Ronnie Self, Mr. Frantic

Although Ronnie Self found only limited success as a recording artist in the 1950s and '60s, he wrote hit songs for other vocalists and became the epitome of rockabilly: wild, untamed, erratic.

He was born in 1938 in Tin Town, Missouri, and lived a rural life with his family until his parents decided to move to Springfield when he was still a boy. Self was a respectful child who learned to appreciate music at an early age. He took up the guitar, and discovered the joys of country music while still living on the farm. He listened to the recordings of such country artists as Hank Williams and Jimmie Rodgers, but when Elvis got popular in the mid 50s Self found a new kind of music with which to identify. Like many of the early rockabilly performers, he successfully merged the two musical styles and fashioned his own music. According to Self legend, he got into a rockin' band while still in high school. Seems that Ronnie got a little upset with one of his teachers at school one day, and went after the teacher with a baseball bat. So much for the three Rs.

Ronnie went into rock 'n' roll. He was always a little wild. Not bad, though. His music was a bit wild, too. When he tried out for a radio talent contest once, the station rejected him because his act was too strange. Later, he set out for Nashville, where he recorded for a number of major labels, including ABC-Paramount, Columbia, Decca, and Kapp. He also wrote for Cedarville Music, a big Nashville publisher. His manager billed him as "Mr. Frantic," presumably for Self's restless energy on stage. In the late 50s, he recorded a number of strong rockabilly sides, including "Big Fool," "Date Bait," 'Ain't I'm A Dog," and "Bop-A-Lena." It seemed that Self was eighteen, cocky, and a little crazy, and headed for the top. But his one hit - and it reached only number 63 in 1958 - was "Bop-A-Lena," a song by Mel Tillis and Webb Pierce. Self did go on to write "Sweet Nothin's" and "I'm Sorry" for Brenda Lee in late 1959 and early 1960. But he sunk into personal troubles and frustration with Nashville. He even burned his gold records in front of the BMI office there. He was a perfectionist. He could not tolerate those who were not. Ronald Self died in August, 1981. He was 43 years old.

We Wanna Boogie, Randy McNutt

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