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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Blues For the West Side - Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters

Ronnie Earl (born Ronald Horvath, March 10, 1953, Queens, New York, is an American blues guitarist and music instructor.
Earl collected blues, jazz, rock and soul records while growing up. He studied American History at C.W. Post College on Long Island for a year and a half, then moved to Boston to pursue a Bachelor's Degree in Special Education and Education at Boston University where he would graduate in 1975. He spent a short time teaching handicapped children. It was during his college years that he attended a Muddy Waters concert at the Jazz Workshop in Boston. After seeing Waters perform in a close setting, Earl took a serious interest in the guitar, which he had first picked up in 1973. His first job was as a rhythm guitarist at The Speakeasy, a blues club in Cambridge, MA. In addition to playing in the Boston blues scene, Earl traveled twice by Greyhound Bus to Chicago, where he was introduced to the Chicago blues scene by Koko Taylor. Later he would travel down South to New Orleans and Austin Texas, where he would spend time with Kim Wilson, Jimmy Vaughan and The Fabulous Thunderbirds. In 1979 he joined The Roomful of Blues as lead guitarist for the band. It was also around this time that he adopted the last name of "Earl". As he put it, "Muddy Waters would invite me onstage, but he could never say my last name. So because I liked Earl Hooker, I took the last name of "Earl".[citation needed]

During his eight year tenure with The Roomful of Blues, Earl continued to refine his own style and the result was a jazzy, soulful blues style, as well as his slow burn style which fans found both mesmerizing and exhilarating. He began performing solo in 1986, in addition to playing with Roomful of Blues, and he released his first solo album on the Black Top Records label with a quartet that focused on blues instrumentals. After leaving Roomful of Blues, he began collaborations with contemporaries Ron Levy and Jerry Portnoy, Earl King, Jimmy Rogers, and Jimmy Witherspoon. It was also around this time that Earl got treatment for a substance addiction problem.

In 1988 Earl formed his own band that he called The Broadcasters, named after the first Fender guitar which originally had been labeled The Broadcaster and was distributed in 1950. The first group of Broadcasters included Darrell Nulisch (vocalist), Jerry Portnoy (harmonica), Steve Gomes (bass), and Per Hanson (drums). In 1988 they released their first album, Soul Searchin, followed by Peace of Mind in 1990. Perhaps the high point of the first run of the Broadcasters was the album "Language of the Soul" released in 1994. The lineup for the Broadcasters for that album was Bruce Katz (keyboards) Pers Hanson (drums) and "Rocket" Rod Carey (Bass). The live shows from 1994 towards the millimium were characterized as becoming more jam orienated as certain songs often were played for 20 minutes or longer. The influences of the Allman Brothers album "Live at the Fillmore" and the Grateful Dead album "Live Dead" which Earl has mentioned was the first albums to get him on the track of playing the blues, were apparent. The next album "The Colour of Love" featured Marc Quinones (percusion) and Gregg Allman (keyboards) of the Allman Brothers Band. The association lead to first Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters opening up for the Allman Brothers Band at Great Woods, and Warren Haynes (guitar for the Allman Brothers Band) sitting in with Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters at Johnnie D's in Somerville; and later Bruce Katz joining the Gregg Allman Band. Circa 2000, Ronnie Earl was diagnosed with several medical ailments and scaled back his touring, as well as re-evaluating his career plans. Ronnie Earl in the new millinium has gotten back to a sound that is less slick, (slickness being his complaint of the Verve Albums) and shorter songs. The current group of Broadcasters, Jimmy Mouradian (bass), Dave Limina (organ), and Lorne Entress (drums), began playing together prior to the 2003 release of I Feel Like Going On and in 2009 released Living in the Light, their fifth release from Stony Plain Records[4] and Earl's twenty third album. In 2008, Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters celebrated 20 years as a band. In August, 2010, Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters released the album "Spread the Love" to wide critical acclaim.

Earl is a two-time W. C. Handy Blues Music Award winner as Guitar Player of the Year. For five years he was an Associate Professor of Guitar at Berklee College of Music and in 1995 he released Ronnie Earl: Blues Guitar with Soul, an instructional VHS tape that was then re-released in DVD format in 2005. Earl was also the blues instructor at the 'National Guitar Summer Workshop'. His albums primarily consist of strong instrumental compositions and traditional covers.

In early 2004, Earl's "Hey Jose" won in The 3rd Annual Independent Music Awards for Best Blues/R&B Song
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