Ronnie Self

TrackSingle / Album
Pretty Bad BluesABC-Paramount 45-9714
Ain't I'm A DogColumbia 4-40989-c
Bop-A-LenaColumbia 4-41101
I Ain't Goin' NowhereColumbia 4-41101
I've Been ThereDecca 9-31131
Bless My Broken HeartKapp K-546
High On LifeAmy 11,009
The Hurt Is FreeMr. Frantic Is Boppin' The Blues
How Careless Of MeMr. Frantic Is Boppin' The Blues
Waitin’ For My Gin To Hit MeMr. Frantic Is Boppin' The Blues



Ronnie Self playlist


Contributor: Dave Stephens

“Ronnie Self was his own worst enemy. His self-destructive behavior is probably the main reason why he is no more than a footnote in rock ‘n’ roll history.” (First words in the Dik de Heer written TIMS article on Ronnie Self)

“If, as some have surmised, there is a link between talent and instability then Ronnie Self was an exemplar. Blessed with an undeniable ability to write and perform music convincingly in a variety of styles, he appeared to self-destruct several times just as success seemed to be within his grasp.” (First words in the Colin Escott written liner notes to the Ronnie Self Bear Family CD Set entitled ‘Bop-A-Lena’)

“A talented performer and songwriter, Self’s career was blighted by his severe alcoholism and erratic behavior, including incidents of violence.” (First words in the second para in the Wiki article on Ronnie Self)


Ronnie Self was a man of many voices and he wrote many, and varied, songs: BMI lists 379 titles though a high proportion of these didn’t officially see their way onto records. Perhaps ironically his biggest selling record came with a song that wasn’t written by him but more on that later. An immediate illustration of the apparent schizophrenia present within Self can be gleaned by a listen to two records: the frantic rocker, You’re So Right For Me from Ronnie himself (and written by him), released in August 1958, and Brenda Lee’s famous Ronnie Self written, I’m Sorry released in May 1960 but cut a couple of months earlier and, according to the Wiki write-up, held back a little due to concerns about how it might be received.

A diversion in the direction of the petite and, at the time very young, Ms Lee is called for in order to get an idea of the quality of the songs produced by Ronnie at a relatively early stage of his career. Sweet Nothin’s gets somewhat less attention these days than I’m Sorry but it was Brenda’s breakthrough hit, notching up a #4 position in both the US and the UK, and deservedly too. You could call it teen pop but it was very good teen pop with significant nods in the directions of both rock’n’roll and country and a starring performance from Brenda who managed to switch between her tough and her tender personas within verses. But it wouldn’t have happened without the vehicle supplied by Ronnie.

In his AllMusic review of Brenda’s second Ronnie Self number, I’m Sorry, Stephen Thomas Erlewine referred to it as being “among the finest teen pop songs of its era”. It was helped by a splendid production which prefigured the sweeping strings and soaring chorales of the Nashville Countrypolitan era but that took second place to a quite magnificent performance from Brenda herself. How many knew she had this in her? How many knew Ronnie Self could write like this?

I’m Sorry was recorded on 16th March 1960. At that time, in recording terms, Ronnie had only laid down one track that could be broadly classified as a ballad. That track, I Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere (which was recorded on 16th December 1957) initially sounds like easy listening until the realisation that the words cut deeper than that hits home. Amazingly another song that was tackled in the December session was You’re So Right For Me mentioned earlier. But I did say he was a man of many voices! (The third and final song which emerged from the session was Bop-A-Lena, on which more later.)

We’re back with Ronnie so let’s start from the beginning. He was born on 5th July 1938 on a farm near Tin Town, Missouri, an area that had previously been known as ‘Gold’ but was renamed because of the number of houses with tin roofs. After the end of World War II, the family moved to Springfield, Missouri and his father switched from farming to working on the railroad. Even as a child, signs of the mental instability that would plague Ronnie, were never far away. In his excellent TIMS article on the man, Dik de Heer states: “On one occasion Ronnie chopped down a tree to block the school bus from getting to his house. Another story has him attacking a teacher with a baseball bat in grade school”.

