Jack Roberts--bass guitar, vocals
Jack Roberts has been active in the music scene ever since the mid-'60s when he helped his first group, the 4+1=7, pen the immortal song ?Last Train to Mohrsville,? which to this day remains popular with fives or sixes of people, some of whom don?t even live in Mohrsville. After playing guitar and keyboard for the Royal Pudding, The Quiet Sun and Clancy?s Band, Jack settled down on bass in the early ?70s because it was the only instrument he could afford to play. In the mid-?70s, following a stint with Slow Rush, he gave up rock ?n? roll because he didn?t want to be seen in polyester pants, then did a tour with Bob and Debbie Sue and the Sunny Southerners, where he met Jim ?Harmonica? Penta. After chasing Bob & Deb out of town, Jack and Jim with a little help from their friends formed Ragtime Willi in the spring of 1977 and have been playing together off and on ever since. When Jack is not thumping on the bass, he whiles away his time writing songs that even his own band fears to play.
Chris Zaffary--mandolin, guitar, vocals
"Christo" (as in Christmas) joined the original Ragtime Willi's Inflatable Band in early 1978 after the departure of several members of the original group. Dubbed "The Greek Cowboy" by Ragtime Willi himself (a.k.a. Jack Roberts), the stage title has since been shortened to "Christo the Greek" during this latest incarnation of Ragtime Willi.
Ragtime Willi's Inflatable Band was the first organized (or disorganized) musical group Chris had ever performed with and the early on-stage butterflies soon dissipated.
He did rhythm guitar and vocals and remained with the group until 1984, leaving due to job constraints. The band members parted ways, but most maintained contact and continued playing together at holiday gatherings or whenever schedules and the heavens lined up.
Chris and R.Willi harp master Jim Penta along with other local musician friends played regularly at open mikes in the area in the early 90's. The "playing-out bug" bit again with Jim and Chris appearing as Squandered Youth in 1993 with Mick Mango and Greg Lang. This four-piece acoustic folk/funk group did regular gigs locally for two years and featured "sit-in" guest performers, most notably, Jack Roberts! Christo was delighted when Jack and Jim resolved to get the group back together... Ragtime Willi's evolution is ongoing and still ascribes to the band's old bromide: "We're only in it for the comedy!"
Jim "Harmonica" Penta--Harmonica, percussion
Jim?s first harmonica, a Chromatic 64 was a gift from a girl friend. The instrument and the relationship were more than he could handle. Settling on a more manageable Marine Band harmonica, Jim headed for the stairwell of his dormitory at Temple University to learn his craft. After graduation, he played in his first band, Bob and Debbie Sue and the Sunny Southerners. That is where he was introduced to Jack Roberts and the fun began. Thirty- five years later the fun continues as Jim plays harmonica and various rhythm instruments that appear out of hi black case. If you watch closely, you may even see Jim throw in an occasional background vocal!
Joel Henry--Banjo, Guitar, Vocals
"In 1961 Saint Margaret's parochial school (Reading,PA) offered but two extracurricular activities: singing class or rhythm band, both conducted by Sister Seraphea who's music room was at the end of the hall by the boys room. This is where rhythm band met , as we band members accompanied Sister's songs, banging sticks together, shaking tambourines and rattles etc. Sister played a Melodeon; a sort of piano-pump organ thingy. My initial choice was singing class-- too large to convene in the music room, and owing to its popularity, was held on-stage in the auditorium. The inaugural session found me the lone boy in attendance with thirty girls. (Ed. note: NOT A BAD RATIO, EH BROTHER?) The second session found me inexplicably transferred to rhythm band where I gradually developed my grooves and chops accompanying Sisters Melodeon jams."
"In retrospect I didn't choose the banjo, the banjo chose me. Ironically, my first banjo manual was Pete Seeger's "How to play the 5 string banjo", as I recently played the banjo on Pete's 2014 Grammy nominated "Storm King" audio book where I can be heard accompanying Pete's yarn about his friendship with Woody Guthrie. A few years back found me around a campfire in Malibu playing " Good Night Irene" with John Savage while on the movie set of "The Violent Kind" where I make a brief but meaningful musical appearance on the silver screen."
" My sessions on the west coast found me performing with "The Worms" at such venues as "Liquid KItty" and D.B. Cooper's in Burbank. I unknowingly invited Henry Thomas (Elliot from E.T.) to sit in with us Worms at a North Hollywood pool party...afterwards telling him, "Don't quit your day Job"...Hell, you can't blame me for not recognizing him, being all grown up, right???"
"Years ago I could be found picking and grinning in St. Mary's hall while a student at the University of Pennsylvania in the Wednesday night jams sessions led by Peter Tawny from the Juggernaut String Band. "
"The years have been kind to me in a lyrical sense and I have been blessed with the opportunity to play with real musicians, from and through whose knowledge I have grown. Notable among these, Jack Roberts, who I have known through many musical incarnations."