In the late fifties, Ron played in skiffle band with his brother Mick and their mates. By 1959 his brother Mick was the guitarist for a group called "The Dave Clark Five featuring Stan Saxon", and comprised of Dave Clark (drums), Stan Saxon (vocals), Mick Ryan (lead guitar), Rick Huxley (guitar), Chris Walls (bass) and Jim Spencer (sax). They were gradually building a great reputation as a very good "covers" band, but Clark was eager for greater fame.
Mick Ryan’s brother, Ron Ryan, was a very good friend of Clark's, and they discussed at great length how to get the band off the ground. Ron said that in order to achieve success, the band would have to have its own original material, and when Clark asked where new material could be found, Ron suggested that he could supply it.
The early Sixties brought changes in the band's personnel. Mick Ryan – after having some arguments with Dave Clark left the band and was replaced by Lenny Davidson, Chris Walls left the group, Mike Smith became lead vocalist, Huxley switched to bass and finally Denis Payton joined on sax. And so the classic DC5 line-up was formed: Dave Clark (drums), Mike Smith (vocals/keyboard), Lenny Davidson (guitar), Rick Huxley (bass) and Denny Payton (sax).
At that time, Ron Ryan was lead singer and songwriter in a band called The Walkers, whose personnel also included Mick Martin (bass), Allan Churchill (keyboards) and Roy Saint (drums). Mick Ryan joined the group after leaving Dave Clark’s band. Ron Ryan continued his association and friendship with Clark and his group.
When writing songs for the DC5, Ron Ryan would work on his compositions at home then Clark and Mike Smith would come round for a listen. Sometimes Ryan would work on the songs with Smith, sharing a piano bench and piano. To make it look as if the band were penning their material (ala Lennon/McCartney), Ryan agreed that Clark would receive the song writing credit. A deal was struck on a handshake between Ryan and Clark that, as soon as the money started rolling in, the songwriter would get a percentage of whatever his songs made.
Ron Ryan wrote many songs for the DC5 including “That's What I Said”, “Do Dah”, “Mulberry Bush”, “No Time To Lose”, “Can I Trust You”, “Sometimes”, “Drop in the Ocean”, “All Of The Time”, “Anyway You Want It” and the worldwide hit “Because”, which was later covered by Julian Lennon for Dave Clark’s musical “Time”.
It was felt that the DC5 also needed a 'sound' and one day Ron brought a record by Doug Sheldon along to a session called "Your Ma Said You Cried In Your Sleep Last Night" - the band were duly impressed! All the DC5 trademarks were contained in this one track, from the pulsating beat and drum breaks to the sound of the sax. This record was used as the template for the so-called "Tottenham Sound", London's answer to Merseybeat. Around that time, The Walkers’ set included a Ron Ryan song called “Keep On Stomping” - this song involved the band “stomping” their boot-heels on stage to a four in the bar beat – a sound which would become synonymous with another London group! Ron had suggested to Clark that the Band should ‘branch out’, and record in other musical styles, such as country music and in this vain, Ryan had written a country-flavored song called “Bits And Pieces”. Mike Smith, using that song as a base, mixed it with The Walker’s “Keep on Stomping” and the Doug Sheldon track to come up with the classic “Bits and Pieces” we all know today.
In the meantime, Ron Ryan continued writing and performing with The Walkers. Tipped for great things, The Walkers, although semi-professional, were a very promising and accomplished act that won a number of awards in London. Sadly, greater success was always just beyond their reach as a number of promised record deals fell through at the final hurdle. Ryan composed some great R ‘n’ B tinged songs for The Walkers and the few demos that still exist are testament to how good this band and its songs were. As The Walkers were semi-professional, all the members of the group had good, steady jobs apart from Ron Ryan - Ryan was eager to turn professional and so left The Walkers to form his own band, The Riot Squad.
Ryan has said that in forming The Riot Squad, he wanted a band that would blow every other group off the stage with their 'power-house sound', and he set about putting that band together.
