Ronnie Rice/New Colony Six
by Ben McLane, Esq.
For many popular music fans, one of the most revered groups from the mid-late '60s is the New Colony Six (NC6), from Chicago, Illinois.
The NC6 originally recorded for the Chicago based Centaur Records, an independent label funded by the families of the various members. The act's initial recordings were a garage- infected style of rock. However, with the inclusion in 1966 of singer/guitarist/songwriter, Ronnie Rice ("Rice"), the sound of the NC6 evolved into more of a soft-pop outfit, with a focus on harmony vocals. Therein lay their greatest success. The group ended up placing 10 songs in the Billboard Hot 100, most of them after Rice came on board. In fact, the NC6's 2 biggest hits, both on Mercury, "I Will Always Think About You" (BB #22) and "Things I'd Like To Say" (BB #16), were co-written by Rice.
Rice had spent several years prior to joining the NC6 singing as a solo act. He had little success, although he did record sides for the MGM, Quill, IRC and Limelight labels. Rice was a friend of Pete Wright, a successful Chicago-based music executive. Wright had gotten Rice deals with the above-named labels. Wright also eventually managed and produced the NC6. This connection resulted in Rice becoming a permanent member of the NC6.
The NC6 had chart longevity that long outlasted other popular Chicago groups, such as the Buckinghams, American Breed, Shadows of Knight and Cryan' Shames, that emerged during that era. Even after the NC6's last charter "Long Time to Be Alone" in 1971, the group continued to record until 1974 for labels such as Sunlight, Twinlight and MCA.
After the NC6 broke up in the mid-70s, Rice again began recording as a solo artist, releasing sides for Capitol, Sunlight, Stonedog and Holin One. Today, Rice continues to perform around the greater Chicago area playing private and corporate functions. His set consists of NC6 material and other popular "oldies" from the rock era. Although Rice stays in contact with other members of the NC6, there has never been any serious consideration given to playing the nostalgia circuit. As Rice explains, the NC6 were never as visible a band as, for example, the Buckinghams, who had several top 10 hits and performed on numerous national television shows. In contrast, the NC6 is not as well-known and hence would not have the same drawing power as the nostalgia acts that are succeeding today. Rice's brother Gary also is in the music business, as a co-owner of the Los Angeles based Future Disc Systems, a mastering studio where major artists such as Madonna, George Harrison, REO Speedwagon and the Fine Young Cannibals have mastered their albums.
Rice is proud of his experience with the NC6. However, he does despair the fact that the NC6's biggest hit, "Things I'd Like To Say", never hit the top 10. According to Rice, the song was number 1 in several major markets at different times, but since it did not break nationally at the same time, the Billboard charts did not award it the chart position it probably deserved. Regardless of the numbers, this writer submits that it is a classic song that will live forever.Copyright 1996, Ben McLane
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