Best known for his visual and vocal resemblance to Elvis Presley, Ronnie McDowell enjoyed a series of Top Ten hits on the country charts during the first half of the '80s. McDowell was born in 1950 and raised in the small town of Portland, TN, and started singing publicly while serving the Navy in the Philippines. He hit big in 1977 with "The King Is Gone," a tribute to Presley written immediately after the singer's death; released on the Scorpion label, the song climbed into the Top 20 of both the pop and country charts.
McDowell capitalized on the exposure to land another hit, the Top Five country single "I Love You, I Love You, I Love You," in 1978. The following year, he was tapped to sing the vocals for an Elvis TV movie starring Kurt Russell. Afraid he was becoming pigeonholed, McDowell teamed up with producer Buddy Killen at Epic Records in hopes of broadening his style. The plan worked, as McDowell became a consistent country hitmaker. He scored a number one hit in 1981 with "Older Women," which kicked off a string of 11 consecutive Top Ten hits on Epic; of those, "Wandering Eyes," "Watchin' Girls Go By," "You Made a Wanted Man of Me," and "In a New York Minute" all made the Top Five, and 1983's "You're Gonna Ruin My Bad Reputation" went to number one. 1986 found McDowell jumping labels to Curb, but despite getting some attention via duets with Conway Twitty (a remake of "It's Only Make Believe") and Jerry Lee Lewis ("You're Never Too Old to Rock 'n' Roll"), his commercial momentum ground to a halt. He served as the singing voice of Elvis for a few more TV productions, and also sang some national commercial jingles, while continuing to record for Curb through the early '90s. Toward the end of the decade, he started performing R&B and beach music with Bill Pinkney's Original Drifters, and they teamed up to release an album in 2002. ~ Steve Huey