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Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters

One of the finest blues guitarists to emerge during the '80s, Ronnie Earl often straddled the line between blues and jazz, throwing in touches of soul and rock as well. His versatility made him one of the few blues guitarists capable of leading an almost entirely instrumental outfit, and his backing band the Broadcasters became one of the more respected working units in contemporary blues over the course of the '90s, following Earl's departure from Roomful of Blues.

Ronnie Earl was born Ronald Horvath in Queens, NY, on March 10, 1953. He didn't start playing guitar until after he entered college at Boston University in the early '70s and became fascinated with the local blues scene. Developing his craft quickly, he landed a job in the house band of the Speakeasy Club in Cambridge, MA, and changed his last name to the bluesier-sounding Earl in tribute to Earl Hooker, one of his favorite influences. Prior to the name switch, he'd made some recordings for the small Baron label under his original moniker beginning in 1977, first backing Guitar Johnny & the Rhythm Rockers, then as a founding member of Sugar Ray & the Bluetones with harmonica player/singer Sugar Ray Norcia. In 1979, Earl was invited to replace Duke Robillard in the prominent Rhode Island band Roomful of Blues, whose swinging jump blues revivalist sound demanded a jazz sensibility as well as ample blues feeling. Earl spent the next eight years with Roomful of Blues and watched their national profile grow steadily larger.

Meanwhile, Earl also made a few recordings on his own for Black Top Records, forming the first versions of the Broadcasters in the early '80s. He released his first solo album, Smokin', in 1983 and followed it with They Call Me Mr. Earl in 1984 (both of those albums were later compiled on the CD Deep Blues). Still, they were a sidelight to his main gig with Roomful of Blues -- that is, until he left the band in 1987 to make a go of it as a solo artist and bandleader in his own right. A new version of the Broadcasters debuted in 1988 on Soul Searchin', which featured vocalist Darrell Nulisch, harmonica player Jerry Portnoy (ex-Muddy Waters), bassist Steve Gomes, and drummer Per Hanson. Peace of Mind followed in 1990, as did I Like It When It Rains, a live album on Antone's that actually dated from 1986. Released in 1991, Surrounded by Love reunited Earl with Sugar Ray Norcia and also proved the last in his long string of Black Top releases.

By the early '90s, Earl had addressed and overcome his problems with alcohol and cocaine and began to rethink his approach. He formed a new version of the Broadcasters, featuring organist Bruce Katz, bassist Rod Carey, and longtime drummer Per Hanson, and boldly elected to go without a vocalist. Earl debuted his new instrumental direction -- which was more informed by jazz than ever before -- on 1993's Still River (released by AudioQuest) and embarked on a tour of Europe. He signed with the Bullseye Blues label and issued a string of acclaimed albums, including 1994's Language of the Soul, 1995's Blues Guitar Virtuoso Live in Europe (a live album from his 1993 tour originally titled Blues and Forgiveness), and 1996's Grateful Heart: Blues and Ballads (which featured David "Fathead" Newman). The latter two were particular critical favorites, with Live in Europe winning Pulse magazine's year-end poll as Best Blues Album and Grateful Heart doing likewise in Down Beat.

Thanks to all the positive attention, Earl signed a major-label deal with Verve. His label debut, The Colour of Love, was issued in 1997 and sold more than 65,000 copies, making it one of the biggest hits of Earl's career; that year, he also won a W.C. Handy Award as Best Blues Instrumentalist. However, feeling that he was under too much pressure to move more units, Earl soured on the deal and around the same time suffered a bout with manic depression. He wound up not only leaving Verve, but taking a break from bandleading and live performance; he disbanded the Broadcasters and signed with the smaller Telarc label as a solo act.

His Telarc debut, 2000's Healing Time, teamed him with legendary soul-jazz organist Jimmy McGriff. The follow-up, 2001's Ronnie Earl and Friends, was a loose, jam session-type of affair featuring a number of special guests, including the Fabulous Thunderbirds' Kim Wilson, Irma Thomas, Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson, and the Band's Levon Helm. In 2003, Earl returned with an album of mainly instrumental material, I Feel Like Goin' On, on the Canadian-based label Stony Plain. A second album from Stony Plain, Now My Soul, appeared in 2004, while a third, The Duke Meets the Earl, which paired Earl with fellow ex-Roomful of Blues guitarist Duke Robillard, was released in 2005. Earl's third album for Stony Plain, 2009's Living in the Light, found him reunited with the Broadcasters. Earl and his longtime backing band returned for 2010's Spread the Love, an instrumental tribute to mentors, friends and family.

