Best known for his role as the musical director of the internationally acclaimed public radio show, Mountain Stage, Ron Sowell is also an accomplished singer-songwriter, guitarist, harmonica player, performer, and producer.
Growing up on the high desert plains of Roswell, New Mexico, with his fellow "aliens," Ron dedicated his early years to both music and sports. He learned to sing by mimicking his dad's high tenor in church, and he played a mean third base for his state champion little league team. At age 13, his life was altered forever when his mother bought him a guitar and lessons at a local music store (a decision she later questioned). Buoyed by her encouragement and the revelation that "girls dig it," Ron practiced till his fingers hurt and began playing in a series of rock bands and folk groups.
In high school he was crushed by the realization (and several NFL-sized linebackers) that at 5'8" and 155 pounds, a professional sports career was not in his future. So, heading off to Eastern New Mexico University with a scholarship to sing in the choir in his pocket, Ron dove headlong into developing his guitar and singing skills. It was also then that he began writing songs.
After graduation he loaded up his battered Dodge sedan and hit the road playing clubs and coffee houses. Four years later, on a brief visit to the beautiful hills of West Virginia, he felt "so right" that he unloaded his car and put down roots. There he formed two eclectic and critically acclaimed bands, "The Putnam County Pickers" and "Stark Raven." They recorded four albums and clocked thousands of miles performing across the United States, as well as touring Greenland, Iceland, Germany, Greece, Turkey, Crete, and Ethiopia.
About the same time, Ron joined a fledgling local radio show called Mountain Stage as the resident guitar and harmonica player, eventually becoming the music director. Still thriving 32 years later, Mountain Stage is a staple of NPR programming and can be heard each week on over 140 public radio stations nationwide. On the show he has accompanied hundreds of performers including Sarah McLachlan, Lyle Lovett, Kathy Mattea, and folk legends Tom Paxton and Odetta.
As a soloist, he has been featured on several occasions with the Charleston & Wheeling Symphonies. An award winning songwriter, he placed second in the prestigious songwriting contest at Doc Watson’s Merle Fest and first at the inaugural Rocket Boys Festival. He has three solo CD’s to his credit: Oil and Water, Little Movies, and a collection of songs for children, Opposite Day.
Ron has also produced CD’s for many other artists, including mandolin virtuoso Johnny Staats' Wires and Wood (Giant Records 2001, co-produced with John Van Meter). In 2002 he co-founded the nationally acclaimed Mountain Stage NewSong Contest and produces the popular Woody Hawley Concert Series, an annual singer/songwriter series based in Charleston, WV. In addition, he was awarded the Golden Mic for writing and producing the best original jingle in the United States for the West Virginia Lottery.