About Woods Tea

THE WOODS TEA CO.

WT6.jpg (151 KB)

Everybody's heard of the Woods Tea Company. Everybody. Like maple syrup, like fall foliage, like baked bean suppers, the Woods Tea Company has been synonymous with New England since the early 1980s, when the group was formed. In 1981, penny-whistler Rusty Jacobs and guitarist Bruce Morgan were beginning their musical careers in Vermont, playing in local clubs and bars. On one such fateful night they happened upon an old wooden crate with the words "Woods Tea Company" stenciled on the side. It seemed like a good idea at the time, perhaps even a sign, and the duo was named.

Two years later Mike Lussen, formerly of Trinity II, joined Woods Tea on various stringed instruments, making up a trio that would perform for the next decade. Playing mostly in New England with occasional forays farther afield, the band continued to gain prominence and a solid reputation as a leader in the Irish folk music world. Soon the tours began to venture farther from home, although this too was not entirely due to anything planned out. Rusty thought he was booking a gig at "The Dubliner" in Washington, DC, but it was actually another venue with the same name in Omaha, NE. It all turned out well and began to open up possibilities from coast to coast. The group has performed in all of the lower 48 and manages to at least pass through most of them about every two years.

Bruce Morgan moved on to a new career in 1991 to be replaced by Tom MacKenzie on hammered dulcimer and banjo. Howard Wooden a part time player since 1983 joined full time in 1992, playing bass and guitar, and the trio grew into a quartet. At the century mark, Tom decided to spend more time with his family and Chip Chase on fiddle moved in to fill the void. The next years brought two PBS specials, concerts at Lincoln Center, 120+ shows a year in 48 states at Auditoriums, Opera Houses, Festivals, Colleges (including numerous visits to Colgate University).

Late 2006 brought about tragic changes. Chip's fiery fiddle was silenced when he passed away in October after a motorcycle accident and Rusty died of a heart attack 10 months later. A number of fellow musicians helped during this difficult time by offering their musical talents as well as providing moral support. The fans of Woods Tea were also instrumental in allowing the group to continue. Tom MacKenzie rejoined the group in 2008, and soon after, Patti Casey on guitar and flutes made it a quartet again. In 2010 Mike Lussen retired from the group. In the fall of 2013, Tom MacKenzie once again stepped away replaced by Vermont's greatest living folk musician Pete Sutherland.

Mike Lussen died in the Spring of 2019. 

Throughout all of this people have come and gone and the music has evolved, but the spirit of quality music and fun in which the group was founded many years ago remains as bright and alive as ever.

Original Press Release

The Woods Tea Company is an acoustic group performing Celtic tunes, Novelty, French-Canadian, and American folk songs with equal ease and skill.

All members are fine vocalists, often leaving audiences thrilled by their wonderful harmonies. During a performance the band uses as many as a dozen different instruments.

After building a solid reputation in New England, Woods Tea Company started touring on the concert circuit nationwide, eventually playing in all the lower 48 states. Notable performances include New York's Lincoln Center (twice), the Chautauqua Institute (three times), and appearances on PBS and National Public Radio, who labeled them "Vermont's hardest working folk group."

Folk Music Quarterly described them as "...one of the hottest up and coming acts," saying "...sidestepping pretension and going for the grit, this New England group gives a lusty performance every time."

Years ago, the Irish Heritage Foundation honored Woods Tea with their Outstanding Innovation Award, "...in appreciation and recognition for their creative contributions to Irish music."