Swamp Cats Combines Early Music, Hawaiian, Jazz & More | Entertainment

By Grant Britt Special for Go Triad

They brought the sound down from the mountains and paraded it through the streets of New Orleans. They never made it to Hawaii, but it looked like they had visited it in their dreams. Blending hokum, western swing, Hawaiian steel, New Orleans jazz and early music for nearly two decades, the Swamp Cats rode in a time machine that took them easily through eras and genres of music.

The Cats originated in New York City, brought to the mountains of North Carolina by old-time music enthusiast Dick Tarrier. Tarrier moved to the mountains of North Carolina to be closer to the music he loved, playing first with the old-time band the Corklickers and then a Greensboro-based version of the Swamp Cats.

Cats bassist Ben Moore, a Brevard native, and his then roommate, future Red Clay Rambler Clay Buckner, started the Coffee Gap Corklickers around 1973. Moore left for a while but played with them again. Moore says he left because some members were more interested in skiing in the mountains than their music.

“These guys got to where they were working for the Beech Mountain Ski Patrol, and we were getting all these jobs wanting to pay $100 each in 1976. Hell, that’s what I make now if I have any luck,” says Moore. “I was relying on these guys to play some tunes, pay the rent, but we were turning down jobs, because they were working there.”

Ada J. Kenney