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A keyboard player, Caldwell was the only white member of the Bar-Kays musical group based in Memphis, Tennessee. The group recorded with and also accompanied singer Otis Redding. According to James Alexander, Caldwell was fully accepted within Memphis' black community, to the point that Caldwell felt free to go about in public with his black girlfriend, despite the attitude of racial segregation prevalent at that time.
Caldwell died on December 10, 1967, two and a half weeks before his nineteenth birthday in a plane crash in Lake Monona with Redding and three other band members (Phalon Jones, Carl Cunningham, and Jimmie King) while on their way to a performance in Madison, Wisconsin.
Ronnie Caldwell is interred in the Memorial Park Cemetery in Memphis.
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