Ron Bykowski RIP?

It was posted on the Eddie Hazel Facebook page yesterday that apparently Ron passed away … FIVE YEARS AGO?? How is it even possible that this guy was so under the radar and MIA that no one in the P-Funk universe knew about this or mentioned it and it happened in 2014? I’ve always found him to be a fascinating figure; he had great guitar sounds, was the only white guy in the blackest band on earth (until Rick Gardner came in), played on several seminal albums (Cosmic Slop, Standing on the Verge, Up For The Downstroke, Let’s Take it to the Stage) and left right before they became massively famous the next year. No interviews exist with him, no stories he has told about his contributions, no one seems to know what happened to him after he left and now he’s been dead for 4 years and no one knew? I find this totally tragic.

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Yeah he’s great! The polyester soul-powered token white devil :slight_smile: . There’s so few photos of him, besides that Cosmic Slop video.

bykowski

There’s really not a lot of info about where this info came from. If I remember correctly, somebody saw a post from a family member that he was dead, but is it really the same Ron Bykowski? I don’t konw, but I hope it’s not. But if it is, it’s real sad.

@Mutron Welcome to the forum!

Man this is crazy I had a dream the other night where I met and interviewed Ron Bykowski. Mind boggling. In the dream he was saying he played the solos on stuff we thought was Eddie.
Another that seemed to evaporate after their association with The Funks was Ruth Copeland.

That’s a dope dream!

According to this article from 1971, Ron also toured with Ruth Copeland.

Miss Copeland, who is 22 years old, comes from Britain but now lives in Detroit. She plays harmonica, and is backed by a quartet: Don Hatcher, bass; Donell Hagen, drums; Dave Case, keyboards; and Ron Bykowski, guitar.

Maybe that’s how he came in contact with pfunk.

Could be. Somebody needs to try and find her and blow the cobwebs off the whole story. I recall Rolling Stone doing a nice piece on Ruth at about '76 or so. It had no mention of her past association with The Funks but talked a lot about her frustrations within the industry.

Yes it’s true, Ron passed away in April of 2014. Ronnie was my Great Uncle. As a kid I would always see him at Christmas at my grandmothers house. I was very young and never got to talk with him about music but I really wish I had. When Ron died I was there to help clean out his home. He had many guitars, so many that we decided to split the guitars throughout our family. From his house I got his Blue Gibson Les Paul and a Custom Martin Acoustic. Ron’s death and finding out about PFunk inspired me to learn to play the guitar already knowing how to play the piano at the time. I now have the honor of playing his guitars every day. image|330x330
The guitar in this image now belongs to my uncle and I play it whenever i’m over there.

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Here are some pictures of the guitars of his that I own.
I know there’s a music video somewhere of him playing the Martin Acoustic but I’ve never been able to find it.

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Thanks for the info! That Les Paul is a real beauty.

And welcome to the forum!

Jeff thank you so much for filling us in on Ron’s story. I’m really happy that you are using his guitars to make music with, that is a great tribute! His playing on those handful of Funkadelic records was incredible and that Gibson SG that your uncle has is Rock and Roll Hall of Fame worthy if you ask me!
We would love to hear about any more stories that your family has about Ron, both his time in P-Funk as well as his life in general. I’m sorry for your family’s loss and I think it would be really great for the world to know more about this fascinating figure.

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Thank you so much Jeff for your post. I’m very glad that your family got his guitars. I saw your uncle first at Constitution Hall Washington D.C. mid- 1973 Curtis Mayfield show, then at the Warner Theater Wash. D.C. Winter of 1973, but the most unbelievable show was Bowie State College Bowie, Maryland fall of 1974. Chocolate Rain out of Baltimore and 100 years Time from D.C. opened for Funadelic. I still meet people today that talk about that show. Ron and Eddie hypnotized the place on Maggot Brain. Ron started off first and the crowd just started to move until countless people were on the stage. You would think that the people had enough. The Ron turned it over to Eddie. That’s when I made my move front and center right in front of Eddie.
Did you know that Ron and Tikki the drummer would show up with their face painted. I thought that was amazing because KISS was not out yet. We here in the D.C. area always supported Funkadelic in the early years, so if you were lucky you got a chance to see Ron. I personally can verify that you could easily mistake Eddie Hazel for Ron if you were not looking.
All the piano players I know can tear the guitar up. You are very fortunate.
Thanks Tony Lewis

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Ron in face painting got me thinking about this picture. Welcome to the forum @axisboldaslove!

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Your dream it seems was on the mark about Red Hot Mama. Blackbyrd McKnight said that it’s Ron playing the solo, not Eddie Hazel. I thought it was Eddie too until I read this. “I think one of my favorite songs, ‘Red Hot Mama,’ is actually Ron Bykowski,” says McKnight. “Everybody thinks it’s Eddie, but it’s not. I’ve heard outtakes with Eddie on it and when the two of them are playing together you can definitely tell who’s who.”
https://www.premierguitar.com/articles/23907-parliament-funkadelic-a-funk-guitar-roundtable?page=4

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I totally respect Blackbyrd and I also haven’t heard the outtakes he’s speaking of but it really does not sound like Ron at all to me on Red Hot Mama; the licks, the tone, it’s all so Eddie sounding.
Good examples of Ron’s lead playing are the album version of Cosmic Slop, March to the Witch’s Castle, No Head No Backstage Pass, and Let’s Make it Last.
He totally rocks and I love his playing but his phrasing and tone are very different from Eddie’s and RHM sounds nothing like Ron’s playing to me.
P-Funk lore is a funny thing as even the guys that were there don’t always get the facts straight, I have heard so many differing stories on who played on what over the years that I’ve really just decided to trust my ears at this point!
And If I do trust my ears, the one song where I really do think Eddie and Ron shred together is I’ll Stay; there’s the long held note feedback guitar in there plus the fluid Eddie stuff so I’d say that’s both of them together. I’d also go out on a limb and say Ron is on Baby I Owe You Something Good from LTITTS as it sounds A LOT like him.

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Mutron,

Those are some good points. Do you know what guitar Eddie used on Red Hot Mama? The tone on that song is one of my favourite guitar tones of all time. When I saw P-Funk in Bellingham in 2018 and they played that song in their set with Blackbyrd on guitar, I almost lost it.

I have no clue what gear he played on that but I would love to know! Eddie has a different guitar in almost every pic I’ve seen of him; Strats, Les Pauls, 80s shredders, Flying Vs, etc. so who knows. It seems like a Strat would be likely for that era but that’s just a guess!

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Agree with all of that Mutron. Wondering if that’s them on Take it to the people: Eddie’s funky jingle-jangle and Ron on the main riff.

They’re both credited on the album but that’s the one track I can hear them on - if not that one, which?

Also have a strong suspicion that’s Ron on Tangerine Green by Fuzzy.

*now that I think of it - and after another listen - Ron’s all over Fuzzy’s first album.

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So much more to think about with Ron Bykowski. Glad to hear his family took care of things when he passed. This photo tells so many stories. Pedro Bell, Bernie, Boogie, Ron…is there a color photo of this?

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Welcome @UhuruMaggot, is your username here a tribute, or are you Rickey Vincent?

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Yeah that photo is great. Don’t think I have seen it in color. But is Pedro Bell in this photo? Which one is he?

I always thought that the third from the right (with the cape) was Michael Hampton. But looking at the photo now I feel unsure, because Mike was also known for wearing a fencing mask, right? So who is the first from the left?