Day I met Ron Wood and Bobby Womack


Regarded as a trusted soul music journalist when this picture was taken, I was invited by a major record label to a discreet rendezvous with Bobby Womack and Ron Wood in a quiet, central London hotel room.

Wood was having a gap year from The Stones and his old pal Bobby was invited along to help him with a solo album project. Womack had been a big influence on The Stones. He had also worked with Wood before, injecting the soul on his Now Look album just after Wood vacated The Faces in 1975.

I was looking forward to a scoop, but the label didn’t want news of a Ron Wood solo album to leak just yet – I was invited to the meet-and-greet on condition I would keep quiet until they were ready.

‘The album will showcase me as an artist’, Wood told me, ‘It’s a complete departure from any off-shoot from The Stones there’s been in the past. It’s more vocal than anything I’ve done previously and I’m making my singing the priority’.

Womack told me ‘Working with Ron is giving me the opportunity to stretch my songwriting abilities and be a better producer’.

Record label boss Ralph Tee having afternoon tea with Ronnie Wood and Bobby Womack in London, 1987.

The pair of them fooled about, clearly good friends delighted to be back working with one another. Both of them also smoked like chimneys. Womack blamed his old boss and mentor Sam Cooke for getting him hooked.

‘You see, when I was sixteen I couldn’t get the girls,’ he said. ‘But I looked cool with a cigarette in my hand and it worked. I tell Ron though that if he could stop smoking for three days and hear the difference in his voice; he would never smoke again’.

Wood promised he’d try quitting for three days. Perhaps it was because of the nicotine withdrawal, but at some point soon afterwards, he decided to shelve the solo album project. Those sessions still sit in a tape vault somewhere, and one can only wonder how they sound.

I had two further encounters with Bobby Womack – the first when he woke me with a phone call at 4am one morning. I was working with Arista at the time, Bobby’s previous record label. He was unhappy with our promotional arrangements for one of his 12 inch reissues, and he let me know about it in no uncertain terms!

The second time was much less explosive. Bobby performed at the 2004 Expansion records Luxury Soul Weekender in Birmingham which DJ Richard Searling and I organised. It was great to see him again.

Ronnie and Bobby are also clearly still good friends, performing together live as recently as 2009 at the 25th Anniversary of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in New York City.

Ralph Tee was Assistant Editor of Blues & Soul, and Editor of Mix Mag in the 1980s. He wrote two books Who’s Who In Soul and The Story Of Soul in the 1990s and has been a radio presenter on Jazz FM since 1996.