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Scene & Hurd

Ron Wallace: The Renaissance man of Crabapple

Former top UPS executive can’t keep still, embarks on career as music impresario

The singing duo Lance & Lea is one of the acts Ron Wallace is promoting in his newest venture – producing music.
The singing duo Lance & Lea is one of the acts Ron Wallace is promoting in his newest venture – producing music.
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It is not unusual for a retired successful business executive to get a bit restless and find some new interest to busy him or herself with. But Ron Wallace has been involved in more projects since his retirement as president of UPS International than most people squeeze in before they go into retirement.

But then retirement is not a word in Wallace’s vocabulary. His latest gig is that of musical impresario which has him getting up to Nashville quite a bit. But this is just quintessential Ron Wallace. When he gets interested in something, he gets laser focused.

Let’s go back a bit. It was why he was selected in 2005 by then-Gov. Sonny Perdue to lead the Milton commission to set up governance while the new city its charter and its act together.

He was not interested in getting into local politics himself, but he got interested in how campaigns work. He wound up writing “The Power of the Campaign Pyramid” with Wes McCall.

It is perhaps the best step-by-step, how-to guidebook on organizing and running a local political campaign.

You saw that focus again when Wallace decided to get involved with the Crabapple merchants and business owners. Naturally he did this by starting a business.

His first stab was to open The Olde Blind Dog Irish Pub. It is the place to be in Crabapple on St. Paddy’s Day – or any other for that matter. In true Wallace fashion, after opening that pub in 2009 a second Olde Blind Dog followed in Brookhaven. He snagged the 2015 Irish Pub of the Year award presented by the Irish Pubs Foundation in Dublin, Ireland – that is out of a membership of some 6,500 Irish pubs worldwide.

That led him to produce another book, “Irish Bars in America” with his good friend Robert Meyers. He and Meyers visited Lord only knows how many Irish bars from Boston to Honolulu doing “research.”

“Ron would walk into these great Irish bars and chat up the bartender for a couple of hours about the history if Irish pubs. Everywhere the Irish migrated, they built their own pub,” said Meyers. “Then the bartenders would tell us, ‘hey you need to meet the owner and take us upstairs to meet him.’

“We would come down again about 4 in the morning with all the history of the bar and I would take the photos, do the write-up on it. Then off we would go again to the next one.”

Then, in his spare time he decided to write a book on leadership based on his experiences climbing the corporate ladder with UPS. It is pithy, informative and full of vignettes drawn from his experiences. True to his nature, Wallace sums it up in the title, “Leadership Lessons from a UPS Driver: Delivering the Culture of We Not Me.”

Along the road to retirement Wallace decided to participate in Alpharetta’s Citizens Police Academy where graduates would wear uniforms and do low-level policing such as directing traffic and crowd control. That wasn’t enough for Wallace. He bought his own police squad car and, working with the Police Department, went on patrol.

So I only tell you this so it will be no surprise to learn that when he decided his restaurants needed live entertainment, he would ultimately become involved in the music/entertainment business. He could not really help it. To his executive mindset, the music industry was so lacking in structure it needed the true organizational touch.

Wallace said it began innocently enough when a friend asked his help in creating a business for a singing group of young boys the friend had organized when they were preteens and now were nearing their 20s.

“Well, one thing led to another I wound up in Nashville at the ASCAP (the member-owned professional organization of songwriters, composers and music publishers) offices.” he said. “I started taking a little bit of interest in one of the better-known songwriters there and he wound up at my house. One thing led to another.”

“One thing led to another” is a term Wallace uses a lot. It means the bird dog in him has picked up the scent. The songwriter knows a lot of performers ready “to go large” as they say in Show Biz. One of the first acts that Wallace took an interest in was a duo called Lance &Lea.

He filed them on the backburner, but his mind kept to returning to them. Meanwhile, he was investigating the music business more thoroughly. He describes it as “the most complicated business in the world with rules that change daily.”

In other words, one thing led to another, and he was back at ASCAP in Nashville. Now he is looking at music publishing and what is called a 360 Degree contract. That means when the talent signs on they sign over the music rights, marketing rights, live performances – everything.

He has signed Lance and Lea to a “360” and they have some 40 concert dates already lined up for 2018, but Wallace says they will triple that by January.

In return, the talent gets bankrolled, marketed and the opportunities they would not have the means of taking assuming they even knew where to look.

One thing led to another, and now Wallace is spending time in Nashville every month. He has a (music) publishing and recording company with a library of 300 songs so far.

As he explored how to make it all support itself, Wallace found out it is mostly chaos. There are the songwriters, the artists, the recording studios. There are labels for distribution and production. Other people do the accounting, publicity and legal work. No one does it all, he said.

Well, Wallace knows how to do things under one roof. So one thing led to another, he brings in some investors and meets Paul Worley, one of the names with Clout in Nashville (think Dixie Chicks, Big and Rich, Lady Antebellum).

By now Wallace has signed another artist, Cherie Oakley, who wrote the Reba McIntyre hit “Turn On the Radio.” Wallace bought out her contract and has musician-producer Dann Huff working Cherie’s new record with her own version of “Turn On the Radio.”

“We think we have two or three hits on the six songs we mastered of her,” Wallace said.

His company, Number One Group, is now a record company and a publishing company with legal, accounting and marketing under one roof and its own catalogue.

So that is where Wallace stands today with several irons in the fire. Where music impresario Ron Wallace ends up, who can say. But hey, one thing does lead to another.


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