Multi-talented student works multimedia


Ruth Spies is a woman who wears many different hats, with talents ranging from music to video production.

While being enrolled at Pima Community College, she doesn’t let the responsibilities of homework tie her down.

Spies is a non-traditional student at PCC, a University of Arizona graduate class of ‘84, a band member, a Southern Arizona Video Productions employee, Access Tucson volunteer and tarot card reader.

On top of all that, Spies performed at the 29th Annual Tucson Folk Festival on May 3 with Tucson’s local, traditional, authentic rockabilly band, Widow’s Hill.

The weekend-long festival features food and crafts, and spotlights more than 140 different musicians, both local and from across the nation.

Spies plays rhythm guitar and leads her pack while commanding the lead vocals and harmony.

She is backed by upright bassist Federico Pennacchini. Her front man Jim “Jimbobillybob” Becker shreds on lead guitar and bellows as support vocalist.

“I got bored one summer when I was 15,” Spies said. “I bought a guitar for $10 and started playing. That was 42 years ago.”

Spies tries to incorporate the music her father and godfather played while growing up, an early Elvis Presley style mixed with rhythm and blues, homegrown on a beautiful plot of bluegrass.

“The energy is bluegrass, you’ll want a dance circle. Just barn-stomp house music,” Pennacchini said.

“Everyone’s stomping and shaking to the music, that’s some fun stuff to dance to. You don’t need 1,000 watts and a techno DJ to get the room shaking and get a good dance-vibe going, you can do it acoustically too,” he said.

So what’s the story behind the band name?

The inspiration came from Spies’ favorite ‘60s vampire-soap opera, “Dark Shadows.” Widow’s Hill was the cliff that women would throw themselves off of when their husbands did not return safely from sea.

Aside from performing at concerts and open mic nights with Widow’s Hill, Spies does private or group tarot card readings.

One Halloween, Spies did a group reading for a bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism club while dressing the part. She wore a wig and gypsy attire, brought her future-seeking crystal ball, burned incense and played soft background music.

“I was set up in the ‘playroom,’” Spies said. “There was an adult crib in there and one of those things they chain you up to. People were all dressed up in leather and spikes … It was fun.”

Spies also operates cameras at Southern Arizona Video Productions and volunteers as the broadcast media technician at Access Tucson.

Her interest in videography and production sparked after watching her first Access Tucson program, a PETA exposé.

The footage was shot by hidden cameras brought in to factories, showing the horrors of meat processing facilities.

With her experience from Access Tucson and Southern Arizona Video Productions, Spies had the pleasure of streaming a Tucson-based congressional hearing live to Washington D.C.

And, Spies’ 9-to-5 and volunteer work ties in nicely with the multimedia and journalism classes she’s been focusing on at Pima.

“I shoot video, I play in a band and I read tarot cards. How much better does it get than that?” Spies said.

“I like what I’m doing now, I never liked going into a job and doing the same thing day after day. I’m just too non-traditional.”

Pg10-Ruth Spies profile
Widow’s Hill performs for a mellow crowd enjoying the weekly open mic night at Sky Bar in downtown Tucson. From left, band members Jim “Jimbobillybob” Becker, Federico Pennacchini and Ruth Spies. (Shana Rose/Aztec Press)

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