DIARY - 6 FEBRUARY 2007 - RONNY ELLIOTT
COUNTRY REVIEW - 2005
RONNY ELLIOTT AND JESUS
wasn't wild about the idea of being appropriated by a bunch of hillbillies
in the United States Of America to fight wars for oil, greed/ but you
know he's not a passive aggressive type/ when he pitched bad guys out
of the temples he didn't hide around the corner and wait until they weren't
looking / he turned over their tables right then" - Third Coming
- Ronny Elliott
Elliott was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1947 but has channelling
rights to earlier eras.
Back when rock stars wrote on tablets, turned water into wine and
parted seas without permanent Tsunami waves.
Ronny reckons Jesus was black and had a hooked nose and kicked arse
When you knock around with Jesus as a confidant as he picks up frequent
flyer points on trips back to earth you get the inside oil.
Jesus is that sort of bloke, according to Ronny who takes the piss
out of warriors with the same vitriol unleashed on No Depression taste
a blood drenched Jesus in a cameo in Valentino's Dream - inspired
by famed Texan record producer and latter day prisoner Huey P Meaux and
entrée to his eighth album Valentine Roadkill (Blue Heart
It segues into Hope Fades - with veiled references to George Jones
GEORGE AND ELVIS
title was something that I came up with when a friend needed a book
title," Ronny told Nu Country from his home in Tampa, Florida.
"She didn't use it and I hate to throw anything away. I was surprised
to finish up the record and find all of the valentine references.
It was just the other day that someone had to point out that the first
cut tied in."
And it's a much more dominant Savior who returns to earth in the fiery
finale hidden track that enables the latter day Floridian to lance
claim to have sleepovers with his spiritual source but his dialogue is
wasn't happy about everything that he saw, wars in his name, bigotry,"
Elliott drawls in his humorous homily.
"You know my act wasn't very big when I was around/ it wasn't until
after they killed me that I kinda caught on," Ronny quotes his old
"I guess he didn't let a whole lot of respect in the time he was
around/ I don't blame him for leaving/ I wish I thought to ask him about
the state of radio - rock n roll."
views on radio - especially country - are known to discerning community
Song characters live on the edge - is that the spectre of Phil Spector
in pill popping, coke-snorting victim in Do Angels Ever Dream They're
Falling, penned with journalist Laura Canyon.
Elliott personalises the demise of other prematurely deceased heroes diverse
as Lord Buckley, Jack Kerouac and Hank Williams in When Idols Fall.
It's maybe a sibling of Mr Edison's Electric Chair.
"I wrote it thinking of myself as the character," says Elliott
who plays bass, banjo, mandolin, lap guitar and piano on a disc adorned
with steel, sax and clarinet.
"I think of it more as a movie."
It segues into anthemic peace paean No More War.
"If the Christian nations were the nations of Christians we would
have no more war/ if its not all land and power and money what are we
fighting for/ no more war?"
Elliott doesn't just spill the quill on western leaders - "if the
chosen people shared the land with their brothers we would have no more
war/ if PLO stood for peace and love for others we would even the score/
no more war."
He also lampoons the new monopolistic taste dictators - Fox News and Clear
Channel radio - in I Don't Hear Freedom Ring Any More.
But there's a tender side to Elliott whose disc reached #73 on Americana
charts before its release this month.
Check out Lottie - evocative eulogy to his grandmother - and Walk To
The End Of The World.
Further info - www.ronnyelliott.com
SURFS RADIO WAVES WITH GUN
"There's something wrong with the radio waves today/ you can get
crap paid on the radio stations if you've got money to pay/ maybe music
and business are terms that just don't jive/ all I've got is three chords
and a will to survive." - All The Way To Louisville. - Ronny Elliott.
troubadour Ronny Elliott loads both barrels when he shoots out the
lights of corporate cronyism in radio and music.
The Alabama born singer-song writer parodied power brokers when he
cut 'South By So What' for his 1999 album My Nerves Are
But, now on his sixth disc Hep (Blue Heart Records), this Kentucky
city is his locale for summary justice.
Elliott, raised on roots rock and country, brushed fame in his embryonic
days but has settled for critical acclaim in the home straight.
band The Outsiders passed on novelty tune Snoopy V The Baron that
became a #2 hit for The Royal Guardsman.
The singer attributes no blame for that lost earner; but not so corporate
radio chains with their narrow niche formats.
"I've read in the magazines about the records I've made/ but I've
never had a radio budget to get the damn things played/ I came all the
way to Louisville without a gun/ I'm going home to Tampa, gonna get me
The gun metaphor is used by outlaw pickers Cash and Coe and lesser-known
artists Chris Wall - Something To Shoot- and Roger Creagher - I've
Got The Guns.
But rarely has it been a weapon against me-too myopic memories mausoleums
that masquerade as modern radio.
Louisville radio has been very good to me," Ronnie told Nu Country.
"The station there named Burn, Burn, Burn record of the year
a while back. I played a non-commercial radio conference there a year
or so ago and felt my knuckles itch as promo guys worked the floor schmoozing
with radio guys. What a sleazy business! I did love Louisville, though,
and I can't wait to go back."
