Shalom Hanoch pays tribute to late bluesman Ronnie Peterson

It is difficult to overestimate Peterson’s contribution to the local blues scene.

(photo credit: MATANYA TAUSIG/FLASH90)
It’s hard to take in, but a whole year has elapsed since Ronnie Peterson left us for the celestial bandstand. The German-born, American-bred longtime Israeli resident blues-rock guitarist and vocalist was only 62 when he died suddenly at the end of last September at the height of a long and fruitful career here.
Peterson first came to this part of the world in the late eighties, after Israeli rock megastar Shalom Hanoch caught his act in New York. Hanoch duly asked Peterson over here, to join him on his Rak Ben Adam tour, along with the guitarist’s bass-playing brother Ray.
Hanoch and Peterson enjoyed a highly creative synergy on stage and in the recording studio. Three years ago, Hanoch wrote a song called “Walk the Hard Way” for Peterson, and the number is now enjoying a revamped reprise in Peterson’s memory.
It is difficult to overestimate Peterson’s contribution to the local blues scene and, before long, people were dubbing him the Israeli King of Blues. He came here with the right pedigree, having mixed it with some of the genre’s greats in the US. He also helped to breathe new life into the Israeli blues scene by introducing local audiences to the likes of harmonica player-vocalist Tad Robinson and Chicagoan guitarist-vocalist Dave Specter.
Possibly the highpoint of Peterson’s musical endeavors here was when blues legend BB King performed at the ICC in Jerusalem, and he joined King on stage. When I visited Peterson, quite a few years back now, I saw a large monochrome print of the two of them on his living room wall. “Man, that was such a thrill,” Peterson chuckled, with undisguised pride.
But it wasn’t just the blues community that benefited from Peterson’s musical nous and polished riffs. A whole raft of Israeli pop-rock stars were delighted to have him up the energy ante, on stage and in the recording studio, including Rita, Yizhar Ashdot and Dafna Armoni, as well as Meir Ariel, Yuval Banai and Rami Kleinstein.
Between gigs and recording sessions Peterson invested in his own solo work, putting out five albums under his own name over the years. He also wrote music for a handful of documentaries and short films.
The local blues and rock scenes are all the poorer for Peterson’s untimely death, and Israeli music fans, not to mention Hanoch and his ilk, will, no doubt, keep his memory alive in years to come.