 2005. We also
played early on with the late Gary Hughes of Wichita who was a great influence.
We met primarily through the renowned Friday night jam sessions at the Emma Chase
Cafe in Cottonwood Falls, and related activities. We are forever grateful to Monty & Sue
Smith of the Emma for bringing so much music into our lives. Their sponsorship of these
delightful, fun-packed evenings and other events such as special concerts, helps build
community and fellowship. We are thankful also to their best-in-the-world audiences who help
give experience and confidence to developing players. We especially thank Sue & Monty for
sponsoring debut concerts of our CDs.
In 2015, Annie became Coordinator of the Emma Chase Friday Night Music in Cottonwood
Falls, where musicians and listeners gather weekly for old-time music fun.
We recorded our first CD Music of the Emma Chase in 2005 with the encouragement and
support of Julia Ryan and Kerry Ahlstrom of Council Grove, as well as Monty and Sue Smith.
On our 2007 CD Tallgrass Express Comes Back, we were so fortunate to have the
immense talent of Carole Brown on bass, and again the amazing graphic design skill of Julia
Ryan. Our own Charlie did the original watercolor painting of us in the stagecoach on the
cover. Both of these first CDs included some original songs by members Derrick Doty, Annie
Wilson, and Charlie Laughridge.
Our 2010 Clean Curve of Hill Against Sky, was our first entirely original album, and the first
we know of to be focused on entirely on themes of the Kansas Flint Hills, and was the
beginning (Volume 1) of our series: Songs of the Kansas Flint Hills. Its package and 20-
page full-color books were once again designed by the phenomenal Julia Ryan. The lovely
Flint Hills landscape on the cover and inside were painted by Annie's daughter, artist-teacher-
musician Emily Wilson who plays in the wonderful band The Skirts.
Annie's receiving the Flint Hills Balladeer designation from the State of Kansas through Dept
of Wildlife and Parks in 2013 encouraged Annie to continue thespecial focus on music from
the Kansas Flint Hills, resulting in the project, Sky & Water, Wind & Grass: Volumes 2 & 3
Songs of the Kansas Flint Hills - again all original (by both Annie & Carl) and relating to the
Kansas Flint Hills region.
Our band photographers are Brendy Muninger, Bruce Hogel, Katie Hancock, Emily Wilson,
and Julia Wilson.
|Carl Reed (on bass, guitar,
and harmonica) lives in
Manhattan where he
worked with the
international programs of
the K-State Grain Science
Department for nearly thirty
years. He comes from a
musical family and bought
his first guitar when he was
serving in the Peace Corps.
His songs have been
recorded by the bluegrass
groups Special Consensus
and Continental Divide.
(at left (L to R)
|At right (L to R):
At left (L to R):
|Brent Entz (on banjo), our
newest member, is a
super-talented and dedicated
musician. Brent lives in rural
Walton and works for the City
of Newton. In the past, Brent
cowboyed on large ranches
out west and has first-hand
knowledge of many of the
themes of our Western
songs. He has played
previously with the Dry Creek
Boys. He and wife Marcy are
busy with children and family