Springfield didn’t have the Grand Ole Opry but it did have the Ozark Jubilee. Wanting to get into the music business, Ronnie did his best to get people associated with the show to listen to his music. He managed to impress singer Bobby Lord who helped Ronnie make a demo which was put before Dub Allbritten in Nashville; Dub was a highly experienced, all-round music entrepreneur and manager of Red Foley who hosted the Jubilee. Colin Escott picks up the story (in the liner notes to Bop-A-Lena), as reported by Ronnie’s sister Vicki:

“Dub called Ronnie,” asserted Vicki, “and sent him some money to get to Nashville. He rode down with one of the Foggy River Boys who were on the Jubilee. He went and sang some more songs for Dub – he had fifty or a hundred at that time – and Dub called Jim Denny at Cedarwood (music publishing company) in the middle of the night and they set up a session at eight the next morning for Pretty Bad Blues and Three Hearts Later.”

The two sides formed Ronnie’s first single which was released on ABC-Paramount. (It is strongly believed that two further sides, Sweet Love and Alone were cut at the same session and were also scheduled for release, as a single, but no trace of such a record has ever been found.)

Pretty Bad Blues was a typical slab of rockabilly with Ronnie doing his best to sound like Elvis (just like all the other rockabilly wannabees) but his way with words marked him out as a tad more interesting than the rest of the pack.

The flip, Three Hearts Later, was a totally different kind of song (and maybe was a pointer to the future) but the retention of the rockabilly instrumental approach probably didn’t do it any favours even if Ronnie had dispensed with the Elvis approach on this side.

Single #2 from Ronnie saw him switching to the Columbia label with producer Don Law and the Nashville A team in support (and that meant both Grady Martin and Hank Garland on guitars). (The sessionography info comes from the liner notes to the ‘Bop-A-Lena’ album which was put together by Richard Weize who wasn’t able to identify the make-up of the session team on single #1). The record coupled Big Fool with Flame Of Love and, for a change, neither was written by Ronnie. The A-side was decent rockabilly without being anything to shout about but the flip was the more interesting of the pair being more akin to then contemporary rhythm and blues but with a rockabilly overlay and, as such, was akin to some of the things that Presley was getting into at RCA. Ronnie, however, had, for both sides of this disc, dropped the Presleyisms so we were starting to hear his own voice.

The vocal trail that Ronnie was on took a major twist with record #3, Ain’t I’m A Dog. This was the one that introduced what I’m labelling as his ‘extreme voice’ which we’ve already come across on You’re So Right For Me, a platter that would see release a little further down the line. Music journalists usually draw comparisons with Little Richard when talking about this record and a few others but, while I accept that Mr. Penniman might have been the inspiration for the approach, the end result wasn’t that similar. A reason for the more in-your-face style could have come from the fact that one of the first things that Dub Allbritten did when taking on the role of Ronnie’s manager was put him on the road in a touring show, the roster for which consisted of standard country artists all bar Ronnie who was the token rocker. Apparently, our hero did his damnedest to make his portion of the show stand out and, possibly, the extreme voice was the sonic equivalent of the physical contortions/gymnastics that became a standard part of his act. The record also differs from its predecessors in the usage of something along the lines of black doowop vocal backing – for shorthand I’m calling it Coasters-ish – which was highly unusual for Nashville but one would guess the idea came from the fertile brain of producer Don Law.

The flip, Rocky Road Blues, was different again: rockabilly but not rockabilly. It was certainly a combination of blues and country with the source being Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys. This is their version from 1946. I say ‘version’ rather than ‘original’ since although Monroe is credited as composer, there’s a 1937 cut of the song from the other side of the tracks with the artist being Kokomo Arnold. However, I think we’re on safe ground in assuming that Ronnie’s listening antenna was more likely to be tuned to Bill Monroe. What’s noticeable about his record is that the explicit rockabilly traits have largely been expunged leaving a fine country rock outing (and one that very nearly made the Ten).

