After five years playing Eastern Washington grange halls, honky tonk bars, and country & western nightclubs from here to Montana in the 1950s, Ron Livingstone came home for good. He still plays guitar, concentrating on gospel music
Brothers Ron and Neil Livingstone, Ron on guitar and Neil on a lap-steel guitar, began playing in the mid-fifties with their band, the String Dusters. The brothers played in a series of grange halls throughout Eastern Washington. Neil Livingstone told Frank Delaney in 1990, “The granges were dances that involved the whole family. Grandfather and grandmother came and the children and the grandchildren. Rock-and-roll kind of broke that up because the young folks wanted all rock-and-roll and the old people wanted no rock-and-roll.That kind of moved the bands into the night clubs out of the grange halls.”
Rock ‘n’ roll, though, had a close connection to country and western music. Before Bill Haley formed the Comets, he had a band called Bill Haley and the Saddlemen, the music they played was country swing. Elvis Presley’s session men for his first regional hit, That’s Alright Mama, a rhythm and blues song recorded by Arthur Crudup in 1946, were country and western musicians Bill Black and Scotty Moore. Buddy Holly grew up in Texas playing country and western music. The rock ‘n’ roll guitar band’s roots were blue grass string bands featuring guitars.
Having established their reputation as musicians, the Livingstone brothers were hired in 1957 to play at the Lariat, a country and western nightclub in Coeur D’ Alene, Idaho. A bass player was needed for the band, and the owner of the club hired Charlie Ryan to join in. One night Ryan played a song he wrote to the brothers, and it was decided they would record it at Paul and Irene Carter’s studios, Spokane Recording Company in the Symons Building located at Howard and Sprague in downtown Spokane. After the record was pressed, Ryan formed a new band, Charlie Ryan and the Timberline Riders, with Ron playing lead guitar. Eventually the record, Hot Rod Lincoln, was picked up by a Canadian record company and released nationally. In the summer of 1960 the song began to chart on Billboard Magazine’s Hot 100.
Ron eventually grew tired of the bars and honky tonks the band was playing. He came home to learn to be an architect. But, he didn’t give up on playing guitar. He has played in gospel groups all these decades since. I had a chance to see Ron play his guitar at a small rural church in Deer Park, Washington on a cold February Sunday morning. He was playing on a vintage electric guitar he was proud to say he got a good deal on in 1959, a Gibson. “It cost me $150. It was worth $200,” he told me.
In the video Ron is the distinguished white haired man in the white shirt. The band is playing a traditional gospel song, Poor Wayfaring Stranger, Lynn Spivey singing vocals and on acoustic guitar, Rick Rex on rhythm guitar. In the background is Ron’s brother-in-law, Ken Campbell, who was delivering the sermon this morning and plays an acoustic guitar in the band.
You can see the video on the Robert Schoenberg/High Bridge Park Facebook page.
Livingstone, Ronald and Neil. OH-514. Museum of Arts and Culture, Archive. Interviewed by Frank Delaney on 3 June 1990.
Interview, Ron Livingstone, 10 February, 2013 by Robert Schoenberg.
Copyright © 2013 Robert G. Schoenberg