By this time the money was indeed rolling in for Dave Clark but Ryan wasn’t seeing any of it. Another Ryan song “Anyway You Want It” was due to be released by the DC5 when Ryan decided to instruct his solicitor about Clark’s non-payment. The Solicitor advised Ryan that as the song was in contention for being the DC5’s next single, he should get an injunction to stop it being released. However, as Ryan knew the boys in the band were on a weekly set wage from Clark, he felt that any bad publicity might hurt their weekly earnings, and so waived his right to stop the record being released.
Soon the newspapers caught the whiff of a story and a report appeared in the Sunday Mirror that suggested Ryan was taking Clark to court over royalties. At this time, a large tabloid Newspaper also offered Ryan £2,000 (a lot of money back then) to tell his story, but he declined as again he felt this may have been to the detriment of the boys in the band. The issue of royalties was eventually settled out of court some money did change hands, albeit far from the full sum Ryan expected and had been promised. It is also apparent that Clark has kept his name on all the subsequent re-releases of the songs penned by Ron Ryan, including “Because”.
Meanwhile Ryan was busy assembling the Riot Squad. He had heard good things about a drummer struggling to get into a band, but being turned down because of his young age and the fact that he had not played ‘pro' before. So Ryan arranged to test-drive the young drummer and had him stand in on a few numbers when the band played the Flamingo club in London. Having heard him play, Ryan hired him on the spot! The drummer’s name was Mitch Mitchell, who went on to play in the Jimi Hendrix Experience! The final line-up of The Riot Squad was two guitars, organ, sax and bass with Mitchell on drums. It appears they had a great sound system too, custom-built by Ryan in his garden shed! The result though was exactly what he wanted – “a power-house, in –your-face, hard-rocking band” with a name to match! He found a manager in Larry Page, the Kinks then manager, and hit the recording studio.
Things didn’t bode well from the start - The Riot Squad’s first single release, a song called “Anytime” written by Ryan, had Larry Page’s name on the record label as the songwriter. Whether this was an error or not is not clear, however Ryan has said that all the money generated by this single ended up in Page’s pocket! Also in dispute was the producer credit, which again was accredited to Page when in fact it was Ryan at the helm. As it turned out, it was the employment of Mitch Mitchell that caused the biggest rift in the band. There were many clashes between Ryan and Mitchell who seemed far from grateful about being given his first big professional break. Furthermore, it appeared that Mitchell actually wanted to take over the leadership of the band, saying that the way forward was a 'softer approach' to their music, with close harmonies - a cross between, The Beach Boys and The Impressions. When the band started coming round to Mitchell’s way of thinking and following many squabbles Ryan soon became disillusioned with the group. Finally, prompted by Mitchell’s accusation that Ryan was trying to turn the band into a clone of the DC5, Ryan left his own band. The Beach Boys and The Impressions!
Ryan joined other bands during the Sixties, notably The Blue Aces - a group who released a couple of highly-collectable freak-beat singles penned by Ryan – and he continued gigging right through the Seventies. He later formed an extremely popular country and western group and went on tour with the likes of Willie Nelson!
In 1985 Ryan was very surprised to hear his song “Because” on the radio sung by Julian Lennon – then the radio announcer came on air and said “that was ‘Because’ written by Dave Clark”, the effect was devastating and moved Ryan to tears. Ryan’s dream is that one day he will get the opportunity to say to Julian Lennon "I liked the way you sang “Because” – I wrote that!”
Now, after a few years putting his feet up, and a serious nudge from Ron’s good mate the late Pete Dintino, Ron is writing and recording again. His new band is called The Country Knights and they play the odd gig, Ron collaborates with UK country artist Mike Lane and otherwise lives a contented life with his lovely wife Vicki in Lincolnshire.
Many thanks to Alan Saint – the son of Roy Saint – the drummer for the Walkers for his efforts in penning this recap for Ron.