“He even pees like Keith Richards!”: Interview with Veteran Roots Rocker Ron DeSaram
The year is 1980. In the photo that remains, Ron DeSaram can be seen bent over his guitar, massive hair flying in unruly waves against the night sky, anger written across his face in defiant happiness. He looks like he’s wearing all-white, but no way to be sure in this black & white action shot.
“That’s the night they shut the power down on us,” explains Ron, 37 years later, “July Fourth celebration in Lake Worth, Florida. Noise ordinance. Every time they’d tell us to turn the volume down, we’d turn it up.”
His wife, Nancy DeSaram, adds: “They turned off the power, started up the fireworks and then the palm tree next to the stage caught fire.”
This is just one of a lifetime of rock musician memories that Ron DeSaram totes along with him everywhere he goes. Tonight, when he steps onto the stage at 8 p.m. with Monty Warren & The Friggin’ Whatevers at Oakland Park’s Alligator Alley Native Florida Tap Room and Gastro Pub, a lot of folks at the popular music venue may not realize the intense bass player with the wild licks and silvery locks brings decades of rock and roll history and experience to each note he plays.
Like many professional lifer musicians, DeSaram started off playing in a band in high school. Since then, he’s led the devoted life of a passionate rock musician, playing with various groups and currently plays lead guitar with his main band, The Cravens, in the Palm Beach, Fla. area.
In the 90s, DeSaram joined up as lead guitarist with Crossfire Choir, the house band at the time for the iconic New York City club, CBGB’s. An alternative pop rock band, Crossfire Choir was managed by CBGB’s owner, Hilly Kristal.
We caught up with Ron and Nancy before Ron’s gig tonight with Monty, and scored the following Q&A:
Tonight you’ll be playing as a “Friggin’ Whatever” with Monty Warren at the Alligator Alley gig. You also played with him last year there, and will be playing on his Album No. 4. What is it that you appreciate most about Monty’s music?
I’m so stoked to be playing with Monty. Monty’s music is pure Roots Rock. Straight ahead real rock and roll. His songs appeal to me because they’re first class arrangements with well written melodies and harmonies so catchy that each one could be a single.
[Photo Credit: Monty Warren (L) Ron DeSaram (R) by Nancy DeSaram]
What’s the weirdest thing that ever happened to you at CBGB’s?
As the house band, we ended up playing for Black Rock Coalition Night which was all about black bands. We were the only white guys in the house that night. The audience was not exactly “receptive.”
What was your most memorable moment at CBGB’s?
Thanks to Hilly, we’d gotten signed with Atlantic Records. At CBGB’s, we’re getting ready to record, and Hilly tells us to grab some tapes from the basement to record over. So here’s what we found: Those tapes contained recordings by Television, The Shirts, Talking Heads…
You play lead and bass, depending on the gig. Bass players are notorious for “getting the groupies.” Would you say that’s true in your case?
Nancy DeSaram: The groupies still want him, even though he’s married now!
Why would you say a good bass player is essential to any band?
In any song, you’ve got your vocals, your drums, your guitar melodies, but the bass player really has to know that song to hold it all together. When the bass is no good, it all falls apart.
Let’s talk bass guitars. Any favorites?
I have eight bass guitars, some rare and collectable. All of them are special. I’ve got a Les Paul bass that is quite heavy, but it just sounds and plays so well. And I’ve got two Aria Pro Twos from the mid-80s, early 90s. Their tone is just incredible. I also love my Ibanez Destroyer, which is pretty rare these days. This one’s from 1984. It’s got these sharp angular lines. It’s the longest—from head to base—bass guitar I own, and physically it’s the most comfortable.
Nancy: The Les Paul is named Blackie because it’s mostly all black. Ron names all his guitars.
[Photo Credit: Ron with his Les Paul by Greg Fontenot]
Any advice for young aspiring bass players?
A lot of practice and a certain way of listening to focus on how the bass is played in music. When I first started, I listened to the bass line exclusively.
If you could describe in one word what it’s like to play with Monty as a “Friggin’ Whatever,” what would that word be?
Okay, can you elaborate on that one word, please?
There’s deep feeling in the way Monty’s songs are executed. The “FEEL” is so important and specific to his music. It’s hard to explain. Emotion infuses each song and makes it come alive for us when we’re playing. Some of Monty’s songs get us really pumped up, others are more serious. But it’s the “feel” that drives the music.
You’ve lived your whole life in Music. What would you say are the four best things about being an Indie Rock Musician?
1. Freedom to record.
2. Freedom to perform.
3. Freedom to evolve musically.
4. Freedom to experiment with sounds and textures.
Your Facebook shows a lot of photos taken by your wife Nancy, which include your gigs, as well as your cat. What’s the deal with that cat?
It’s The Triangle: Nancy my wife, Suzi Q my cat and myself. It gives me the strength to be the best musician I can.
Nancy: Suzi Q is very involved with Ron’s music. She’ll put her paws on his shoulders or sit on an amp listening to him. Other times, she sits next to me while he practices at home. We call it “The Triangle.”
Q: How long have you been married?
Nancy: Two years. But we met in 1990 at CBGB’s, got together then, and then got separated for decades. I was living in L.A. when Ron discovered me through social media and sent me a message that said: “I’ve been trying to find you for 23 years.”
Q: What were you playing when they turned the power off at the July Fourth Lake Worth concert in 1980?
I think it was probably “Careful with that axe, Eugene.”
Q: Have you ever been compared to Keith Richards?
There are similarities, except for our different lifestyles and the number of zeroes on our paychecks.
Nancy: There was this one time when Ron was on tour and he needed to get off and relieve himself on the side of the road. You could hear his bandmates yelling: “He even pees like Keith Richards!”
Ron DeSaram plays Friday, Feb. 24 with Monty Warren & The Friggin’ Whatevers at 8pm.
Alligator Alley Native Florida Tap Room & Gastro Pub
830 E. Oakland Park Blvd., #101
Oakland Park, FL 33334
Phone: (954) 226-2371