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Ramblin' Conrad's

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Bob and crew in front of Ramblin' Conrad's circa 1972

 

Please share your memories on the Ramblin' Conrad's guest book -- coming soon!

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On a rainy night in '65, somewhere along Hampton Boulevard, three boys in a beat-up car picked up an old hitchhiker, battered guitar on his back.  In this way, Bob Zentz met the man whose name would define an era of folk music in Hampton Roads.

 

They called him Ramblin' Conrad.

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Conrad at The Upstairs, 17th St. in VB, circa 1965William Conrad Buhler was a veteran, a picker, a grinner, a backstreet minstrel and a bar-room troubadour.  In 1974, Bob immortalized his story on the album "Mirrors and Changes" -- read his story here.

 

In early 1972, Bob returned to Norfolk from California, with a dream of creating a special place for people who loved traditional music and acoustic sounds as much as he did.  He named it for the man who embodied his ideal of the singer, and the song.

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Ramblin' Conrad's Guitar Shop & Folklore Center became the hub for all things folk in Hampton Roads for 23 magical years ...

... First, on Colley Avenue at 43rd Street ... in a building that burned down before they could even open the doors ...

... Then, from 1972-1980 at 4318 Hampton Blvd., in a building that was eventually razed to make room for ODU's Ted Constant Center ...

... Next, from 1980 to around '87 or so in a building set back from N. Military Highway near the intersection with Virginia Beach Blvd. ...

... And then, in a larger building on the same lot at 871 N. Military Highway, closer to the roadway, a site that was taken by the Virginia DOT in 1992 to rebuild the overpass ...

... And also for nine years from 1983-92 in a kiosk at Waterside, downtown Norfolk's festival marketplace ...

... And finally, on 21st Street in the Ghent section of Norfolk, until the store closed in 1995, a victim of changing times and lives.

Each incarnation shared these gifts with the community ...
... a home for acoustic instruments of any kind, from any time ...
     ... a resource for traditional music, recorded and in print ...
          ... a gathering place for anyone who wanted to set a spell and share a song ...
               ... a concert venue that brought many of the world's finest folk musicians to Hampton Roads ...
                    ... and a special moment in time, when anyone with a song in their heart found a warm welcome, and a place to call their own.


The Ramblin' Conrad's experience also existed virtually for more than 27 years over the radio airwaves through the program "In The Folk Tradition" ... and in the community through the Songmakers of Virginia, now known as the Tidewater Friends of Folk Music.

The shop may be gone ... but Ramblin' Conrad lives on, in every one of us who had the amazing good fortune to step through doorway into the house that Bob built, with love and reverence, in the spirit of the ramblin' songmaking man who lives with us yet.

"Yes, once there was a man named 'Ramblin' Conrad' who lives on only as a song may live ... when it is recalled, remembered, and sung, again, and again, and again."

-  Bob Zentz, "The Story of Ramblin' Conrad"

 

Please share your memories on the Ramblin' Conrad's guest book -- coming soon!

 

    

Bob with a picture of Ramblin' Conrad as a child, and Conrad's guitar, 1995

photograph by Martin Smith-Rodden

Ramblin' Conrad's resting place, City Point National Cemetery , 2014 and 2015

photograph by Jeanne McDougall

 

 

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