Ron Steele, Sr.
Ron Steele is the best friend in the music business that I have ever had. First of all, ego and competition are something that never enters his mind. He is the sort of man that thinks only about helping others. He introduced and recommended me to most of the jingle producers and record producers who I ended up working for. A large part of his generosity is based upon the fact that he has never worried about competition. He knows what his talents and capabilities are, and knows that he will always survive and prosper. But, that is only part of it; he also has a decent, honest and generous soul that can never be deterred.
50 years ago when he was an engineer at RCA, he was sent to Nashville to run their studio until they could find an engineer to replace a guy that had just quit. Basically, he was the only engineer there. There were only two studios in Nashville: RCA and Owen Bradley’s “Barn” where most of Columbia’s work was done. Ron was one of only two recording engineers in Nashville. During his 5 weeks there he did an Elvis Presley session. It turned out that Ron was the only person in the control room for the biggest artist in the history of RCA. So Ron became both producer and engineer. Elvis told the guys, who were the Nashville “A” studio players ( I don’t think there was a “B” group then) what to play and Ron created the overall sound quality. Ron says that “Elvis was a very nice guy who showed respect to his musicians and to me, whom he had never met before. In fact he asked Ron if he thought his performance was good several times.” After this session, Chet Atkins a few days later, asked Ron to become the Nashville engineer for his studio, which he actually owned and leased to RCA. Ron turned down the offer because he wanted to return to Chicago – and Chicago truly benefited from his decision.
Ron and I worked together on many recording sessions, for commercials and for “record dates,” and Ron had only one thought in mind. Lets cooperate to make our two, improvised guitar parts sound and feel as good as we can. Lets make the producer realize that his choice of using two guitars, instead of one, was a great idea. Lets show him that he chose the right two guitar players, too. If I thought up a good rhythmic or contrapuntal figure, Ron would expertly add something to it. If he had what he thought was a better idea regarding which of us would play what, he had a sincere and kind way of presenting it to me – always. His ideas were always just what the arrangement needed, and the producers were always very pleased with what we were doing to enhance their music.
Ron and I were always a “team,” and I looked forward to working with him every chance I got. Our friendship continues to this day – and I am the one who benefits most from it. Whenever I am perplexed or worried about anything, both musical or in general life, I always call upon Ron for advice. He is a genius in every department, and always generous to a fault.