Features and Reviews
Ragtime Ron's Story
(Continuing our series on Rose Leaf Club members, Ron Ross, one of our star performers, contributed the following musical autobiography)
By Ron Ross
Ron Ross started out with a strong interest in the piano and music in general, and despite many detours, including accounting, the stock market and an acting career, music remains his primary passion.
Ron was born in Detroit in 1933, the only child of a family physician and a schoolteacher. His earliest piano studies began at age 5 and continued to age 13. Shortly before he stopped taking piano lessons, he developed an interest in composition and began to write pop ballads, occasionally collaborating with a Jerry Lipman, a 14-year-old neighbor who fancied himself a singer. Later on, he composed music for a fraternity musical at the University of Michigan, where he received his degree in Business Administration and Accounting in 1955.
Ron moved to California, where he first worked as an accountant and CPA, and later as a stockbroker. All the while he pursued his music composing, with music and lyrics for a musical based on the play Uncle Willie, and thrusts at the pop music scene in the early 1960s. Two of his songs in the folk-pop genre were close to being recorded by the Limeliters and one by the Kingston Trio.
Fast forward to 1981 when Ron, having composed several comedy songs, performed as a singer-songwriter in various clubs around the L.A. area. His most popular song from that era, "Studio Sensation," is still often requested and appears on his 2001 CD, "Ragtime Renaissance." A song Ron wrote for L. A.'s public television station KCET (Channel 28), "20 Years at 28," was performed by Bob McGrath, Shari Lewis, Betty White and Gordon Jump at the 20th Anniversary party for Channel 28 at the L.A. zoo in 1984. Ron's Christmas song "That Very Old Merry Old Christmas" has been performed several times by three different choral groups as well as individual singers over the past ten years, and one year was featured in the televised annual Christmas Eve show from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles.
Ron got interested in ragtime in a serious way in 1989, when a friend invited him to the Maple Leaf Club, which was then meeting in Van Nuys. The first pieces he remembers grabbing him were Scott Joplin and Louis Chauvin's "Heliotrope Bouquet" and Galen Wilkes's "Whippoorwill Hollow." That opened the door for him to this branch of music and thus began a growing fascination and passion about ragtime and related forms.
In 1990, Ron performed for the first time at the Maple Leaf Club, then meeting at the Old Town Music Hall in El Segundo, with a raggy sounding pop tune he had written for a short film in which he had starred in 1987. It is called “Small Town Private Eye” and was well received, so he kept playing it at the Maple Leaf and later at the Rose Leaf Ragtime Club in Pasadena calling it “a medley of my hit.” But finally, in 1998, after some feeble attempts, Ron composed a piece in at least the rhythm if not the precise form of ragtime. That piece was “Rickety Rag” and in the years of 1998 and 1999, Ron was inspired to compose by the Rose Leaf Club and its members' receptiveness to his new works. Consequently, he turned out several pieces in both ragtime and habañera rhythms and with a couple of pieces added in 2000 and 2001 put together 13 compositions on his first full-length CD, “Ragtime Renaissance,” issued in October 2001. Several tracks from this album were played from time to time on at least four ragtime radio programs, including Jeff Stone's “The Ragtime Show” at KSBR in Mission Viejo and “The Ragtime Machine,” David Reffkin's weekly show at KUSF in San Francisco. In fact, Reffkin featured an hour-long interview with Ron that aired on two of his programs in August 2002. Unfortunately, neither of those programs remains on the air.
In 1999, Ron took on the position of Public Relations Director for the Rose Leaf Ragtime Club, and increased the club's reach through regular newspaper notices and articles. He still holds this position, sending out press releases and reminder emails to attendees.
Ron continues to compose, including a 2002 song inspired by 12-year-old ragtime and blues pianist Ruby Fradkin, called “When Ruby Plays the Blues.” The lyrics to this song were reprinted in the September 2002 issue of L.A. Jazz Scene, a local newspaper, and in the program for Ruby's Sept. '02 concert at Whittier College.
Ron retired in 2012 as a stockbroker, but from time to time is featured as an actor in a TV commercial, movie or television show. He is usually called upon to play character and comedic roles, such as his appearances on the Seinfeld show, Hill Street Blues, Night Court, the 1995 Billy Crystal film “Forget Paris,” and the 2001 Coen Brothers film “The Man Who Wasn't There.” He recently appeared in a Schick commercial as a patron in an old-time barber shop and in several music videos, including one with CeeLo Green entitled “CeeLo Green Sings the Blues.”
Ron is the divorced father of two children, Ari and Marc, and lives in Studio City.
He may be contacted at (818) 766-2384 or by E-mail at the contact links provided on this website. His CD “Ragtime Renaissance” can be sampled and/or purchased by going to Ron's CD Baby Store on the web.