Record #4 from Ronnie was the big one (though that’s a relative term as the reader might have gathered by now). It made a whopping #63 in the Billboard Hot 100 and was his solitary chart showing. The record was Bop-A-Lena which, as already mentioned, was cut at the 16th December session with Don Law once again in the producer’s chair and Ray Edenton (guitar) plus Buddy Harman (drums) among the backing team. The song’s writers were Webb Pierce and Mel Tillis making a rare foray outside their home territory of country and western (by which title the music was known in those days). This was the first verse:

Oop-scooby-dooby-lena, go-gal-go
Bop-a-lena, bop-a-lena, she’s my gal
Oh, bop-a-lena, bop-a-lena, yeah she’s my gal
She’s my gal and I love her so
Oop-scooby-dooby-lena, go-gal-go

Ronnie supplied his raspy ‘extreme voice’ à la Ain’t I’m A Dog, Don Law added some vocal support and enough punters liked it to achieve that chart placing. Unfortunately for Ronnie it was a one-off.

I’ve already mentioned the flip side to Bop-A-Lena: I Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere was the track that had that honour and chalk and cheese doesn’t do justice to the comparison to the A-side. This one caused me to use the dreaded term ‘Easy Listening’ but in terms of future tracks of this nature, of which there were many, I’d narrow that down a bit to ‘Southern Easy Listening, sometimes with a country flavour’. If I were to come up with other artists with some similarity, names like Roger Miller, Don Williams and the pop Jimmie Rodgers (rather than the country name) would come to mind even though vintages aren’t all relevant; the last named had hit big with Honeycomb and Kisses Sweeter Than Wine in ’57 though, unlike Ronnie, he didn’t write his own songs. It’s possible given the lack of success of Ronnie’s records to date, producer Law and/or manager Allbritten were hedging their bets and going for something different. It’s also fully possible that Ronnie had so many similar songs in his bag that one like this had to surface sometime.

In my earlier comment on the track I said “the words cut deeper”. This is how it opens:

Love passed by, the sands keep shifting
And my lonely heart keeps drifting
Try to pretend I don’t care

Ronnie’s delivery was mellifluous which seemed to come totally naturally to him. It was also utterly unlike his approach to Bop-A-Lena and, indeed, unlike anything he’d recorded before. And it’s a grower – give the track another spin and you’ll see what I mean.

Unsurprisingly, given the success of Bop-A-Lena, his next two singles were jam-packed with rock material (with Mel Tillis’ name appearing in one of the credits). The discs bombed but I can’t skip past them without a mention of the flip from the first of the pair. Big Blon’ Baby, one of Ronnie’s best rockers would have made the Ten but for the fact that Jerry Lee cut an even better take on the song a year or so later (Jerry’s record didn’t chart either but that would have been due to the UK Tour/child bride scandal which had preceded the release.)

Columbia let Ronnie go after the lack of success reported above but Allbritten negotiated a new contract for him with Decca where he stayed until 1962 though his period with the label yielded four singles only, plus a number of tracks which stayed ‘in the can’ until relatively recently. However, it was during this period that Ronnie came up with those songs for Brenda Lee which resulted in major hits. The same producer, Owen Bradley, presided over the Lee tracks and Ronnie’s discs for Decca.

After Bradley produced Ms Lee’s I’m Sorry in March 1960, did he and/or Allbritten beg Ronnie to come up with a fully grown-up song for himself? Maybe. In his second Decca session in May 1960, with Bradley again behind the producer’s console, one of the two songs cut, and subsequently released, was I’ve Been There which straddled the boundaries between forties/fifties lounge ballad and country tearjerker with plenty of elegant diction from Ronnie himself all wrapped up in strings and the Anita Kerr Singers i.e. the Nashville Sound. Could have, maybe should have, been a hit which might have turned Ronnie’s life around but as we know it didn’t happen.

