Ronny Jones (front) rocking out back in the day with Ratt’s Robbin Crosby.
“Today, we’re going to talk to Ronny Jones.” Jones, of Rancho Bernardo, was recently interviewed by a Canadian rock journalist named Brian Sword for the Double Stop podcast. “You may not have heard of him, but with a couple of different bounces in his career,” Sword tells the listening audience, “you probably would have.” In the background, Sword plays a vintage demo recorded by a San Diego band that Jones performed with during the late 1970s called Mac Meda. “Jones,” the interviewer continues, “is going to talk us through the dark side of the ’80s music business.”
Jones later tells the Reader about that time in his life: “It was both complicated and like Spinal Tap at the same time.” It all began when a pair of songs Jones had cowritten and recorded with fellow Mac Meda members, soon to be Ratt members, Robbin Crosby (“he was Rob Crosby back then”) and Rob Lamothe, which ended up on Ratt’s 1984 debut Out of the Cellar. Even though he was given no songwriting credit, Jones wasn’t concerned at the time. “I kinda thought the record wasn’t that good. I didn’t think it would sell, but it did.” But it was that lack of credit more than money that he says stung most.
“When you get your name on an album that sells over three million copies [by 1991, Out of the Cellar had been certified triple platinum], it helps if you’re trying to launch a career as a songwriter,” which Jones says he was. Ratt would later settle out of court, Jones says, for an amount that was in the low six figures. “And I got a very small portion of that.”
Jones grew up in the Clairemont neighborhood of San Diego. “I started playing guitar when I was, like, 15. Really early on, I got into an argument with my dad about it. There was no internet back then, no Facebook, only Rolling Stone magazine. I wanted to fill out a classified ad form in the back of the magazine to meet other musicians,” he says, “and we got into an argument. He said no to the ad because we’d have a bunch of hippies calling the house.”
Jones says the Brian Sword connection came through an interview Sword did with a record producer named Beau Hill, who produced Out of the Cellar. “Back in the ’80s, he was the hair-band rock guy for a while.” Hill worked for Atlantic Records; Jones himself had a record deal with Atlantic, but it ended before he could release anything. “A lot of stuff happened that I had no control over.” Jones says he even tried to get out of music entirely. “But it was horrible. Music is all I’ve ever wanted to do.”