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May 2024
Vol. 23, No. 8

Featured Stories

Ron Silva: The Man. The Boots. The Legend.

by Chloe LouMay 2024

Ron and his brother Russell in 1963.

The Crawdaddys in 1979. Mark Zadarnowski, Dan McLain, Steve Potterf, Silva. Photo by Tim LaMadrid.

The Hitmakers, 1978. Joel Kmak, Steve Potterf, Silva, Josef Marc, Jeff Scott.

Ron and Mike Stax, 1982.

The Nashville Ramblers, 1986. Tom Ward, Silva, Carl Rusk. Photo by Jim Davies.

The Monarchs, 1994. Nick Rossi, Silva, Gregory Coates Piper, Jon Erickson, Tom Ward.

Chloe Lou and the Liddells, 2019. Chris Davies, David Fleminger, Chloe Lou, Silva, Pete Miesner, Richard “T-Bone” Larson.

The Mothmen, 2022. Pete Miesner, Silva, Ray Brandes, Chris Davies.

Ron and his daughter, Eva.

If you’ve grown up in San Diego like myself, you may have heard of bands like the Hitmakers, the Crawdaddys, and the Nashville Ramblers. A throughline of those groups is San Diegan and multi-instrumentalist Ron Silva. With a career that spans four and a half decades, Ron has been a powerful voice in San Diego music and beyond. His bands have garnered national attention, performed countless sold-out shows, and won the respect of many fellow musicians over his storied career.

I first met Ron Silva when I saw his band Ron and the Reapers at Beaumont’s in La Jolla, in 2017. I was in the band the Flophouse Playboys with Chris Davies of the Penetrators, and Chris invited me to come see the new band he was playing with. I remember sitting in that dark bar and being blown away by this front man. With his striped shirt and Greek fisherman’s cap, crooning songs from the sixties, I felt transported to 1965—complete with a cool crowd of mods in attendance.

When Davies asked me to sit in with the band, it was the first time I knew what it was like to perform with legends. This sparked a collaborative friendship that has continued to grow over the years. I didn’t know it at the time that Ron had a reputation as a pioneer in the punk and mod culture and was one of the most well respected musicians among the greats of San Diego.

When I asked Ron about his early life and what first inspired him, he told me that when he was seven years old he wanted to be Micky Dolenz, so he started playing the drums. “I learned by playing along to Monkees’ records and listening to my dad’s records, like Topsy Part 2 by Cozy Cole.” Guitar lessons followed, and before long Ron traded the Monkees for the Beatles. In a 2008 article in Che Underground, Ron is described by the author as a Beatles fanatic, who “scoured his favorite albums for details, looking in thrift stores for similar clothing and traveling to Tijuana to purchase pointy-toed boots.” Chris Davies mentioned something about those boots when I asked him how he met Ron. Chris says they “met in 1975 at Point Loma High School. Ron looked like Paul McCartney and wore Beatle boots so we called him Beatle Boots.” Ron’s attire is still this way today; he is always dressed in his signature ’60s style, and I always look forward to seeing his outfit of the day.

Ron switches between drums, guitar, and bass in his bands. Lately, he’s been more focused on bass, but says, “singing is really my thing.” Ron has a soulful voice, an ability to effortlessly add harmonies to anything and the seeming ability to pick up and play any instrument. I know I’m not alone in my love of his voice, as he has devoted fans who follow him in whichever band(s) he’s playing with at the time.

Ron’s earliest gigs happened around 1976. He performed at a couple church parish festivals and a “battle of the bands / dance marathon thing” at Santana High School. Opening the set with “All Day and All of the Night” by the Kinks, they “made a splash.” Things really started to take off when he joined the Hitmakers, a band formed by Jeff Scott and Josef Marc who happened to be a few years older than Silva. Their earliest show was with the Dils and the Zeros at “the first San Diego punk show in October 1977.” They were very into early Rolling Stones, Dr. Feelgood, and, of course, the Kinks. Notable shows included playing the Masque in Hollywood and the Mabuhay and The Tattoo Lagoon in San Francisco.