After Decca, it was Kapp, Scratch and then Amy. Hardly household names but Ronnie was hardly in a position to choose (and the power of Dub’s magic wand only went so far). Before moving on though, a pause is called for in order to address some of those tracks that were left in the can, some of which date back to Ronnie’s Columbia spell. Of particular note is Too Many Lovers which came from the Ain’t I’m A Dog session in June ’57 but, as the reader will have come to expect by now, sounds nothing like that. What it does sound like is an undiscovered Sun track from one of the less famous artists on that label – think someone like Warren Smith – straddling the genres of pop, country and, yes, rockabilly. Ronnie is supremely relaxed and has allowed just a smidgeon of Elvis to creep back into his delivery. At the risk of being overly repetitive, I’d classify the track as another that very nearly made the Ten; what it did see, though, was Bootleg/Repro release, which is how 45cat labels it, coupled with Big Town (which had seen release on Decca).

Whistling Words came from the final session of his Decca spell. On this track the level of sentimentality gets rather too far into Val Doonican land for my liking but I reckon there could have been buyers for it.

That broad approach gets deployed again, but much more successfully, on Bless My Broken Heart, the self-penned A-side of his one single for Kapp which again was cut in Nashville but at Sam Phillips’ studio though further details aren’t available. The song lyrically echoes its title with an intimate and conversational delivery from Ronnie, a simple tune that sticks with you almost immediately and an arrangement with prominent 12 string guitar that makes the whole thing stand out. This one demanded hit parade recognition but it wasn’t to be.

A baby cries, you always rock him
Sing a lullaby and try to stop him
With little words like bless your little heart

Here I am, nothing but your crying baby
I keep a-hoping you’ll come around, maybe
Boo hoo hoo hoo, bless my broken heart

Yet again, differing sides of Ronnie Self appear on his solitary single for Scratch – there was one release only on each of the three indie labels – with the A-side Ain’t I A Dandy giving us a menacing and somewhat egotistical figure but the flip, Long Distance Kiss, proffering a much lighter view, or did it? The recitation section added distinctly heavier notes: “Well I couldn’t stand your mama/ Your papa couldn’t make his kind of man out of me”. Both tracks were self-penned.

The arrangement on Long Distance kiss reminds me slightly of John Phillips/Scott McKenzie and much the same could be said about his Amy A-side, the Dale Hawkins produced High On Life, a title that virtually screams hippie era – this was spring ’68. Or to put it another way, Ronnie’s easy listening approach updated for the hippie era. Ronnie’s song was based on a real or imagined incident (though if it was autobiographical one does wonder whether “Frisco” was a switch to a more topical location).

Green hickory wood will make your fireplace hot
But man try to tell that to a Frisco cop
He choked me with my beads and shot me down for pot
Said that Long Strong Daddy was going to blow my top

All of which eventually gets Ronnie to his punch line: “High on living, forgiving and loving.”

I first came across the number on a late period Gene Vincent LP, The Day The World Turned Blue, but I have to say that I’m not sure that Gene really knew what to make of it. Ronnie scores every which way.

And that was the official end of the Ronnie Self recording career. By the late sixties, the problems in handling him must have appeared to record label owners to have far outweighed any potential he had as a singer or songwriter. Even before his career had effectively finished, his intake had expanded to include amphetamines and marijuana in addition to alcohol.

He died in August 1981.

The end? Well, no. In 1999, an LP was released by the Redita label from the Netherlands. Titled Rockin’ Ronnie Self, it claimed to hold 17 previously unissued tracks. Out of the 18 tracks in total, the one that had seen previous release was The Road Keeps Winding (a Wayne Carson song which was on the flip side of High On Life). Those 17 tracks turned out to have been cut as demos both during and after Ronnie’s all-too brief record career i.e. the fact that he was getting zero attention from record labels didn’t stop Ronnie continuing to produce music. The album didn’t go completely unnoticed: its opener, Home In My Hand got covered first by Dallas Frazier on the LP Tell It Like It Is in 1967, then by Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen and finally by Dave Edmunds in the UK and none of them veered far from the arrangement on the fine original.

