Farewell to Ron Jackson
San Diego Troubadour, December 2007
by Dwight Worden
Life is wonderful, fickle, and cruel. It gave us Ron Jackson who enlightened the lives of thousands of his music students, band mates, and fans over his more than 30 years as a music teacher and per- forming musician, and then it took him away without warning on October 14. Ron, who was walking near his home in Carlsbad suffered a massive heart attack. A bicyclist passing by stopped immediately as Ron went down and administered CPR until the paramedics arrived, but the attack was too massive and Ron was dead on arrival at the hospital from a severe rupture of his heart. He was 57. He is survived by his wife Lisa, stepson Greg Uke, and son in college Nick Jackson.
Anyone who has taken acoustic music lessons in North County, or who has been into Buffalo Brothers music store in Carlsbad, has probably seen Ron, who taught lessons at Buffalo Brothers for many years. Prior to that, starting in 1971, Ron was the music teacher at Blue Ridge Music in downtown old Encinitas. Ron leaves 79 currently active students behind who will cherish their time with him but who must now find another teacher as well as and hundreds if not thousands of students he has taught over his long career in North County.
Ron knew music. All kinds of music. Klezmer, blues, jazz, Celtic, classical, blue- grass, and pop, and he could and did play and teach it all. I remember him playing “Wipeout” and other surf music on his banjo in the late ’70s and coining the phrase “bubble-grass” to describe this new genre of acoustic music. Ron was top notch on acoustic guitar, banjo, clarinet, and mandolin and could hold his own on several other instruments as well. If you had an obscure tune you wanted to learn about, he was the “go to guy.” Ron was a living breathing archive of musical information and knowledge. He would probably know who wrote that obscure tune, the year it was written, all 15 verses, and likely had the tab and music in his “office.”
For those who didn’t take lessons from Ron, you probably saw and heard him perform in any number of bands over the years. He first played full time with Molly Stone’s New Honky Tonk Band and then played regularly with Squatters Rights in the ’70s and ’80s at the Stingaree in Encinitas and at the Old Time Café in Leucadia among other gigs. Squatters Rights was the first band ever hired at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach.
Ron also performed with Fancy Peaches, and from 1979 up to as recently as last summer he played with the Unstrung Heroes. From 1979 to 1988 Ron was a regular performer and the adjunct musical advisor at the legendary Old Time Café in Leucadia, according to its owners Bill Goldsmith and Pearl Wolfe. Ron was also a founding member and key element in the Opossums of Truth, a scientific gospel band that has played throughout the West. You will find Ron prominently on all four of the “Possum” CDs, playing guitar, mandolin, and banjo and singing about science and the oddities of the real world. Showing his diversity of interests, Ron also played in a Klezmer band called the Big Jewish Band and could wing out the country and pop with the best of them when called upon to fill in.
Ron was also a true intellect, interested in everything from genealogy, which he studied intensely, to local politics and everything in between. A “music” lesson with Ron was also a life experience as there were always vibrant and memorable discussions about a variety of topics that always left the student wondering how Ron knew so much. It is hard to imagine that all that knowledge, talent, and good humor are gone. Ron will be missed and will not be forgotten.
A memorial jam session in honor of Ron was held at Buffalo Brothers on November 18, attended by many prominent local musicians, including store owner Bob Page and his staff, Steve White, Banjo Bob Cox and wife Karen, Dwight Worden, Given Harrison, and many others. The group passed tunes and stories around a circle, with each player sharing a tidbit about his or her experience with Ron and then calling a tune. It was a fitting farewell to a wonderful friend, teacher, and musician. A memorial service will be held for Ron on January 6. Contact Buffalo Brothers for information.
Revered musician, teacher coupled music, humor
By J. STRYKER MEYER - STAFF WRITER
NOV. 4, 200712 AM, San Diego Union Tribune
Friends, musicians and teachers described Ronald Paul Jackson as brilliant and gifted.
They said he was also a musicologist, steeped in the compositional history of thousands of songs from classical music to country rock, blues and his beloved bluegrass music.
To dozens of students he was a fascinating and engaging teacher who drew beginning musicians into music through a unique technique he developed where he would have them performing favored songs shortly after beginning classes with him. Jackson used a system he perfected over more than two decades with various computers and programs, said fellow musician Given Harrison.
