The Great Pretenders in 2005 - Photo by Marcella Volpintesta - Provided Courtesy of Steve Cavanaugh
The Great Pretenders
Photo by Marcella Volpintesta
The Great Pretenders
Tacoma, Washington
1971 - 2017


Brad Cyrier ~ Guitar, Vocals
Charlie Hollis ~ Vocals
Jere Knutsen ~ Saxophone, Vocals
Dan Mohler ~ Bass, Vocals
Art Pedersen ~ Guitar
Mike Scruggs ~ Drums
Steve Vincent ~ Keyboards


Billy Barner ~ Drums, Vocals
Jim "J.D." Boggs ~ Bass, Vocals
Richard Booth ~ Drums, Vocals
Tom Brain ~ Bass, Vocals
Penny (Anderson) Capps ~ Vocals
Steve Cavanaugh ~ Guitar
Mike Dauer ~ Drums , Vocals
Frank Arlo Emerson ~ Saxophone, Vocals
Rich Howes ~ Saxophone, Vocals
Becky Middleton ~ Backup Vocals
Jeff Morgan ~ Keyboards, Harp, Vocals
Rick Nordquist ~ Bass, Vocals
Ken Parypa ~ Bass, Vocals
Ed Petersen ~ Keyboards
Jamie Reno ~ Drums, Vocals
Gerry Roslie ~ Keyboards, Vocals
Mary (Madlung) Roslie ~ Drums , Vocals
Art Shore ~ Saxophone, Vocals
Ron Smith ~ Guitar, Bass, Vocals
Doug Skoog ~ Keyboards, Vocals


In Memory of

Jim "J.D." Boggs
Ken Parypa
Ron Smith

The Great Pretenders in 1990 - Photo courtesy of Jamie Reno
The Great Pretenders in 1990 - Photo courtesy of Jamie Reno
Ron Smith, Frank Emerson, Jamie Reno. Charlie Hollis, Tom Brian, Doug Skoog

The Great Pretenders in 1995 - Photo courtesy of Jamie Reno
The Great Pretenders in 1995 - Photo courtesy of Jamie Reno
Tom Brian, Jamie Reno, Ed Peterson, Steve Cavanaugh
Rich "Fats" House, Charlie Hollis, Ron Smith

The Great Pretenders - Photo By Steve Cavanaugh... Courtesy of Bill Barner
Puyallup Indian Chief Herman Dillon's birthday party on the Emerald Queen in 2001.
Left to right are: Steve, Ed, Tom, Billy, Charlie, Chief Herman Dillon, Jere, Ron and Brad
Photo By Steve Cavanaugh... Courtesy of Bill Barner

The Great Pretenders.  Photo by Dale Marie, provided courtesy of Bill Barner
Charlie Hollis, Tom Brain, Jere Knudtsen, Brad Crier
Steve Cavanaugh, Ed Petersen, Ron Smith, Billy Barner
Photo By: Dale Marie, Courtesy of Bill Barner

The Great Pretenders Today - Photo by: Dale Marie - Courtesy of Ron Smith
Photo By: Dale Marie

Dan and Charlie - The Swiss Club - Bonney Lake, WA, May 2005 - Photo by Sammy Carlson (The Web Slave)
Dan and Charlie - The Swiss Club - Bonney Lake, WA, May 2005 - Photo by Sammy Carlson (The Web Slave)

Pierce County loses a local legend of rock ‘n’ roll

The death of celebrated musician, Ron Smith, leaves a large void in Pierce County’s music scene

By Andrew Fickes - The Puyallup Herald

Ron Smith - Photo by Steve CavanaughThe Great Pretenders, one of the most successful rock  ‘n’ roll cover bands of the past 40 years in greater Pierce County, had Ron Smith as its secret weapon — a behind-the-scenes cracker-jack guitarist fueled by golden bass pipes that would catapult audiences back to the 1950s atop songs like “Mother-in-Law” and “Young Blood.”

An iconic figure of music history in Pierce County died on Jan. 30, when Smith, 67, passed away after a courageous battle with prostate cancer. A memorial service to honor the musician’s life will be held on the afternoon of Sunday, June 26 (Smith’s birthday), at the Swiss Hall in Bonney Lake.

Louisa Smith, his wife of 27 years, said her husband dedicated his life to music. She said that making a lot of money was not a goal her husband set, just as long as he had enough to support his hobby.

 “He was a musician through and through,” Louisa Smith said. “The band was like a first wife that never went away.”

Louisa Smith said she was like a den mother to the band. She went to almost every show since she met Smith in September 1978 and continuing on after the couple married in March 1984. The band is really like a family, she said.

For 40 years, Smith and co-founder Charlie Hollis performed together as The Great Pretenders with lineups that came and went. Hollis believes the band has welcomed as many as 26 musicians into its ranks over the years. Hollis said he’s unsure of what direction the band will take now that Smith has passed away. He only knows that a great musician and a genuine human being has been lost.

Smith and Hollis forged a 43-year friendship in 1968 when 1950s rock ‘n’ roll wasn’t heavily played and sought after. To be cool, Smith and Hollis tried penning pyschedelic rock. In retrospect, Hollis said their original material was rubbish.

“When we started (the band) we just left all the original stuff in the dust,” Hollis said. “It all came together in the summer of 1971. We thought it would be fun to play old rock ‘n’ roll like Chuck Berry, Ricky Nelson and the Beach Boys. That’s what we grew up on and no one was doing this in the immediate area.”

Hollis and Smith were products of Puyallup High School. Smith graduated in 1962. Hollis graduated in 1966.

But it wasn’t until after high school that the two fledgling musicians connected in the basement of a Tacoma home. Hollis said the first thing  he  heard that pivotal night was Smith’s bellowing bass vocal.

“I admired Ron and his talent,” Hollis said. “He had a wonderful bass voice. He was a wonderful friend.”

In May 1973, The Great Pretenders got their first break when it became the weekend house band at the Firwood Tavern in Fife. Over the next 20 years, the tavern would be the band’s home — their bona fide Cavern Club.

“We fell in love with it and it fell in love with us,” Hollis said. “It was our heyday of Northwest rock ‘n’ roll in the 1970s and 1980s.”

In addition to his memorable performances on stage, Smith was also known for his fellowship with area musicians at his home in Bonney Lake. When musicians said, “Let’s head to Smitty’s garage,” it meant they were going to visit Smith in his musical sanctuary.

Lance Kent, the lead singer of local rock group 3rd Degree Burn, was a budding musician who made friends with Smith six years ago. Kent met Smith through a mutual friend who was teaching him guitar at the time. At 36, Kent visualized in Smith what he could become 30 years into the future.

Today, at 42, Kent leads his band and has built a love for blues rock blossomed from his late night chats with Smith.

“Ron was probably one of the most genuine people you could know in your life,” Kent said. “In a person’s life, you very seldom meet anyone that  has a real impact on how your life shapes out, but for me, that was Ron. He passed everything along to me of who he was and what he did. I  feel obligated to carry on the torch.”

Smith performed his last show with The Great Pretenders on Dec. 31, 2010 at a New Year’s Eve party held at the Buckley Eagles Club. Just a month later, he passed away.

Andrew Fickes - The Puyallup Herald (photo by Steve Cavanaugh)

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Last Update:  24 October 2017
Credits: Jeff Morgan, "Bugman", Louisa Smith, Barry Breen, Bill Barner, Steve Cavanaugh, Ron Smith, Dale Marie (photos), Art Shore, Sammy Carlson (photo), Marcella Volpintesta (photo), Arlo Emerson, Jamie Reno, The Puyallup Herald
Band # 580