Coming slightly more up to date, the Redita LP was followed by a larger compilation from the German label Hydra – the AllMusic scribe, Bruce Eder comments “he’s a footnote in rock & roll history outside of Europe, where he’s treated as a legend” – which was entitled Mr. Frantic Is Boppin’ The Blues in 2001. It boasted a generous 31 tracks of which the first few were live cuts from his early days, four consisted of the Scratch and Amy singles (the Kapp single had been compiled already – see below) and the rest was another grouping of previously unreleased demos with only slight overlap with the Redita album. A big plus point for Mr. Frantic Is Boppin’ The Blues is that it’s on Spotify.

Both sides of Ronnie’s Kapp single were included in a comp from Bear Family entitled Bop-A-Lena released in 1990 to which reference has been made earlier. It held all of his tracks cut at ABC-Paramount, Columbia and Decca including those that didn’t see release at the time. The fact that Bear Family are also German probably didn’t escape Bruce Eder’s attention. For us, though, the good news is that this two CD-er is also on Spotify.

My final tracks all come from the previously unreleased section on the Mr. Frantic Is Boppin’ The Blues set.

The Hurt Is Free warrants selection for the title alone. The title line expands to “Love comes high but the hurt is free” but he takes his time getting to it working through an extended train metaphor beforehand. Rather than an out-and-out tearjerker it’s a jogalong delivery fitting neatly in my easy listening plus country category.

While The Hurt Is Free is adorned with pedal steel etc., playing up the Nashville connection, the track that follows it on Mr Frantic, How Careless Of Me, is unplugged with support coming only from Ronnie’s slowly strummed guitar. And that seems a fitting framing for these words:

Somewhere I fell down in my loving you
And my head turned and did not see
That you were slowly leaving my heart
Oh how careless of me

My final track, Waiting For My Gin To Hit Me (which I appreciate could be too painful for some readers), was, like the last two, previously unreleased prior to its appearance on the Hydra album but there had been versions of it cut by other artists. Those artists were the Skeletons and the Iguanas. The story of how the Self cut happened is told in the Boogie Woogie Flu blog (which is written by Ted Barron and subtitled “Degenerate Record Collector’s Disease”). The story is told by Bobby Lloyd Hicks, drummer/vocalist with the Skeletons.

“One day (I’m guessing around ’70/’71) Ronnie came by Wayne Carson’s Top Talent studio in Springfield, Missouri, with three of his boys in tow. They were just little kids, maybe ages 7,8,9…in that range. After a while he asked me, “Can you run that thing?”, referring to the eight-track machine. I told him I did know how to record with the two-track, so he says, “Well set it up. I got something for ya.” (I should explain that while this was going on, Carson was occupied with a potential buyer for the studio – DS)”

Bobby Lloyd also includes the following fascinating paragraph:

“At home Ronnie and his 7 kids had a ritual. They’d all sit in a circle on the floor, and pass a Coke around sharing sips and sing his songs. I witnessed this one evening and was amazed at how many of his songs these little kids knew, and sang along with enthusiasm.”

The Notes for Mr. Frantic Is Boppin’ The Blues state “Self-produced session (June 1981): track 31” and track 31 (the last), is Waitin’ For The Gin To Hit Me. This clashes with the Bobby Lloyd dating above and would suggest that the track could be the final one that Ronnie Self ever recorded given the closeness of the date of his death. I have found nothing elsewhere on the date of the recording.

