Ron Banks, whose silky falsetto helped give the Dramatics one of the most enduring careers in R&B, has joined the ancestors. Banks passed at 58 years of age at home in the Motor City. He died of a massive heart attack.
The Northern High School graduate was the founder of the Detroit vocal group, which made a name in the mid-'60s and went on to play for avid audiences around North America. Aside from a short break in the mid-1980s, the group has worked continuously since. To illustrate that point, a former Dramatic, Steve Boyd, recently performed in Toronto with George Clinton and sang most of the lead parts of the Parliament/Funkadelic catalogue.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I am probably the Dramatics’ greatest fan. I saw them every time they came to Toronto. In fact, I had the distinction of seeing both sets of the Dramatics here: I saw the William “Wee Gee” Howard and Elbert Wilkins set at the Le Coq D'Or; and the Ron Bank’s formation at the Colonial Tavern; both clubs situated on Yonge Street.
Howard shared leads with Banks on "In The Rain," "Thank You For Your Love," "Fall In Love, Lady Love," and "Hey You! Get Off My Mountain." Actually, Howard dedicated "Hey You! Get Off My Mountain" to theToronto police department, when his set of Dramatics performed in Toronto. He felt he was unjustly harassed by Toronto's finest.
With the departure of Howard, Banks would trade vocals with Reynolds on "Fell For You," "Me And Mrs. Jones," "Be My Girl," "And I Panicked," “(I'm Going By) The Stars In Your Eyes," "I Can't Get Over You," and "Treat Me Like A Man." This particular set of Dramatics also recorded "Doggy Dogg World" with Snoop Dogg.
When Banks’ set of Dramatics played at the Colonial he tore the house up when he performed Marvin Gaye's "Inner City Blues".
The Dramatics were also mentioned in the novel The Algiers Motel Incident by John Hersey. They were staying at the Algiers Motel, following a performance at Detroit's Fox Theatre, during an alleged murder by members of the Detroit Police Department, (which was one of the incidents which sparked the Detroit Riots of 1967.)
One of the last times I saw the group, in the flesh, was in 1985 at the Network on Pears Avenue. On that occasion, Howard had been reunited with the group which at the time also featured Banks, Willie Ford, and Lenny Mayes. In 1985, the group recorded “Somewhere In Time (A Dramatic Reunion)” which was well-received, with audiences being treated to the vocals of Howard, Reynolds and Banks.
Banks, like Otis Williams of the Temptations, had an ear for talent. When Howard left the Dramatics the first time, Banks attempted to recruit Teddy Pendergrass who had recently joined Harold Melvin's Blue Notes. This occurred before the group had signed with Philadelphia International. Pendergrass wrote about this in his autobiography, Truly Blessed.
Says Pendergrass, “During one engagement, I was directly approached by Ron Banks, lead singer of the Dramatics. ’How'd you like to join our group as the lead singer?’ he asked. Wow, I thought. The Detroit quintet was going places; they’d just had a top ten hit with "Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get" on Volt. It was a great record, and I must admit, I was flattered. But after thinking it over, I politely turned down the offer.”
Banks is survived by his wife, Sandy Banks, four daughters and two sons. He was preceded in death by Dramatic members Elbert Wilkins, William “Wee Gee” Howard, Lenny Mayes and James Mack Brown.