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Artist Profile: Ron Roper

Groovin’ in the Key of R

By Ellen Samsell Salas

For Georgia born-and-raised musician Ron Roper, the downtime created by the pandemic last year was used to record and release his new album Groovin’ in the Key of R. He is no stranger to music enthusiasts in the South and beyond, as he has long been a stalwart of the Atlanta music scene.

Roper got his musical start by learning to play the piano in church when he was six years old, but his interest in acoustics has been with him for as long as he can remember.

“I was just born into it,” Roper said when asked about the origin of his love for music. “I’ve loved it for as long as I can remember.”

His everlasting devotion to tunes has taken him far and wide, leading to tours as the keyboardist and vocalist with the Allman Brothers Band’s guitarist Derek Trucks and blues guitar legend Tinsley Ellis. During Roper’s trips abroad, he was able to perform in a slew of cities, from São Paulo, Brazil to Montevideo, Uruguay. He has performed in arenas full of thousands of people as well as small “dive” bars. Regardless of crowd size, the stage is where he thrives.

Groovin in the Key of R is a 10 song, self-produced release of Roper’s originals. He plays all instruments and performs all vocals.

“This has been a long time coming, one track at a time,” said Roper, with a nod towards the gratifying but time-consuming process of recording himself. “By doing this solo, I have had no constraints on creative freedom. These songs are me.”

There are hints of Roper’s favorite artist, Stevie Wonder, in “More Than Dreams.” Listeners will hear shades of Steely Dan and Donny Hathaway in “So Many Changes,” and Dr. John is summoned on “Oola Wala Mambo” and “Clyde’s Jig.” Of course, there is a literal bow to Thelonious Monk in “Monk, My Dear,” and “God Thank You” is a song of thanks about triumph and personal tragedy. When all of these influences are combined, the result is uniquely Roper’s.

“Ron is a triple threat on keys, vocals, and songwriting,” blues guitar legend Tinsley Ellis said. “His new album is the culmination of decades as a journeyman Southern soul artist.”

Roper’s goal is to use his music to make people feel something. If his album inspires various emotions when listeners hear it, then he has done his job.

“Ron Roper evokes the spirit of Stevie Wonder, Billy Preston, and Donny Hathaway,” said Phillip Woo, a legendary keyboardist who has performed with artists such as Roy Ayers, Ashford & Simpson, and Roberta Flack. “Well-crafted grooves and melodies abound. Great record!”