I invite you to take this journey with me, one page at a time. This is a story about a working class kid who became a rock star- an outcast and misfit that grew up trying to figure out the same shit as everybody else: who the hell am I, what’s life all about and what am I gonna do with mine, and how do I survive in this crazy world.”
From the introduction of Even Keel: Life on the Streets of Rock & Roll by Ron Keel, the rock star author invites you on this wonderful trip through his life and tells you to “grab a beer and relax while I talk the rock and rock the talk…”
And of course, where else to start but the beginning, when young Ron got his first taste of rock & roll, watching the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. We follow his tracks while his family moves around quite a bit, finally settling down in Arizona where Keel joins the band playing drums, but curiously enough, was not allowed to be in the choir. Little did they know.
Soon we get into the juicy stuff, the beginning of the sex, drugs, and rock & roll. As Keel says, “The girls, the music, and the parties are all blurred together in a perfect storm of reckless teenage abandon, and I guess that sophomore year adjusted my metabolic throttle to high gear and rarely have I slowed down since.”
We travel to Nashville, where we meet the “first ex-wife” and join the band Lust and then eventually, Steeler. Then the journey takes Steeler to Hollywood to the “Steeler Mansion.” In speaking of his second wife, Keel makes a highly respectable move by saying, “…I am going to choose the high road for the sake of my children…My life is an open book, and I am fair game, but I am honor bound to what is best for my kids and my telling of this tale must be crafted with them in mind.” In a world where airing all your dirty laundry might seem like the best move when writing your life story, it is refreshing to read of his restraint and his concern for his children above all.
We see band line-up changes (even a short period of time with Yngwie Malmsteen), before we see the formation of KEEL and a record deal with the legendary Gene Simmons producing. MTV, tours, leopard skin guitars- “…whatever you think happened, happened. The miles, the shows, the interviews, the women, the drugs, the pleasure and the pain, all became a blur.”
As KEEL ended we see Ron Keel transform into Ronnie Lee, country music singer, back in his old stomping grounds of Arizona and the dissolution of his second marriage. Playing in several bands, eventually relocation to Ohio where he fronted IronHorse. Family deaths and another marriage. In a completely unexpected twist, unless you have followed every move Keel has made, we read of his foray into the world of celebrity impersonators.
Keel has already suggested that there may someday have to be a sequel to this story, as several chapters could actually turn into entire books of their own. Each chapter is named after a song title, some are even unreleased tunes. The book is interspersed with quotes from magazines and fans, both good and bad.
We end with a taste of things to come-a track listing an album cover for Ron Keel’s latest release, Metal Cowboy– and also a bit of the past- a full discography, including demos, compilations, videos, of each and every step in this journey that is Ron Keel. This is a well-written honest life story, not a glorification of the excessive lifestyle of a rock star. If we ever do get a sequel, it will definitely be worth the read.