Happy Ron Hill – the San Diego Jester Who’s King of the Open Mic

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It goes without saying that there are a lot of great musicians and a lot of different personalities out here on the San Diego music scene. To say that Happy Ron Hill is one of the more colorful ones would be an understatement. With music described as a cross between Sinatra and South Park, Happy Ron Hill is a local fan favorite. The Happy man can be best described as the king of the San Diego open mics. In fact, he recently performed a milestone 1,500th show! I got a chance to do a phone interview with him where he talks about the just played 1,500th show, his ring tone (downloaded over 200,000 times!), his new tv show, and his long-held vision for a South Park guest appearance.

You have been doing this for a while; take me back to the beginning. What made you decide- okay I’m going to start playing open mics?
In 1997, I took a class on the Spiritual Approach to music dealing with anxiety and fears. And before I knew it, I had done 12 open mics!

The first one you played, how did it go?
The first time on stage was in the class; they made you get up and play a song. I was really nervous. The instructor was yelling, “Project! Project!” But I didn’t. Next time I played, I started projecting, really loud, and the instructor started yelling, “Less Project! Less Project!”

Have all of the 1,500 shows been in SD or do you play other places?
I have traveled around, done some shows in Los Angeles, Vegas, and San Francisco. But most of the shows were in San Diego. Probably about 1450 of them were here.

What’s your favorite thing about open mics?
I like playing in front of audiences. Most of my songs are sing-a-longs so people have gotten to know them over the years. They’re participatory songs. They make people feel like they are part of something, like “Terribly Happy.” At this point in the interview, Happy Ron spontaneously busts into a few lines of the song:

Been packing groceries for twenty-five years
Been looking for ways to pack up my tears
So I write my songs and I make them snappy
And it makes me feel terribly happy
(terribly happy, terribly happy, terribly happy)

I really believe we are in the Golden Age of open mics- the last 10 years have been the best!

What’s the best part about the open mic scene?
The community of people that come together. My intention is to just have a good time. There’s not a lot of pressure, I just show up and play. Performing and the local performers- that’s what it’s about. It really is a great community of talented artists.

Most memorable open mic?
On my birthday, I got to play for a 30 minute set, all my friends came out. During the set I felt something fly by my head and someone yelled out “quit throwing your tampons at Happy Ron!”

What makes a good open mic?
You never know what’s going to happen. Sometimes there are 2 people in the audience. It’s totally unpredictable. You can have a show for 5 people and have a good time. I started out with no training, and doing all the open mics helped shape my act and stage persona. It’s a great way to learn. And it keeps you motivated because you always have a show coming up.

Okay, you’ve done 1,500 shows. How many more do you want to do?
I’m not trying to set a record, but I can’t imagine stopping. I figure I can do about 250 a year. So in another 6 years, I will have 3,000 shows! Plus, I watch less tv this way.

What’s the next step in your career? What do you want to achieve?
I’m currently trying out for America’s Got Talent, for the second time. I’m also filming for So-Cal Showcase, which is a ½ hr show- 10 minutes of interview and 20 minutes of performance. It’s going to be on Time Warner Cable. It’s a great experience!
But what I really want is to someday appear on South Park and sing (one of his songs) “Allergic To Nature” (and again, he graces me with a few verses). And I just formed a new band–The Smoothies! It’s my first attempt at a Frank Sinatra vibe. I like playing in a band–I can jump around more; I can act like a big fool on stage. It makes the show more exciting.

Tell me about this ring tone that you have.
Yes, it just went over 200,000 downloads! I took my song “Boy Toy” (again, a few verses shared) and tweaked it to a ring tone. I always walk around saying “happy, happy, happy” all day and now 200,000 people have it as a ring tone!

And there you have it, folks. Check Happy Ron Hill out on his-

website
Facebook

Or anywhere there is an open mic going down!

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