R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax

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Ron Banks Remembered

26 MAR 10 DAVID NATHAN

Big Star's Alex Chilton wasn't the only Concord family member we lost this month. Joining the heavenly choir on March 4, 2010, was Ron Banks, a founding member of The Dramatics and one of the most powerful vocalists of his time. The Detroit-based singer (who passed away suddenly at the age of 58) helped shape the sound of one of black music's most popular group with a fine falsetto that belied his height and build.

It was Banks whose voice could be heard all over black radio when The Dramatics enjoyed a million-seller in 1972 with "In The Rain," the follow-up to the 1971 classic "Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get." Although the group's initial tenure with Volt Records only lasted some three years, spanning three albums, it was filled with great music. Tunes like "Fell For You" and "Hey You! Get Off My Mountain" (from A Dramatic Experience), "And I Panicked" and "Toast To The Fool" (from Dramatically Yours) helped establish the group -- which Banks had formed in 1962 -- as a mainstay team on the R&B scene in the '70s. In the '80s, '90s and into 2002, The Dramatics had a second run with Stax, during which time they released Greatest Hits Live.

Ron Banks helped define the group's sound alongside other great vocalists within the group (such as lifelong friend L.J. Reynolds, Willie Ford and Lenny Mayes) and their mix of vocal brilliance and sharp, nifty choreography ensured the group's longevity. And aside from his impact as a founding member of The Dramatics, Ron Banks was also a much-loved and genuinely nice human being. I recall interviewing him on a number of occasions during the '70s for Britain's Blues & Soul magazine and I was always struck by his warmth, wit and realness. The epitome of a great soul man, he will be much missed by friends and fans alike.