You'll be more inclined to buy his records! Ronnie Dyson's working with the Jackson/Yancy hitmaking team and his new single's grabbing some action. So, he's abandoned all thoughts of street-trading…
YOU CAN almost detect the hint of relief in Ronnie Dyson's voice when he tells you that his current single, "The More You Do It (The More I Like It Done To Me)" is doing very well, thank you! And if the 26-year old singer feels any exasperation, it's quite understandable.
After six years with Columbia and no less than eight producers, Mr. Dyson seems to have found the formula that's going to carry him into the big league.
Ronnie's very first chart entry came six years ago with "Why Can't I Touch You?" or more correctly, "(If You Let Me Make Love To You) Why Can't I Touch You?" and maybe those parentheses are significant!
There are definite parallels between Ronnie's initial success and his current new burst of chart activity: he was appearing in "Hair" when his first single broke and, surprise, surprise, the gentleman is back with the show — this time on a strictly limited basis.
"It's nice to be back doing the show and I can see re-occurences of things that happened the first time around. It's almost like there are certain things I can see which I would change and I'd love to be able to tell everyone, but then it would come off with me seeming like I know it all!" the young man laughed.
"This particular company has been out on the road for some time and I guess they figured that by getting someone from the original cast, they'd attract bigger audiences. Well, that seems to be what's happening," Ronnie added modestly, "because they brought our opening night in Philadelphia forward due to advance ticket sales."
Which certainly can't be bad — and means Ronnie will be busy at least for the next couple of weeks, after which he will definitely be concentrating on his next album.
"Yes, the single is doing well and I'll be back in the studios in the middle of July to finish off the album."
For those who may not know, Ronnie's current hit was produced by the hitmaking team of Chuck Jackson and Marvin Yancy, the gentlemen behind the instant success of Natalie Cole.
"It's a whole different thing from any producers I've ever worked with before," Ronnie confesses. "It came about when Chuck and Marvin were visiting CBS and discussing some other groups they were due to work with. They apparently expressed a desire to work with me and naturally, I was more than happy.
"To be honest, I'd almost decided to give it all up and play basketball — or sell bootlaces or something!"
Ronnie's frustration is eminently understandable. He picks up the story of his recording career from the start. "Throughout the years, there's been a total lack of consistency — difficulty with producers and then, if not that, problems getting airplay on some of the material.
"My first things were cut with Billy Jackson — the guy who works with the Tymes. "Why Can't I Touch You" was really like an 'awakening' song and people seemed to dig it because of that. But then the company followed through with something that was totally unsuitable — it put me straight into an r&b bag. The song was "I Don't Wanna Cry" and I believe it may have turned a lot of people off from what I was really all about.
"We did a whole album and there were some nice things on there but there were just too many different kinds of moods. We had "Bridge Over Troubled Waters", "Band Of Gold" — too many different things for people to get my proper conception of what I was all about."
Next in line was Stan Vincent, the man who had given the Five Stairsteps their big hit with "O-o-h Child". Unfortunately, Stan was unable to do the trick for Ronnie although one of the four sides he cut with Ronnie did bring his name to the attention of British record buyers.
It was the gentleman's version of the old Delfonics' hit, "When You Get Right Down To It." CBS still didn't seem to have too much of an idea as to what they should do with Ronnie and what seemed like the solution came with musical magician. Thom Bell.
"Apparently, Thom had been up at CBS discussing some business and the company suggested that the combination of the two of us might work out. I must say that I was totally in awe of Thom — at the time, everything he touched turned to gold with the Stylistics and I was frankly nervous working with a man of such calibre."
The sessions took place at Sigma Sound in Philadelphia and although Ronnie and Thom cut what should have been four monster sides, CBS just didn't seem at time able to put all their efforts behind the results of the sessions with which both Ronnie and Thom were apparently very happy.
"We did four songs in all and "One Man Band" certainly saw some significant chart action," recalled Ronnie. "But we'd cut the first version of "Just Don't Want To Be Lonely" and the company issued it and it died. Next thing I knew the Main Ingredient had taken the song and turned it gold!"
Philosophically, Ronnie figured "that it just wasn't meant for me then." The remaining two sides the duo cut were "I Think I'll Tell Her" which was moderately successful for Mr. Dyson and "Give In To Love".
Once again, Ronnie was given another producer to work with — this time former Motown man, Hank Cosby. "He was really into soul things and we did a few sides. We had a single out, "Bring Back The Good Times" but it really wasn't me. You see, I like to sing. Disco things are cute as album cuts but I like working on ballads and mid-tempo songs — because that's what I'm all about. Singing and saying something."
Needless to say, the combination just didn't work yet again and Ronnie's next jaunt into the recording studios took time to Los Angeles to work with John Flores — the guy who had cut some of the Friends Of Distinction's early hits.
Still, Ronnie hadn't run into the right combination. Taking the now customary trip to Philadelphia when you're in search of a hit, Mr. Dyson went to Sigma Sound again to work this time with Norman Harris.
"That was about a year ago and we cut a few sides. The first single we had from there was "We Can Make It Last" which made some noise on the r&b charts. And we had one more single out earlier this year — "Lady In Red" which was interesting. But again, the sound was the thing — there was more of a rhythm track than a vocal track. They wanted you to know that MFSB are there!"
It's hardly surprising that when Messrs. Yancy and Jackson expressed their interest in working with the gentleman that Ronnie felt that his prayers had been answered at long last.
"Certainly the fact that we all come from a church background has a great deal to do with the sound that comes out. At last, I believe I've found people who really dig what I'm all about. And there is such an air of friendliness about the work — there's a definite looseness but it's combined with pure professionalism.
"Initially, we did four cuts — the single and two more songs, "Close To You" — no, it's not the old song — and "Won't You Come Stay With Me" which is my own favourite. Chuck and Marvin in fact wrote that one specially for me after a conversation we'd had. So naturally that's the one I dig the most.
"We did the sessions in Chicago at Curtom studios and all kinds of folk came by — Curtis Mayfield, Pops Staples. I had to stop and ask myself if it was really happening to me!"
Ronnie is in no doubt that a lot of the problems he encountered during his recording career were because of CBS. "A lot of things just weren't running right with the company and people who were in top positions — the hierarchy — just didn't know how to aid my career.
"However, our contract is up at the end of the year and if all goes the way it's going right now, we'll at least have some strong bargaining power!"
Meanwhile, he's looking forward to recording his new album — "I understand the material is going to be dynamite" and his ambitions are simple: "I want to get started as quickly as possible in really establishing myself in show business. I want to be consistent with my recording career and to do concerts, television — whatever is necessary.
"Ultimately, I guess I'd like to get into writing my own material more — and maybe, just maybe, producing other people at some time in the distant future!"
And on a personal level? "I just want to travel, live, love and carry on!" is the way the man succinctly puts it.
It's indeed heartwarming to see the talented Mr. Dyson at last getting the breaks. He certainly deserves to be adding some gold to his walls in the near future.
About the Writer
David Nathan is the founder and CEO of SoulMusic.com and began his writing career in 1965; beginning in 1967, he was a regular contributor to Blues & Soul magazine in London before relocating to the U.S. in 1975 where he served as U.S. editor for the publication for several decades and began being known as 'The British Ambassador Of Soul.' From 1988 to 2004, he wrote prolifically for Billboard, has penned bios, produced and written liner notes for box sets and reissue CDs for over a thousand projects. He returned to London in 2009 where he has helped create SoulMusic.com Records as a leading reissue label.