Leon "Woody" Woodward grew up in Lebanon, New Hampshire. During his childhood,
Woody had a severe accident that affected his eyesight. While recovering from
this accident, his parents bought him an accordian. Woody practiced many an hour
on the accordion. Later, he took this lifelong love of music and decided
he wanted to play country music.
Woody's earliest musicial experiences came from the days when he and a couple
of his friends would get together and start playing at kitchen junkets and in the
old barns for Saturday night dances.
After World War II, Woody formed a country dance band consisting of four
other musicians and himself, performing under the name "Woody and The Ramblers".
Woody played the accordian and led the group. The Ramblers included Don MacLeay
on the steel guitar and lead guitar, Clarence "Ki" LaBombard
on electric rhythm guitar "Red" Landry on electric mandolin
and "Brother" Wayne Craig on the upright bass.
All the band members took turns singing in the band. They played a
large variety of music even though they were basically a country band.
Woody and the Ramblers were featured on radio station WTSL in Hanover, New Hampshire.
Their shows were relayed over a small network of five radio stations
every Saturday. During the week, fans could also listen in to WTSL for their evening
Woody was an excellent singing square dance caller and would fill
the dance floor with people dancing to their square dance music. The band always
followed the same format for their dance engagements. They would play three songs
in a row of each type music featuring foxtrots, waltzes, polkas and
square dances. Woody wanted to be sure that they played songs that everyone
could enjoy dancing to.
Through the years, the band developed a very large following of people who
would travel throughout the Twin State Valley area of New Hampshire
and Vermont to attend their dances. Woody and the Ramblers often played three
and four nights a week, always drawing large crowds at their dances.
They did many benefit shows for organizations such as the March of Dimes;
benefits for families who had lost their home in a fire or other similar good causes.
Much of Woody's popularity stems from his personality - his love for the people
and could talk with just about anyone. He always found time to mingle with
the dancers who attended their shows and did his best to make them feel very welcome.
Even though the band did not consider themselves a show band, they actually
were good showmen. They were noted for clowning around on stage by doing crazy
things like pushing each other around, sometimes Ki and Red would back up to
each other and while continuing to play their music, they would push each other
back and forth across the stage.
One of the most unusual facts about Woody and the Ramblers was that every player
also had a full-time day job and never missed a day's work because
of their personal appearances. Woody and the Ramblers often traveled up to
fifty miles or more to play for dances, return home the same night and
go to work the next day. The band did this for many years from the 1940's through
the 1960's. They cut back on their engagements as they got older, but still
remained a very popular act.
The Ramblers finally gave up doing regular dance jobs, but they continued
to play at senior centers and nursing homes around their area.
Woody's health turned bad and he turned over the band over to Don MacLeay who
continued the musical efforts. Woody later went into a nursing home in White
River Junction, Vermont and even though his health was failing, he would pull out
his accordian and play and sing for the patients.
Leon "Woody" Woodward passed away on February 9, 2003, but his memory will
live on in the hearts of his many fans.
Timeline & Trivia Notes
- Leon "Woody" Woodward, accordion
- Don MacLeay, steel guitar, lead guitar
- Red Landry, electric mandolin
- Clarence "Ki" LaBombard, electric rhythm guitar
- "Brother" Wayne Craig, bass
Credits & Sources
- Hillbilly-Music.com wishes to thank Paul "Hank" Preston
of Tampa, Florida for his article.