Larry Donn's Rockabilly Days - Ronnie Prophet

Rockabilly Days

LARRY DONN writes for Now Dig This

Rockabilly Days
Ronnie Prophet

I was in Nashville nearly 20 years ago to discuss a management deal, and the prospective manager took me to The Caraousel Club to see Ronnie Prophet. I didn't know the name and thought no more about it until the house band finished a set and this guy came on stage with a guitar and an Echoplex and started making strange noises and hitting wild guitar licks. From the reaction of the crowd, I began to suspect we'd stumbled into a Prophet family reunion, but in a few seconds I was laughing and cheering right along with the rest of them. I don't remember how long the show lasted, but I do remember wishing it was longer. Afterward, he came to our table to chat for a while, and I discovered he actually had fleeting moments of sanity now and then. I never forgot the show, and over the years, seeing his name occasionally in magazines and such brought a smile to my face as I remembered.

I haven't been to The Gateway Theatre in several months, mostly because of the appearances of several "famous unknown" country starts ( they may be famous but they're unknown to me), but when I heard Ronnie Prophet was going to be there, I swore on a copy of "Now Dig This' that I wouldn't miss this one. My father and mother have never been to the Gateway, and as I was sure they'd enjoy the show, 12-gauge mama and I invited them to go with us.

As we entered, I spied Ronnie just inside the door talking to a couple of guys. I approached him and stuck out my hand.

"It's about time this place showed a Prophet", I declared.

He gave me a "I'll bet you're somebody I met a long time ago" look, and I told him about it. Shortly, we retired to the back room and I showed him a copy of NDT. He went through it from cover to cover as we talked, and I was careful to point out "Rockabilly Days" when he reached that page. He had some nice things to say about the magazine which I will not repeat at the risk of giving the Editor a case of egoitis. When he finished it, he demonstrated his vast knowledge of electronics by inserting the batteries correctly the first time in his wireless microphone transmitter, obviously trying to make a good impression of the famous magazine writer. The wireless thing lets him leap about the stage freely without fear of breaking a leg with a snagged guitar lead.

I learned several other things bout him as well; that he has done several tours of Europe, including England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Sweden and New Jersey... er New Zealand; that he has appeared on many television shows in America, including the very popular :Tonight Show', has appeared on the Nashville Network's "Nashville Now" show 34 times,; that he hosted his own show, called "Ronnie Prophet Entertains" on the BBC and on the CBC; that he won the '84 Canadian Country Music Entertainer of the Year award, the Television Country Show of the year award in'77, '78, '79, and '80, and on and on and on, and if I listed it all I wouldn't have room for anything else.

The show opened with Ronnie at the back of the room behind the audience, dressed in a mask and cape as 'The Phantom f the Opry', the title of a hit song he had a few years ago. "Opry", of course refers to "The Grand Ole...". That's so you won't think I've misspelled it. He sauntered down the aisle in the spotlight, playing his guitar and singing, with an occasional flourish on the black and red cape. When he reached the front of the stage, I looked away for no more than two seconds, and when I turned back, he was on the stage, a good four feet above the floor. Now, there is no way this guy could jump that high, and he couldn't have used his hands to climb as he never stopped playing the guitar, and there are no steps at the front of the stage...maybe he really is a phantom, as well as a Prophet. He told some funny jokes, did several ' impressions' of famous people and played some really great guitar licks, accompanied by an extremely small drummer in a box less than a foot long. About halfway through the show, the drummer fell ill and refused to play another stroke. Ronnie declared that he didn't need the drummer, and proved it during the rest of the show.

Near the end, he introduced Glory-Ann ( Glory, Hallelujah!! Ronnie who?), and the visual part of the show took a sharp swing upward. Now the guy's not a bad looking chap. I suppose although I'll leave that judgement to the ladies, but I am eminently qualified to declare Glory-Anne a definite "looker". But she may be one of those militant feminist type, and after reading this might send me a dangerous animal, so I should also mention that the kid can sing! And I suppose I should also reveal that she has had twelve records on the charts in Canada, received many awards for her music, including the Duo of the Year with that Ronnie fellow, produced, directed, wrote and stared in her own television show in Canada for five years, and lots more exiting stuff. They sang a few songs together, with some smooth and very pleasant harmony, then the Ronnie guy closed the show and dashed up front to sign autographs.

Incidentally, you can expect a vertible plethora of Ronnie Prophet imitators soon...just before the end of the wold as we know it; the Bible says that in the last days there will be many false Prophets.

"Ronnie Prophet..the greatest one-man show I've ever seen.

--Chet Akins and Larry Donn

Pete Williams A letter from Sandy Ford in November's NDT brought the sad news of the death of Pete Williams. On my first visit to England in 1989, the second show at the Racehill in Brighton, which was, at that time under Pete's proprietorship. He treated me royally, and secured forever a place in my memory as a real genuine, actual nice guy. We could all take lessons from him on how to treat others. He loved rock n roll, and his eyes sparkled when we talked about it.

I knew nothing of Pete's personal life, except for his fine son, Peter, whom I met a couple of times and that his wife's name is Peggy. Perhaps they will be comforted knowing that he left a great legacy of goodwill among those who knew him.

I wouldn't be a bit surprised to learn that he is serving Elvis an ice-cold root beer right now at the opening of Pete's Pub in Hawaii.. and the band is rockin'!


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