Ed Mayberry tells the story of his involvement with Ronnie Lane. Until I can write a
suitable bio for Ed, I'll let his own words do the job [ed.]:
I first met Ronnie when I was doing live backstage interviews for the
Austin rock'n'roll station, KLBJ-FM. It was at an Auditorium Shores concert
(probably the Fabulous Thunderbirds) that I poked my head into one of the trailers,
looking for one of the musicians. When I opened the door, I saw him sitting alone on
one of the seats. I think I may have asked him something like "have you seen
Jimmie Vaughan?" but I remember closing the door thinking, "man, that sure
looked like Ronnie Lane!" So I opened the door again, and asked him! He
confirmed who he was, and we arranged to do an interview at a later date. I was
blown away by running into him--I had no idea he was in Austin. I think it ended up
that my colleague, Jody Denberg, got him in the studio for the first interview and then,
later, I produced a Valentine's Day broadcast with Ronnie for KLBJ-FM.
I bought "A Nod Is As Good As a Wink to a Blind Horse"
in 1971 or so, and played it to death. "You're So Rude" is one of
those songs that is forever etched into my brain. A friend of mine had already
introduced me to "Long Player," the previous
album. But years before that, I loved "Itchycoo Park" from the
Small Faces. I still consider it to be on my list of the top ten great singles of
Ronnie became more than just a musician whom I interviewed many times over the
years; He was a friend. He invited me over for a Thanksgiving dinner his first
year in Austin, after I'd already had two Thanksgiving dinners earlier in the day! I
remember Ronnie playing a George Harrison album--one that didn't sell well--and I told him
that I loved the songs on the album, despite it's poor sales. I'm a George Harrison
freak. He told me "we all love George in this
Ronnie seemed to love having people drop in at his various Austin homes, for a smoke and
for conversation. And not just to talk about music. Or I'd drop by to pick him
up for a dinner at Katz' Deli or one of the other Austin restaurants. Sometimes his
MS was so bad that I'd have to lift him from his wheelchair into the car seat, and the
trip would tire him out. I remember once, getting him comfortable in a Ford Escort
that I had with those seat belts that automatically wrap around you when you close the
door, and he said "oh, just like Patti's car!" Patti
Harrison/Clapton. Somehow, I doubt she was driving an Escort, but she must have had
automatic seat belts!
Ronnie's gigs in Austin ALWAYS brought tears to my eyes. Few singers strike me that
way. "Ooh La La" was like the story of his life, in a way, with
lines like "I wish/that/I knew what I know now/when I was stronger." He
always sang with soul, and he had a voice--live or on record--that sends chills through me
with its honesty. I'll always remember seeing him on stage performing as all the
musicians looked at him with such love and reverence...hearing the great Rolling Stones
sax of Bobby Keys as Ronnie played with the Tremors...watching him go on stage as a
surprise guest at a Ronnie Wood solo show, with Ian McLagan...I always had to pinch myself
at being privileged to witness such great moments.
Ronnie liked to relax, and he always seemed to be writing lyrics, or poetry. When I
visited him at home, he always had a yellow legal pad on the table, with lines of new
songs he'd be working on. His mind kept creating. He ALWAYS seemed to be in a
good mood, even when he was tired. As you can hear on the new "Live
in Austin" CD, he would turn the simple reading of a weather forecast
during the Valentine's broadcast into something funny. When I taped him talking to
his famous British musician friends for that special, he filled those conversations with
witty remarks. I've got some great outtakes--we only used a fraction of the hours he
spent on transatlantic phone calls to Jimmy Page (in the middle of recording a solo album
in his studio), Eric Clapton (interrupted a fish and chips meal at home), Jeff Beck (he
had just flown back from Barbados, having helped Mick Jagger with his second solo album),
Pete Townshend (at Eel Pie working on his "Iron Man"
album, dropping everything to talk with Ronnie), Ron Wood (back from picking his
kids up from school), Bill Wyman (woke him up from sleeping on an office sofa), Ian
McLagan (in LA at the time), Charlie Sexton, producer Glyn Johns, one of the Georgia
Satellites (major Faces freaks), Joe Ely (in Oslo, Norway on tour), and many others.
Most of the salty language was edited out of it!
The show's concept was Ronnie phoning his friends in England for song requests.
Clapton wanted "Wonderful Tonight," Woody wanted "Young Blood,"
etc. His friend JoRae Dimenno would dial the numbers, and I rolled tape, listening
through my headphones as Ronnie, on the microphone, talked to all these amazing
people. They all loved talking with Ronnie. Most of these musicians had helped
him with his ARMS benefit shows for MS a few years earlier. What a great little book
of phone numbers he had! I remember thinking that it's not just name-dropping for
him to have all these people on his radio special--they're his friends! They're
people he grew up with, and worked with. Page and the Stones used his mobile
recording studio, if you look at those old album credits.
I also recorded Alejandro Escovedo, Susan Voeltz and Jody Denberg performing a couple of
songs especially for the broadcast--"Ooh La La" and "Annie."
These ended up on the new CD. The actual radio show lasted over four
hours. After we had the live presentation of all this stuff on Valentine's Day
evening, I remember him saying to me after the broadcast that all my hard work on it had
not gone unnoticed. That comment was worth its weight in gold to me.
Here was a man confined to a wheelchair with a debilitating disease that took away his
ability to play his bass, but he continued having a bright outlook on life. Even
when he appeared tired, sitting in his wheelchair at home or backstage somewhere, with a
twinkle in his eye he'd suddenly say something funny that would just roll you over.
He always said he figured maybe he got MS because he was in a position to draw attention
to the disease, like with the ARMS benefits, so something could be done about it.
Every Austin musician who was every around Ronnie felt his bright outlook and
passion for music and expression. They always wanted to play their best for
him. But then, he influenced everybody--I've heard Jagger dedicate "Little
Red Rooster" to him from the Cotton Bowl stage during the Steel Wheels tour.
I recently heard Townshend at a Who show in the summer of 2000, refer to his
songwriting days with Ronnie. We all know the guys in Oasis loved him.
As musical styles move on, believe it or not, Ronnie might have found a lot of people
perhaps had forgotten the legacy of the Faces and the Small Faces. He has a song
called "Chicken" about the punk scene in England written in reaction to
them condemning his musical generation as "boring old farts." There's a
live version with Bobby Keys on the new CD. But in Austin, he found people who not
only remembered his great work, but placed it on a pedestal, where it rightly
belongs. Every Austin musician wanted to play with him. And he succeeded to
play with a lot of 'em, in various bands over the years he lived in Texas. I also
think he liked the sort of liberal Austin attitude.
If he was still here, I think he'd still be writing music. I don't think he could
ever stop creating or expressing himself. I think he'd still be helping his old band
mates fight for credit and money due on all their old releases. But I think he'd
still be making music.
I miss his sense of humor, his warmth and creativity, his laughter, his
spirituality, his incredibly honest voice and his way with words. My second son,
born in 1999, is named Ronnie Lane Mayberry in honor of him.