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Oceanside, CA to Macon, GA- The Last Waltz
The Last Waltz - Ronnie Hammond's farewell performance
Atlanta, GA | Macon Bound! | Musical Influences- Why I traveled to Macon | The Last Waltz - Ronnie Hammond's farewell performance


Wendall, Ronnie, Mike & Steve
Rock n roll shows don't get any better than this.

Ronnie and his back-up band of present ARS members Dean Daughtry (the only other ARS original); Steve Stone; Jim Senker; and Jim Keeling, along with the fabulous lead-guitarist from the Travis Tritt band Wendall Cox, and Mike Causey from Stillwater (another outstanding guitarist),  hit the stage about 11pm EST.  By 11:01pm EST, the crowd was rocking, the building was shaking, and the stage was a-burnin'.  Ronnie led off with the first song he ever sang with ARS, "Back Up Against the Wall," it was so appropriate to lead off with that number.  I asked Ronnie later how he came to be the lead singer for ARS, and he said he was working at Studio One when ARS was recording there, and "for about six months I got no sleep at all."  It seems this future rock n roller was mixing during the day for other groups, then would stay up at night when the studio was supposedly closed and make his own recordings.  He put down guitar tracks, keyboard tracks, drum tracks, and vocals, which apparantly members of ARS at the time heard.  He said that "ARS was making music that was incredibly attractive to me, their music struck a chord with me."  After Rodney Justo left the band, the other members of the band wanted Ronnie on board as their singer.  Although it wasn't exactly clear to me from talking to Ronnie that he had been sitting in with ARS, that seems to be the case.  He said he woke up one morning and Paul Goddard, who was living near him at the time said "How does it feel to be the lead singer for ARS?  The rest, they say, is musical history.

Wendall & Steve Trading Licks..
While Ronnie listens in..

Justin's havin' a large time!

Wendall Cox- Travis Tritt Band
After hearing Wendall play, I may have to start listening to Travis Tritt!

I enjoyed every note of this show.  Even with Ronnie's current health problems (some stemming from being on the wrong end of a policeman's .40 caliber Glock pistol) Ronnie's silky sweet, imediately recognizable voice was still there.  Ronnie poured his heart out to the audience, and I honestly believe he wanted to give a special show for all the Champagne Jammers that traveled from far and wide to see their hero.  He even thanked the CJ'ers midway through the show saying they were "there for me during the toughest period of my life, and I will always be thankful."  We will always be there for you if you need us Ronnie, you can take that to the bank. 
Jim Keeling was solid on drums, and along with Justin Senker on bass, provided a soild foundation for the evening performance.  The three-guitar attack of Steve Stone, Mike Causey, along with the searing lead guitar of Wendall Cox was a more than adequete replacement for J.R Cobb & Barry Bailey (although I take nothing away from these two great and gifted guitarists/musicians and original ARS members.  They were the one's originally responsible for the ARS music I love, and I will always be grateful to them).  Steve Stone was equally adept at lead/rhythm/slide guitar, often playing all three in some songs.  Mike Causey was terrific and Ronnie told me later that he thought Mike put on the best show of the night.  I wish I could have seen or heard Stillwater at some point because if Mike Causey is any indication of what Stillwater put out, I missed something special.  Wendall Cox was nothing short of amazing.  He played those songs like he wrote them himself.  Later after the show at the hotel I give him the last t-shirt I had as a token of my appreciation.  What a great performance he put in.  Finally, the solid keyboards of the great Dean Daughtry brought it all together. Dean isn't flashy, but he can flat out play the keyboards like noone else- I am glad I got to see Dean play.  These guys helped make Ronnie's farewell performance and absolute memorable one!
Seeing Ronnie perform "Back Up Against the Wall,"  "Champagne Jam," and "Spooky" was worth the price of the ticket.  Seeing them all perform "Large Time," "Conversation," and "Jukin'" was worth the air fare, and, just hearing and seeing them play "Georgia Rhythm" and "Doraville" was worth all the rest of the expenses- hotel, meals, rental car, the Walmart trip to replace my lost luggage items, everything.  All the rest of the songs were a bonus, so I figure I actually made money on this trip!  I'll let the pictures tell the rest of this chapter...

Jim Keeling on drums..
Jim did a great job!

Mike Causey from Stillwater..
Mike can jam with the best of them!

Mike & Justin..

Ronnie Hammond
Giving his all...

The Sensational Ronnie Hammond..
Don't leave us Ronnie!!!!

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