Ron Silva is well known for his involvement with the formation of the legendary San Diego band, the Crawdaddys. The original lineup included Dan McLain (the Penetrators, the Beat Farmers), Mark Zadarnowski, and Steve Potterf. Later members included Mike Stax, Pete Miesner, Joel Kmak, Keith Fisher, Steve Horn, Joe Piper, and—for a few weeks—Mojo Nixon. The Crawdaddys are embarking on a tour through Spain this month, doing eight dates, including two major festivals. The lineup this time includes Ron, Pete Miesner, Ray Brandes, Jack Rivera, Victor Penalosa, and Marc Capelle. When asked how he’s feeling about this upcoming tour, Ron said, “I’m really looking forward to Spain. Haven’t been there in a while. The band is sounding great.”

Over the years, Ron has been in many projects. When asked to list his past and present bands he replied, “Many, many bands… the Hitmakers, the Crawdaddys, the Nashville Ramblers, Ron Silva and the Monarchs, the Brilliantines, and, of course, the fabulous Chloe Lou and the Liddells!” We formed the Liddells in 2018 with Chris Davies, Pete Miesner, Dave Fleminger, and Richard ‘T-Bone’ Larson. After winning a 2020 San Diego Music Award for our debut EP, our followup LP has been nominated for another in 2024. The awards show is set to happen on April 30th at Humphrey’s by the Bay.

I asked Ron’s bandmate Tom Ward (Nashville Ramblers) how they first met. Tom replied, “I was late on the scene, but I was only 15. I first saw the Crawdaddys in early 1983 at San Diego’s all ages live music venue, Headquarters.” He recalls knowing that the band was living in a crash pad in Los Angeles at the time, and that they were trying out a new name, The Howling Men. This name change doesn’t surprise me, as I’ve known Ron to have many rebrands in my short seven-year friendship with him. Since I’ve known him, he’s been in Ron and the Reapers, The Gargoyles, and Ichabod V. Currently, he’s still an active member of the Nashville Ramblers, the Mothmen, the Crawdaddys, and Chloe Lou and the Liddells. Tom says, in actuality, “Somebody introduced me to him while we were waiting in line at the Ken Cinema.” I asked Tom how the Nashville Ramblers came about, a band known for their hit power-pop classic song “The Trains.” He said, “The Nashville Ramblers was an idea hatched by Ron and Carl Rusk after Ron returned from Los Angeles.”

In a full circle moment, Micky Dolenz actually performed with the Nashville Ramblers at a private party in early 2017. “I got to jam with my boyhood musical hero, Micky Dolenz!” he said. “The Nashville Ramblers were playing at Andrew Sandoval’s birthday party in Los Angeles and Micky was there. It was a thrill. He came up on stage and sang a few songs with us.”

In 2018, after I began performing with Ron and the Reapers regularly, we formed the first iteration of our own band, writing original tunes, and performing all around San Diego. Our first gig was under the band name Chloe Lou and the Sump’n Sump’n, but that was quickly changed to the Liddells. In the Liddells, Ron plays bass and adds interesting riffs to our original songs with little effort and high energy.

Being on stage with Ron feels like a whirlwind sometimes; the energy is always high, he’s always excitedly into the music, and he gives every performance his all. Ron is an extremely enthusiastic bandmate, and he sometimes makes me giggle with his on stage and in studio antics. His sometimes child-like sense of humor is something that either endears or annoys folks, and I’ve had my fair share of silly moments with him—both on and off stage. Sometimes after a particularly well-played song, you can hear him yell “yeah!” as we finish. Davies says he remembers, “in 1979, Ron described a song as ‘blatantly subtle,’” and at a recent gig after playing a surf tune, he shouted, “That was surfadelic!” I think his fervent cheers harken back to his love of the Beatles, reminding me of the ending of “Helter Skelter” when Ringo Starr shouts, “I’ve got blisters on my fingers!” The best compliment anyone has ever given me was while we were writing a song at practice, and he shouted, “You’re like the female Roy Orbison,” as we finished the song. Ron’s encouragement through the years has helped shape my love for music. His fervor for 1960’s R&B and soul has sent me down rabbit holes of research, and he has picked songs for me to sing that have found permanent places in my song list with my own various bands.

Ron Silva is a father, a husband, a bandmate, a local legend, and a dear friend. He has taught many people, including myself, to be a positive force in the world with a passion for performing and creating music. You can catch him performing around San Diego County and beyond by following one or all of his many current projects.

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