Originally printed in Buddy Magazine, November issue
Story and photos by Mary Jane Farmer, Scene In Town
Ronny Spears packed the house twice in the same week. The first time was when he and his musical partner Robby White played Hank’s Texas Grill Saturday night (Oct. 18), then again the following Thursday (Oct. 23). But the second time, the popular singer/songwriter was there in spirit and memory only.
Ronny Spears passed away suddenly Monday, Oct. 20, reportedly of a massive heart attack as he arrived at his regular day job. The Thursday event was a memorial, also at Hank’s in McKinney, following a true cowboy funeral service. And though so many hearts felt like they were breaking, and arms clung to each other in support, smiles, laughs, and even guffaws soared as souls remembered and described the depth of Ronny’s true character.
Mr. Spears was 50 years old, and most of those years were spent making music and making friends. One of those friends, Kelly, said, “He truly taught all those around him how to laugh and love deeply.” And that was the consensus of Thursday’s memorial gathering.
Here’s words from others who loved and respected Ronny Spears.
Sy Simmons said that he first met Spears at an open mic. He walked in and immediately Ronny made eye contact with him. “He would say, ‘You are here, let’s get you on the list.’ to everyone who came in to the open mic. I remember, too,” Simons continued, “ that in the music line of work, people get burned out over time, but Ronny didn’t. Because he made music for the right reasons.”
A.J. Blackwell, whose Ronny’s Aunt Sue brought to the stage, chose to speak in song, in a new song he wrote especially for that reason. Using lyrics like ‘honky tonk angel’ and ‘man among men and a damn good friend,” Blackwell painted a solid description of everybody’s friend.
Robby White, Ronny’s White & Spears partner and his ‘best good friend,’ said, “Ronny taught me so much. The value of a song. The value of unconditional kindness. He was larger than life. He was infectious. He lit up every room he entered. Ronny was a rock star. I loved him.”
The love of Ronny’s life was Cheryl Borden. She said, days later, “He was my best friend, my love, my cook,
my fixer of everything, and my own personal entertainer. He spoiled me rotten. I was truly blessed to have him in my life and complete me! He will remain in my heart! I felt honored he chose me to spend the rest of his days on earth with!”
Spears was one of those who held Texas country music in balance. His first influence was non-Texan Johnny Cash. But, it was Ray Wylie Hubbard, who is as Texas-music as it comes, who made, through one suggestion, the suggestion that Spears truly heard. It was 1989 when Hubbard turned to him during a song-swap-type gig and told him, simply, to quit playing so many copy songs. Ronny said in earlier interviews that he took that to heart and decided to hone his songwriting talents. Hone, he did, and record he did, and the next endeavor along that line is forthcoming.
White explained that the only way anyone could ever own a Ronny Spears recording was to get it from him at any of his numerous gigs. That is changing now, White and Borden both said.
Cheryl said, “Ronny asked, during our time together, that I see to it that his music live on. Through his friends, that wish will be done.” Robby is one of those friends who are making this happen. Robby said, “One of the great injustices is the fact that Ronny’s music never made it to the digital age. In early 2015, the entire Ronny Spears catalog will be released digitally, so anyone in the world who wants Ronny Spears’ music will be able to get it.
“In that regard, Ronny Spears will live forever.”