Bon Ton Roulette
Ronnie Barron was born in 1943 in Algiers, New Orleans, a cajun, creole, and black railroad town. Ronnie was already playing drums at age 7 when he discovered Professor Longhair. In his own words: “it was like a religious experience. So I decided to teach myself to play piano.”
At age 12, he was singing and playing piano in a band called The Fidelities. At their regular venue, the Orchid Club in New Orleans West Side, he was treated to none other than Professor Longhair, playing the keys during the set breaks for his band.
At the age of 15, he would meet Mac Rebennack. He impressed Mac with his Reverend Ether character, a persona created to please the fly-by-night tourist crowd of New Orleans. Mac wanted Ronnie to take on his new character, Dr. John, but it wasn’t meant to be. Ronnie was handpicked by Sonny & Cher to become a session player and, in 1965, headed to California.
He worked as a session musician for a few years, but longed for something more fulfilling. Through mutual musical connections, Ronnie found his way to Paul Butterfield and a new formation he was creating. Their initial meeting was tense; Ronnie butted heads with the rest of the band members, at one point things got physical. Ronnie’s words: “Paul came up and gave me some shit. I just picked him up over my head, and that shocked everybody there. I'm a street dude and don't take that stuff. I was going to throw him down, but just put him back down instead.”
They eventually found their harmony, a group of musicians encouraging each other to play their own styles. Ronnie played on Butterfield’s album, Better Days, and found himself working with a number of musicians over the years, including Louis Prima, Eric Burdon, Canned Heat, and The Rolling Stones.
We lost Ronnie in 1997, but he left a legendary body of music behind.
Bon Ton Roulette
Label: Ace Records
My New Orleans Soul