After a long period of global touring, Earl and band took well deserved some time off. Just For Today was issued in 2013, and featured guest spots from vocalist Diane Blue and Detroit guitarist Nicholas Tabarias. Earl and the Broadcasters returned to the studio late in the year. They emerged with Good News, a collection of orignals and covers that included Blue and Tabrias in the lineup on select cuts, along with guitarist Zach Zunis. It was issued for release in June of 2014. ~ Steve Huey, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

cw077
pleasant, enjoyable music
Very nice jam. I've seen pretty much everyone live...100's of concerts. And these guys have a nice sound. Don't listen if you agree :)
bobonnit, you just provided more evidence that there ain't no accounting for matters of taste. Kay My Dear just came floating through again. There is nothing standard about any of this...
He's a good guitarist but it's nothing I haven't heard before. Just another guy playing standard, predictable licks & riffs. I tune it out pretty quickly.
Listening to Kay My Dear at the moment. Ronnie and the Broadcasters consistently release sublime blues music. I can be groovin along at work or at home and this insistent guitar line comes floating in and I just have to stop and listen. These guys are on my bucket list. I'll have to make a trip to New England just to catch them live.
The 1st time I heard of Ronnie Earl, I will continue to listen to his sweet music
dude can really hammer the strings...
THAT'S A REFLEX ION, ABOUT WHAT GOD CAN DO.
dems da blues...
Luv it first timei I'm hear ya ! I am sold on u thanks ....
kickin' it!
this is good blues i love it.
michaelsaul4 7
Wow! This is the Good Stuff, The Vein of Gold
Damn , Awesome, Totally Sweet!
yourhandywor k e r
i'm melting!!!! wow!
Damn! Ronnie can play!
rfpmoxie
The only thing better than his music is the person himself. I'm proud to be a friend!
This guy is great!!
I had never heard of this group before Pandora, but I am a fan!
Super tasty playing by all on the tune I'm listening to - For Abbey. Ronnie's been around for a while now and if this is any indication I would say go check these guys out live.
lots of playfulness in his lead work....
Never heard of him till right now, love , love this song!!!!!!
Awesome
hodgdons7
First time I heard Bonnie's Theme. For a second I thought it was some rare Santana! Ever since been a fan. What he's capable of .... tapping all sorts of rock/blues/j a z z / L a t i n o .
Excellent he can play even though he started late.
thomasga4
sounds like charlie baty
love this blues style, reminds me of Roy Buchanan and Stevie ray. full and gritty but smooth as 19 year old scotch
kvons1
Too bad they completely decimated the FM broadcast band to the point where the only place you can find any REAL music and variety is on the internet--th e r e WAS a time when you could find some FM radio that actually played good stuff like this---no more. SHAME on corporate greed!
I saw ronnie open for junior wells at the original house of blues in Cambridge rolling rock was my beer that night. I just surpassed his 18 years of addiction
staticlines5
Heard him by chance and hooked!
Just wonderful. Been a fan from day 1. thank you Brother.
NOT THAT IS A BAD THING AWSOME
SOUNDS JUST LIKE GREG ALLMAN
Good Sounds!!
Thanks Ron!
freakin' awesome,noug h said.
professorjef f 3
So many blues players sound the same, but Earl never borrows from another's muse. Purely genuine here. Fantastic.
fmiller11
Ronnie Earl is still playing amazing blues and can frequently be seen in small venue performances in and around Boston and New England. I have been lucky and blessed to count his longtime drummer, the fabulous Per Hanson, as my friend, mentor and bandmate here in the Portland, ME, area. Per keeps me grounded..an d right on time, baby. :- ) -RM
I first heard him when camping on the Blue Ridge Parkway with friends and tuned in to the Chicago Blues Festival. It was up to each of us to remember a part of the name of the artist and group since we could not move to go get a pencil and paper and possibly miss some of the performance.
oneydjacks
Ronnie has been steeping in the blues a little bit longer than SRV.
He is more traditional Chicago blues than Texas. Almost as much jazz as blues. His knowledge of scales is apparent on his acoustic stuff.
has a Texas bend.... reminds me of SRV and his brother Jimmie!
pam.watson8
My first time hearing this group. I want MORE!
Ronnie Earl Is Right-On-Tim e ! ! !
Ronnie Earl will go down as one off best ever.
stan8122
Sweet, very sweet
ann_s8
Reminiscence of the early Allman Brothers Band with Greg.
I was amazed when I saw him live at the Bull Run in Shiley Ma. Especially when he evoked tears from the audience due to his ability to hit notes that draw raw emotion
barclaybarne t t
nobody fuses jazz & blues quite like Ronnie
dems da blues
Lot's of folks in here comparing this guy to Stevie. Ronnie has more jazz & delta than Stevie did. ..valid comparison though, 'specially on this tune
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