Multi-instrumentalist Randy Clepper is in demand as an accomplished player of Irish and other traditional music on Irish bouzouki, fingerstyle acoustic guitar, tenor banjo and hammer dulcimer. Equally adept at all of these, his playing has been described as “magnificent”, “strong and confident” (Dulcimer Player’s News) – “a Celtic guru” (Wood ‘N Strings). Randy performs solo and in an Irish instrumental duo with acclaimed fingerstyle guitarist John Sherman. Their latest album of Irish traditional tunes on bouzouki, guitar and tenor banjo, "Finally Tuned" (2013), was voted #3, #2 and #10 "Top Fave Instrumental Album", "Top Fave Traditional Album", and "Top Fave Instrumental (Behind the Haystack...) of 2013", respectively, by Folk Festival, host Lilli Kuzma, on 90.9FM WDCB Public Radio, Chicago, and was hailed as "a remarkably accomplished recording...", and "a fine and finely tuned album that is intricate in its arrangement and delivery" (Tony Lawless, TradConnect.com, Ireland).
Growing up in southeast Tennessee, Randy’s early musical interests covered many styles of music including traditional, folk, pop, rock, jazz, funk (yes, funk) and bluegrass. Early influences ranged from Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin to the guitar styles of Crosby Stills and Nash, Dan Fogelberg, and James Taylor. After moving to Ohio in his early twenties, Randy’s interest in traditional music peaked when on a trip home he discovered the hammered dulcimer. Many festivals later, Randy became a fixture on the hammered dulcimer, encouraged by friends and players Ken Kolodner, Karen Ashbrook and Randy Marchany (No Strings Attached). Developing a particular interest in traditional Irish music, with renewed vigor he returned to the guitar to play fingerstyle Irish arrangements in alternate tunings, influenced by the playing of Martin Simpson, Pierre Bensusan, El McMeen, and Ohio-based guitarist John Sherman. From there came Irish sessions and an interest in the bouzouki, where both his fingerstyle and flatpicking expertise transferred quickly from the guitar to his new primary instrument.
In 2001, Randy released a self-produced solo CD entitled “Within a Mile” (Large Furry Things Productions, www.randyclepper.com), containing mostly Irish/Celtic instrumental music on cittern, guitar, and hammered dulcimer, to favorable reviews – “his arrangements sparkle with originality…” (Neal Walters, Dulcimer Players News). Soon afterward, Randy teamed up with award-winning harpist Christine Fraser Ramsey (Scottish harp) to form the duo Begley’s Braes. Together, they performed Irish, Scottish and other traditional music ranging from South American to Eastern European to music of the Asian continent. In the same time period Randy cycled through a few Columbus-based Irish traditional bands and quickly assimilated into the active central Ohio Irish music scene.
In 2003, after meeting up with longtime friend and nationally known hammered dulcimer player Dan Landrum (Tennessee) – on break from touring with the Yanni World Tour, Randy and Dan teamed up with National Hammered Dulcimer Champion Mark Alan Wade (Ohio) and then-Texas-based dulcimer player/guitarist Bob McMurray to form the dulcimer super-group “Hammer On!”. In 2004 the group released their first CD, “Hammer On!” (Maple Ridge Studios, www.hammeron.com), an exciting and eclectic collection of music, borrowing from styles as diverse as the backgrounds of its talented members. In a short time after the CD’s release, the band had become one of the most talked-about groups in the dulcimer community and beyond, playing and teaching at festivals including the Upper Potomac Dulcimer Festival (Shepherdstown, WV), the ODPC FunFest (Evart, MI), and the Chattanooga Dulcimer/Folk Festival. In 2005 the group teamed up with aerial dance troupe Project Bandaloop and members of the Yanni World Tour to perform as headliners for the opening of the multi-million-dollar, revitalized Chattanooga Riverfront.
Randy has performed in traditional music and arts festivals in Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia and Tennessee as a solo performer and with the bands. He has taught bouzouki, banjo, DADGAD guitar and hammered dulcimer workshops at festivals throughout the Midwest and eastern US. He is an active player in the Columbus Irish music scene, and a junkie for Irish music seisiuns from San Francisco to Phoenix, St Louis to New York, Montreal, Galway to Tel Aviv.
Now teamed up with venerable fingerstyle Celtic guitarist John Sherman, Randy and John are regular performers at the Dublin Irish Festival, Dublin, Ohio and frequent entertainers at Natalie's Coal-Fired Pizza in Columbus, Ohio, occasionally joined by vocalist (and Randy's daughter) Gina Clepper. Randy is also the host and curator of the new Trad Nua Celtic Series at Natalie's which has featured Irish trad performers such as One for the Foxes, Eimear Arkins & Eileen Gannon, Mick Broderick and Andrew Finn Magill among others. John and Randy were selected as Official Formal Showcase Artists at their first Southeast Regional Folk Alliance (SERFA) in 2017, Quad Showcase Artists at the 2014 Northeast Regional Folk Alliance (NERFA), and Performance Lane Showcase Artists at their first Folk Alliance Regional Midwest (FARM) appearance in 2013. They showcased for the North American Irish and Celtic Festival Organizers (NAICFO) Conference in 2012. In addition to solo shows, Randy often performs with renown fiddler Bella Issakova, Skip Cleavinger (uillean pipes), Rebecca Baumbach (fiddle), and John Skelton (flute, bagpipes), National Hammered Dulcimer Champion Mark Alan Wade (both opened for Granny-nominated folksinger John McCutcheon in 2008), hammered and mountain dulcimer players Dan Landrum (both performed with the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra in 2007) and Aaron O'Rourke, respectively, with Irish trad musicians Morton O'Kelly and Eddie Cotter, Jr..
With the COVID pandemic shutting down activity in 2020, Randy Kept busy producing online videos and performing in virtual festivals such as IrishFest Atlanta 2020 and the Alaska Folk Festival. Randy also join up with Tune Supply in NYC, the brainchild of Irish trad and Broadway musicians Caitlin Warbelow and Chris Ranney, to provide online content (spotlight concerts, virtual sessions) -- see samples of quarantine videos here.