Hometown: Pontiac, MI
Label: Sunset Island Records
Sounds Like: Kem, Maxwell, Babyface, Howard Hewitt
Lewis Ronald McNeir was raised in Pontiac, Michigan, at a time when Motown and Golden World Records dominated the Detroit area soul scene. A gifted pianist with a smooth and versatile tenor, McNeir jumped onto the scene when he signed with De-to Records and recorded “Sitting in My Classroom,” which has since gained cult status with true soul connoisseurs, commanding hundreds of dollars even today. After a few more years on the vibrant Detroit soul scene, McNeir set his sights on Los Angeles. His reputation as a multitalented musician preceded him, landing him a gig as Motown legend Kim Weston's musical director. He earned the respect of many Motown alumni, including Stevie Wonder's mentor and songwriter, Clarence Paul, and original Four Top Renaldo “Obie” Benson. Through his position, McNeir became known around town as an emerging young talent. RCA Records took notice and signed the young musician, where he began forging his own signature sound. McNeir's sound involved blending romantic tales of love and loss with lush synth instrumentation and subtle funky grooves. He released three albums, including the underrated Motown classic “Love Comin' Down,” in the 1970s, all of which are held in high regard by soul connoisseurs. He also took the time to collaborate with his contemporaries, including Smokey Robinson. The two singer-songwriters wrote together on the “Big Time” movie soundtrack with McNeir also playing keyboards and providing background vocals for Robinson.
Professional recognition came in 1981 when he was nominated for a Grammy in the Gospel Music category with Memphis gospel producer, Rance Allen. While McNeir didn’t take home the hardware, his reputation as a brilliant producer grew. In 1984, “The Ronnie McNeir Experience” album entered the Billboard charts and featured the hit single “Come Be With Me.” It was around this time Ronnie also produced one of the greatest steppers' grooves ever, Carrie Lucas' 1985 hit remake of “Hello Stranger.” The recording is one of the most brilliant examples of McNeir’s production skills as a producer. Lucas' easy and soothing vocals are perfectly buoyed by a smooth synth track. The brilliantly produced track features the Whispers and a distinctive groove.
Ronnie later joined Motown Records and released one LP, “Sagittarian Affair.” After leaving Motown Ronnie started his own label, Setting Sun Records and released, “Wendy Is Gone.” The single was picked up by the Prodigal Label and enjoyed national distribution and hit status.In 1985 Ronnie performed with the late Teena Marie on the nationally syndicated TV show Soul Train. Their duet, “We’ve Got to Stop Meeting like This,” was featured on Marie’s “Star Child” LP
In 1997, Ronnie released “Down In the Neighborhood.” “Neighborhood” is a slick concept album with a jazz funk and R&B groove which explores gritty tales of life in the heart of urban America. The album tastefully blends the best elements of classic soul, smooth R&B and contemporary hip-hop sounds.
In 1999 Ronnie received the great honor of being called upon to leave his role as substitute keyboardist for the Motown legendary Four Tops, to become a singer with the famous group. Stepping in for the late great, Levi Stubbs, who was suffering from a health crisis at the time, Ronnie McNeir became a permanent member of the group after Stubbs retired the following year. A very poignant moment in the Tops’ show finds Ronnie singing lead on, “Just Ask The Lonely. He dedicates “Lonely” to the original Four Top members, Levi Stubbs, Lawrence Payton and his big brother Renaldo “Obie” Benson. Ronnie has also penned several songs for the Four Tops including two tracks co-written with Renaldo “Obie” Benson for the groups, “Christmas Here with You” album. The current Tops lineup also includes original legendary Four Top, Abdul “Duke” Fakir, Roquel Payton (son of original member Lawrence Payton) and newest member, Harold “Spike” Barnhart. Ronnie and his fellow band mates perform to loyal audiences throughout the U.S, Europe, Australia and Asia.
In spite of his hectic touring schedule with the Tops, Ronnie continues to collaborate with other great talents and up and coming artists. In 2007 he released “Ronnie Mac & Company,” which features collaborations with Kirk Whalum, Kathy Lamar and former Four Top and Temptations lead singer, Theo Peoples. Currently, McNeir is developing artists for his Sunset Island label while balancing his career with the Four Tops. His newest solo CD release, “Living My Life” ©2011, is generating positive buzz and destined
to be, “Hit Bound!”
Ronnie's longevity on the music scene and his impressive credentials have earned him great respect among his peers. He is cited as one of the underrated pioneers in synth instrumentation and one of the most versatile musicians in R&B. Over the course of Ronnie’s 30-year career in music, he has amassed a musical resume that reads like a who's who of soul music. Throughout his career, Ronnie has worked with numerous musical legends, including Bobby Womack, Johnny Taylor, Little Milton, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Angela Winbush, the Whispers, the Dramatics, Billy Griffith and many more.
Ronnie McNeir's stellar credentials have not made him a super star but when asked about his lack of super star status, Ronnie laughs. “I have no regrets", he say's, “I have been very blessed making a living at doing what I love for many years. I'm a member of one of the most legendary musical groups in history and I'm having the best time of my life. I may not be a superstar, and that's okay... but, I'm a very happy man.”
“Living My Life Review
The legendary Ronnie McNeir keeps on going strong – stepping out with just the right kind of mellow soul groove we've always loved in his music! Ronnie's got a career that stretches back to the 70s, and which includes work with many other soul superstars over the years – and we always love him in a personal, intimate setting like this – sliding into slow-stepping grooves that are perfect for his warm, soulful vocal style! The tunes are almost all originals – save for great covers of "I Want You" and "Gypsy Woman" – and production is nice and lean – not entirely Neo Soul, but definitely an update of the older sound of Ronnie's music. Titles include "Pontiac", "Tell Me You're Not Fooling Me", "Keep Loving Me", "Said I Do", "Be With Me", "Forever My Love", and "Just Wanna Be".
Dusty Groove America
“This is a quality cd. Ronnie's voice is in great form and the songs contain strong lyrics. "Tell Me You're Not Fooling Me" is an instant standout and an essential listen. "Said I Do" & "I Just Wanna Dance With You" are also up there. Overall, it's a great mix of soulful dance grooves and slow jams that will appeal to most people's tastes. Ronnie continues to fly the flag for quality independent soul.
Richard Felstead - Solar Radio
"Mr Soul Consistency" delivers again!
Bill Buckley - SoulandJazzand Funk
"Living My Life"
Ronnie McNeir is one of many Soul music purists’, favorite singer-songwriter. This is probably because his output is pretty consistent in quality.
His songwriting is strong and in today's pasteurized and homogenized muse method writing techniques, Ronnie's musical songwriting roots are very much set in an 'old school' state of the art.
Toby Walker - Soulwalking