Ronnie Stephenson

b. 26 January 1937, Sunderland, County Durham, England, d. 8 August 2002, Dundee, Scotland. Stephenson began playing drums as a young teenager and was soon working alongside his brothers, Bill and Bob,…
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Artist Biography

b. 26 January 1937, Sunderland, County Durham, England, d. 8 August 2002, Dundee, Scotland. Stephenson began playing drums as a young teenager and was soon working alongside his brothers, Bill and Bob, both of whom were pianists. He played professionally in the north-east of England where he was born and also in the Midlands before attracting wider attention thanks to a long tour with popular singer Lita Roza. After military service in the mid-50s, he continued to work in various regions of England and also in Scotland. Among musicians with whom he played during these years was the keyboard player Mike Carr. Some obscure recordings from this time have been released by Birdland Records. Overlapping these 60s engagements, Stephenson had become known in London owing initially to a spell with John Dankworth that had begun in 1960.

After more than two years with Dankworth he played with Stan Tracey in the house band at Ronnie Scott’s club in London, playing with Tubby Hayes and many visiting jazzmen, including Victor Feldman, Benny Golson, Wes Montgomery and Sonny Stitt, many of these sessions being recorded. He spent some time playing drums in the band led by fellow drummer Jack Parnell on television and then again toured with a pop singer, this time with Tom Jones. This tour included Germany where Stephenson decided to stay, working with Kurt Edelhagen, Rolf Kühn, Francy Boland, the Nord Deutsche Rundfunk orchestra and others. Stephenson also undertook a teaching post at Berlin University. He occasionally toured the UK, reuniting with Carr in the early 90s.

A skilful, tasteful and highly supportive drummer, Stephenson’s long years in Germany tended to make his name relatively little known to audiences in the UK and USA, something that was undeserved by a highly talented musician.