My first official post on Open Mike is about one of Tampa’s most prolific singer songwriters, Ronny Elliott. He has been around for several generations and is still actively recording and performing on the local music scene. Here is his Bio, which can be found on his website at http://www.ronnyelliott.com/index.htm
It’s the Fall of 1964 and Ronny Elliott has begun his musical career, playing bass and singing in the Raveons, a Tampa-based garage band. He’s pretty sure he’s got the blues, but let’s face it, the boy’s a hillbilly!
By the early 7O’s Ronny has been through stints with the Outsiders (not those Outsiders), the Soul Trippers, Noah’s Ark, Duckbutter and the Outlaws (yeah, those Outlaws) among others. He’s had flops on Knight, Laurie, Providence, Decca and Paramount with these bands.
He’s done shows with the Allman Brothers, Chuck Berry, the Coasters, the Chambers Brothers, Mike Bloomfield, Canned Heat, Dion, Bo Diddley, the Dave Clark Five, Van Morrison, Gene Vincent and Jerry Jeff Walker along the way. When he opened for Jimi Hendrix with his band, Your Local Bear, in 1967 the local newspaper referred to his music as country rock’n'roll.
He’s still pretty sure that he’s a rhythm’n'blues musician but his songs call to mind Hank Penny more than Prince Lala.
There have been lots of bands since then but now he’s a solo act, usually backed by some twisted version of the Nationals. He’s shared recent bills with Jimmy Lafave, NRBQ, Joe Ely, the Bottle Rockets, Wilco, Patti Smith and the Fiji Mariners.
Someone coined the musical term, Americana, and he gets called that in No Depression and Billboard. He still thinks he plays the blues.
By the time he was 10, Ronny’s mom was buying him guitars.
In 1964 a buddy he bagged groceries with asked him to form a band. Ronny was? reluctant. Then he went to meet the singer. From a ’57 T-Bird emerged a guy with hair down to his collar wearing candy-apple red patent leather shoes with zippers. His name was Warren Novak. Ronny joined the Raveons.
Before long, Elliott signed on with The Outsiders and enjoyed the benefits of a small pond. That group morphed into the Soul Trippers with the cockeyed service of a New York pr firm once the band with the same name from Cleveland hit the top 10.
In ’66, Elliott hooked up with his pal Buddy Richardson and formed Noah’s Ark. They landed a deal to cut some singles for Decca, the label home at that time for Ricky Nelson, Brenda Lee and the early Who. Noah’s Ark messed with feedback, violin bows and noise – stuff that would soon fall into the realm of psychedelic rock. They cut a proto psychedelic garage song called “Paperman” that garnered a bit of exposure. (Elliott recalls receiving minimal BMI checks from Sweden and Japan.)
Elliott quit Noah’s Ark in 1968, tried to form an R&B group, but could rarely get all the members in the same room at the same time. The remnants of that outfit constituted Your Local Bear, which Elliott calls a hillbilly band. They opened for Hendrix at Curtis Hixon Hall. “After we finished, our job was to stand behind his Marshall cabinets in case he whacked them,” Elliott says. Local Bear was a short-lived venture. Next was Duckbutter, a “psychedelic vaudeville hillbilly revue,” that featured a front- man Harry Hayward, who was also a magician.
By 1970, Elliott had pretty much taken himself out of the scene. He promoted some shows, including the only time Duane AlIman played a full set with Eric Clapton’s Derek & the Dominoes. It was at Curtis Hixon Hall in Tampa.
Duckbutter arose off and on over the next couple of decades through country rock n roll, new wave and punk with oddball brushes with the music and record business which Elliott was always trashing.
After discovering that there was a new market for the hillbilly rock n roll that he had been working for several decades he joined forces again with Harry Hayward with both of them on somewhat shaky guitar and formed Loco Siempre.
It was soon obvious to the slow learner that at his age someone would always be marrying, divorcing, dying or cracking up. Starting over annually was no longer an option.
With a crude 8-track set-up in his house, Elliott recorded an album, Ronny Elliott & the Nationials, an unreconstructed, lo-fi effort that received strong critical response and positive reactions from industry people.
Ronny and the Nationals have gone on to release six more critically acclaimed records. His latest Valentine Roadkill was honored as one of the top ten Americana Albums 2005 by MOJO Magazine.
The Nationals have kept the original line-up from the first job with the addition of Jim McNealon on steel. Not bad for a bunch of misfits who don’t consider this a band at all.