Jamming Through the Days

Deidra Bowling-Meade

The Ashland Beacon

     In the words of ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, “turn on, tune up and rock out!” Ashland cover artist Ryan Bonner is a must-see!  He performs classic rock and blues hits at several surrounding venues.  If the name Ryan Bonner sounds familiar to you, it might be due to his other roles in the Ashland community.  Bonner worked as a special education teacher for Ashland Independent School District and serves as assistant basketball coach for the Ashland Tomcats.  Bonner also played varsity basketball and football for the Ashland Tomcats from 2005-2009.

   When Bonner isn’t working, he is playing music and spending time with his wife Chelsea and daughter Lakyn.  Bonner discussed how he balances all the responsibilities, “I play music the first week of April til Thanksgiving.  Then, basketball season starts.  On average, I’m playing every other weekend during that time. There are nights where I might leave the house at 6 p.m, not play til 8 p.m. and then not get home til midnight.  Chelsea is very supportive.  She sometimes brings Lakyn, and she stands out front to dance.  It’s hilarious!”  Bonner jokes, “Chelsea even lets me buy guitars that are way too expensive.  I asked permission.  There’s no way I could sneak that by her!” Bonner’s current guitars of choice are his Martin DC 13E acoustic guitar and Standard Gibson Les Paul electric guitar.   

   Chelsea Bonner shared her admiration of Bonner, “I love Ryan’s heart and passion for music. He is a very talented musician, but he is an even better person. He really enjoys being able to play locally in our hometown and using music as a positive way to bring people in our community together. He has also had fun introducing our daughter, Lakyn, to music. She loves to strum the guitar, play the drums and has a blast when we have family jam sessions! Music has brought so much joy and laughter into our home, and I’m thankful Ryan has the opportunity to share it with others.”

   Bonner started playing live music about ten years ago when he attended college. That’s where he met Nathan and Jonathan Watts. Bonner exclaimed, “I lucked out big time with that!”  Nathan Watts played the bass while Jonathan Watts played drums. The Watts brothers will be coming to the Tomcat Bourbon and Brewhouse to perform with Bonner during his last show of the year in November.  Bonner also started playing with local talent Devon Hale in 2017; they usually perform an acoustic set with 10-12 shows a year.  Currently, Bonner sings and plays lead guitar with the Ryan Bonner Trio.  Steve McGuire plays bass and Graham Leitner plays drums for the trio.  The trio started within the last couple of years after Bonner bought a house in South Ashland.  The neighbor introduced himself, which happened to be McGuire.  They started having jam sessions together, which then led to them booking shows.  

   Bonner’s investment in performing music is growing.  Bonner stated, “I’m having a blast playing! I feel that I’ve made the most growth this summer because I networked and met people to see what makes them successful and go far.  I see a correlation between playing music and being on a sports team.  We work together toward a common goal and building success.  Both require lots of hard work.”  Bonner commends his parents for being an influence on him musically, “They were always playing musicians like Eric Clapton when we rode home in the car. Being exposed to it from a young age, made me realize how much I liked music.”  Bonner also looks up to local artists for inspiration.  Bonner was star-struck when Craig Burletic, who is a local artist and guitar player for Tyler Childers, showed up to hear him play.   Burletic praised Bonner, "Ryan has a great voice, great song selection and can really pick that guitar. Since we've moved to Ashland, he's been a staple in the scene here performing and attending shows."

   Bonner finds the best part of playing music is simply getting friends and family together.  Music will always be part of Bonner’s life, and he is looking forward to the next phase of writing his own material.  Bonner announced, “I hope by spring to have original material.  I just started dipping my toes into writing.  Writing your own songs really expands what you can do.”  Bonner aspires to one day perform on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee.  When he eventually retires, Ryan declares, “All I’m going to do is play music and be with my family.”

   Bonner will be joining local artist Devon Hale in Milton, West Virginia on Friday, October 28 at the Venetian from 7 -10 p.m. The address is 1742 Midland Trail U.S. 60. Then, Bonner will conclude his year at the Tomcat Bourbon & Brew House on Wednesday, November 23 from 8 -11 p.m.  Jamming with Ryan Bonner is something you don’t want to miss!  Molly Page, who is a local musician and colleague of Bonner, signified it best, " I really enjoy listening to Ryan as both lead vocalist, as well as when he's doing backup vocals and lead guitar. I think it's really important to show up for the people in your music community- Ryan makes that easy to do!"

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