|Raised in Norfolk, Virginia, Ron Hedland
began his career in the mid-sixties Virginia Beach music scene. Graduating
to tours from Florida to New York, he opened for the likes of Taj Mahal
and Jerry Jeff Walker.
Moving to Toronto in the early seventies, Hedland became
a charter member of Yonge Street lounge scene with Slyfox - soul, sin,
rhythm and dues eleven hours, six days a week complementing exotic dancers
at the Bermuda Tavern.
was there, for economic reasons, that Ron introduced his triple threat
signature trademark combining drums, keyboards, and singing simultaneously.
As a jingle singer and voice-over pitchman for national advertising campaigns,
he established a blue collar industry image. The countless solo, sideman,
and group gigs led to the formation of RH Positive under his leadership.
Ron had a voice that could warm a room in winter. That
distinctive tone found a home as house announcer at the infamous Le Strip.
The nineties saw Hedland as an active member of the Beaches community performing
at both the Beaches Jazz and the Harbourfront Soul and Blues festivals.
In the tradition of Ray Charles, Hedland embraced all
Southern sounds - the themes that affected and directed his life. Balancing
with integrity the full musical spectrum, it was with ballads that he found
strong satisfaction. "Most vocalists can handle uptempo, but not as many
can deliver and sell a ballad", he once commented without bravado. A listen
to the title track "Someday", the tearful "Billie", and the soulful finale
"Til The Bitter End", justifies his observation.
The compositions found in "Someday" explore the vulnerable
nature of relationships and private frailty with the open warmth and humour
he characterized. Hampered by failing health, the last years of Ron's life
became personally difficult and professionally erratic. This testament
documents a brighter era when it was the music itself that represented
The fifteen song compilation revisits two decades of recordings
by the late Ron Hedland, a fixture of the Toronto music scene for over
30 years, and expresses a key essence of Southern roots music - that soulful
search when someday could be today.
On Sunday, December 13th, 1998 over four hundred friends
of the slain musician met at Toronto's Brunswick House to acknowledge and
celebrate his music and life. The generous contributions that evening allowed
"In Memory of Ron Hedland"
Radio Host Bluz.FM
Ronnie Hedland wasn't a big guy, but he sure had a big
presence, booming his voice out of that barrel chested physique, he'd call
your name loud and warm. Ron had a real "lived in" voice. 100% Human.
We had more in common than our birthdays, Dec 27, but
many times we agreed to disagree. I was always pushing him to be that "country
soul guy", and never mind all those altered chords.... he kept bugging
me to "play out" more. We played a lot of music together in the 70's.
Our history began when I first walked into the Bermuda
Tavern on Yonge Street to check out the gig situation. The trio, with Ronnie,
Tommy Cosgrove and George was very cool. Tommy was like George Jones and
George Benson wrapped up in one soulful package. George was a funky Fender
bassist with an island vibe. They all sung, and they sounded amazingly
good. I think they called the group Slye Fox.
The most striking sight on that stage, (even more than
the go go girls), was Ronnie at the Wurlitzer, soloing with one hand, drumming
with the other hand and both feet, and all the time singing like Ray Charles.
All the while, smoking tons of Export A or whatever. Ronnie Hedland was
a machine, all limbs akimbo, a one man show within the trio. It's also
true he had a great sense of humour, and he was a very personable host
for the guys there to see the girls.The secret, however, was the musicianship,
and we all knew that.
My reputation preceded me at the Berm, and very soon I
was playing with the guys when Tommy wasn't around, or when he was, and
the odd time the guys played out, we took the gig, what an experience.
Six sets a night! You learn how to sing a ballad in a situation, and Ronnie
learned very well, he was happy to keep working those types of rooms even
though it was obvious that he could have done better if he ever wanted
to "go commercial".
He was the last guy to compromise in that way, funny which
compromises we are all willing to make in our lives. Ronnie was a sweet
guy and did not have a mean bone in his body. That's not to say I never
saw him get angry, he was an emotional soulful guy, just never had a mean
bone in his body.
Many of us took him for granted, the turnout at his memorial
was stunning, his musical legacy lives on someday, today.
Singer/Composer for The Monster Horn Band
Ron had a smile that could warm up the whole beach area
of Toronto (The Beaches). I first met Ron at the old Isabella Hotel where
he stayed for a few years. I was rehearsing my first Monster Horn Band
in the early eighties at the Izzy and Ron would come down from his room
and sit through the whole rehearsal laughing and applauding which made
me feel really good. By the time I had moved into the Beaches, Ron had
already lived there for a bunch of years and I bumped into him on the street
often. I also would to go to Fitzgerald’s at the far end of the beach and
listen to Ron play the piano and sing. He was a very tasteful player and
had very warm, low, voice with a nice touch of raunchiness.
My comical story about Ron would the time we were having
a casual beer somewhere in the middle of the Beaches area around 5 pm or
so, we were talking about recording and original material, when he perked
up, all of a sudden and said “follow me”. I followed Ron outside thinking
that we were just going to a store across the road, but Ron starting walking
east. He kept walking and I kept asking “Ron where are we going’? He would
answer “You’ll see”. I responded “Yeah but we have two full pints back
there” He would again reply “They’ll be there when we get back”. We continued
walking practically to the other end of the beach when he crossed the road
and took me down a narrow alley way into the apartment where he lived.
He pulled out a bunch of cassettes of unfinished recording of his and we
listened for at least an hour and a half. It was great stuff and he was
so proud of it. I didn’t realize that he had a recording project that he
had been working on for years. Suddenly Ron got up and said “Time to get
back to our pints” I said “they won’t be there, the bartender has probably
poured them down the drain” He answered “Nope, they’ll be there”. We walked
all the way back to the center of the beach and into the bar, and sure
enough, the pints were still there, flat as hell, but were there. It makes
me happy to know that Ron’s material was finally released on cd. I, as
well as everyone who knew Ron, miss his presence.