Elliott's pathos primed portraits are not all bleak as entrée tune
Nowhereville but he loads up again in Slim Harpo's Heartbeat.
"Hide that bottle, bust that sod and put up all your medicine/ drain
that swamp, load that gun and sell the priest the rest of that heroin."
But a heart beats within gruff interiors with delicious dexterity in
Blind Side Of The Heart and the sensual strut of Poets And Scientists.
Elliott inhabits that wondrous wasteland between roots rock and country
and shares mandolin, glockenspiel and lap guitar with co-producer Steve
Connelly alternating with Jim McNealan on pedal and lap steel.
That tenderised side is beefed up in Nothing About Heartache -
eulogy to a deceased British cat named Cozzie who walked piano keys -
and Jack's St Pete Blues with Natty Moss-Bond harmonising.
"I drink because I can't write and I can't write because I'm drinking/
I'd turn off this television set but she'd know what I was thinking."
DIDN'T LIKE TAMPA
Presley didn't like Tampa/ he said the girls were too nice/ met
a few, seduced one or two/ and slept with most of them twice."
has long had a penchant for personalising tributes with idiosyncrasies
- Elvis Presley Didn't Like Tampa is a good example.
Equally funny The Time I Spent In New Orleans - "you
can buy a girl a drink down on Bourbon Street/ but check her Adam's
apple before you sit down."
Sober Hurry Up To Meet The Angels, A Great Depression and
finale frolic Gorgeous George - saga of a wrestler - follow
George was a real person," Ronnie revealed, "the first
wrestler superstar in the early days of TV. He was Cassius Clay's
role model. The Dundee Brothers took Cassius to see George wrestle
and, reportedly, that's where, "I am the greatest!' comes from."
planning Aussie tours since last millenium, hooks up with possible tour
mates Bill & Audrey at the Woody Guthrie festival in Oklahoma this
REVIEW - 2001
POISONVILLE - SATIRIC HOME OF RONNY ELLIOTT
"We flew half away across the country to shake and to rattle/ and
I was ready to roll when I hit Liberty Lunch/ trying to be hip for the
Press was more than half of the battle/ those jerks from No Depression
are an arrogant bunch/ it's south by so what in the city of Austin."
- Ronny Elliott.
Floridian singer-songwriter Ronny Elliott has plenty in common with Emmylou
He was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1947 and written and sung about
it with passion.
Ronny has also shared concert billing with Kasey Chambers - for Ronny
it was his long time hometown of Tampa.
"It was the first time we played a dirt floor bar since many years
ago in the Northern Territory," Bill Chambers recalled at the salubrious
Continental Café in the trendy inner southern Melbourne suburb
Prahran where Kasey, Bill and Buddy Miller joined Kieran Kane and Kevin
Welch on stage.
"We enjoyed working with Ronny as he was a real character."
Such a character that his two most recent albums My Nerves Are Bad
Tonight and Poisonville have the satiric sting to distinguish
him from so many peers.
Elliott doesn't beat around the bucolic bush - he aims for the jugular
with anthemic gems such as South By So What and period pieces Born
In 1947 and Letter From A Birmingham Jail.
The singer's parody of the commercialism of the annual South By South
West festival - an oasis for fans but a nightmare for acts who don't get
the performing seal of approval - had immediate results for Elliott.
Many of the best homegrown cutting edge country artists from Texas and
beyond don't get booked at the festival - and those that do often perform
all too short sets because of sheer weight of numbers.
got a sort of love/hate thing with the No Depression folks,"
Elliott told me in November of 2000.
"I certainly admire them for what they do but someone has to
hold their feet to the fire for what they don't do! They actually
said of My Nerves Are Bad Tonight "This is stirring stuff."
No mention of the line about them. Grant Alden (No Depression editor)
took me out to buy me an Arrogant Bastard, a local beer, the last
time I was in Nashville.
I leave for Nashville tomorrow for a few days so maybe I can wrangle
another one out of him."
also featured the country narrative They Don't Rob Trains Any More
and songs diverse as Same Three Chords, The Dogs Of Havana, Hotel Room
In Jacksonville and Heroes - maybe an answer song to John Lennon's
1970 tune God.
They Don't Rob Trains Any More has a macabre climax where the outlaw
character murders his sister - "his sister, Louise, had tried to
teach him good morals and manners/ after his ma had left them for a full
moon downtown/ he broke her neck and buried her behind the outhouse after
he dressed her up in an Indian wedding gown"
The title track, inspired by a T S Elliott quote used by his grandmother,
includes - "I heard the poet sing. 'I'm rhyming verbs and trying
to learn how to swing.'/ we had a dream all the karma in the world could
be bought with Buddha's money/ all the laptop, flip flop girl groups sang
the song of the gay caballero and his lovely lesbian counterpart/ and
the ventriloquist's red-headed daughter who could do no wrong."
woke up in a blood soaked bed/ struggled though a mess in his mind/ rubbed
his eyes and staggered to his feet/ he prayed that he wasn't going to
find/ the pretty dagger from the Times Square jib joint/ sticking from
a gash in her side/ he knew in his heart the life was gone." - Room
100 - Ronny Elliott.
