Fifty years. Five decades. Half a century. That’s a lengthy stretch to do anything, let alone work a local music scene. But Tampa Bay’s own Ronny Elliott has been active in these parts for all that time, a drawling dry-witted Americana and folk-rock hero whose richly-hued narratives are imbued with a sense of straightforward honesty whether he’s reflecting on history, social issues or love gone wrong.
One of his earliest bands opened for Jimi Hendrix back in ’67. Afterwards, Ronny was asked to stick around and hold the amps steady during Hendrix’s set, for fear the guitar legend might knock them over during a particularly unruly moment. Ask Ronny about his Hendrix experience, however, and he just shrugs, claiming, “Most of my stories have more to do with just being there, a Forrest Gump
kind of thing.”
The title of his latest album, 2012’s I’ve Been Meaning to Write
, sums up his work ethos perfectly: he might be full of songs but he’s not necessarily in a hurry to put them to paper. In fact, he didn’t actually start producing original material until he’d been a musician for nearly 30 years, because, he says, “I never wanted to be anything but a bass player and be in bands.” But he finally figured out “grown-ups can’t get along” and if he wanted to be a part of a band that lasted, he’d have to start one himself. So he picked up a guitar (his original instrument), put together a band of his musician friends (axe-slinger Steve Connelly, drummer Harry Hayward, singer Natty Moss Bond and bassist Walt Bucklin), and eventually issued his full-length debut, Ronny Elliott and the Nationals
, in 1995. “I don’t have any real regrets but I probably should have gotten to it sooner.”
Nine albums later and a week before his 50-year anniversary show this Saturday at Skipper's Smokehouse, we sat down over beers at New World to discuss his life and times. Check it out after the jump...