“I never sang a note until I was 30 and didn’t even think about a music career until my 40s,” says Ronald Hill, aka Happy Ron.
Beginning with open mikes and tutorials found in books like How Music Really Works by Wayne Chase (“I went on a weeklong retreat with him in Canada”) and Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles, Happy Ron has racked up over 1000 performances and a San Diego Music Award nomination for Best Local Recording for his 2009 debut Terribly Happy.
That album, produced by Sven-Erik Seaholm, includes titles such as “All She Needs Is a Spankin’,” “The No Tantric Woman Blues,” and “Dickless Wonder.” Among the two dozen local guest players are Kelsea Little (the Wrong Trousers), Robin Henkel, and Cathryn Beeks.
A YouTube video for his song “Pitter Patter” features nine different San Diego women singers playing love interests.
“Most of the women were involved with someone else, so I had to behave appropriately,” says Hill. “Sometimes I hate behaving appropriately. The hard part was that they had to be beautiful women who sing. Lots of women are beautiful, but singing, not so much.”
Dressed in a purple suit and porkpie hat, Hill is seen in the video professing his love to all nine women, including Marcia Claire, Marie Haddad, Cathryn Beeks, Laura Kuebel, Brooke Mackintosh, and Jenene Lambert.
“At one point, the cops drove up, saw the purple outfit and the women, and said, ‘What are you doing?’ I felt awkward for a second, and then I realized we weren’t actually doing anything wrong.”
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR MUSIC?
“I’ve always said it’s Frank Sinatra Meets South Park. Steve Poltz said it’s punk rock meets punk folk. Since he’s wiser than me, who am I to argue?”
WHAT MP3s FILL UP YOUR HARD DRIVE?
1) “The Beatles, every song, including bootlegs. There’s simply nobody better, and nobody writes songs like them.”
2) “Steve Poltz’s complete works. I listen to a lot of local artists, at least the ones I actually know.”
3) “Neil Young, because some of his music got me through my darkest, unhappiest times.”
4) “Ringo Starr’s solo work. I always admired the way he’s so modest about his abilities and really just focused on having a good time. His solo shows are like big open-mikes, where everyone in the band had a hit or two and gets to play them.”
5) “Robert Frey, the late local new-age artist. He has a meditation tape, Opening to Love, that I listen to frequently in the morning. I usually find that type of music to be corny.”
HOW WAS YOUR FIRST OPEN-MIKE?
“It was 1997, when my original singing teacher threw us up on stage. I mumbled the Beatles’ ‘In My Life,’ and the teacher shouted, ‘Project! Project!’ I mumbled, ‘I am projecting.’ The next time, I literally shouted a sensitive love song, almost at the top of my lungs. She shook her head and said, ‘Don’t project!’”
WHAT SONG LYRIC BEST DESCRIBES YOUR LIFE?
“I’ve worked at Costco for 25 years, and my song ‘Terribly Happy’ says, ‘Been packing groceries for 25 years/ Been looking for ways to pack up my tears/ So I write my songs and I make them snappy/ ’Cause it makes me feel terribly happy.’”
PHRASE YOU NEVER WANT TO HEAR AGAIN?
“When I have trouble ringing up something on the cash register at work, people often say, ‘That’s gotta be free, then, right?’ Hardy har har.”
“The ability to make people happy, including myself, with the push of a secret button hidden underneath one of my fingernails.”
“I’m a trained boxer. It still goes back to music, though, because my song ‘Beat the Crap’ tells the true story of the weird bond you form with people when you do boxing training with them.”
“I’ve lived most of my life with extreme tension and pain in my body due to the lack of a hip socket on my left side.”
“I once sang nude at a retreat in front of a hundred nude people. Well, I had my hat on.”
WORST THING ON TV?
“The finale of Lost. You spend six years introducing mysteries and then don’t answer them?”
SOMETHING YOU MISS?
“I was big into gambling ten years ago. Ever since then I can’t play video games because when I win I expect someone to hand me money.”
WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY?
“The realization that happiness is always a choice.”
SOMETHING ABOUT YOU FEW WOULD KNOW OR GUESS?
“I’m a season-ticket holder to the Old Globe Theatre.”■
Happy Ron Hill