Rockwell T. James was the alter ego of journeyman bass player Ronnie Peel. Peel got his start in the 1960s with the original line-ups of The Missing Links and The Pleazers, plus the second version of Ray Brown and the Whispers. In 1967, he formed the first incarnation of Rockwell T. James and the Rhythm Aces, which became the house band at Sydney's famed Whisky A-Go-Go discotheque. The line-up comprised Peel, Lance Dixon (organ), Les Stacpool (guitar; ex-Chessmen, Merv Benton and the Tamlas), Mike Freeman (trumpet), Ron Freeman (sax) and Roger Felice-Andrews (drums; ex-Marty Rhone and the Soul Agents).
The Rhythm Aces issued the single `Love Power'/`New Orleans Funk' on the Festival label (February 1968). When the band folded mid-year, Peel and Stacpool formed The Browns with Ray Arnott (drums; ex-Chelsea Set) and New Zealand vocalist Leo De Castro. In 1970, Peel and Felice-Andrews travelled to the UK where they landed a job as rhythm section for hit-makers Thunderclap Newman (of `Something in the Air' fame). Peel returned to Australia in late 1971 and joined Ray Brown's new band, One Ton Gypsy. From there he joined La De Das, then on the rise to becoming one of the country's finest boogie-rock outfits. La De Das folded in late 1975 and Peel joined John Paul Young and the All Stars as rhythm guitarist.
In 1976, with the help of Sherbet's Garth Porter, Peel revived his Rockwell T. James persona for two singles on Festival/Infinity: `Come on Home (a Song for Anna)'/`Belinda' (May 1976; #22 in Melbourne during August) and `Roxanne'/`Hey Mama' (October; #26 in Melbourne during December). In October 1977, Peel issued a Rockwell T. James album, Shot of Rhythm & Blues, on Sherbet's Razzle label. `Lady Blue' (August 1977) was issued as the single. In July 1978, Peel issued a fifth Rockwell T. James single, `Rollin' on'/`On My Mind'. The studio band comprised Peel, Sherbet's Garth Porter (keyboards) and Tony Mitchell (bass), Mark Kennedy (drums) and Tony Buchanan (sax), plus Cold Chisel's Ian Moss (lead guitar).
Peel then formed a touring line-up of Rockwell T. James and the Rhythm Aces which comprised himself (vocals, rhythm guitar), Vince Melouney (slide guitar; ex-Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, Bee Gees, Fanny Adams), Chris Turner (lead guitar; ex-Drain, Buffalo), John Strangio (bass; ex-Dingoes, Chariot) and Jim Penson (drums; ex-Plastic Tears, Blackfeather, Chariot). Peter Roberts (bass; ex-La De Das, Chariot) and Ace Follington (drums; ex-Chain, Australia) then replaced Strangio and Penson respectively. Razzle reissued the Shot of Rhythm & Blues album as Rollin' on with both sides of the last single added.
The last Rockwell T. James record was the single `Let It Go' (November 1979) which Peel shared with Mario Millo's `Rebecca' on the flip side. Both tracks had been lifted off the Various Artists Australian Guitar Album. Peel then laid the Rockwell T. James concept to rest. He has since worked with Ray Arnott Band, Cheetah and Scattered Aces. Scattered Aces comprised Peel (bass, vocals), Chris Turner, Peter Wells (slide guitar; ex-Buffalo, Rose Tattoo) and Fred Zeppelin (real name Paul DeMarco, drums). The band toured throughout 1984 and issued the mini-album Six Pack and the single Eddie Cochran's `C'mon Everybody'/`Waltzing Matilda' on the Big Rock label.