White Trash Bluesman Ron Hacker

Ron Hacker-209-M

It rained in Reno this afternoon, and Buddy Emmer was concerned there might also be inclement weather in South Lake Tahoe and that it would affect the turnout of Harrah’s Monday Night Summer Blues. But Emmer, the bandleader of the house band, didn’t consider three factors that will not dampen the spirits of free concertgoers.

  •  “They Call it Stormy Monday.” Every blues follower already knows that.
  •  The gig is indoors.
  •  Ron Hacker is the guest artist.

A San Francisco treat, the 69-year-old Hacker has been the Saturday night hero at the Saloon in North Beach practically since the neighborhood was a hangout for Beat poets Allen Ginsberg and Michael McClure.
Hacker’s debut at the weekly show at Harrah’s on April 1 was usurped due to health concerns. “The altitude got to me,” Hacker told Tahoe Onstage the next day. “I had a heart attack about seven years ago and my heart is a bit damaged and I just wasn’t getting enough air. But I’m OK now.”
Hacker vowed to return the next month and on May 20 he did just that. The show was photographed by Tahoe Onstage shooter Kurt Johnson.

“Hacker’s songs start like a freight train you hear coming in the distance and it just builds and builds,” Johnson said. “With the low tone of Ron’s voice, he growls out the lyrics in a style all his own. His slide guitar technique that he uses on an old acoustic guitar is amazing to see and hear.”

Emmer agreed.

“He channels the old-school guys,” Emmer said. “He’s not worried about trying to be a modern-day technical wizard. He’s really authentic.”

Hacker’s authenticity was once questioned by a Bay Area writer who said white men cannot play real blues because they don’t know about hardship. Hacker explicitly repudiated the writer in his autobiography, “White Trash Bluesman,” an entertaining and shocking page turner. Hacker’s graphicly detailed hardships started with his very first memory. Check out the book to learn about his singular tale of a lifetime of paying his dues to play blues. Music, in fact, is only mentioned in the last couple pages, almost as an afterthought.

Harrah’s weekly show moved on July 1 from Tuesdays to Mondays and attendance has surged.

“It’s been our best three weeks,” Emmer said. “People have been hanging out all night.”

The shows, which start at 8 p.m. and finish at midnight, open with a set by the Buddy Emmer Blues Band. A guest artist appears for the second and third sets. Emmer, a superb guitarist, improvises with the guest, who usually is a guitarist.

Harrah’s Monday Night Summer Blues

Where: Center Stage, casino floor
House band: Buddy Emmer Blues Band
Times: 8 p.m. to midnight
Cover: free
Guest artists
July 29 – Ron Hacker
Aug. 5 – Rich Maloon
Aug. 12 – Jeff Watson
Aug. 19—Rick Hammond
Aug. 26 – Maxx Cabello Jr.


About Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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