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The Sixth Generation member to host free concert Sunday in Niles

NILES — One of Niles’ own rock and rollers is returning home this weekend to play a show for fans in the area. Ron Hamrick, a member of the band The Sixth Generation, will play a free solo performance at the Riverfront Park amphitheater from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 24.


The show came about after numerous requests from old friends and fans in the region. Hamrick has history in the area as both a musician and as a resident. He was born and raised in Niles, living there until graduation from Niles High School in 1967. Though he now resides in Virginia, Niles is often on his mind.


“Niles is home,” he said. “I really enjoyed growing up there. I think fondly of it.”


It was in Niles that Hamrick had his start in music. He was taught to play the ukulele by an aunt and soon moved on to keyboard lessons at the early age of five years old. Though his parents didn’t play music themselves, they were encouraging and bought him his first organ. Though he initially listened to classical music, rock and roll soon found its way into his life. The moment he saw The Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show altered his path forever.


“They changed the world,” he said. “The sound, the attitude, it was something new. The crowd went wild. When I saw all of those screaming girls in the audience of the Ed Sullivan Show, I determined I was going to do some rock and roll.”


He formed a band, playing his first gig at the age of 14. That group lasted a few years, experiencing a variety of name changes and shifts in line up as they played locally at teen dances. In high school in 1966, he formed the band The Sixth Generation with friends Dave Walenga, Paul Davies, Fred Bachman, and John Dale. He knew Tommy James and members of the Shondells, even sitting in on their practices. Watching them succeed on a national level,, he and Sixth Generation were inspired to aim high themselves.


They started playing dances in the region, finding a manager and expanding their reach. Eventually, they were opening for bands like The Buckinghams, The Kingsmen, The Box Tops, and Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels. Hamrick described the experience of going from listening to those musicians on the radio to playing with them.


“It was thrilling,” he said. “It was like another level of recognition.”


The Sixth Generation would continue until they were in college and their studies began to take precedence. The band ended as they looked toward their careers and moved on with their lives. Hamrick himself found work in the information technology industry, eventually climbing the ladder to CEO of an international technology services company and overseeing thousands of employees around the world.


The sun was yet to set on The Sixth Generation, however. As they all neared retirement, Hamrick received a call from Walenga. He met him and Dale, who was also living nearby and reminisced about their rock and roll days.


“We thought, what the heck, why don’t we just get the other guys and get together?” Hamrick said.


The band put together a show in Mishawaka in October of 2010. Though they did not advertise, word leaked out and a number of their old fans showed up. The crowd was dancing and having fun, while the band clicked together.


“It didn’t take long at all and it was like we had never been off the stage together,” Hamrick said.


With the joy of the event and the band members all nearing or already retired from their careers, The Sixth Generation reformed. They started booking new gigs and recorded the song Hamrick had written for that night, “That Was The Time.” The title was a spin on one of their original songs, “This Is The Time”, with lyrics about the band playing dances back in the late sixties. It was not only a hit with their old fans, but spread worldwide, with some help from Hamrick’s friends around the world from his career.


“All of a sudden, all over the US, all over Europe and southeast Asia and even in Africa, people were listening to our music,” he said.


The song reached as far as Australia and even Antarctica. The Sixth Generation started booking shows throughout the Midwest and on the East Coast. Another of Hamrick’s compositions, “Dance on the Wind”, reached the producer of the television show “Do You Have a Hit Song?” and the band was invited to do a worldwide broadcast from the show’s studio in Florida. The band toured in England numerous songs written by Hamrick became hits, rising on the Billboard charts and one receiving a Grammy nomination.


Though the band eventually wound down again in 2017, Hamrick continues to write and perform. He was honored as an inductee in the Michigan Rock & Roll Legends Hall of Fame. He has regular requests for bookings both in the United States and overseas. He even received a note of appreciation from Willie Nelson’s granddaughter about his song “When Willie Comes to Town”.


With all of his achievements, Hamrick still looks at his return to his home to play as a highlight. The free show will take place Sunday, September 24th, from 2-5pm, at the Riverfront Park amphitheater. During the show, he will be collecting tips that will be donated to Ferry Street Resource Center. For more information, you can visit ronhamrick.com or find him on Facebook at @RonHamrickMusic.


Justin Flagel is the founder of Red Chuck Productions, where he writes, tells stories, and creates new media. Follow his work at redchuckproductions.com. Feedback can be directed to contact@redchuckproductions.com.


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