Ronald Townson

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Ron Townson
Townson (left) with The 5th Dimension, 1971
Townson (left) with The 5th Dimension, 1971
Background information
Birth nameRonald Townson
Born(1933-01-29)January 29, 1933
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
DiedAugust 2, 2001(2001-08-02) (aged 68)
Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
GenresPop music
Occupation(s)Singer, actor

Ronald Townson (January 29, 1933 – August 2, 2001) was an American vocalist. He was an original member of The 5th Dimension, a popular vocal group of the late 1960s and early 1970s; he is the only original member of the group who is no longer living.

Family background[edit]

Townson was married to Bobette and had two sons, Kim and Kyle. A Methodist, he began taking an interest in his wife's Jehovah's Witnesses faith in the early 1980s. Prior to that, it had caused friction within their marriage.[1]


Born in St. Louis, Townson started singing at age six and was a featured soloist on various choirs throughout his school years.[2] His grandmother inspired him to sing and his parents arranged for him to have private singing and acting lessons. During high school, he appeared for three seasons in productions of Bloomer Girl, Annie Get Your Gun and Show Boat; he also won third place in the Missouri State trials for the Metropolitan Opera.

Townson toured with Wings Over Jordan for eight years while still in school and was their choir director for 2 years. He worked his way through Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri by conducting the University and Church Choirs; he also played football and ran track in college.[3] At some stage he was in Canada playing professional football.[4]

Townson left St. Louis to pursue a musical career in Los Angeles, California. He met Dorothy Dandridge and toured with her for two years, took part in the Samuel Goldwyn motion picture production of Porgy & Bess, and toured with Nat King Cole.[5] He also organized and conducted his own 35-voice a cappella choir in Los Angeles.

In 1965, Townson and fellow St. Louis natives Billy Davis, Jr. and Lamonte McLemore joined female vocalists Marilyn McCoo and Florence LaRue to form The Versatiles.[6] The name was a reference to their varied style in music, but producer Johnny Rivers thought the name was outdated. He wanted a newer sounding name for the group, and they soon came up with The 5th Dimension. They began cutting records for Rivers' Soul City Records music label that year.

In 1976, after ten successful years with The 5th Dimension, Townson left the group. In subsequent years he made a guest appearance on the TV series Switch, cut records, performed solo, and formed his own group, Ron Townson and Wild Honey. He also managed five-piece soul/funk vocal group Creative Source, who enjoyed moderate success between 1973 and 1977.[7] From 1977 to 1980 he pursued his interest in classical music. With the encouragement of group member Florence LaRue Townson rejoined The 5th Dimension in 1980.[8] [9]

In 1981, he and fellow group members Joyce Wright, Michael Procter, Florence LaRue and Lamonte McLemore starred in Fats Waller's Ain't Misbehavin' to excellent reviews. In 1990, the original five members of the group reunited for a New Year's Eve performance in Atlantic City. It was a huge success. In 1991 they went on the road for some performances billed as The Original 5th Dimension. That year, the group received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1992 Townson appeared in the Warner Brothers film The Mambo Kings.

Townson left The 5th Dimension for good in 1997. He involved himself with other business ventures and served on the board of directors of the Cambridge-Kilpatrick Acting School. He was honored at Lincoln University with the school's Distinguished Alumni Award.

Townson moved to Las Vegas in 1999. After a four-year battle with kidney disease he died in his home there on August 2, 2001, of kidney failure.[10] A service for him was held on August 11, 2001 at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses.


  1. ^ Jet, September 3, 1984 - Page 36 to 38 MR. & MRS., RON TOWNSON: Fifth Dimension Star Tells Secret of 27 Years Of Marriage Success By Aldore Collier
  2. ^ "Ron Townson, 68, Singer in Fifth Dimension". The New York Times. 4 August 2001.
  3. ^ Valentine, Penny (12 August 2001). "Ron Townson Obituary". The Guardian.
  4. ^ Reno Gazette-Journal, Friday, January 18, 1980 - Page 78 Boom-Boom Ron
  5. ^ Valentine, Penny (12 August 2001). "Ron Townson Obituary". The Guardian.
  6. ^ "Ron Townson; Singer Founded the 5th Dimension Pop Group". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. 4 August 2001.
  7. ^ Creative Source at Allmusic
  8. ^ Reno Gazette-Journal, Friday, January 18, 1980 - Page 78 Boom-Boom Ron
  9. ^ Jet, September 3, 1984 - Page 36 to 38 MR. & MRS., RON TOWNSON: Fifth Dimension Star Tells Secret of 27 Years Of Marriage Success By Aldore Collier
  10. ^ Saraceno, Christina (6 August 2001). "5th Dimension's Ron Townson Dies". Rolling Stone. ISSN 0035-791X.

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