July 17, 2007 may well be remembered for years to come in the Ottawa Valley as the day the music died. For it was then that Ron McMunn “The Silver Fox” took his final bow.
The man who was known to most as simply “The Fox” left behind a country music legacy that may never be matched in the Ottawa Valley entertainment world. But more then that, he was one of the “best friends” the area ever had as he was a man that stood adamantly for all that is good and desirable in life.
From his earliest beginnings on a community hall stage in Pakenham to the ultimate pinnacle stage of the Grand Ole Opry, Ron always ‘did it’ the same way. And that ‘way’ was to always sing from the heart and to always put the audience first. He was your friend and mine and the concept of this seems to have meant the most to him.
In short, Ron loved life. To him, life meant people and music and viewed “music as life and life as music.”
His songs were the kind that appealed to the common person, were easy to sing along to and were easy to identify with. Classics such as; ONE MORE COUNTRY SONG, THE DOOR IS ALWAYS OPEN, THIS BOTTLE FILLED WITH WINE, TULLY, RIDE ME DOWN EASY, MY OLD TRUCK and of course, RESERVE ME A TABLE will live on to an ever growing worldwide audience.
With his band The Country Cousins, Ron began to burst into fame and acclaim during the fifties and sixties and, for several years, had a live radio show on the former CJET radio in Smiths Falls. His records broke onto Canadian radio at a time when home grown artists were often shunned by stations in their own country.
He overcame this (like so many others) by making a name for himself in the United States. At home here in Canada, he blazed the trail along with others such as; Irwin Prescott, Mac Beattie, Ward Allan and the like producing a unique “Canadian sound” and perfecting the art of the ‘live’ performance. For Ron McMunn was an incredible showman who had a knack for being able to remember your name.
Many will always wonder why country legend George Jones never recorded RESERVE ME A TABLE. It seems to be a tune that would have suited him perfectly. Perhaps, in the bigger picture, it’s because Ron himself (and his performance thereof) “owns” this song. Just as he “owns” so many others as well.
Ron was not only a big hit with his fans; he was also greatly and widely admired by his peers in the music business. This fact was so apparent and greatly emphasized at a tribute to him where many of Canada’s best came to show their support for him just before he died. Names like Tracey Brown who described him as a “real star and a real gentleman.” The ‘Godfather’ of country music in the Ottawa Valley, Ted Daigle, tells the story about how thrilled and in awe he was when first met Ron. “Where I lived in New Brunswick I had always heard about this ‘Silver Fox’ character. Then when I came to CKBY, we met and it just went on from there,” he explained. An onstage tribute to him by the great (big “bear” of a man) Wayne Rostad was nothing less then “powerfully overwhelming.”
Longtime friend and former bass player Doug Sinclair called Ron a “builder” who would help anyone who was interested in playing country music. “He helped so many,” he said. His love and affection for his former boss and friend was so evident and one could tell that it’s not so easily put into mere words.
The late Lorraine Lemay was a dear friend of Ron’s.
Their days together making “Mississippi Country” (located at the former Mississippi Hotel in Carelton Place, Ontario) a “national country music landmark” helped not only Ron, but her too, induction into the Ottawa Valley Country Music Hall of Fame.
But it will be the sound of his voice and the memory of “silver hair and dark glasses” that will remain the image and trademark of this exceptional human being. One who dedicated so much time and raised so much money through “Heart Jams” and several other causes throughout the course of his life and career. He gave so much and we are so immensely richer for it. It can only be hoped that his talented sons Jamie and Jeff will carry on the “family tradition.”
Years from now they will still likely be playing RESERVE ME A TABLE and other McMunn recordings on whatever mode of music reproduction exists at that time. For the songs, just like the man himself, possess this endearing quality that will never go out of style. “An honest tune makes it’s own friends.” And the man and his music contained plenty of both.
*This piece was first published right after Ron died on July 17, 2007 in his 75th year.
Someone after asked me “how long did it take you to write that?” and I replied, “oh about 30 years.”
The reason I said that is because I first met Ron in 1977 when he graciously allowed me to play along with his band at the former “Golden Rail Lounge” (Lafontaine Hotel) in Ottawa. Ron was like that. I was just 17 and he let me get up (sight unseen, never heard me before) and gave me a break.
Over the years after that we met up at different times and I know he never really could get a handle on what I was about. (Must say too, that I gave him many “reasons” to wonder over the years but that is a different story) However, that never stopped him from allowing me to perform, interview, or just be there. He was (and remains) one of my favorite country artists. He was also one of the best performers I’ve ever seen.
I was greatly honored to be asked to write his tribute for his hometown paper when he died. (Carleton Place MISSISSIPPI WEEKENDER-July 20,2007)