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Out of the Shadow: Ron Matelic's legendary bands


Ron Matelic inside Irvington Vinyl - MICHELLE CRAIG
  • Michelle Craig
  • Ron Matelic inside Irvington Vinyl

If the induction process for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was based solely on merit, then Indianapolis music legend Ron Matelic would be a serious contender for the honor. In the 1960s, Matelic co-founded Sir Winston and The Commons, one of Indiana's most revered garage rock bands. Then, in the 1970s Matelic formed the group Anonymous, whose independently released 1976 LP Inside the Shadow is widely considered a masterpiece by fans of underground psychedelic rock.

Stylistically these two projects are very different. But the uniting factor is Matelic's searing electric guitar work, creative compositions and visionary approach to crafting rock and roll music.

While the music Matelic created never rivaled the popularity of Hoosier rock superstars like John Mellencamp or Axl Rose, fans of Matelic's work would argue that the quality of his output is just as high. And the publication you hold in your hands certainly sides with that notion. When we assembled our list of 100 Best Hoosier Albums two of Matelic's projects made the cut: Both Anonymous' Inside The Shadow and a compilation of Sir Winston and The Commons singles were included in our collection of Indiana's finest LPs.

Matelic's frustrations with the music industry pushed the songwriter and guitarist to retreat deeply into his own musical world in the 1970s. The name Anonymous hints at Matelic's own view of his music-making activities at this time. During the recording of Anonymous' magnum opus Inside The Shadow, the band's public persona was virtually nil. That was a huge loss for Hoosier music fans as the epic guitar arrangements and swelling vocal harmonies on the LP rival the best classic rock music of the era. It might sound ludicrous to compare an album recorded in a garage by a group of unknown Midwestern musicians to Led Zeppelin or Fleetwood Mac, but the comparisons hold true.

For many years, Matelic's work was relegated to the collections of big league collectors who acquire original copies of Matelic's vinyl releases for upwards of one thousand dollars. But thanks to a recent reissue from Machu Picchu Records, releases by Matelic's two rarest projects Anonymous and J. Rider can now be easily attained in both digital and physical releases.

Ouput by J. Rider, Anonymous and Sir Winston and Th Commons - MICHELLE CRAIG
  • Michelle Craig
  • Ouput by J. Rider, Anonymous and Sir Winston and Th Commons


NUVO: Do you remember at what point you were first interested in playing music?

Ron Matelic: I had a sister named Shirley who was five years older than me. When she was a teenager I was exposed to Elvis, Buddy Holly and a lot of rock and roll at a very early age. I would listen to her 45s. Plus my dad worked at RCA Records and he used to bring home records. So we had a nice stash of records to play.

At one point we had a boarder at our house. She was a teacher and she had a baritone ukulele. She said I could play it whenever I wanted. It had a book with it and I figured out some chords. A year or so later my sister went to a party and she said she saw a guy at the party playing an electric guitar. She asked me why I didn't think about doing that. So I thought, "Yeah, that sounds like a good idea." I ended up borrowing a guitar and finding out that the chords were real similar to the ukulele, there was just some extra strings.

Then I found out I could listen to records and hear what they were playing. I could play by ear to some extent. I used to sit with my little RCA Victrola and my guitar and play songs over and over. I was floored by the lead to Buddy Holly's "Peggy Sue." I don't know what emotion that struck in me, but it sure did. That was around 1962 and I was probably 14 years old.

Eventually I got my own guitar a Fender Stratocaster and I started taking lessons. That opened things up for me. Surf music was happening, and my first guitar hero was Dick Dale. The way he played fascinated me. I would sit there for hours on end trying to figure out what he did. I used to buy all the surf albums I could afford.

Read an interview with Ron's son Scott Matelic -- a musician himself -- and Irvington Vinyl's Rick Wilkerson -- who reissued Matelic's work -- here.

NUVO: So this was around 1963. You're a teenager developing your proficiency on the electric guitar. Just a couple years later you'd be recording with Sir Winston and the Commons. What was the next step for you?

Matelic: My drummer John Medvescek, he and I had been friends since kindergarten. When I started playing guitar he wanted to find some drums. He bought a used set of Gretsch drums. So he and I started getting together to see what we could do. We played a party or two, just the two of us. One night we went to a dance at the Municipal Gardens on Lafayette Road. I believe Joe Stout and Don Basore [future Sir Winston & The Commons members] were both playing. We asked if they were looking for anybody else and they said yes. We got together briefly for a few practice sessions during the summer of our junior year in high school. But we let it slide. Later we got back together. We started taking it more seriously and improving. We added another guitar player. We were mostly playing surf instrumentals.

At some point we started singing. I think the first song we sang was Buddy Holly's "It's So Easy." We started acclimating to adding a few vocals. But then The Beatles hit and the whole world changed. Our music and perspective radically changed. I was so impressed by all the British groups. Eventually we started thinking, why don't we write our own songs? That's how I got started. Just trying to be like The Beatles I guess.


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