Former St. John resident Jim Ratts and his band Runaway Express will be the featured entertainment at the St. John Alumni banquet and reunion on May 26.

When Jim Ratts and his band Runaway Express take the auditorium stage at the Alumni Banquet on Saturday, May 26, it will mark a return to the stage he last performed on when he was in the fourth grade.

Ratts, who now lives in Colorado with Salli, fondly remembers his time in Stafford County. His father is Lloyd Ratts, who is 103 and still lives in the area. Ratts is excited to have the opportunity to perform a new release that has special meaning attached to his early years in St. John plus he gets to perform for his dad.

“I am excited about this event. I get to play for my dad. He’s 103 and still going strong,” Ratts said.

Ratts is releasing his new record “Small Towns” in September but he decided to do a pre-release at the St. John Alumni Banquet because the theme.

The song and album are about small towns in America. It fits his memories of his time in St. John.

When Alumni Banquet organizer Alice Lockridge heard Ratts record “Small Towns” she decided to change the theme of the banquet to “Small Towns, Big Fun.”

Initially, the band was supposed to perform in the cafeteria but Lockridge decided to move the performance to the auditorium where Ratts performed when he was in the fourth grade. The band will play a couple of sets starting at 8 p.m.

“I’m thrilled to bring the ensemble back to St. John,” Ratts said. “We’ve been here several times.”

They decided that the concert would be free but since Runaway Express was coming all the way from Colorado to perform, they would ask for donations.

Ratts grew up in the St. John area and went to school there in his grade school years. His mother died when he was 7 and he went to live with his aunt and uncle and graduated from Salina High School. He has returned several times to St. John to visit his dad and has great memories of his time here. His aunt was a vocal teacher at St. John high school and grade school for about a dozen years.

Runaway Express consists of Ratts singing and playing guitar, wife Salli Ratts singing and playing guitar, Chris Stongle playing drums, Lindsey Brown is on bass guitar, Daniel Jones is the pedal steel player and Ernie Martinez plays several instruments including mandolin, banjo, dobro and several guitars. A dobro is a resonator guitar with a round, metal piece in the body of the guitar. It is played lying flat in the lap and the player uses several picks and a slide on the neck.

Their style is Americana that is a combination of folk and country and rock. It is based on acoustic instruments. The music is rock oriented but definitely has county flavor also.

Ratts and wife Salli have been singing together since 1980 as a duo and, on the average, the other band members have been performing together at least 20 years in the group. They used to tour but now they play regionally and locally. They worked with John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. McEuen arranged for the Runaway Express to go perform in Nashville and on television.

Ratts has recording studio were he has been publishing songs for other people since 1980.

Their web site is www.runawayexpress.com.

Salli Ratts designs album covers and has done two for Steve Martin. She and Greg Carr designed “The Crow” album cover for Martin and won Album Cover Design of the Year from the International Blue Grass Association. They also did the album cover for Martin’s “Rare Bird Alert” that features Martin’s band Blue-grass band Steep Canyon Rangers. That album features songs by the Dixie Chicks and Paul McCartney.

Carr did the cover design for one of Runaway Express’ albums.

@GaleR_Tribune