Thursday, March 17, 2011

RIP, Ronnie Hammond.

Ronnie Hammond, legendary lead singer for the Atlanta Rhythm Section, died Monday at age 60.

I first met Ronnie when I was Student Body President at Gordon Junior College in 1975.  Well, not exactly.

I met him at Atlanta Recording Studio prior to that.  ARS was recording a cover of "Spooky", I already knew Buddie Buie, his son, and J. R. Cobb, guitarist for the band, having done some studio work there.

Ronnie started off in Macon, singing on then-gospel-singer-later-turned Mayor "Machine-Gun" Ronnie Thompson's television show on WMAZ.

Man, was he good. 

Rarely do you find a white boy with as much soul as Ronnie had.  He put his heart into every song he sang, a result of a conflicted life at the time (resolved later on with the help of God and friends).

I had to beg and plead with the GJC administration to get them to schedule the band for a campus concert.  Not many people had heard of them at that point, and they were a calculated risk for the school. 

I called Mr. Buie, got Ronnie, who said they'd love to do the gig.  We laughed later about how desperate ARS was for paid dates.

By the time the show came around weeks later, "Doraville" was racing up the charts, followed by "Angel" and "Who You Gonna Run To".

I looked like a genius.  I wasn't.  I just loved good Southern Rock.  And ARS was one of the best.

Ronnie lived in Forsyth and died there Monday.

How fitting.  The "homeplace" of Southern Rock sent off one of its favorite children.

Like Johnny Cash once sang, "everyone I know goes away in the end."

One of my favorite ARS songs (probably because I identify with it so well):

The sun just went behind a cloud again
Down crowded streets he walks alone
He's a stranger out of place
A number not a face
And all day long, all day long

He's feelin like an alien
Feelin' like he don't belong
Have mercy, cried the alien
Help him find his way back home

The feelin' that he feels he can't explain
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, they're all the same
He's lost and all alone
A heart without a home
Standin' like a statue in the rain

Now, now and then we all are aliens
Feelin' like we don't belong
Have mercy, cried the alien
Help him find his way back home



Michael Ruffin said...

You're right--the man could sing.

I think I have been in the Forsyth hospital once in my life--to see you after the accident.

Steve said...

Great memories! ARS was on my teenage radar, which put me in a strange spot here in Central CA.

Thanks for reminding me of their soul.