Monday, January 20, 2014

Jan. 20: Ron Townson of The 5th Dimension was born on this date in 1933...

THE 5TH DIMENSION Travelling Sunshine Show (with Dionne Warwick, Merle Haggard, & The Carpenters)

... Ron was 68-years-old when he passed away on August 2, 2001.

Born in St. Louis in 1933, Ronald "Ron" Townson started singing at the age of 6 and was a featured soloist on various choirs throughout his years in school. He was inspired to sing by his grandmother and his parents arranged for him to have private singing and acting lessons.

During high school, he won third place in the Missouri State trials for the Metropolitan Opera. He also appeared for three seasons in productions of Bloomer Girl, Annie Get Your Gun and Show Boat.

Ron toured with Wings Over Jordan for eight years while still in school. He was their choir director for two years. Later on, he entered Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri. He worked his way through by conducting the University and Church Choirs and playing football and track.

Ron left St. Louis so that he could pursue a musical career in Los Angeles, California. He met Dorothy Dandridge, toured with her for two years, took part in the Samuel Goldwyn motion picture production of Porgy & Bess and then later toured with Nat King Cole. Townson also organized and conducted his own 35 voice a cappella choir in Los Angeles.

In 1966, Townson joined two other St. Louis natives, Billy Davis, Jr. and Lamonte McLemore, along with female vocalists Marilyn McCoo and Florence LaRue, to form The Versatiles. The name was a reference to their varied style in music, but producer Johnny Rivers thought the name was outdated. He wanted a newer sounding name for the group.

The group soon came up with The 5th Dimension. The group began cutting records for Rivers' Soul City Records music label that year.

(Continued below video and Amazon portals ...)



After ten successful years with The 5th Dimension, Ron left the group for a span beginning in 1976. During his time away, he made a guest appearance on the TV series Switch, cut records, performed solo, and formed his own group, Ron Townson and Wild Honey. By 1980, he decided to reunite with The 5th Dimension.

In 1981, he and fellow group members Joyce Wright, Michael Procter, Florence LaRue and Lamonte McLemore starred in Fats Waller's Ain't Misbehavin' to excellent reviews. In 1990, the original five members of the group reunited for a New Year's Eve performance at Donald Trump's Atlantic City Casino. It was a huge success and they went on the road for some performances in 1991 as The Original 5th Dimension. That same year, the group received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1992, Townson appeared in the Warner Brothers film The Mambo Kings.

Townson left The 5th Dimension for good in 1997. He involved himself with other business ventures and served on the board of directors of the Cambridge-Kilpatrick Acting School. He was honored at Lincoln University with the school's Distinguished Alumni Award.

Ron moved to Las Vegas in 1999 and died in his home there on August 2, 2001. He died of renal failure, after a four-year battle with kidney disease. A service for him was held on August 11, 2001 at the Jehovah's Witnesses Kingdom Hall.


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