an American songwriter and modern-day troubadour

  

 

 

 

 

                 

 

 

mp3 click here to check out Ronnie Jay Wheeler's brand new single release from his sparkling fresh CD.

Long Black Veil  **  Ronnie Jay Wheeler  

 

 


All Over the Map

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label :   Alleged Iguana Music

 

 

 

    So my producer, Randall Cousins, (I'll tell on
him later) wanted me to do a homework assignment for
this web site writing down a bio/story with
influences, etc.  Let's do influences all the way
through.  I've loved music since I can remember.
Those recollections go back to pre-school days at
about age four to six.  For some reason my folks let
me use the record player at that age, and I dare say,
I probably took as good of care of the records and
record player as they did.  I can remember my mother's
records I played over and over again like Bill Haley's
"See you Later, Alligator" and other love songs and
fox trots.  And, my father's records like "Blood on
the Saddle," "Mule Skinner Blues," and Hank Williams's
songs were played over and over as well.  These were
all on 78s-I can't remember if the player played 45s
and LPs as well.
     By mid-grade school I was tuning in KOMA from
"The City" (Oklahoma City) and loving stuff like
"Ruby, Ruby" and "Sheila" and sticking the radio in
the window if I was going outside to play.
     By junior high I really dug the whole British
invasion and especially the big three.  I used to tell
people, "Everybody loves the Beatles, everybody else
loves the Rolling Stones, but me, I love the Animals."
 I'll never forget the first time I listened to an
Animals' album, and later, the first time I saw Eric
Burdon and the Animals
in concert.
     By junior high school I was playing in rock bands
for sock hops that alternated us with the spinning of
45s.  We played stuff like "Blue Moon,"
"Satisfaction," and "Kansas City."  (By the way, I
found out not long ago there's no 12th Street and Vine
anymore as it says in the song, just a street sign and
bed of flowers where I had my picture taken.)  By the
end of junior high I was beginning to buy all the
British and American rock I could and disliked country
but still bought Johnny Cash when I picked up some
Dylan.  In high school and college I wasted too much
time riding around in '57 Chevys and '55 Mercs and '64
Impalas listening to Eric Burdon, the Doors, and Led
Zeppelin.  Eric Burdon taught me more from his records
than I ever learned in school.  He is one of the
biggest influences in my life.  I always respected him
for paying tribute to those who influenced him.
     One summer while on wheat harvest, after about a
16 hour day, laying up in a bunk somewhere in western
Kansas listening to an all night radio station from
somewhere in Colorado, I heard an announcement for
Leon Russell.  I thought, "What a stupid name for a
band."  Then, one night at a small party with a few
hippie buddies in a shot gun shack dump in Alva, OK,
near the old stock yards (when they were still in
town), I went out for some fresh air, and someone put
on a different LP. Through the paper-thin walls I
heard the most unusual vocal nasal sound I'd ever
heard and most incredible piano as well.  I was then
hooked on Leon as well as Eric Burdon.  I've been to
hundreds of concerts, but to this day my two favorites
are still Eric Burdon and the Animals at the Cotillion
in Wichita, KS, 1968, and Leon Russell at the
Fairgrounds Arena in Okla. City, circa 1972. My two
favorite songs of all time are "White Houses' by Eric
Burdon and the Animals and "Stranger in a Strange
Land" by Leon Russell.
     All this influenced my personality and philosophy
of life-but not necessarily the music I play.  The
reason is that I'm not a God-gifted, play-by-ear
musician (as I like to say).  But I loved music so
much I couldn't help banging on guitars most of my
life.  And this lack of blessing actually turned out
to be a blessing as it actually helped to create my
style.  Since I couldn't ever cover someone else's
song perfectly, it created my own style/sound.  Some
things I learned by ear, but what I couldn't get by
ear, I got from songbooks or by watching others or by
creating my own substitutions. or by leaving it out.
So hopefully my covers always sound different without
offending the writers.  This hampers my songwriting
somewhat on the musical end, so am glad I have found
Randall.  I'll always consider myself a poet anyway.
     The musical form I love most is blues. any kind
of blues.  I like Freddie King, Savoy Brown, Buddy
Guy, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, John
Mayall, Bonnie Raitt, Bessie Smith, Robert Johnson,
Mississippi Fred McDowell, Mississippi John Hurt,
Elvin Bishop, and about a million others. 
     But country, fiddle, and blue grass crept back
into my life.  And, most recently the Americana scene
helps me relate to what my music is really all about-a
mixture of so many things and my own style.  This
genre really relates back to Woody Guthrie who has
influenced my music the most my whole life and whose
birthday we share.
     So, since college when I played in a
country-western band, I more or less worked my life
away and played guitar and sang in the closet.  My
wife, Rebecca, saw more in me than I did myself, I
guess, and urged me to start getting out and playing.
And, I've gotten my shit together realizing I'm not
necessarily a great musician but a singer/songwriter
and performer.  John Herron, who I could write a book
about that would leave you astounded, was introduced
to me by Rebecca.  He invited us out to his Rekordio
Studio in Los Angles to make my first CD titled Way
Over Yonder. 

