Ron Matelic interview

In a career that began more than 40 years ago, Indianapolis native Ron Matelic has written and recorded music that blends the best elements from a vast array of influences, ranging from the highly rated 60s "garage" sounds of SIR WINSTON & THE COMMONS to the spellbinding westcoast-influenced 1970s rock of ANONYMOUS and J RIDER. This Q & A casts some light on these outfits, and also introduces some recent demo recordings which - unsurprisingly - are as good as any of Ron's earlier work.

Introduction to Part I

The Sir Winston & the Commons story has been touched upon in various retrospective releases such as Back From The Grave vol 3, Hoosier Hotshots, and a recent 4-track EP from Sundazed. The band was formed as a surf combo in 1963, then updated their style and name as the British Invasion hit in 1964. Unknown to many the band's first 45 was "Thunder & Lightning", as backing band to local solo act Rojay Goatee. 

On the heels of their first "real" 45, the legendary "We're Gonna Love"/"Come Back Again", as well as energetic live shows, the band grew to become one of the most popular teen bands in the Indianapolis region. Another more folkrock/psychedelic style 45 "One Last Chance"/"Not The Spirit Of India" followed in 1967, after which the band toured in California and ultimately broke up in 1969-1970.


Q: How did Sir Winston & the Commons originally form - were you all from the same neighborhood?

RON: John [Medvescek] and I went to the same schools from kindergarten on. We started hanging out together on a regular basis around the 8th grade. As we entered high school, we began to see a few local, mainly instrumental, bands at various teen functions and decided to learn how to play instruments in order to form a band. John wanted to drum and I wanted to play guitar. When I was younger, I had a ukulele and knew a few chords, so when I started looking at guitar chords they were some of the same fingerings with some extra strings added. By our 3rd year in high school John had his drums and I had my electric guitar (a Stratocaster) and we began practicing together. At one teen dance we met Joe Stout and Don Basore who were playing for the dance; since we lived within about a mile of one another we decided to get together and form the band. Joe went to school with another guitar player, Gary Crawford who joined us. I think our first name was The Illusions and then it was The Suspicions. After we were Sir Winston, Gary was replaced by Herb Crawford (no relation).

Q: What do you recall of the Rojay Goatee 45, "Thunder & Lightning"?

RON: The Rojay Goatee single from what I remember was recorded at a small local studio in Indy. Rojay Goatee was a stage name, I believe his real name is Robert Youngs. Our booking agent at the time got us together. I don't know if they were friends or business associates, but we were enlisted to be the recording band.

Q: How old were you guys when Sir Winston & the Commons were happening - were you still in high school? Was college and/or the draft a problem?

RON: We started playing as Sir Winston when John, Joe and myself had graduated from high school. Don was still a senior in high school. I went to Purdue University extension in Indianapolis. Joe was in business school. John was excused from the army for a bad elbow injury he had received in high school wrestling. Don may have gone to business school for a short time after he graduated, but eventually got drafted and left the band.

Q: What other local/regional bands were you aware of back then, as competition? Was it the "English sound" that dominated, or did it mix with earlier styles?

RON: The other main bands that I recall that were playing at that time were The Boys Next Door, The Dawn Five, Sounds Unlimited, The Chosen Few and Him, Her and Them. I know there were others. I don't think anyone had an English sound except maybe Sounds Unlimited. Each band seemed to have some major group's influence. For The Boys Next Door it was the Beach Boys; The Dawn Five - the Kingsmen; Sounds Unlimited - the Who and Yardbirds; Him, Her and Them - Jefferson Airplane; the Chosen Few - I don't recall them having a distinct influenece. Sir Winston combined most of the British groups mainly along with the Byrds and others, but we mainly tried to play songs we liked, not necessarily Top 40, so there were a lot of other influences as well.

Q: Do you recall what cover versions you did with Sir Winston & the Commons? 

RON: We did tons. Back then most of our shows consisted of three 45 minute sets, usually for dances.  So we did mostly Top 40 which was a lot of the British invasion stuff and then later Byrds and any other tunes we may have liked including album cuts.  So we did Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Animals, Hollies, Yardbirds and others.  I used to have an old Sir Winston set list, but I may have tossed it. If I run across it, I will let you know.

Q: Did you do any TV or radio appearances? How big was the band around Indianapolis?

RON: I don't think we did any TV or radio appearances. Our band was fairly big locally because there weren't that many bands around at the time. We started out as a surf band playing mostly instrumentals and then got into singing because of a live album I had by the Astronauts. When the Beatles hit, it all changed. To be concise, my main recollection is that we concentrated on playing good music we liked, not necessarily the Top 40 songs that most of the other bands played. Granted, we played radio songs but as we progressed, we started playing album cuts and eventually got into writing.  

