“At that time, Seattle was a pretty neat
city,” he said in early March. “It offered a lot of growth in itself.
Now it’s just like New York City, with six lanes going each way and
Early on, Ronnie worked on cars and hot
rods, and took up the trumpet in school bands. “It was a cool
instrument, if I hadn’t had a teacher who would have let me play what I
heard in my head instead of Sousa marches,” he says.
Ronnie’s mother, a classically trained
violinist and pianist, went with him to see that teacher, and Mom ended
up siding with her jazz-inclined son.
His Dad loved country music, and had a large
collection of 78s from classic artists including Hank Snow that he often
spun at neighborhood dances the family held in the basement.
Through his father’s hand Ronnie soon taught
himself guitar, playing by ear using a unique method – he played along
with commercials on TV.
“I always had a guitar in my hands,” he
says. “It drove my mother nuts.”
Dad also loved complex, ethnic dance music
including Polkas and Schottisches, and Ronnie’s passion for groove and
tempo music has remained a key component of his work ever since.
Eventually his Dad told Ronnie, “you’ve gone
After high school, Ronnie joined the popular
Seattle band Good Vibrations, and spent several years on the road,
playing the Holiday Inn circuit all over Oregon, Washington, and Alaska.
It was tough, at times dangerous work, as
Ronnie and the band were involved in a rollover accident near Coos Bay,
Oregon, which through the grace of God they all walked away from.
Ronnie soon went to work as a commercial
music and jingle composer for Raleigh Bicycles in Seattle, giving him
access to many of the finest studios and session players in the
His musical tastes were always diverse, from
the Beatles and Three Dog Night to country rockers like Pure Prairie
League and jazz wizards like George Benson.
Ronnie’s strong Christian faith has always
played a gigantic role in his life and music, and in 1989 he moved to
Nashville in part to pursue Contemporary Christian Music, which is based
in Nashville and suburban Franklin.
Another reason was that his musical peers
told Ronnie he had pretty much maxed out in Seattle.
“A bunch of friends were kicking me in the
butt, telling me that I needed to go to Nashville,” he says, smiling.
At the same time, Dean’s mechanical aptitude
paid off big-time as Ronnie founded a custom onsite furniture
restoration business, which has thrived in Middle Tennessee. His piano
restoration work has earned Ronnie recognition throughout the Southeast,
and he’s worked on the pianos of many country and pop superstars.
Once he got here, however, the music scene
wasn’t all he thought it would be.
“It’s one word, disheartening,” Ronnie says.
Happily, Ronnie kept writing, recording, and
touring. He recorded two powerhouse Christian albums, So Many Times and
Thief In The Night, which are still available on his Web site.
And two years ago, Ronnie discovered a music
which has changed his life – Bluegrass.
“I love Bluegrass because it’s fun,” Ronnie
says. “It’s something new that I haven’t done before. The whole genre of
Bluegrass is huge, and I had no idea that it’s as big as it is.”
Besides, Ronnie’s Bluegrass work led him to
a wonderful new marriage, to a Americana Bluegrass banjo player formerly
named Nancy Held whose fans have long known by her stage name as Digger
Working with longtime bass sideman Ron de la
Vega and Hank Jr. Dobro and steel player Mike Daly, Ronnie is putting
the finishing touches on an album that at last combines all of his
musical influences in one package.
It’s a remarkably emotional experience.
“I’ve been holding back for years, and I’m
sick of it,” he says. “People don’t like you to show what you know, but
now I’m gonna have fun. Me and God are the only ones I have to please.”
That’s a Dynamic Duo which Ronnie has felt
most comfortable with his whole life, and now at long last his new
single “Everything” and album are giving him the chance to show the full
range of his talents.