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Ronnie McDowell presenting his Reflections of a King print during a concert in Florida, 2007.
|Birth name||Ronald Dean McDowell|
|Born||March 25, 1950|
|Origin||Portland, Tennessee, United States|
|Labels||Scorpion, Epic, MCA, Curb|
|Associated acts||Elvis Presley
Ronald Dean "Ronnie" McDowell (born March 25, 1950) is an American country music artist. He is best known for his 1977 song "The King Is Gone", a tribute to Elvis Presley, who had recently died. From that single onward, McDowell charted more than thirty Top 40 hits on the Billboard country music charts. Two of his singles – "Older Women" and "You're Gonna Ruin My Bad Reputation" — reached Number One on the country charts, while eleven more reached Top Ten. He has also released more than twenty studio albums, and has been signed to Curb Records since 1986.
Following the death of Elvis Presley in 1977; McDowell, a devoted Elvis fan, recorded a song that became his first country and only pop hit with his self-penned tribute song "The King Is Gone," which he recorded on the independent Scorpion record label. The record took off immediately, gaining airplay on country and pop radio stations across the United States and around the world. It peaked at number thirteen on Billboard's Hot 100 singles, and became a gold record. In January 1978, McDowell performed the song on the NBC special Nashville Remembers Elvis on His Birthday, in which he appeared alongside a number of Presley's contemporaries. To date, "The King Is Gone" has sold more than 5 million copies.
Noted for a singing voice that resembled Presley's, McDowell was commissioned to cover a number of Elvis' songs for the soundtrack to 1979 made-for-TV Presley biography film Elvis, during which Kurt Russell, portraying Presley, lip-synched to McDowell's vocals. He actually recorded thirty-six songs, but not all of them were used in the film. McDowell also sang the Elvis vocals for the 1981 TV movie Elvis and the Beauty Queen and for the 1988 TV miniseries "Elvis and Me." All of the Elvis vocals for the 1990 TV series "Elvis" were performed by McDowell. McDowell also contributed to the 1997 Showtime special, "Elvis Meets Nixon." As a boy of eight, McDowell first saw Elvis in the 1958 movie King Creole.
McDowell charted a string of hit singles and albums for Epic between 1979 and 1986. Every single release, except one, became a Top 10 hit, including "Older Women" and "You're Gonna Ruin My Bad Reputation." Other hits during his Epic years included "Watching Girls Go By," "Personally," "You Made A Wanted Man Of Me," "Wandering Eyes", "All Tied Up," and "In a New York Minute."
McDowell toured constantly to support each album release, and consequently built a large fan base throughout the country. He sought the advice of artists such as Conway Twitty, who became his mentor and friend. Twitty helped the young singer with advice about touring, recording and entertaining the fans.
Moving to Curb Records in 1986, McDowell scored a Top 10 hit with "It's Only Make Believe," a duet with Conway Twitty on what had been Twitty's breakthrough rock and roll hit in 1958. Initially a member of McDowell's back-up band would substitute for Twitty during live performances. Recently, however, McDowell has performed the song live with Twitty's prerecorded voice, followed by a solo from a member of the back-up band. Two years later, McDowell teamed up with Jerry Lee Lewis for a duet that McDowell wrote, entitled "You're Never Too Old To Rock N' Roll." He also recorded yet another Top 10 hit with his cover version of the pop standard "Unchained Melody," which also became a No. 1 country music video. He started appearing in larger venues and touring with artists such as Conway Twitty, Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn before headlining his own shows.
In 2002, McDowell recorded two albums for Curb Records, one consisting of beach music with Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Bill Pinkney's Original Drifters, entitled, "Ronnie McDowell with Bill Pinkney's Original Drifters". The second project, a country album, entitled "Ronnie McDowell Country", a collection of six new McDowell penned songs and a few country standards by such legendary country singers and writers as Buck Owens, Harlan Howard and Dallas Frazier.
McDowell often toured with The Jordanaires, Millie Kirkham, and one of Elvis Presley's original sidemen, D.J. Fontana. They stage a "no-jumpsuit" tribute to Presley's music and life. Two of McDowell's latest projects include an upcoming album consisting of music from both the "old school," and "new school" generations, and a single entitled, “Hey Mr. Oilman,” which was released during the gas price crisis of 2007-2008. Many other artists perform duets with McDowell on the album, including Bill Medley on the cover single, "Lost in Dirty Dancing." Millie Kirkham appears in the background photo above. She died in Dec 2014 at age 91.
McDowell continues to tour, and also paints. He has released several art prints.
Ronnie McDowell resides in Hendersonville, Tennessee. He has five children. His son, Tyler Dean, is also signed to Curb Records. Another son, Ronnie Dean McDowell, Jr., and his nephew, Chris, recorded in a band called Six Shooter on Curb in 1991. Ronnie served in the US Navy during '68-'72. He served on board the USS Hancock and USS Kitty Hawk. Onboard ship, Ronnie worked as a Ship's Serviceman/Storekeeper and even was a Barber in the ship's Barber Shop. Ronnie is a Vietnam Veteran.
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- Zelk, Chris (2002-04-10). "Country music star Ronnie McDowell to play Colonnade". Fort Oglethorpe Press. Retrieved 2009-07-12.
- Phillips, Emo (1992-07-10). "Night Beat". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved 2009-08-10.