Q: "We're Gonna Love"/"Come Back Again" was released by the Minnesota-based SOMA label - how did you come into contact with those guys?

RON: I believe our manager at the time got the 1 time pressing deal. They got the publishing. I don't think there were very many pressed. Unfortunately, I was never involved in the business end of the band. The stuff [Soma 45 tracks] we recorded in Chicago was at Columbia, not RCA. 

Q: "We're gonna love" was covered by a band called the Emblems, who released it on a 45 on the Lamia label. Were you aware of this at the time? Was there any relationship between the two bands?              

RON: Never heard of them.  The only other recording of it that I know of was by another Indy band called the Zero Boys maybe in the late 80's or early 90's. I know the drummer Mark Cutsinger.

Indy mystery teen combo the EMBLEMS, whose version of "We're Gonna Love" turns the air into cottage cheese as the teens twist & shimmy!

Q: Sir Winston & the Commons played some interesting gigs, including opening for the Byrds, and also at the Cellar in Chicago. Any particular memories from these events? Did you play anything outside the Indy/Illinois area?

A: The Cellar gigs were a lot of fun, because we would charter a couple of buses and take a bunch of friends and local fans with us.  We opened for the Byrds a couple of times; also the Beach Boys and McCoys.  Toward the end of Sir Winston, we went to New York and opened for Joe Cocker at I think his first American show at Steve Paul's Scene. But mostly we played around Indiana.

Q: After "We're gonna love" you did "Not The Spirit Of India"/ "One Last Chance", which is more in a psychedelic/folkrock direction. Was Nauseating Butterfly the band's own label? Any recollection of how many copies may have been pressed?

RON: Our other guitarist, Herb Crawford, did all the work on that. Again, I don't have any pressing numbers.  

Q: Regarding the two 45s, how did you feel about them at the time? Were you satisfied with how they came out?

RON: Recording professionally was new and we never had a real producer who knew how to produce rock recordings, so I didn't think they sounded like they really sounded when we played them live, but we didn't know any better. We just recorded all the tracks and mixed them; no processing except for some reverb. I think it was a 4 track machine. I have never been totally satisfied with any of the recordings I have ever done, even now.

Q: What about the California tour?

RON: We moved to California to try and make it big, played on Sunset Strip at the Galaxy Club for a couple of months, but returned to Indy after six months. I think less than a year later, Sir Winston was done. We played a lot and had a lot of fun, but eventually we steered in different directions. I played in a couple of other bands after that, mainly doing covers and jams at the bar scene.

Q: There were apparently some plans under way for Sir Winston & the Commons to go to England with a promotional push. This has been described in some detail in old liner notes ("Hoosier Hotshots" LP) - can you confirm this story? Was this a big deal for the band, or just one of many ideas?

RON: When we got together to do a reunion last October, Joe Stout, who I hadn't seen in decades, mentioned that while we were in California in the 60's, we were supposedly offered a deal to England, but we had to take on the identity of another band, so we turned it down. I really don't remember anything about it, but I guess there is some truth about the England thing.

Q: The "Hoosier Hotshots" compilation shows a newspaper clipping for a tentative (1980s?) Indianapolis "rock'n'roll reunion" with Sir Winston & the Commons among potential bands. Did this event ever happen, and if so, any particular memories from it?

RON: I have never seen or heard of this "Hoosier Hotshots" release; I would like to see it. I think the reunion may have been talked about, but I don't think it ever happened. If it did, we weren't there. We did, however, play a short set at a benefit show with several of the 60's band last October, 2004

Q: Is there anything you feel hasn't come to light or been described in the right way for the Sir Winston era?

RON: It wasn't until years later that I had a sense that we made some impact on other musicians and fans in the area. I look at that time as being musically maturing and absorbing a lot of varied influences.

Introduction to part II

Moving on to Ron Matelic's work with Anonymous/J Rider, we not only enter a completely different era with a different type of music, but also with a whole other set of fans, many of which probably have no idea that Ron Matelic played with a popular Indy teen-band in the 1960s. The 1976 ANONYMOUS "Inside The Shadow" album has been steadily gaining admirers over the last 15 years, and is today rated as one of the very best mid-1970s albums from the region. See my earlier review for details on this terrific westcoast-style LP. 

Anonymous existed mainly to record the LP, but a closely related outfit called J RIDER surfaced in 1977 to play live gigs and record a set of excellent demos, which were given a posthumous release by OR/Aether Records in 1997. Ron has kept writing and recording music during the 1980s-1990s, and cut a new set of excellent demos a few years back, which are presented below.  

PART II - ANONYMOUS and related 

Q: Did you record and/or release anything in the long period between Sir Winston and the Anonymous LP?

RON: Actually Jon Medvescek and I were briefly in a band called Cock Robin. I know we recorded around six songs in Chicago, but as far as I know they are lost. I also played in a couple of bar bands. A few years later, John and I were in a fusion band called Ghandharvis (not sure of the spelling). It had kind of a Mahavishnu Orchestra influence. I think I wrote the song J. Rider while I was in that band. We did a lot a time changes and played in uncommon time signatures like 11.  

Q: For the Anonymous/J Rider period, were there any local/regional Indiana bands that you found interesting?

RON: I don't think so; but that is probably because I didn't get out very much after starting a family and working at a regular job. 

Q: "Inside the shadow" came out on A Major Label, which also had bands such as Major Arcana and was founded by Jim Spencer. Any particular memories of the label & bands?

RON: Jim Spencer was a good friend of mine who used to live down the street from me in Indy.  We used to write songs together. He could write a song at the drop of a hat and was always eager to co-write with me. He eventually got married and moved to Milwaukee but managed to stay in touch. He did some albums and then gave me the opportunity to record an album. Anonymous was never really a playing band.  We started jamming on Sunday afternoons and eventually I wrote most of what would become the Anonymous album.  I owe that to Jim Spencer - a true artist. I was deeply saddened when he died unexpectedly.

Q: One of the key assets of the Anonymous/J Rider sound is undoubtedly Marsha Rolling's beautiful vocals. Could you say something about her and her background, how you came into contact with her?

RON: It would be long and complicated to fully explain, but we met Marsha (whose last name is now Ervin) and her sister, Patty, through another mutual friend. I don't remember how it got started, but around the last year of Sir Winston, we used to go their house for informal gatherings. I would take my acoustic guitar and our good friend and roadie at the time, Geoff Gould, would take his. We would would sit around and sing songs, mainly Beatles, Neil Young, Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills and Nash. Marsha could sing the high harmonies right off the bat so it was a lot of fun and, for a while, turned in to almost a nightly affair. That's how we first started singing together. I know Marsha and Patty grew up singing together for various functions, but I don't know any details about that. John Medvescek married Patty and they still remain married today with a large family.

Q: What about the bass player, Glenn Weaver?

RON: Again, this is slightly involved. We eventually stopped the parties, and I got married to my lovely lady, Mary Anne in 1972. Marsha had joined a band called Madison Zane that was formed by former Sir Winston member, Joe Stout. I think John played drums for them for a while. At some point, Glenn became the band's bass player and I joined the band for a short time so that's how I met Glenn. We were musically connected in a lot of ways. He was a huge Grateful Dead fan and loved Jack Cassidy of the Airplane and Hot Tuna. He also liked Neil Young a lot and Fleetwood Mac. He made me aware of the Buckingham/Nicks album and I was hooked on them. He also liked writing songs, so we wrote a couple of things together. He, John and I started to jam on Sunday afternoons and those jams turned somewhat into the Anonymous album. 

Q: Do Marsha, Glenn or John M appear on any other 1960s-70s recordings that you are aware of ?

RON: I don't think so, but I'm not sure. Glenn died unexpectedly I think in the late 80's or early 90's.

Q: The Anonymous LP has a natural, "live" feel to it. Do you recall how the recordings were made in terms of overdubs, etc? Was it recorded "live in the studio" to any degree?

RON: The bass, drums and rhythm guitar were recorded first. Some of the guitar leads may have been included in that, but mainly the other guitars were overdubbed. We did all the instrumental portions in one day. We went back a few weeks later and added the vocals. We had practiced the harmonies with the instrumental tracks, so the vocals were also done in one day as I recall. I know it was only an 8 track machine so we had to mix down some of the instrumentals before we had the vocal track availability so that's where some of the album's weak sound comes from - generation loss. That may be part of the reason for the 'live' feel.

Q: The Anonymous LP seems influenced by westcoast late 60s music such as Buffalo Springfield, the Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, and also the Beatles. Did you feel alone in playing this type of music in the mid-1970s, or was there a local/regional interest in it?

RON: It was always (and still is) difficult to get jobs when you played original music, so mainly we practiced in the basement a lot more than we played. But it was still rewarding to me to develop my songs.

Q: Some people have compared the Anonymous sound with that of mid-1970s Fleetwood Mac. Is this a reference that makes sense to you?

RON: I already mentioned how I learned about Buckingham/Nicks so, yes, it makes sense and I did listen to them. I think we performed Frozen Love from that album. It seems though, that people felt like Anonymous had more of a Jefferson Airplane sound.

Q: "Sweet Lilac" has an acoustic guitar break that is one of my favorite moments on the Anonymous LP. Any comments on this section & song, as to how it was composed, recorded etc?

RON: To be honest, I don't think I ever played that song after we recorded it. I had no idea what the break you referred to sounded like, so, after a little searching, I found the  CD and played it. I can't really say where it came from; just the mood of the song. I would have to listen to it and relearn it now. I may not even be able to play it.  

Q: Some technical questions about the Anonymous pressings, etc. I understand the original master tapes are lost? When doing the second pressing in 1981 or thereabouts, do you recall if you reused the 1976 stampers? How many copies were pressed of the 2nd run? Any particular reason for changing the cover design?

RON: Jim Spencer did all of that, so I don't really know. He had some connections in Europe. He had a big children's album over there and had the opportunity to re-release 'Inside the Shadow', so that's how that came about. He wanted to put the back cover of the original on the front cover of the re-release. I don't remember why.

Q: What are your feelings about the Anonymous LP today?

RON: I don't think about it too much. It's only because of people like yourself that the subject even comes up. I guess I feel proud of the good reviews it has produced and if it stirred a few musical souls, well, then that's a good thing. I wish I had all the copies I sold for $5, trying to get rid of them. Who knew? But then they may not have made their way into a lot of lives. I am truly grateful for that opportunity.

Q: How did J RIDER come about?

RON: We formed the band J Rider after we did the album and added another guitarist, Justin Garriot. We didn't play very much, but it sounded pretty good. During one particular 2 or 3 day gig there was a argumentive band 'blow out', and Glenn quit the band. We eventually met bassist Greg Reynolds who joined the band and has played bass with myself and John to this day. He also remains a close friend. He, Marsha and myself formed an acoustic group at one point, and played a few shows. As far as J Rider, Marsha was married and became pregnant so she left the band, and Justin eventually left. But the 3 remaining members, John, Greg and myself kept going, but essentally abandoned the original tunes in order to get some paying gigs.

Q: Do you recall how much time was spent in the studio for the J Rider recordings? Were the sessions different in any way to the Anonymous sessions?

RON: I think the instrumentals were also done in one day. Most of Justin's leads were recorded simultaneously with the basic tracks, but a few were done afterward. I also added a few parts. This studio was much better and we added the vocals later. I don't particularly like the sound of the vocals that much.

Q: A memorable passage on J Rider is when you and Marsha sing alternating lines on "High Roller". Was there any particular inspiration or significance behind this?

RON: I came up with the title of this song before I ever wrote one line. I thought of it while driving and started singing just the "High Roller" part of the chorus. The song is a fictional event or story song about a guy whose is dynamically drawn to this mysterious woman, so there are some "conversational" back and forth lines that lend themselves to the 2 parts; no consciously apparent inspiration. It must have been something in the cosmos.       

Q: Unlike Anonymous, J Rider played live gigs. Was this just locally in Indianapolis, or did you play in a larger area? How long did J Rider exist as a "live" entity?   

RON: We just played locally and didn't play very much because there were hardly any places for an all original band to play. At some point we caved in and started to play some covers just to try and get some playing gigs. I don't remember exactly how long J Rider existed. Maybe a year and a half is my best guess.

Q: Were the J Rider recordings pitched to a record label at the time? If so, was there any useful response?

RON: We never had a business person, so nothing was ever done at that time. It wasn't until years later when I was contacted by Stan Denski and Rick Wilkerson that they ever got out at all.

Q: In recent years you have recorded some new material, which I've had the privilege to hear parts of. Who were playing on these -- is it the Anonymous/J Rider gang again?

RON: The songs were played by a combination of John, Greg, Marsha and myself. There was another added percussionist, Mark Cutsinger, on 1 song, and Geoff Gould sang a harmony part on one. Five of the songs were originally recorded with only John on drums and myself on rhythm guitar. Another 5 had Greg on bass. Some of the songs are all me except for the drums. I didn't particularly care for that arrangement, but I was the only one available at the time.

Q: Could you possibly list the track titles for the recent demos? Any additional comments on the material is much appreciated, of course.

RON: The album would be called "Lunar Escapades". I hope to add a track or two. The current recorded titles are "Blue Moon Delight"; "Carry Me Over" ; "Quartet + 1"; "Silent Sunrise"; "Renegade Heart"; "It Isn't Any Trouble"; "Rock and Roll Woman" (yes, Buffalo Springfield); "Look Out Your Window"; "Love On"; "Moon Horizon"; "M-Day Dream".

Audio samples from the Ron Matelic demos

Ron has generously agreed to make samples from his recent demo recordings available as sound clips on this page. These tracks are likely to delight any Anonymous/J Rider fan, and can also introduce Ron's music to those not yet familiar with him. To my ears this is as good as anything he recorded in the 1970s. See interview above for details on the performers.

"Silent Sunrise"

"Moon Horizon"

"Carry Me Over"

Each sample is about 90 seconds long in MP3 format, and should be playable on any PC. Click on the link to play it on-line, or right-click and "Save target" to download before playing. Enjoy - I sure do!


Thanks to Tom Stevens, Mike Dugo, Perkeo, Scott, Ben & the other crazy teens at

The Lama Workshop