|Annie Wilson (on guitar)
helps her husband on their
ranch in Chase County where
they raised three daughters.
Annie is a former teacher, and
now works for the Flint Hills
Map and Education Program.
She is Coordinator of the
Emma Chase Friday Night
Music in Cottonwood Falls. She
enjoys pasture walks with her
dog where she gets ideas for
her songs about the Flint Hills.
|Jim Versch (on mandolin)
is a graphic artist and an
awesome mandolin player!
He taught art and coached
volleyball at Marion High
School for 31 years. Jim
acquired his versatile
playing in numerous bands
including a Celtic band in
Nebraska and the ragtime-
classical Prairie Goose
Stompers. Jim and his wife
Judy enjoy their children
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 Kansas Governor in January
2013 focused new attention on the band, and has encouraged us to continue with our special
focus on music from the Kansas Flint Hills, resulting in the most recent 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 and guitar)
lives in Manhattan and worked
in the international programs of
KSU Grain Science for nearly
30 years, later operating his
own grain scouting company in
Buhler. He learned guitar while
in the Peace Corps and bought
a bass 15 years ago for
bluegrass jams. Carl has written
songs recorded by groups such
as Special Consensus and
(at left (L to R)
|At right (L to R):
At left (L to R):