Hank Cramer III is one of the best-loved folksingers in the American West. He is widely known for his booming bass voice, smooth picking on a vintage flat-top guitar, and his wry sense of humor. He has a repertoire of over a thousand modern and traditional songs, spanning the genres of celtic, appalachian, maritime, cowboy, and plain old folk music. He is more than simply a performer, however. He is a historian and educator who weaves music and history into presentations which bring to life the rich story of America’s westward movement, and give his audiences insight into the “folk process” by which traditional songs evolve and change to describe new events.
Hank was born in North Carolina. His father was an Army “Green Beret”, his mother an elementary schoolteacher. Hank’s father, Captain Harry G. Cramer, was killed in Vietnam in 1957, the first American soldier lost in that conflict. Hank’s mother never remarried, but raised her three children as a “single mom”. Hank inherited a gift of music from his father, and by high school was a prominent performer in glee club, choir, and school musicals. He earned a history degree at the University of Arizona. He paid his way through school by working summers as an underground copper miner, and nights and weekends as a radio dee-jay and coffeehouse folksinger.
After graduation, Hank pursued a unique life journey involving adventure, hardship, travel, and public service. He has worked as an Army officer and paratrooper, a 9-1-1 emergency communicator, a deepwater sailor, and a wrangler for a high-country outfitter. These life experiences make Hank’s songs ring with the special authenticity of someone who has “been there and done that.” A fulltime touring musician for nearly twenty years, Hank now has twenty-one CD’s and several movie soundtracks to his credit. While he performs a regular concert circuit , Hank is strongly drawn to performances in educational settings which enable him to delve into his dual loves of history and music.
Hank has performed for the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City, OR for nineteen years. For Road Scholars (formerly ElderHostel), he has taught “Northwest History In Story & Song” three times a year for fifteen years. Other long-term clients include Humanities Washington; Buffalo Bill Historic Center (Cody, WY); Columbia River Maritime Museum (Astoria, OR); The High Desert Museum (Bend, OR); the National Maritime Historic Park (San Francisco); the Maritime Museum of British Columbia (Victoria, BC); the USS Constellation (Baltimore); Grays Harbor Historic Seaport (Aberdeen, WA); and the Tall Ships Challenge Series (Pacific Coast and Great Lakes). Other significant venues include Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle; the Milwaukee Irish Festival; Lunenburg Folk Harbour (Nova Scotia); Tumbleweed Music Festival in WA; the Berkeley Folk Festival in CA; the California Trail Interpretive Center in Elko, NV; the National Trails Interpretive Center in Casper, WY; Laramie Jubilee Days in Wyoming;; and Desert Caballeros Western Museum at Wickenburg, AZ. Hank founded and directs two specialized music education programs, Sea Shanty Camp and Cowboy Song & Poetry Camp. Hank also performs for veterans’ groups and events around the country.
Hank’s music has garnered professional recognition in the music industry. He was the 2011 recipient of the Humanities Washington Award, presented to one performer each year for outstanding contribution in the arts. Heartland Public Radio named his recording of “My Sweet Wyoming Home” to the Top Five Cowboy Songs of 2007. Texas Public Radio “Random Routes” listed two of Hank’s songs in their Top Twenty of 2007, while Northwest Public Radio’s “Inland Folk” chose his CD “Songs From Maurie’s Porch” as one of the Top Ten Folk Albums of 2006.
After 9/11, Hank interrupted his music career to resume military service. He taught Army ROTC at the University of Washington, then volunteered to deploy as an adviser and trainer to the Afghan National Army. He was injured during this tour of duty, medevaced back to the US, and is now retired from the Army Reserve in the rank of lieutenant colonel.
Hank is married Kit McLean of Winthrop, Washington. She is a high-country wrangler in one of America’s most scenic mountain ranges. They live on land homesteaded in 1894 by her great-grandfather, who drove a herd of horses from Omaha to Walla Walla along the route of the old Oregon Trail. Kit is also a photographer, a local historian, and published author. The Cramers live in Washington’s remote and beautiful Methow Valley with their many critters.