DR. RON KENOLY

 THE PROFESSOR OF PRAISE

 

    Before there was Israel Haughton and Martha Munizzi, there was Ron Kenoly. With
    five million in sales and four RIAA certified gold recordings, Kenoly has remained   
    the  top-selling praise and worship artist in the world. His uplifting paeans such as   
    "Lift Him Up," "Let Everything That Has Breath Praise The Lord” and "Use   
    Me" (which he co-wrote) are regular fare at Charismatic churches around the globe.
    In the four years since his last recording, Kenoly has survived heart surgery, hired    
    his first manager and teamed up with his sons’ Next Generation Ministry Records  
    (NGMR) label to produce his excellent new CD, Fill the Earth. It’s been a  
    privileged journey for a man of humble beginnings.

 

The third of six sons, Ron was born December 6, 1944 in Coffeyville, Kansas where he knew both joy and heartache. "My mother put happiness and love into our household," he says of his now 78-year old mother, Edith, who worked as a housemaid. "We were poor, but she made us so happy that we didn't realize we were poor." Ron's paternal influence was not as strong. "My father was in the military and gone all of the time," he says. After high school, Ron ventured to Hollywood. Faced with poor job prospects, he joined the Air Force in 1965. While in the military, Ron met and married his wife, Tavita. During this time he also joined the Mellow Fellows, a Top 40 cover band which toured military installations. "I can remember in our neighborhood there was one family that owned a TV," Ron recalls. "On Saturday nights they would turn it around and put it in the front window, facing the street, so everybody else could watch. I remember seeing Sammy Davis Jr. and Nat King Cole for the first time, and I was profoundly impressed that here were two black men on a national stage -- highly respected and highly talented. I knew right then that was what I wanted."

 

In 1968 Ron left the Air Force and resettled in Los Angeles where he planned to seek his fortune in the music business. Over the next few years, Ron launched his career by singing demos of Jimmy Webb ("MacArthur Park") songs for the Audio Arts label. He also released his first single, "The Glory of Your Love (Mine Eyes Have Seen)," for the company. This opportunity led to recording deals with MCA, United Artists and Warner Brothers. However, it was at A&M Records that Ron had his greatest secular success. Label execs changed his name to Ron Keith because they "Thought an Italian last name would confuse the R&B marketplace," Ron laughs. Simply entitled Ron Keith & the Ladies, the A&M album featured the R&B hit "I Betcha I'll Get Ya" and "Soul Vaccination" which was later covered by Tower of Power.

 

As his career took shape, Ron's family life suffered. He worshiped his career and neglected his wife and kids. His marriage became abusive -- emotionally and physically. They separated and were nearing a divorce. "My wife rededicated her life to the Lord in 1975 and began praying for the healing of our family," Ron recalls. "I began to realize the goodness of God because I could see the changes He was making in her life and I could see that while I never lost respect for God, I had never had a strong spiritual life. That's when the lights began to come on for me.” Ron remained in R&B music another year to fulfill contractual commitments. When he left L.A., he relocated to Oakland, CA. There he took the humbling job of passing out towels at the Alameda College locker room while taking night courses. "I just surrendered my life to the Lord, allowing Him to do some character building in me, says Ron. "I had to learn to be a husband and a father, and I had to learn how to relate to God as a father.”

 

Ron taught music and physical education at Alameda College from 1978 to 1982. Still, the fire to sing burned within him. Ron tried four years to get a gospel record deal to no avail. "It was a real low point," he recalls. "But as much as I loved music, I loved God more. I couldn't go back to secular music even if it meant never singing again." One summer's eve Ron sat alone in church for hours, playing, singing, praying, worshipping and laying his burdens before the Lord. "From that night on, the record companies ceased to matter. The Lord had met me and shown me so much that I felt I had gone beyond what any company could offer me. Acceptance and rejection didn't matter anymore because all I knew was that I had been with God."

 

Ron left the church that night with nothing but a desire to worship and praise God, and to lead others in doing the same. Ron produced a custom-made album entitled, You Ought To Listen To This, in 1983 and sold it wherever he sang. Soon, word of Ron's musical talents began to spread around the Oakland area, and he found himself invited to lead praise and worship at numerous churches. "I didn't even think of myself as a praise and worship leader," Ron says. "All I knew was I would go and sing my songs and something special would happen."

 

Leading worship for high-profile pastors like Lester Sumerall and Jack Hayford brought Ron to the attention of evangelist Mario MuriIlo who commissioned Ron to lead worship at his crusades. Through Murillo, Ron met Pastor Dick Bernal, who founded the Jubilee Christian Center, a congregation in San Jose, CA. Ron became the church's music minister in 1987 and was content to stay there without the thought of ever recording again. But, in 1990 Don Moen, then the creative director for Integrity Music, heard about Ron's ministry and approached him about the possibility of recording one of his praise services.

 

Ron's first album Jesus Is Alive was released in 1992 and became a surprise hit. What followed was Lift Him Up which has since sold a half million copies and won an Angel Award in 1993. The worship hits kept coming. The God Is Able set broke records for praise music and Billboard magazine voted Sing Out with One Voice the #1 independent Christian music album of 1995. The next year's Welcome Home album earned Ron his first Dove Award. His last recording was 2001’s Dwell in the House, which was a first-round Grammy award nominee. Not long after that project, Kenoly endured heart bypass surgery and spent a year recovering. After changing his diet and starting a gym workout routine, Kenoly changed some other things in his life. Although, he never had a manager before, he appointed his son, Sam, as his manager and restructured his ministry office. Kenoly also opted not to renew his contract with Integrity Music and decided to join forces with his sons’ NGMR Records label to create his new project, Fill the Earth.

 

"I'm still trying to figure out what all of this means," Ron muses. "I want to be a good steward of what God has given me, not just in terms of music, but in life experience and valuable lessons I can pass on to others... I've never had a manager, a promoter, a booking agent. It's all just been the Sovereign work of God. This is God's music and God's agenda. My main concern is just to always do with it what He wants me to do."




Web Hosting Companies