January 20, 1933: Ron Townson, original member of The 5th Dimension, born in St. Louis
Ronald “Ron” Townson was born on January 20, 1993 in St. Louis.
He was an original member of The 5th Dimension, a popular vocal group of the late ’60s and early ’70s.
Ron reportedly started singing at age 6 and was a featured soloist on various choirs throughout his school years. His grandmother inspired him to sing and his parents arranged for him to have private singing and acting lessons. During high school, he appeared for three seasons in productions of Bloomer Girl, Annie Get Your Gun and Show Boat; he also won third place in the Missouri State trials for the Metropolitan Opera.
Townson toured with Wings Over Jordan for eight years while still in school and was their choir director for 2 years. He worked his way through Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri by conducting the University and Church Choirs; he also played football and ran track in college.
Townson left St. Louis to pursue a musical career in Los Angeles, California. He met Dorothy Dandridge and toured with her for two years, took part in the Samuel Goldwyn motion picture production of Porgy & Bess, and toured with Nat King Cole. He also organized and conducted his own 35-voice a cappella choir in Los Angeles.
In 1966, Townson and fellow St. Louis natives (Billy Davis, Jr. and Lamonte McLemore) joined female vocalists Marilyn McCoo and Florence LaRue to form The Versatiles. The name was a reference to their varied style in music, but producer Johnny Rivers thought the name was outdated. He wanted a newer sounding name for the group, and they soon came up with The 5th Dimension. They began cutting records for Rivers’ Soul City Records music label that year.
In 1976, after 10 successful years with The 5th Dimension, Townson left the group for a while. During his time away, he made a guest appearance on the TV series Switch, cut records, performed solo, and formed his own group, Ron Townson and Wild Honey. By 1980, he decided to reunite with The 5th Dimension.
In 1981, he and fellow group members Joyce Wright, Michael Procter, Florence LaRue and Lamonte McLemore starred in Fats Waller’s Ain’t Misbehavin’ to excellent reviews. In 1990, the original five members of the group reunited for a New Year’s Eve performance at Donald Trump’s Atlantic City Casino. It was a huge success and they went on the road for some performances in 1991 as The Original 5th Dimension. That year, the group received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1992, Townson appeared in the Warner Brothers film The Mambo Kings.
Townson left The 5th Dimension for good in 1997. He involved himself with other business ventures and served on the board of directors of the Cambridge-Kilpatrick Acting School. He was honored at Lincoln University with the school’s Distinguished Alumni Award.
Townson moved to Las Vegas in 1999 and died in his home there on August 2, 2001.