     The title came from a song it included called
"Way Over Yonder (in the Minor Key)" by Woody Guthrie.
That album has seven Woody songs, one by Lucinda
Williams
, one by John Prine, and three originals. It's
basically folk-rock, and I was accompanied by some of
the world's greatest musicians John had rounded up.
The album literally went around the world playing on
over 80 radio stations around the world and on all the
continents and made it onto nearly as many jukeboxes
and CD players.
     I was an English teacher for 30 years and have
recently retired-hopefully to play music much more
live than I was able to before.  I'm planning on doing
a "jukebox tour"-not necessarily in tour fashion or
intensity-but where, in time, I play most every place
Way Over Yonder and the new CD is on jukeboxes and
public CD players.  Oh, yes, the new CD and Randall
Cousins
who I promised in the beginning to tell you
about!  Before I get into that, though, I will say
that I was honored to be one of the six musicians
asked to play at Pampa's (Texas) Tribute to Woody
Guthrie in 2003 along side Jimmy Collier and Pete
Seeger.  Most recently I played the Mantle in
Bricktown, in Oklahoma City, and I hope to see you on
the jukebox tour or who knows where if the success of
the 2nd CD takes off and leads me to your town.
     This second CD is called All Over The Map.  It
came about by the success of Way Over Yonder, the
grace of God, and luck, I'm sure. When Ray Pieters, a
DJ from Mol, Belgium, found my music on CD Baby, he
liked it and played it and turned me on to Eddie
Russell, a DJ in Texas.  Eddie helped me turn my music
on to DJs all over the world.  One was Dann Hansen
from Denmark who really liked my style and had a music
business partnership with Randall Cousins in Brampton,
Ontario, Canada.  Randall liked it too and offered to
do a CD with me on his indie label Alleged Iguana
Music.
So, over Christmas break my last year of
teaching, we were headed to Toronto to make All Over
The Map.  About eight months later Randall was
finished with the producing, engineering, and
mastering and All Over The Map was pressed in late
September 2004.
     The title of this album is doubly symbolically
significant in that it is all over the map musically.
See if you can notice the seven or more kinds of music
united and blended by my style.  It's all over the map
geographically as over 20 place names are mentioned in
the lyrics-and it's a long way from Oklahoma to Los
Angles to Toronto!
     Recording this album in Toronto in five days time
was intense, but yet another dream come true.
Recording with the original five-piece band with
Chris, Mark, Neil, and Dave in Dave's FarmHand Barn
Studio
was awesome.  Randall worked tirelessly (and
nearly endlessly) getting all the additional singers
and musicians added and sculpting the sound and
checking with me about everything through emails,
phone calls, and sending mixes through the extremely
slow snail mail.  But all was worth it.  Get in the
car, pop it in the CD player, and head out on the
road.  When the slow blues comes on, park it and give
her a kiss.

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