Bluegrass lovers throughout Kentucky are mourning the loss this week of beloved festival MC and radio host Ron Cornett, who died on September 17 following complications from surgery. He was 68 years of age.
Ron hosted a regular program on the bluegrass streaming service, The Bluegrass Jamboree, called On The Road Bluegrass with Ron Cornett. The service streams music 24/7, and Ron’s show ran three times each week. Long time listeners may remember that his first show on the Jamboree was called The Old Country Store, but as he began to travel regularly to bluegrass festivals with his wife, Anna, and include artists interviews and even live stage shows in the broadcast, the name was changed to more properly reflect the content.
Born in London, KY, Ron was living in Beattyville when he passed. He had been diagnosed with cancer several months ago, but had been unable to start chemo until a lingering infection had been treated. It was after surgery to repair a bulging disc in his neck that his heart stopped beating, and he was rushed to the ICU. He was revived on a respirator but once brain death was diagnosed, he was allowed to slip away.
Ron’s love for bluegrass came early from exposure to the early music of Flatt & Scruggs and Bill Monroe through his brother in law, Mike Grimes. He learned to play guitar, mandolin, and bass and loved to attend jams in northern Kentucky. There he also got his first taste for radio, working for a station in Florence, KY, playing bluegrass music.
He joined a band called Revival Ridge and played with them for several years, recording a CD along the way, and getting the chance to perform at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, though not on the radio program. Stints in other regional groups also brought him great joy, doing both bluegrass and gospel music.
Passion for streaming online developed after Cornett retired from his career as a service manager, which he had held with a number of northern Kentucky dealerships. Retiring on disability from a service-connected injury in the military, Ron was able to use his time to follow his interests, and took his first streaming gig with a company that has since gone out of business. Then he contacted Annette Grady with Bluegrass Jamboree and launched his show there.
Ironically, after being introduced to bluegrass by his brother in law, Ron returned the favor by bringing Mike Grimes into online radio, showing him the ropes, and getting him going with his own show on the Jamboree, which he still hosts, The Foothills Express.
People who attend bluegrass festivals in Kentucky also knew Ron as a regular stage MC, which also led to him befriending the artists who performed on the shows. Over the years, many of them did interviews for On The Road.
Billy Lee Cox, who played banjo for many years with Remington Ryde, recalled how special Ron was with people.
“Ron had a unique way of making every person he met feel like they were the most important person on the planet at this moment. He truly loved people and bluegrass music. That combination made him one of the most admired and loved on-air personalities. We truly miss our great friend…Mr Ron Cornett.”
Grimes also remembers him that way…
“Ron was just a great fella. Everybody knew Ron at all these bluegrass festivals, and loved him for his friendliness. He was such a kindhearted guy – well respected in bluegrass by all.
He lived life to the fullest until the time he got sick.”
Anyone who met Ron could quickly feel his deep love for bluegrass music, the people who played it, and everyone who liked to hear it. The final festival he worked as an MC was Farm Jamb this past June.
R.I.P., Ron Cornett.