Ronnie Miller Biography
Ronnie Miller was born in San Diego, California. His mother loved the sound of the steel guitar, so she enrolled Ronnie in lessons from age five to fourteen. When Ronnie would complain about having to practice while his friends were outside playing, she would say, “Someday you will thank me for making you practice”. Boy was she ever right. He has continued to master this fascinating instrument.
In 1965, Ronnie lived in Ocean Beach, California, near San Diego. He shared an apartment with childhood friend Jerry Penrod, (the original bass player for Iron Butterfly). Ronnie decided to spend Christmas with his parents who were living in Denver. He packed up and drove to Denver only returning to San Diego years later to visit.
Circa 1967, Ronnie met two brothers with a country band, and he started playing around town with them. At this point he met Dick and Lois Meis. Dick taught pedal steel at Don Edwards Guitar City on West Colfax. Dick had pedals on his steel, which Ronnie had seen but not tried. Mesmerized by the sound, Ronnie was officially bitten by the pedal steel guitar bug. He traded his Fender double neck String master for a Fender 1000 Pedal Steel, and started taking weekly lessons from Dick Meis at Guitar City.
Ronnie’s first pedal steel playing job was with Colorado Country Music Hall of Fame (CCMHOF) inductees John Munson and his brother-in-law, Cal Morris. It was a weekend gig at a club on South Broadway called The Interlude. Ronnie was only getting paid in tips but was happy to sit in and learn. After six months, Ronnie was offered a six night a week job playing with CCMHOF member Dewey Knight. After only one week he felt he was not ready for that so he returned to the Interlude. John told him “You need to go get yourself a job with a band that will pay you”. So Ronnie found a job playing weekends with CCMHOF member Curtis Willis. Ronnie then met CCMHOF member Joe Diamond at Ollies Round-Up. Joe introduced Ronnie to club owner Archie Granberry, and a few weeks later they offered Ronnie a seven night a week gig playing at Ollies. Ronnie later moved on to play for a year with Mike Hogan & Bobbe Kay at Club 70. There were a lot of dynamics in the club scene in that area. Ronnie also worked at Mitch’s Supper Club with CCMHOF members Randy King and guitarist Jerry Ladner. Johnny Ray played bass. That club burned down, along with all of their equipment. Don Edwards gave Ronnie a guitar, amp and a job at Guitar City until he could find another sit down gig.
Ronnie remembers going with Don & Jean Edwards to an upstairs club on East Colfax in Aurora called The Kings Loft to hear a new band” The Billy Thompson Show”. CCMHO member Ray Cobb was in that band. Billy invited Ronnie to sit in, and Ronnie was soon hired. From there, that band minus Billy and the drummer, moved to the Zanzabar club down the street. They worked for three to four years. That band was called High Country, and consisted of Ray Cobb, Steve Macasky, drummer Don Ivy, and Ronnie. Back then the Z-Bar was very a popular place in town. That is were Ronnie first met several other CCMHOF members, including Rudy Grant, Lee & Burt Sims and Ronnie Ray.
In the 1970’s, in addition to doing a lot of the studio work in Denver, Ronnie spent ten years teaching pedal steel guitar at Guitar City. The other teachers at Guitar City at that time were Dick Meis and Rusty Young, both notable and successful steel players.
In 1983, after working the Denver area clubs for several years, Ronnie started his own band called Whirlwind. They played the club circuits in Colorado, and the surrounding states. They were really busy, sometimes playing 7 nights a week. About that time they started doing the Trail Dust Steak House. That took four or five months of steady 6 nights a week out of the calendar. This continued until Ronnie left in January of 1993. During his time with Whirlwind, they had the opportunity to open for many name artists including Vince Gill, Pure Prairie League, Southern Pacific, Moe Bandy, Ricky Van Shelton, Restless Heart, Lorrie Morgan, Jerry Reed, & Sweethearts of the Rodeo. Whirlwind is still together today.
In January of 1993, Ronnie moved to Dallas and became the steel player for Charley Pride. Six months later Ronnie’s wife Ginger and son Nick joined him in Dallas. He has since toured many parts of the world as a Pridesmen.
Working with Charley Pride has been an amazing career for Ronnie. With Charley, he has performed at least 150 Grand Ole Opry shows, various Country Music Association (CMA) shows, and Academy of Country Music (ACM) shows. Ronnie has appeared on major country music US television shows including Nashville Now, as well as Crook and Chase. He has also appeared on television shows on the BBC, as well as networks in Ireland, Canada, and Australia. One quintessential performance was the show at Carnegie hall in 2005. To mark Carnegie’s 80th anniversary, the Grand Ole Opry arrived at America’s most famous concert hall. The remarkable historic event featured Trace Adkins, Vince Gill, Little Jimmy Dickens, Trisha Yearwood, Charley Pride, Alison Krauss & Union Station, Ricky Skaggs, Brad Paisley, Bill Anderson, Martina McBride, and Alan Jackson. Ronnie recalls a funny story about the Carnegie hall event. Ronnie went to New York a few days early because he had a good friend there who played steel. Ronnie planned on using his friend’s single neck Mullen steel guitar in the show. The Pridesmen were going to be all over the town so Ronnie didn’t want to try to keep up with his guitar. When Ronnie met up with his friend, he checked out the steel guitar he was going to use on the show. Ronnie said it looked like the strings had not been changed since 1952. He cleaned it up and changed strings, and played it for a while. It had the Emmons pedal set up, and Ronnie plays the Jimmy Day setup (for you non-steel guitarists, this means the pedals are reversed). Ronnie says “I think I had a clam on the video cause I zigged when I should have zagged”. Also, all the steel players had to use a Fender Twin amplifier with no time for change over. Ronnie exclaimed, “My tone sucked”. Another milestone performance was at The London Palladium. Ronnie loves the international tours. He has toured Canada, England, Ireland, and Scotland many times. He has toured with Charley in Australia three times as well. Those Australian tours lasted seven weeks, five weeks, and four weeks respectively. Ronnie’s favorite audience is the Irish. They know all the Charley Pride lyrics by heart, and they sing along. Charley would stop and everyone is the house would still be singing.
When Ronnie is not on tour with Charley, he works with some of the local Dallas area bands. Ronnie also attends and plays numerous Steel Guitar shows, including Dallas, Knoxville and the International Steel Guitar Association Jamboree in St. Louis. In 2000, Ronnie was inducted into the Colorado Country Music Hall of Fame. In 2011, he was the “Player of the Year” at the Texas Steel Guitar Jamboree.
Ronnie and Ginger have one daughter and three sons. Their daughter Dawn, son in-law Dave & granddaughter Briana live in Costa Rica. The eldest son Michael lives in Charlotte. Middle son Dustin, wife Crystal and granddaughters Merit & Abbie, live in the Charlotte area. Their youngest son, Nick, lives at home. Ronnie and Ginger enjoy travel, visiting family, cruising, and spending a few weeks each year in Europe.