Sittin’ on the floor, Indian style
Waitin’ for my gin to hit me
Mama say a prayer for her bad child
Waitin’ for my gin to hit me



Ronnie Self photo 2



1. Dub Allbritten’s background in the distant past had included working in travelling carnivals, managing pro wrestlers and being the “promoter who booked athlete Jesse Owens to perform as a vocalist with jazz bands”. That quote and much of the info in this para comes from this blog. Moving into the country field, he did promotion work for Hank Williams and handled management roles (briefly) for Ernest Tubb and Hank Snow and then, on a longer-term basis, Red Foley and Brenda Lee. The writer singles out Ms Lee with the line, “He became her long-time agent and trusted friend.”

Writing credit on some of Ronnie’s songs for Brenda appears to be shared with Dub (or has been in early versions of the records). Dik de Heer tells us what actually happened in his TIMS article on Ronnie:

“Brenda Lee explains in her autobiography: “Ronnie was burning bridges left and right. But Dub kept loaning him money and arranging for song-publishing deals and recording sessions, eventually including some with Owen Bradley at Decca. Dub wasn’t a songwriter, but his name is listed as the cowriter on a lot of Ronnie’s songs. I don’t think he was trying to be dishonest. That was the only way Dub could hope to recoup all the money he’d invested in that crazy guy.” (“Little Miss Dynamite”, 2002, page 63-64).”

2. The weekly live Ozark Jubilee, based in Springfield, Missouri, was broadcast nationally from 22nd January 1955. While it wasn’t strictly the first such show to feature country music to be broadcast on a national basis, it was the first to include established stars in the field.

3. Don Law, who was born in Leytonstone, London but emigrated to the US in 1924, is famous for recording Robert Johnson in those two sessions in San Antonio and Dallas in November 1936 and June 1937 respectively, which gave the world Johnson’s entire body of recorded work. He had started out as a bookkeeper for Brunswick Records in Dallas but over time moved into A&R and production for the label. After a couple of takeovers, Law found himself working for the mighty Columbia and in 1952 was appointed head of the label’s country division. By 1956, much of his recording work was being carried out in Nashville resulting in him moving there. Having been one of the earliest producers to use Owen Bradley’s Quonset Hut Studio, he was the man who persuaded Columbia to buy it, after which it acquired the name of Columbia Studio B. To quote the Wiki author: “Law’s productions in the late 1950s and early 1960s included Johnny Horton’s The Battle of New Orleans, Marty Robbins’ El Paso, and Jimmy Dean’s Big Bad John, all of which topped the US pop chart and helped bring country music to a wider audience. He also produced most of Johnny Cash’s recordings during the period” (and recorded Carl Perkins for the label – DS).

4. Those who know anything about country music will be aware of the name Owen Bradley. Those who don’t, won’t. For the latter, I would start their education by quoting a sentence generated by Dik de Heer in his excellent TIMS article on the man:

“That Nashville is the universally acknowledged centre of the country music industry is largely the legacy of one man: Owen Bradley.”

To learn more I would point the reader to the rest of Dik’s article or the (also good) Wiki feature on Bradley since I don’t think that a précis would do him justice.

5. It is under-appreciated that all of Gene Vincent’s early tracks in 1956, including Be-Bop-A-Lula, were recorded in Owen Bradley’s Quonset Hut Studio or, to give it its more formal address, 804 16th Ave. South, Nashville, TN. Bradley hired the studio out to several other labels and, in the case of Vincent, it was Ken Nelson, Head of Country Music for Capitol and the man who discovered and signed Gene to the label, who was the hirer (and producer of the Vincent sessions). It wasn’t until 1957 that recording for Gene switched to L.A. Thus, Nashville played a bigger hand in the development of rock and roll than is generally realised.

6. There was a single issued of Rocky Road Blues from Gene Vincent in 1958. Whether he took his inspiration from the Ronnie Self record or from Monroe/Arnold we don’t know but it was another good version, complete with that mix of hand clapping and vocal support that Vincent was using at the time. Maybe there’s a clue to the sourcing in the fact that a piano appeared in the Vincent version as it did in Ronnie’s take.

