Esbenshade Series opens Sept. 15 with Ranky Tanky at Peoples Bank Theatre

Mixing Lowcountry tradition with large doses of jazz, gospel, funk and R&B, Ranky Tanky gives true expression to its name, a Gullah phrase that translates as “work it” or “get funky.”

The band kicks off the 2019-20 season for Marietta College’s Esbenshade Series at 3:00 p.m., Sunday, September 15th, at the Peoples Bank Theatre, 222 Putnam St. Tickets are available at

All Esbenshade Series events are free and open to the public.

Within months of releasing its eponymous debut album in 2017, the group had been profiled on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross and the album had soared to the No. 1 spot on the Billboard, iTunes and Amazon jazz charts.

Ranky Tanky plays music ranging from playful game songs to ecstatic shouts, from heartbreaking spirituals to delicate lullabies. The four core members — Quentin Baxter (drums), Kevin Hamilton (bass), Charlton Singleton (trumpet, vocals) and Clay Ross (guitar, vocals) — started as a jazz combo in 1998, fresh out of college in Charleston, South Carolina. Three of them grew up in South Carolina’s Gullah country, steeped in its cuisine, lifestyle, and arts. The idea of creating a band dedicated to Gullah songs came together when they recruited Quiana Parler, an alumna of American Idol, as lead vocalist.

Sourced from the early field recordings of artists such as Bessie Jones, John Davis and Laura Rivers, Ranky Tanky’s contemporary interpretations have been shaped by the diverse musical backgrounds and living Gullah influences of its members — a celebration of a heartland of American music born in their own backyards.

The Esbenshade Series is funded by the Frederica G. Esbenshade Memorial Fund, which provides annual income for the purpose of bringing lectures, performing artists or programs of diverse nature to the campus for public appearances. The endowed fund was established in 1980 by Harry H. Esbenshade, Sr. and Harry H. Esbenshade, Jr., husband and son, respectively, of the late Mrs. Esbenshade of Uniontown, Pennsylvania. All events are free and open to the public.