Ron Hedland, Blues Singer

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Ron Hedland

Blues Singer

Raised in Norfolk, Virginia, Ron Hedland began his career in the mid-sixties Virginia Beach music scene. Graduating to tours from Florida to New York, he opened for the likes of Taj Mahal and Jerry Jeff Walker. Moving to Toronto in the early seventies, Hedland became a charter member of the Yonge Street lounge scene with Slyfox - soul, sin, rhythm and dues eleven hours, six days a week complementing exotic dancers at the Bermuda Tavern. It was there, for economic reasons, that Ron introduced his triple-threat signature trademark combining drums, keyboards, and singing simultaneously.

As a jingle singer and voice-over pitchman for national advertising campaigns, he established a blue collar industry image. The countless solo, sideman, and group gigs led to the formation of RH Positive under his leadership. Ron had a voice that could warm a room in winter. That distinctive tone found a home as house announcer at the infamous Le Strip. The nineties saw Hedland as an active member of the Beaches community performing at both the Beaches Jazz and the Harbourfront Soul and Blues festivals.

In the tradition of Ray Charles, Hedland embraced all Southern sounds - the themes that affected and directed his life. Balancing with integrity the full musical spectrum, it was with ballads that he found strong satisfaction. "Most vocalists can handle uptempo, but not as many can deliver and sell a ballad", he once commented without bravado. Tragically, Ron Hedland was murdered in November 1998, right outside his home in Toronto.

On Sunday, December 13th, 1998 more than four hundred friends of the slain musician met at Toronto's Brunswick House to acknowledge and celebrate his music and his life. The generous contributions donated on that evening allowed the publishing of the "Someday" retrospective recording. "Someday", a fifteen song compilation CD revisits two decades of recordings by the late Ron Hedland, a fixture of the Toronto music scene for over 30 years, and expresses a key essence of Southern roots music - that soulful search when someday could be today. The compositions found in "Someday" explore the vulnerable nature of relationships and private frailty with the open warmth and humour he characterized.

Hampered by failing health, the last years of Ron's life became personally difficult and professionally erratic. This testament documents a brighter era when it was the music itself that represented him. It says a lot about a man when his peers and the music community that he was a part of pool their resources to produce a CD that was never brought to life while Ron was alive, but should have been. Obviously this was their way of paying homage to a gifted musician/songwriter whose music they felt should not remain a secret.

Ron's memory and unique style "live on" every time a track from "Someday" is played. Here are a few of the comments by Ronís musical friends: Gary Kendall - bass player, Downchild Blues Band Ron Hedland's reputation always preceded him. In the midseventies I heard about a band called "Sly Fox" that had a steady gig at the Bermuda Tavern on Yonge Street in downtown Toronto. I first met Ron in 1978, Ron & I were the rhythm section in one of Mike McDonald's many bands. Ron & I hit it off right away even though at first I was a little intimated because of his reputation as a heavy duty player.

This was the start of Ron turning me onto his talent as a songwriter. I was amazed at the quality of the demo's he and his producer/partner Dave Mayle were making on what I think was a four track reel to reel machine. For the next 20 years until his death in 1998 , Ron sent me a copy of everything he recorded, even jingles.

Danny Marks - guitarist, radio host, BLUZ.FM Ronnie Hedland wasn't a big guy but he sure had a big presence, booming his voice out of that barrel chested physique, he'd call your name loud and warm. Ron had a real "lived in" voice. 100% Human. Our history began when I first walked into the Bermuda Tavern on Yonge Street to check out the gig situation. The most striking sight on that stage, (even more than the go go girls), was Ronnie at the Wurlitzer, soloing with one hand, drumming with the other hand and both feet, and all the time singing like Ray Charles. All the while, smoking tons of Export A.

Ronnie was a machine, all limbs akimbo, a one man show within the trio. It's also true he had a great sense of humour, and he was a very personable host for the guys who where there to see the girls. The secret however was the musicianship, and we all knew that. Greg Anzelc - drummer "He was my mentor - he was the first guy I played with in clubs and he taught me how to listen to the music and then just play it." Robbie Rox - singer/composer for The Monster Horn Band Ron had a smile that could warm up the whole Beach area of Toronto. He was a very tasteful player and had a very warm low voice with a nice touch of raunchiness.

In conclusion It says a lot about a man when his peers and the music community that he was a part of pool their resources to produce the CD that was never brought to life while Ron was alive, but always should have been. Obviously this was their way of paying homage to a gifted musician/songwriter whose music they felt should not remain a secret. Ron's memory and unique style live on every time a track from the CD "Someday" is played.

Read more Blues Heroes Stories
from the bookTouched By the Blues

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