7. Unusually for a record that wasn’t a hit, Ronnie’s Bless My Broken Heart got covered by Marty Wilde in the UK (and it made the Ten in my Toppermost on Marty).

8. Wayne Carson (who often used the name Wayne Carson Thompson in song credits) was born in Denver, Colorado, but often operated out of Springfield, Missouri. After a spell in Nashville in the early sixties, he returned to Springfield where he worked with music publisher and promoter Si Siman; the duo pitched songs at artists initially without any success. However, Siman’s friend Chet Atkins eventually took a liking to one of Wayne’s songs, Somebody Like Me, and after the addition of an extra verse it got recorded by Eddy Arnold and hit the #1 spot in the Country Chart. That happened in 1966 but greater success was yet to come. The following year Wayne penned The Letter for an unknown and previously unrecorded group called the DeVilles, and the rest is history: for those who don’t know their history, the DeVilles got renamed the Box Tops and the record hit #1 in the National Pop Charts of both Billboard and Cashbox followed by more than respectable showings in several other countries.

Carson went on to write further hits for the Box Tops (and many other artists) but perhaps the song he might be best remembered for is Always On My Mind on which he took a third of the writing credit – according to the Wiki author, Wayne started writing the number but needed help completing it. The song is mainly associated with Willie Nelson these days but the original version came from Brenda Lee in 1972.

9. The only song that I’ve found from Ronnie to have a Diddley beat is My Own Kick Going which is present on both the Redita and the Hydra albums. It’s a good ˈun and is of a somewhat autobiographical-cum-philosophical nature. Is there another song anywhere inspired by the mighty Bo to include the line “Every time I get high, I try to write a poem”?

10. I opened with some quotes on the negative aspects of Ronnie Self. Apart from his undoubted talent there were actually some positives about his behaviour. In his excellent Notes to Bop-A-Lena, Colin Escott quotes Si Siman (see reference earlier):

“When he was straight, he was great to do business with. He was a gentleman. But when he got some juice inside him he’d shoot holes in the wall, fire off a bow and arrow, chase people and try and run ˈem down with a car. He was in and out of jail God knows how many times. His talent was a curse. When success was real close, he’d have only had to do what people were telling him, but he couldn’t handle that – and he blew it.”





Ronnie Self at 45cat

Ronnie Self biography (AllMusic)

Dave Stephens is the author of two books on popular music. His first, “RocknRoll”, is described by one reviewer as “probably the most useful single source of information on 50s & 60s music I’ve come across”. Dave followed this up with “London Rocks” in 2016, an analysis of the early years of the London (American) record label in the UK. You can follow him on Twitter @DangerousDaveXX

TopperPost #1,065


  1. Andrew Shields
    Jun 3, 2023

    Have to admit Ronnie was a completely new name to me. Have enjoyed listening to him though – especially those songs like ‘I’ve Been There’ and ‘High On Life’ that cross genre lines. Fascinating life story too…

    • Dave Stephens
      Jun 4, 2023

      Thanks Andrew and I know where you’re coming from with regard to the later Self songs. If he had made the switch from rockabilly/rock to country balladeer like, say, Conway Twitty then all would be straightforward but with Ronnie nothing was straightforward. He came up with some great songs but they didn’t cleave to the Nashville norm by any means.

  2. John Chamberlain
    Jun 4, 2023

    Being a big Brenda Lee fan it was very interesting to get the background on the writer of the handful of songs that Ronnie Self did for her. Thanks.

    • Dave Stephens
      Jun 4, 2023

      Thank you John. I was actually conscious that I didn’t pay much attention to any of the songs Ronnie wrote for Brenda other than her two biggies: Sweet Nothin’s and I’m Sorry. That was mainly because I know very well that I’m very prone to digressions away from my chosen subject matter which, if followed up, can introduce the risk of losing the reader – though I’m sure you’d respond with a comment along the lines of “being lost with Brenda is a pretty good way to be lost!”

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