About Rachel Ammons

How It All Began

Rachel started learning violin in public school starting around 6th grade. One of her scholarships for college included classical violin. After leaving college she returned home to work at a mental hospital temporarily, to get a feel for the field she was about to pursue her Doctorate in, Psychology. She also wanted to help her parents Klaus and Julia, naturalized German-American citizens, as her mother was a recent cancer survivor and her father an amputee. Her parents continually urged her to pay a visit to a local bar where their good friend Smilin’ Bob Lewis played with a bluegrass band every Thursday. She finally went and the course of her life changed forever.

Her Mentor, Smilin’ Bob

From the moment they met, Rachel and Smilin’ Bob hit it off. He saw something in her and immediately assumed a mentorship/second father role. The pair was vastly different, 30 years different in age, one a young girl, the other a grizzled war veteran who had lived several lifetimes before he turned 21. They became best friends, constant companions, and bandmates. After the bluegrass band started to fall apart, Rachel discovered that Bob’s real passion was his one man band. He played everything with strings and a lot of things without. Anything he touched became an instrument. He played the slide guitar and she was hooked from the first note.

She began spending all her free time steeping in his mastery of all things Delta. His soul, improvisational spirit, humor, bravery, nobility, generosity and encyclopedic knowledge of southern heritage music left an indelible mark on Rachel. The pair was practically attached at the hip, jamming for days on end in the livingroom, Rachel listening, absorbing, mimicking everything her hero demonstrated. In a couple short years she had gone from a classical violinist, still timid about improvising, to a multi-instrumentalist unafraid to try just about anything. She stopped believing in “mistakes” per Bob’s instruction, and grew exponentially in all things musical. He had a special fondness for Delta and heritage music but played every style well, exposing Rachel to a vast collection of influence in their time together. They began a band they called Tyrannosaurus Chicken, and over the next years he passed on his knowledge and skills to the next generation, preserving a priceless legacy, as they began gaining a cult-like regional following and rising through festival billings.

April 2019 the pair received the devastating news that Bob had late stage lung cancer. Rachel quit playing the next few months and stayed home to care for her bandmate, who began chemotherapy almost immediately. He was the strongest person she ever knew. He endured so much suffering in his life yet he was never broken.

We lost him in late July 2019. He knew he would not be able to stay with her forever but had prepared her for this eventuality. She had started practicing her own one person band set of covers and originals at the house, under his guidance and approval.

She knew he was proud of her, and wants to continue to do what he would have wanted her to do. She and his children have started a fund to support one of his dearest causes, providing resources such as instruments and lessons to children in need.

She and Bob always wanted to use music to connect people to each other, and to make the world a better place however they could.

Rising from the shock and grief of her loss, Rachel has only become more determined to preserve Delta cultural legacy, even as she makes her own contribution. She plays a form of Blues rooted in the most primitive and raw beginnings of this heritage, with her own soulful interpretation. Her original songs and covers, sometimes changed almost beyond recognition with regard to chords and lyrics, are frequently improvisational, and share an uncontrived emotionality best seen live. During her set she follows one rule above all: Play what you Feel.

She has plans to include many more people in her musical endeavors, bringing as of yet unreleased full band compositions to life, but for now, she hones her impressive solo show with every performance, and tours as a one woman act.