Tommy Ridgley was on the Crescent City R&B scene when it first
caught fire, and he remains a proud part of that same scene
today. That's a lot of years behind a microphone, but Ridgley
doesn't sound the slightest bit tired; his 1995 Black Top album
the Blues Began rates with his liveliest outings to date.
Ridgley cut his debut sides back in 1949 for Imperial under Dave
Bartholomew's direction. His "Shrewsbury Blues" and "Boogie
Woogie Mama" failed to break outside of his hometown, though.
Sessions for Decca in 1950 and Imperial in 1952 (where he
waxed the wild "Looped") preceded four 1953-55 sessions for
Atlantic that included a blistering instrumental, "Jam Up," that
sported no actual Ridgley involvement but sold relatively well
under his name (incomparable tenor saxist Lee Allen was
New York's Herald Records was Ridgley's home during the late
'50s. The consistently solid singer waxed "When I Meet My Girl"
for the firm in 1957, encoring with a catchy "Baby Do-Liddle."
From there, it was on to his hometown-based Ric logo, where he
laid down the stunning stroll-tempoed "Let's Try and Talk It
Over" and a bluesy "Should I Ever Love Again" in 1960. He
recorded intermittently after leaving Ric in 1963, waxing a soulful
"I'm Not the Same Person" in 1969 for Ronn.
Ridgley always remained a hometown favorite even when
recording opportunities proved scarce. Happily, Since the Blues
Began ranked with 1995's best albums, Ridgley sounding entirely
contemporary but retaining his defining Crescent City R&B edge.
How Long appeared in 1999. ~ Bill Dahl, All-Music Guide
Now 50 years in the music business, TOMMY
RIDGLEY, is considered the Master of Rhythm & Blues. As one of the
great and enduring Rhythm & Blues artists in New Orleans, TOMMY RIDGLEY
has stood the test of time with more than 70 recordings since 1949.
TOMMY RIDGLEY is a very friendly, humble
man with a wealth of good stories and very strong
TOMMY RIDGLEY'S roots, like so many other
Rhythm & Blues artists, started in the church choir. Also being
the offspring of a musicial family, he had the ability to sing. At age
17, he joined the Navy. During this time he developed an interest
in learning to play the piano. In 1946, after World War II, he returned
to New Orleans and studied music. Influenced by Roy Brown, a New Orleans'
resident and one of the biggest Rhythm & Blues artists nationally,
Ridgley began developing his own style. Being a much sought after performer,
performing at The Dew Drop Inn, a New
Orleans' most popular black live music venue.
TOMMY RIDGLEY'S recording break came in
October 1949 with the release of "Shrewsbury Blues," and "Early Dawn Boogie,"
on Imperial Records with Dave Bartholomew's band. In 1952, TOMMY RIDGLEY
signed with Decca Records which produced "TraLaLa," a Tommy Ridgley song
covered by Pat Boone.
Soon after, Ridgley signed to Atlantic
Records, where he enjoyed a four year association with Jerry Wexler. There
were consistent moderate selling recordings, but no national hit.
Over the next years, Ridgley recorded for
Herald Records, Ric & Ron Records where he was billed as the New Orleans'
King of the Stroll. Joe Ruffiino wanted to make a stroll record in reference
to a popular dance of that era. (Similar to Chuck Willis.)
In 1957, THE UNTOUCHABLES, were formed.
TOMMY RIDGLEY and his band, THE UNTOUCHABLES, were much respected and got
most of the best gigs in the area. Ridgley was firmly established during
the late 1960's at the New Orleans' Municipal Auditorium as a resident
bandleader with a hot-cookin' band, backing such greats as Little Richard,
Solomon Burke, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Little Willie John, and the opening
band for James Brown.
The turning point for Ridgley's career
came with the Beatles. That was the big change in music. Tommy Ridgley's
performances at college campuses and concerts turned to private clubs and
It wasn't until the 1970's that New Orleans'
Rhythm & Blues was revived with interests by the New Orleans' Jazz
& Heritage Festival and other local festivals. TOMMY RIDGLEY continued
recording, performing festivals, nationally and internationally.
There were reissues on Rounder Records, with new singles on local labels
such as Sound of New Orleans, TuDor (Ridgley's own label) and DuBat.
In 1990, "How Long," appeared on Sound
of New Orleans label. In 1992, "She Turns Me On," appeared on Modern Blues
label. In 1995, "Since The Blues Began," appeared on BlackTop label.
It was after Ridgley's recording in 1995,
he developed kidney failure. After a lengthy recovery he began performing
again. In May 1998, Ridgley recieved a kidney transplant. Now after a complete
recovery, he is working, but taking it a little easier. Ridgley still
does the Jazz & