Obituary: Ronnie Tait, musician, 65

Ronnie Tait boasted a powerful stage presence.    Picture: ROB McDOUGALL

Ronnie Tait boasted a powerful stage presence. Picture: ROB McDOUGALL

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TRIBUTES have been paid to the late singer Ronnie Tait, who died at home in the Lawnmarket last Tuesday after a short illness, aged 65.

The blues singer was renowned throughout Scotland, and further afield, for his raw voice and powerful on-stage presence.

He was never happier than when playing in Edinburgh – the city to which he remained committed throughout his long career as a musician.

Perhaps best known were his regular appearances with the Rootsie Tootsie band at the now defunct Preservation Hall in Edinburgh.

Holding a residency at the ‘Prez’, as it was known before becoming the Finnegans Wake pub, Tait and co made it one of the Capital’s top live music destinations in the late 80s and early 90s with original compositions and performances by legends such as John Lee Hooker and Freddie King.

“He was, to put it simply, an uncompromising blues singer and harmonica player,” said singer-songwriter Jim Condie, who performed with Mr Tait between 1989 and 1993.

“He was very talented, very dedicated – very sure about what he wanted to do and where he wanted to go. He was absolutely uncompromising about wanting to be a blues singer.

“He had this big, rough blues voice, with a very hard edge to it – a bit like Frankie Miller. There were things about it, such as the phrasing, and the way he used tone, which gave it a unique quality. He was completely dedicated to his craft.”

Mr Tait was also well known as a harmonica player, and his love of music was echoed in his approach to life.

“He was hard-living but great to be around generally, as well as being great to play with,” remembered Mr Condie. “We were always trying to trip each other up during gigs – I’ll never forget that.

“There was always an unexpected element with him that was fun to be around, and it’s something that I will miss.”

Stevey Hay, a blues musician who performed with Mr Tait in the Alan Pratt Blues Council between 1994 and November last year, said the singer was like a “big brother” to him.

“He passed on so many things to me – his music, everything to do with the blues,” added Mr Hay. “He was a very determined individual, gigging and going out busking until he died.”

Mr Condie added that he would remember the gigs he played with Mr Tait at the Preservation Hall in Edinburgh most of all.

“It was a fantastic venue,” he said. “One of those unique places in the city that, sadly, isn’t there any more. The gigs we played there were fantastic – definitely among my favourites.”

Mr Condie said Mr Tait was committed to Edinburgh.

“He could walk to the gig and then walk home again at night.”

Mr Tait’s life will be celebrated with a service on Friday at Mortonhall Crematorium.