Jackson shunned the temptation of touring nationally, choosing instead to stay anchored in North County where he directed his creative energy and love to his family first and foremost.
Jackson, 57, died suddenly while walking in Carlsbad on Oct. 14.He is survived by wife Lisa, stepson Greg Uke and son Nick Jackson, sister Jan and mother Evelyn and stepfather Jack.
“Ron was a loving, kind, very intelligent family man,” said Lisa, his wife of 21 years. “He just loved music. Around here, he loved to garden a lot. He liked to read. He liked to walk. He enjoyed camping with us.”
Jackson worked with Pearl Wolfe, who owned the Old Time Cafe in Leucadia with her husband Bill Goldsmith from 1979 to 1988. He started as a musician and became their adjunct musical adviser.
“The loss of Ron Jackson reverberates. Ron was a versatile musician as his musical colleagues, students and audiences would affirm,” Wolfe wrote in a letter.
“But more than his musicianship was his unique humor and his delight in breaking traditions through his creative irreverence,both in how he looked at the world and how he played its music,” he wrote. The letter that will be read at Jackson’s memorial service on Jan. 6.
From 1979 through 1988 that time, she continued, Jackson became a regular bluegrass performer and showed his “ethnic diversity as clarinetist for The Big Jewish Band. Somewhere along the way he added La Mirada Gutter Strutters, later accompanying country legend Patsy Montana …”
Kevin Kinnear, general manager of Buffalo Brothers Guitars shop in Carlsbad, said, Jackson “knew all of the musicians, he knew all of the history of various songs and he knew a lot about politics. Here in the store, he’d get carried away talking about music or politics and he was so engaging, I had to force myself to walk away from him. He was scary bright, probably the most brilliant man I’ve ever met.”
Given Harrison said that Jackson could play many different genres of music from the Klezmer, classical music, blues country swing, or bluegrass, to name a few.
Harrison met Jackson in 1979 at an open-mic night at the Old Time Cafe in Encinitas. “We jammed together, swapped phone numbers and he called (fiddler) Dave Collins and we formed the group Unstrung Heroes.”
He described Jackson as the “bedrock for North County” music performing regularly with many bands, including his first full-time band Molly Stone’s New Honkytonk Band, followed by Squatters’ Rites and Fancy Peaches.
Collins recalled their first meeting, “I met Ron 34 years ago on a roof at UCSD -- he was playing Arkansas Traveler on his banjo. I ran back and got my fiddle. We hit it off instantly. That was the beginning of Squatters Rites, the first band ever hired at theBelly Up Tavern (in Solana Beach).”
Jackson’s first instrument was the clarinet. He acquired his first guitar at age 12 when he began learning folk music. At age14, according to a biographical note he wrote recently, Jackson traded his clarinet for a banjo and became active in the folk and blues scene in Orange County.
His musical stature blossomed as he performed professionally as a solo blues artist and with folk duo in high school, which had an avid interest in traditional Piedmont and Delta style blues. When he turned 20, he moved into bluegrass, folk rock and country while earning a degree in mathematics at UCSD.
“In (Unstrung Heroes), Ron was the true musician,” Harrison said. “I surrounded myself with excellent musicians. Anytime we needed a guitar solo, Ron would put down his mandolin and play a guitar solo. He was the intellect of the band. Sometimes he’d pickup his clarinet while we were playing bluegrass. No one else would do that.”
Lisa Jackson added, “Ron also touched many musical students over the years.”
After Jackson’s death, Bob Page of Buffalo Brothers notified all of the 72 students Jackson was teaching about the January service for Jackson.
Collins added, “As the word gets out about his death, I’m now learning more about the hundreds of people he taught. It’s amazing,and we all miss him, especially with his life ending so suddenly.”
Contact staff writer J. Stryker Meyer at (760) 901-4089 or email@example.com.
In the San Diego Reader, October 10, 1974:
$6— $9: Blueridge Music (Ron Jackson, member of Squatter’s Rites), finger, flatpick, Jazz, blues, folk, rock ‘n’ roll, guitar, autoharp, mandolin, dulcimer. 753-1775