Elliott recently released fourth album Poisonville - it opens with
Room 100 (a parodic piece on the death of Sid Vicious's partner Nancy
Spungen in a room at the famed Chelsea Hotel in Times Square in New York
This is real country with pedal steel permeating an old style murder ballad
- the only difference is this a true love/life/death saga.
The steel weeps as Elliott recalls Spungen's final death bed words "Shine,
shine, shine like a vein of gold for me/ I'll open like a bag of jewels
and I'll set you free."
Steve Earle should be happy that Elliott digs deep into the seamy smack
splattered punk lifestyle to illustrate this eerie epitaph.
With apologies to Elliott for lyrical omissions here is the meat of the
"This might have been the trial of the century/ if he lived that
long but the press knew he never could/ all the dope and the fame and
the sex and the money/ he knew in his heart that the light was gone/ he
stuck a needle in his arm for the show."
Elliott segues from the Spungen-Vicious death ballad to rollicking Kerouac
fuelled rocker Burn, Burn, Burn and then settles into the more
melodic title track inspired by long deceased crime writer Dashiell Hammett
- yes, a mentor of Kinky Friedman.
peers the singer is happy to share song sources - When Mr Blues Come
To Town is about R & B wild man Wynonnie Harris, who also crops
up in Born In 1947.
Bitter Breeze exposes a corrupt U.S Government removing the last
Queen Of Hawaii at gunpoint.
Elliott says Letter From A Birmingham Jail - inspired by Martin
Luther King in 1963 - "is one of my tacky, heavy handed songs that
US critics don't think I should do."
Ronny dedicates his disc to four black girls killed in the 1963 racist
bombing of a Birmingham church - and includes the often deleted second
verse is his revamp of Stephen Foster's Oh! Susanna.
"I jumped aboard the telegraph/and traveled down the river/the electric
fluid magnified/and killed 500 Niggers"
Elliott explains in his notes "I restored the dreaded second verse
to remind us that maybe society does inch along."
This may sound like the singer is top heavy on political and social comment
but his cover of Terry Clarke's Irish Rockabilly Blues and Dirty Dreams
and I Watched Her Tango are passion plays from Costa Rica and
with the period piece Born In 1947 - Warrnambool may be a long way
geographically from Birmingham, Alabama, but we share many same sentiments.
My sister Jennifer and I followed vastly different career paths after
learning to drive in a 1947 Chevy ute but her son Hamish - an Arts
Graduate, actor, male model and footballer despite two knee re-constructions
- left his impression on a century old shed while learning to drive
a Toorak tractor.
Hank Williams released his first record, Elvis Presley took his guitar
to school, Johnny Otis moved home to L A, Jimmy Liggins recorded Cadillac
Boogie - the first rock' n roll record.
So rock was born in 1947, according to Elliott's narrative.
It's powerful stuff - so who is Ronny Elliott and why have he and
The Nationals - featuring harmony singer Natty Moss-Bond - scored
airplay on Nu Country and PBS-FM in Melbourne?
mother bought him his first guitar at 10 and he debuted in 1964 on bass
and vocals in the Raveons - a Tampa-based garage band.
Ronny also worked with The Outsiders, Soul Trippers, Noah's Ark, Duckbutter
and famed Outrlaws.
The Outsiders manager gave them his song - Snoopy vs. The Red Baron
- but the band, split by the draft, passed on the song that became a #2
hit in 1966 for The Royal Guardsmen.
That same year Elliott and Buddy Richardson formed Noah's Ark and cut
singles for Decca, the label home for Ricky Nelson, Brenda Lee and the
They cut a psychedelic garage song called Paperman that scored
exposure and small royalty checks from Sweden and Japan.
When Ronny opened for Jimi Hendrix with his band, Your Local Bear, in
1967, a local paper referred to his music as country rock' n 'roll.
Elliott is a solo act, usually backed by a version of the Nationals, and
shared recent bills with Jimmy LaFave, NRBQ, Joe Ely, Bottle Rockets,
Jeff Healy and the Fiji Mariners.
In 1995 Elliott
and drummer Harry Hayward recruited several younger musicians:- guitarists
Steve Connelly and Mark Warren - singer Natty Moss-Bond and bassist Walt
Bucklin and cut the album Ronny Elliott And The Nationals on a
eight track home studio.
Bloodshot and Checkered Past said it didn't have enough country/punk flavour
and Hightone claimed it was too commercial.
"I'll buy into the Americana thing because it exists," Elliott
"I talked to this independent promo guy who books acts like the Cigar
Store Indians. He told me my sound wasn't Americana enough, that I didn't
quite have it. I worked with Gene Vincent and I resent being kept out
of their club because I supposedly don't know what it's all about."
Elliott later unleashed second indie album A Postcard From Jack
that included Tell The Killer The King Is Dead (about Jerry Lee
Lewis and Elvis) and The Twist Came From Tampa about how Hank Ballard
and the Midnighters had the dance stolen from them by Chubby Checker.
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