When the name of singer Ronnie Dove is mentioned, the phase "Baltimore's own" usually precedes it.
Although born in Herndon, Va., Dove has been part of Baltimore's popular music scene since the mid-1950s. Retirement is not in his vocabulary. He'll be singing tonight in Queenstown at the Bay Country Moose Lodge. In February, he's leading a Caribbean cruise.
"I sang all through high school," he said the other day from his home in Pasadena. He credited his grandmother as his musical inspiration. She sang the songs of Al Jolson, Bing Crosby and Johnny Ray. He also sang in his high school glee club.
He went into the Coast Guard and was assigned to Baltimore, where he often worked at the foot of Clinton Street at a yard that held buoys used in the harbor and the shipping channel.
He recalls the "yellow sulfur" haze that hung over the old waterfront. He carried his guitar into Elmer's bar (bikers and mariners) at Pratt and Light streets, where he sang the songs of Elvis Presley.
He got out of the Coast Guard in 1959 and began appearing with his band, the Bell Tones. They appeared at classic nightspots of that era -- the old Spa on Charles Street and at The Block, as well as Cicero's in Oldtown.
Blessed with a baritone voice, he had TV appearances with Ed Sullivan, Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin and Dick Clark. The hits came -- "Say You," "One Kiss for Old Time's Sake," "Right or Wrong," and "A Little Bit of Heaven." When the 1970s disco sound came in, Dove, as his official biography notes, "took a well deserved and needed rest." He bought a nightclub called the Carriage House in Augusta, Ga., and played a lot of golf.
He moved back to the Baltimore area and for a few years he took care of his ailing mother. He also had an operation on his knee.
"I still love to sing," he said. He keeps a full line of his songs available to the public through compact discs, and women tell him he still makes them feel that he is singing just to them.