RONN ROBERTS - Lead and Rhythm Guitar, Vocals
Ronn Roberts was born in 1948 into a musical family. His uncle was a musician and had been playing in Country Western bands for many years. As Ronn was growing up, he showed an interest in music, eventually picking up the guitar. With his Uncle's help, Ronn learned how to play, cutting his teeth on the mellower sounds of Country Music.
With his roots firmly planted in Country style guitar playing, he became proficient in Rock and Roll as well. An early influence on Ronn was Les Paul and of course "The Ventures". Like all other young guitarists in the early '60's, Ronn admired "The Ventures" and made it a point to learn as many of their instrumentals as he could.
Meeting Woody Woodrich in the mid '60's, the two guitarists became good friends and played together in a group called "The Reactions". Jobbing at local area clubs, Ronn's style of Lead guitar fit perfectly into the group with Woody learning to compliment his lead parts on Bass. This interaction would prove to be an important factor for both of them in later years as part of the team in "Lightning".
After Woody left "The Reactions" to join "The Group", Ronn continuted to play in and around the Twin Cities, always remaining friends and keeping in contact with Woody.
It was through this relationship that Ronn would eventually meet and come to know "The Litter". Putting his guitar down for a time in the late '60's, he became part of "The Litter" road crew. Knowing how to play the guitar was a big advantage for Ronn as it enabled him to tune the bands guitars before concerts, change broken strings during concerts and afforded him the opportunity to jam with some members after concerts.
It was during a "Litter" road trip to Chicago in 1968 that Ronn met and got to know Mick Stanhope. Continuing his friendship with Woody, who'd been jamming with "Zip" Caplan for quite some time, Ronn was fully aware of the change that would soon be taking place. The three guitarists had already discussed plans for a new group with Ronn working for them and possibly getting a chance to play on stage.
When their original drummer quit "White Lightning" in the fall of 1968, the group was already in discussions with Warren Kendrick in regard to recording. Needing to find a replacement in a hurry, Ronn suggested Mick Stanhope and immediately went to Chicago to offer him the job. Mick auditioned, was hired, and "White Lightning" was ready to make it's mark.
As the band began to play in and around the five-state area as a 3-piece, their popularity began to grow. By 1969 "White Lightning" had made a name for itself and had a huge following of fans. It was about this time that Ronn was asked by the group to sit in on some of the newer material they had been writing. The new songs had plenty of room for extra guitar parts and in some cases harmony leads. Ronn fit in perfectly broadening the group's sound; and audience response seemed favorable to the change as well.
Eventually it was decided to add Ronn permanently; put Mickey up front and bring in a new drummer bumping the group from three pieces to five. Unfortunately Mick Stanhope was forced to take a few months off due to health problems and the 5-piece plan was put on the back burner.
Finally returning from Joliet, Illinois, Mick's home town, completely well and bringing drummer Bernie Pershey back with him, the new 5-piece band, now called "Lightning" was ready to begin playing.
Ronn contributed a lot to the new 5-piece format which not only allowed "Zip" Caplan to stretch out a bit more, but enabled the band to incorporate a unique double Lead guitar style into their sound, eventually becoming a trademark of "Lightning". In addition to singing harmony with Mick Stanhope, Ronn also became an integral part of the writing team not only adding creative ideas but introducing some of his own material as well. Ron lent his talents to many of the more popular "Lightning" songs like Freedom and 1930.
By 1970 the band was beginning to move in different directions. It seemed as though each member had a style of music they thought the group should be playing. For Ronn it was the mellower sounds of Neil Young and "The Flying Burrito Bros". As the group began stretching itself like a rubber band to accommodate the different styles being written by various members, it was obvious something had to give, Feeling that his material was getting lost in the shuffle, Ronn Roberts left "Lightning" in 1970 to team up with a group of musicians he'd been jamming with and "Cisco Grove" was born.
Playing all original material, "Cisco Grove's" style was patterned after the softer sounds of Country Rock and musically was compatible to Ronn's newer writing efforts. Ronn was also in a position to handle the band's business affairs, giving him more control over the group's direction as well as his own.
"Cisco Grove" was a successful band locally playing all over the five-state area for the next few years. Ronn did return to "Lightning" from time to time for sporadic reunion concerts and actually put together a new version of "White Lightning" with Mick Stanhope in 1973. Playing the concert circuit for nearly a year, this "White Lightning" was more a product of Ronn Roberts, sporting a Pedal-steel player and Keyboardist, than it was of the earlier original power-trio group.
By 1975, with "Cisco Grove" running it's course and "Lightning" reunions wearing thin on audiences, Ronn began to consider other alternatives. It was about this time that he was contacted by an old friend and a former member of the original "White Lightning" road crew, Don Forte. Forte was now living in LA. after working for "Gypsy" during the first part of the '70's. Now part of the road crew for Linda Ronstadt, Don was in a position to offer Ronn a job working with him. Through Peter Asher Management, who handled not only Linda but other big name acts like James Taylor, Ronn had an opportunity to rub shoulders with the big boys.
Ronn would return one last time to the original 5-piece "Lightning" for the 1975 recording of The William Tell Overture before he packed up and moved to Los Angeles.
Ronn would work with James Taylor, Andrew Gold, Linda Ronstadt and other big name acts into the early '80's, making a lot of friends and connections along the way. He also got married during this period and had the opportunity to meet and become friends with his life long idols, "The Ventures".
Ronn and his wife set up a business supplying "The Ventures" and other groups, with touring merchandise like T-shirts and tour jackets. When Linda Ronstadt finally decided to cut her personal appearances way back in 1983 Ronn was out of a job. Working for various other acts off and on he eventually found his way into a company that bought and sold real estate and oil properties.
By the late '80's Ronn had set up his own investment company raising money for projects in the LA. area. Now a permanent California resident, Ronn had met a lot of influential people over the years and this led to his formation of a production company in the early '90's called "Esoteric Pictures". It was the company's job, headed by Ronn, to raise money for various film projects and Ronn had an opportunity to work closely for awhile with Lorenzo Lamas.
Ronn would keep in touch with his old music buddies Woody Woodrich and "Zippy" Caplan and in fact put up the money for the filming of "The Litter" reunion concert in September of 1990. He continues his association with "The Ventures" as well as running his companies.
Still residing in LA., Ronn and his wife have five children. Ronn has said many times over the years that one day he plans to get back on stage with his own group. With an armful of new material and the connections to push such a group, it should indeed be worth waiting for