Ronnie J, Haynes -A True Entertainer

IMG_1130‘Ronnie J. Haynes’ is a name synonymous with the word ‘Entertainment’ here in sunny Tenerife; just ask anyone in the business -or his multitude of fans, who have simply adored this guy’s magical voice, along with his never-ending smile, his unmitigated charm -and an unequalled charisma that has wowed audiences the world-over for over half a century. Ronnie is simply ‘The Perfect Gentleman’ both on and off stage, and having been a close friend of his for over 17 years, I can say unequivocally that this mans personality has not changed one iota from the day we first met -no matter what may be going-on in the background. Ronnie is a true professional. “What a lucky guy, to have lived such a charmed life”, I have heard one-or-two people say after speaking with him, the cardinal of all sins, envy, creeping slightly into their minds, having seen the adoration that is bestowed upon him after every show that he performs -and yet in reality nothing could be further from the truth!

Two weeks ago I attended a charity gig with Ronnie, the man once-again donating his time to raise money for the less fortunate people in this world, and it was only after completing my in-depth interview with him, that I realised how much these ‘freebie’ shows mean to Ronnie, as a caring and loving humanitarian. Ronnie was born and brought-up in Toxteth, in Liverpool, into a world of misery and deprivation -and a very unhappy childhood, that saw him being taken into care (through no fault of his own, I hasten to add) at a very young age, before virtually living on the streets from the tender age of ‘7’, where he would spend his days and evenings hanging-around local pubs, cafe’s and restaurants, literally ‘singing-for-his-supper’, in-order to survive through another day.

Ironically, the song ‘C’est Si Bon’ (“It’s so good”) -a record made famous by Louis Armstrong back in the 50’s -and later recorded by many international artists, including Yves Montand and Eartha Kitt, was Ronnie’s favourite song throughout his teenage years, Ronnie having belted-it-out on street corners more times than he could ever remember. At 16 Ronnie joined a band called ‘The Buzz Brothers’, featuring Bernie Wenton and his two brothers (Bernie later going-on to win ‘Stars-In-Their-Eyes’ in 1991, with his portrayal of Nat King Cole) before moving-over to Jersey two years later, where Ronnie played the clubs and bars for the next four years, before returning to the UK, where he spent the next 15 years performing in a number of famous clubs, including ‘The Frog and Nightgown’, ‘Jazz After Dark’, ‘World Turned Upside-Down’ and ‘The Hand and Flower’ (to name but a few) in London’s East-End.

Ronnie was initially inspired by Lou Rawles, a world-renowned R&B singer, who released over ’60’ albums, sold more than 40 million records -and was a ‘3-times’ Grammy award winner. Rawles’ most famous record, “You’ll never find another love like mine”, plays a big part in Ronnie’s forever-expanding repertoire of songs -and I have to say that this old crooner (Ronnie will be ’70’ next year) sings it magnificently. By the late 70’s Ronnie was working in yet another band,  but it was only after appearing on the talent show, ‘New Faces’, and being advised by Mickey Most to ‘go-it-alone’ that Ronnie set his sights on a solo career, moving-out to Ibiza -the party capital of Europe, where the night-club he was performing in played host to around ‘1,500’ holiday-makers -and veritable party-animals each evening.

During his illustrious career, Ronnie has attended more gigs than one could shake a stick at, his most memorable ones being the ‘Average White Band’, ‘Wilson Pickett’ and ‘Tony Bennett’ -and he has also played alongside -and sang with, numerous legends in the music business, including ‘Curtis Mayfield’ and ‘George Benson’. “I also spent over three hours chatting openly to ‘Stevie Wonder’ at the Athenaeum Hotel in Mayfair, before going to ‘Stringfellows Nightclub’ with him, where he was immediately whisked-away by an entourage of minders that made Maasai Warriors look like a bunch of midgets” Ronnie added jokingly, before moving-on to his next amazing -and ‘utterly true’ story.

“I had been working in the ‘Eagles Country Club’ in Puerto Banus, in Marbella for several months -and one evening, just as I had finished singing my fourth or fifth song, this guy suddenly appears under my nose, asking me if it would be okay for him to sing a duet with me. Not wishing to appear rude -especially in front of a packed audience, I handed him one of the spare microphones -and we duly sang the next song together, to whit, I must say, he sang in harmony with me really well. After our little duet had finished, I noticed that several people were asking him for his autograph -and so at the end of my show I sauntered over to his table, and in all innocence -and total naivety, I asked him who (the heck) he was? “My name is Marti Pellow and I am the lead singer of a band called ‘Wet, Wet, Wet’. We are currently recording a video in Marbella to coincide with the release of our first album”, was Marti’s rather nonchalant reply. Ronnie had never heard of Marti – or his band? “Needless to say that Marti and I became great friends over the next two weeks, and the rest, as they say, is history”, Ronnie added, somewhat cap-in-hand at his sheer ignorance of these guys, who were about to become one of the most-successful bands in the world.

Before closing our truly wonderful -and somewhat ‘inspirational’ conversation, I asked Ronnie if he had a disastrous tale to tell, to whit he answered the following: “Oh God, yes -we all have ‘bad-days’ Shaun, my worst memory actually being my first show after I went solo. I was playing a relatively small gig at a working-men’s club, and my backing group consisted of a pianist and a drummer. The guys told me that there would be no need to do a ‘band-call’ -a kind of practice-run before the show, and so I took it that these guys must be really good at their jobs, and so I went straight on stage, before breaking into a rendition of Stevie Wonder’s smash hit ‘You are the sunshine of my life’, when suddenly I realised that the guys were playing an entirely different version of the song! What a nightmare!”

Apart from working in London, Jersey, Spain and Ibiza, Ronnie has also spent many years singing all over Europe, including Ireland, France, Germany, Switzerland, Malta, Cyprus, Portugal and Norway. He also spent two months singing his way across the United States -and has also performed a few concerts in Dubai. However, the love of his life is unequivocally Tenerife -a place Ronnie calls “Home”, having loved almost every minute of his ’27’ years on this paradise island. “I first came here back in 1988, purely to do a gig for a friend at the Los Gigantes Hotel on the west coast -and ended-up being the resident singer there for over a decade, before moving down to the Golf Del Sur, where I have lived for the past 17 years -and no-doubt I will see my days out here, as I have no-intentions of moving anywhere else. ‘Been there, done that, got the tee-shirt’ -if you know what I mean”.

I certainly did know what Ronnie meant, having been mesmerised by his phenomenal ‘rags-to-riches’ story -albeit richness in happiness, if not in extreme wealth, of course -which we all know…and reluctantly accept, is for the selected few in this world. “Contentment is better that happiness” my mother always used to say “For you have much less to lose if things do go wrong”, she would add -a statement which has taken me the best part of my life to understand -and one which I know that Ronnie would agree with wholeheartedly. In closing I asked Ronnie what were the best and worst times of his life, to whit he replied:
“Living in Ibiza, travelling on the road throughout America -and working in Ireland, were definitely the highlights of my life. As for the unhappy times, well we have already discussed that my friend. However, we have only scratched the surface today, but maybe one day I will write a book about my life, telling the whole story of my rather-eventful existence -a book that will shock the world”.