R.I.P. Rondo Leewright, Singer and Leader of Rondo's Blues Deluxe

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Rondo Leewright, the St. Louis blues singer who captivated the city for years with his powerful voice, passed away yesterday of cardiac arrest. He was 65 years old.

Rondo was the featured vocalist in the early '80s for the Soulard Blues Band. He rose to greater prominence in mid-decade, though, with the formation of his own group, Rondo's Blues Deluxe.

"He was an unusually effective stage performer at his height," says Vintage Vinyl co-founder Tom "Papa" Ray. "He had what I'd call a gruff, bull-cow sort of voice. Raspy. In his day, he was definitely in the top tier of blues entertainers in St. Louis."

"Loving You Is Just a Gamble" by Rondo's Blues Deluxe (Courtesy of Blueberry Hill Records)

Rondo's Blues Deluxe held a weekly residency during the early years of Blueberry Hill's Elvis Room, and owner Joe Edwards says he sold it out every week.

"He had such an incredible, high-energy live show," Edwards remembers. "His trademark thing was, 'Somebody say yeah!' Almost like you were in church. The church of blues."

Edwards describes how, as the night wore on and the drinks kept flowing, the music would get more intense and Rondo would whip the capacity crowd into a frenzy. And when he'd say it -- "Somebody say yeah!" -- everyone in the room, no matter what else they might be occupied with, would yell it back.

Blueberry Hill Records released two Rondo's Blues Deluxe albums, 1987's Live at Blueberry Hill and 1990's Shack Pappy's. Edwards recalls getting a phone call out of nowhere from the legendary Bobby "Blue" Bland one day after the famed singer had listened to Live. "He said, 'OK, how'd you do that? How'd you record his voice that way? No one can sing that way! You must have overdubbed it or had two singers or something,'" Edwards recounts.

When Edwards assured Bland that all the cuts were live takes, the bluesman responded, "He must have two vocal boxes, because no one can sing that powerfully."

Health problems plagued Rondo in recent years. "I know that the last couple times I saw him perform [two years ago], he had to sit down on stage," Tom Ray tells RFTmusic, adding, "And he was still a really good performer."

Edwards notes that when he last spoke with Rondo, four or five months ago, the singer was in good spirits. "He was doing a lot of family history research," Edwards says.

Rondo was surrounded by family when he died.

"Another blues notable in St. Louis has passed," says Ray.

Note: We have reached out to Rondo's family and will update this post as soon as we're able.

"Blues Medley" by Rondo's Blues Deluxe (Courtesy of Blueberry Hill Records)

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14 comments
blackwagon
blackwagon

I worked with Ron for a short while in the early 2000s(non-musical). Never heard him perform, wish I had. He burned me a cd of x eyed cat which I still have. Was listening to a track off Chicago's first album this morning and he just popped into my head. We talked all the time and it was obvious he loved music and his family and that and he was an exceptional human being. I really liked that guy.

sail445
sail445

I was turned on to Rondos by some friends from St Louie around 2002.

I listen quite often to it while driving.

I especially like Shack Papi and The Train I Ride

His songs and lyrics are amazing.

RIP

Natalie  Carter
Natalie Carter

i feel so lost with this news i just read today, my heart tottally goes out to the wife Deb, i wish your health well, i'm sorry for your loss, my heart dropped when i found out. so sorry. from a friend of the son and dad. from, natalie ...

Oneleggeddick
Oneleggeddick

prayers to his family. i bought his first lp record live at blueberry hill when he played at the creve cour inn  in 1988 & still play it today. we lost a great singer. him & the whole band signed it for me.

Sandra
Sandra

Rondo (Ronnie) was from my home town Robertson Mo.  My aunt and uncle Leewright raised him and loved him.  I was a lot younger than him so i did'nt know too much about him. But i do remember when i was a young girl coming up, and him seeing me on the street he would always tell me " i'm your cousin and you better be good and not get in trouble.  Last august, while me and my guy was listening to different bands on broadway down town, i saw my cousin for the first time, i had not seen him for years, but when he started talking about 

"shack pappy", then i knew i had found my cousin.  Rest in peace cuz everyone that grew up with you in Robertson, will always love and remember your talents.

D Trombino
D Trombino

Rondo....Rest In Peace my friend..... http://www.facebook.com/LadyDI...

I have videos on my facebook... of Rondo... Blues Deluxe...from several years ago... in various locations around town..... NOTE: you have to be a friend to view.... Ladydi...

Dean Minderman
Dean Minderman

I'm working on a longer story about Rondo for next week's print edition of the RFT, and when I interviewed Steve Waldman, one of the guitarists in Blues Deluxe, he told me that Rondo did not want a conventional funeral or wake; instead, a "musicians wake" will be held, most likely at BB's, sometime in the next few weeks. When the date is confirmed, we'll pass the info along here...

Barbara Abshier
Barbara Abshier

I hope the RFT lets people know when and where the Memorial event for Rondo will be...I just hope the place is big enough...RIP, Ronnie.

Seubeck2010
Seubeck2010

I knew Rondo & loved his raspy blues voice. He will be missed. He has been ill for quite a while. RIP RONDO

Tim Arnold
Tim Arnold

Rondo's pipes spanned the ages. His voice had a natural growl that came from deep down and brought with it feelings that spoke good times and bad, joy and pain.  His was the truth.  And he was never better than we he fronted the Soulard Blues Band, with Artie Dwyer on bass, Rib Tips wailing his harp, Rich Cotton on sax, Steve on lead, slide.  They were serious whammer jammers.  Which is why I hired these dudes to do their own unique version of the "This Bud's for You" melody back in the early '80's.  Their :60 radio track was featured on Cardinal games and went nation wide.  We broke a lot of rules back then with Budweiser's advertising, and Rondo and the Soulard Blues Band were a part of that.  I'm looking forward to hearing the current version of the band at the upcoming Soulard Oktoberfest next month.  Years go by and shit happens.  But I'll be listening and jamming, and I'll be lookin over at Big Foot working his bass and thinking 'bout Rondo.  There was never a better kick-ass electric R&B band.

Vision4utoo
Vision4utoo

He was better with Rondo's Blues Deluxe. 

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