This is the next installment in a fun new series in which we ask bluegrass music personalities, some famous, some not so well known, about some of their interests as well as about the music that they love. Our guest today is Ronnie Prevette, who worked for Jimmy Martin and the Bluegrass Alliance in the 1960s and ’70s. He left music to take a job as a firefighter, and returned to work with Martin after retiring from the fire department from 1999 until Jimmy passed in 2005.
The coffee is really smelling good to me Richard, and I think that’s what I will have.
Do you want anything to eat as well?
No thanks, coffee will do it for me right now.
What is your favorite food?
Well, I guess you can look at me and tell I have a lot of favorites, but I would have to say Mexican would be my very favorite food, and followed by just plain ole down home country cooking.
What’s the nicest meal that you have ever had?
There have been several of those too, Richard, but I guess the nicest meal I have had lately, would be for my birthday my daughter, son, and son-in-law took me to a very nice Chinese restaurant for my birthday, and the food was really great, and so was the service, and I enjoyed that very much.
What drink would you have with that?
I had sweet iced tea with that, and even the tea was great.
Let’s talk bluegrass…..
Where/when did you first hear bluegrass music?
Well I guess I came into the world listening to bluegrass music, bluegrass and Ole Time music was a part of my family as far back as I can remember anything. My dad played some on the guitar, fiddle, and claw hammer banjo, and so did both my grandparents on my dad’s side of the family.
My grandfather was a great ole time fiddle player, and was as good as any I’ve ever heard, so he would play the fiddle and my grandmother would play the banjo. That was the first live music I had heard. I also have an older brother that learned to play before I did, by then it seemed there was a house full of musicians at our house almost every night. It seemed like when one would leave another one would show up…. of course it was always on the radio, and we always listened to the Grand Ole Opry, listening for Flatt and Scruggs, and Bill Monroe to come on.
So all during my early childhood I was well exposed to bluegrass music.
What song do you have a particular liking for?
Gosh, Richard, now that can be hard for me to answer, there are so many, and when you are a musician the list is almost endless. There is always some you like better than others, but to put my finger on a particular one, I don’t think I could do that, and I’m being honest. There are just too many good ones to choose from.
Which particular album do you like best and why?
I think my most favorite bluegrass album would have to be Jimmy Martin’s first Gospel album This World’s Not My Home. I think the reason is the selection of great songs, and it features Jimmy, and the best band he ever had at their best.
I guess my favorite project that I have been a part of, would be the sessions I did with Jimmy Martin, Mary Ann, Fly Me To Frisco, Just Plain Yellow, I Buried My Future, these are on the Fly Me To Frisco album. The reason is, It was recorded with one of the greatest bluegrass artist ever, Jimmy Martin…it was with a major label MCA… and produced by one of the greatest Nashville producers ever Owen Bradley…and recorded at Bradley’s Barn.
And my favorite project of all time would have to be The Bluegrass Album Band. And the reason I say that is, It’s just good traditional Flatt and Scruggs style bluegrass music at its best. All the vocals and musicianship on that album is just top shelf all the way.
You play a mandolin ……. What model is it?
I have owned several Gibson F-5 mandolins, but the one I currently play and like most of all is a handmade F-5 copy. I really like the tone, plus it really does well in the studio. So I would have to say it is my favorite.
What’s your favorite bluegrass memory?
My favorite bluegrass memory would be playing the Grand Ole Opry for the very first time, when I was with Jimmy Martin. I think that was about 1973 and encoring three times, actually 4 times but they wouldn’t let us go back out for the fourth because of their time limit..That is a memory I will never forget.
Are you a sports fan? Who do you follow?
I guess you could call me somewhat of a sports fan, I do like NASCAR racing, and baseball, those are my favorites sports. I always follow whoever the rookie is in NASCAR this year Danica Patrick is running in that category, so I’m hoping she does well. In baseball I have always liked the Dodgers so I hope they have a good season.
What hobbies do you have?
The only real hobby I have ever had is airplanes and flying, small planes of course, I do have some recording equipment I like to play with when time permits…but music has always kept me pretty occupied.
What is the last movie film that you watched?
It has been a long time since I have watched a good movie, in fact so long I really can’t remember the last movie I watched, but I think one of my favorite movies was Sling Blade. Probably the reason I liked that movie is it had a lot of excitement, some parts were emotional, and both Billy Bob Thornton, and Dwight Yoakam played such excellent parts in that movie.
Do you get much time to watch TV?
I really don’t get much time for TV, I do always try to keep up with what’s going on in the world the news.
My favorite show has always been the Andy Griffith Show, I have to always make time for Andy and Barney.
Do you have a pet?
I do have a pet, he is an orange Tabby cat and goes by the name of KeKe, and he likes bluegrass music as well. Both cats and dogs are among my favorite pets.
What would you be doing if you weren’t involved in bluegrass music?
If I wasn’t involved in bluegrass music I probably would be somewhere in the medical field. I did spend some time in college in a pre-science program in preparation for medical school actually to become a physician’s assistant. So I’m almost certain that’s probably where I would be.
Music was Prevette’s full time occupation from about 1968 until 1978, most of that time he worked for Jimmy Martin except for about a year with the Bluegrass Alliance. Prior to that, he played with the Blue Ridge Boys, fronted by Red Barker and Larry Richardson.
Realizing that he needed a job with full benefits and a retirement package, Prevette became a fire-fighter, which allowed him to have time off to play music, except for every other week end.
In 1990, at the age of 42, Prevette became eligible for full retirement and he was able to return to playing music full time. In 1999 he responded to a call from Jimmy Martin and Prevette began to work some dates with him. He stayed with Martin until his passing.
Prevette was born and raised in Lexington, North Carolina, and now lives in Kernersville, North Carolina.