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Saturday, November 27, 2021

Local bassist leads from the background, connects musicians

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Bassist Ronald Hedrick, also known as Poncho, does not typically stand at the front of the stage when he performs. Instead of soaking up the limelight, this cool and quiet leader focuses on keeping the band together and playing his notes correctly without overpowering the music — like a solid bass line.

Poncho, 46, has been performing in Indianapolis for about 25 years. He is a member of five bands —Entry Point, The Unit, Sidewalk Souls, The Dopacetics and the band for Teresa Reynolds — and he is the leader for Blackberry Jam-Productions. He practices about five hours and performs at least once a week at a local bar, music venue or church.

Poncho’s interest in playing the bass started when he was about 7, watching the smooth choreography of bassists such as BrownMark from Prince and The Revolution on BET’s Video Soul. However, he didn’t start playing until he was 21, when he went to an IRC Music store to get an instrument fixed and ended up attending about six weeks of bass lessons.

Poncho’s first gig with a group was later that year at Wishard Hospital, now Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital — the hospital he was born at. He wore a black and yellow baseball cap and black Miles Davis T-shirt with the sleeves torn to show off his guns, he said.

“If I found that video, I would look at it now and I would just cringe,” he said.
Poncho said this isn’t just because of the fashion but also because he focused more on showmanship than playing. Now, he still incorporates some of the swagger he witnessed in music videos, but he is more concentrated on being precise and entertaining the crowd.

Guitarist Brian Weir-Harden, 47, said multiple groups, including his band Sidewalk Souls, have sought out Poncho because of his professionalism.

Singer Teresa Reynolds, 40, said Poncho was the first person she called and asked to join her band. Reynolds said even though she is the lead, she asks Poncho for advice on different aspects of the show, such as the setlist.

“Poncho is so solid,” Reynolds said.

As a respected musician, Poncho has made many contacts in the Indianapolis music scene. Drummer Matthew Dupree, 36, said Poncho knows almost everyone at every gig and enjoys bringing musicians together, and Poncho introduced him to four musicians at a recent rehearsal.

Weir-Harden said Poncho uses these connections not only to build relationships between musicians but also create platforms for new artists.

Aquilah Hedrick, lead singer for Blackberry Jam-Productions and Poncho’s niece, said when she was 15 Poncho organized her first solo performance. He formed her band, served as the band director, gave her tips on how to improve her stage presence, booked a club and convinced that club to allow teenagers to attend the show. Poncho also made sure she thanked the venue and reminded people to tip their bartenders.
These connections with other musicians also allow Poncho to explore and perform multiple genres of music, including reggae, country, jazz and hip-hop. And the more genres he performs the more musicians he gets to meet, the more bands he gets to lead, the more audiences he gets to entertain and the more opportunities he gets to be the suave background leader.

Contact staff writer Madison Smalstig at 317-924-5143. Follow her on Twitter @madi_smals.

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