Home » Sounds of Syracuse » Ron Spencer: Syracuse Blues

Ron Spencer: Syracuse Blues

For over 25 years Ron Spencer has been a mainstay of the CNY blues scene. He has lent his fiery blend of blues, and roots-based guitar playing to some of the area’s premier bands including Grammy nominated Joe Whiting, The Kingsnakes’ Pete McMahon, Tom Townsley and blues diva, Kim Lembo. In 1996 Ron brought his four piece combo to national attention with their CD, Ron Spencer & The Nite Crew – Burnin’ Desire. Blues Revue declared them “the best-unsigned act

Ron’s career has brought him the opportunity to work with dozens of national recording acts such as Rod Piazza, Charlie Musslewhite, Johnny Copeland, Kenny Neal, Son Seals and Little Charlie & The Nitecats. He has been invited on stage to engage in head to head guitar duels with such heavyweights as Duke Robillard, Anson Funderburgh, Bob Margolin and Rick Holmstrom. And, he has also toured with Chicago’s queen of the blues, Big Time Sarah and Blue Wave Records diva, Kim Lembo.

Formed in 2000, the seven piece Ron Spencer & Jumpstart featured a swingin’ horn section, poundin’ keyboards and a blues shoutin’ frontman. In 2002 the band paired up with rock & roll and r&b legend, Jimmy Cavallo. Their CD, Jimmy Cavallo – The Houserocker with Ron Spencer & Jumpstar on Blue Wave Records was nominated in 2003 for the ultimate recognition in the blues field…a W.C. Handy Award! In 2006 their Blue Wave Records CD “Livin’ Low” won a SAMMY Award for best blues recording. Jumpstart’s next Blue Wave collaboration with Jimmy Cavallo, You’d Better Believe It! won them a second SAMMY Award in 2007.

Spencer released Roller Coaster Blues an original collecton of blues & American roots music in 2009. Blues Wax online magazine says, “Roller Coaster Blues can hang with the toughest Blues albums coming out today.”

Today, Ron’s hanging out with us here for Sounds of Syracuse.

Chuck Schiele: Hi Ron! Thanks for visiting with us here at Sounds of Syracuse. So…. The Blues in general.

What does it mean to you? Ron Spencer: First of all, it’s a passion of mine, as music in general has been as long as I can remember. Once I traced the origins of the music back to the sources, i.e. Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, Howlin’ Wolf, I realized it was the blues that was at the heart of the artists that I liked, Stones, Animals and Yardbirds, etc. When some people hear the term ‘blues’, they immediately dismiss it as a form of music that is ‘old time’ or of an ethnic origin that they can’t relate to. Yes, it’s origins are all of that, but it is really a music that speaks to life and the human condition. It has a cathartic effect on the soul in the way that it celebrates both the joy and sorrow (blues) of life. By it’s nature it is music of the soul.

CS: Tell us a bit of your history as a musician…. here in CNY.

RS: Long story short? Here goes! Young boy is not given a guitar, to take lessons or join a band after watching the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. Not my path, but I was taken with seeing the Stones on TV and thinking that would be a cool thing to do. Fast forward to my high school years where I hang around friends who DID play in bands. Little by little someone shows me a chord or two on a borrowed guitar. Fast forwarding to years of self learning with no goals, instruction, etc. and eventually get bitten by the bug at an open blues jam. Things accelerate, I join blues bands, learn the ropes, hone my skills and develop my music vocabulary. After many years of playing in lots of great CNY bands, I eventually ventured out on my own. And that’s where I pretty have been for the last 30 years…leading my own band!

CS: What are your current music involvements?

RS: Well, that’s the 64 thousand dollar question, isn’t it? Sadly, last year we lost our frontman, Mark Gibson to Covid. He left a huge hole that won’t be easily filled. We’ve started rehearsals again and have a handful of gigs booked. I’m dusting off my vocal00 cords and Dan ‘Cato” Eaton will be contributing as well until we can formulate a game plan. Here’s an opportunity to put out feelers for an amazing frontman! I’m pleased to announce that my former boss, Joe Whiting will be sharing the stage with us at our annual Blues In The Bay Fest this Labor Day weekend!

CS: You don’t just play guitar. You also play “with” guitars….

RS: Thanks for asking! Pro Guitar Repair is my repair business that I’ve had for over 25 years that thankfully pays the bills.

CS: What are some of the career highlights for you?

RS: I have been blessed with so many, but here’s a few. I’ve had the honor of playing with some of my musical heroes, Duke Robillard, Anson Funderburgh, Rick Holmstrom and Bob Margolin to name a few. I’ve played with r&b pioneer, Jimmy Cavallo, at three festivals in England and recorded two CDs with him. I’ve released five CD’s under my own name that have received international airplay and favorable reviews.

CS: I know you have funny stories from the stage.

RS: Please share a ‘tellable” story. Once we we’re witness to a bachelor party replete with stripper while we we’re waiting to set up for a gig!

CS: What is the most important thing for a new player to learn or be aware of in their own music path?

RS: Set yourself up for success by being focused, setting goals and working hard. You’re NOT guaranteed success in this or any other business!

CS: It’s easy to see the history of the blues to some degree. What do you see in the future of the blues?

RS: I see it in the younger new acts that have taken their blues influences and are exposing their audiences to this great American music form. I’m also encouraged to see older artists still excited to be performing!

CS: What are your thoughts on the Central NY music world?

RS: I don’t if it’s my age and the amount of time I’ve spent on the local scene, but I really feel a sense of community and brotherhood with musicians of all styles, both old and young here in talent rich CNY.

CS: How can we stay in touch with you and your music?

RS: Well, because of the tragic events of last year I haven’t kept up with the band’s website, but I am fairly active on our social media sites, FB, IG etc. So, I would say the best way is to follow us/me on FB. And of course, all of our music is available on all the popular music streaming platforms.

Thank you, Chuck, for being so supportive of our great local music scene here in CNY!

Chuck Schiele
Chuck Schiele is an award-winning musician, art director, producer, editorialist, artist, activist, member of SaltCityChill.com and fan of the CNY music scene. To be considered for this column, please write chuck.schiele@gmail.com.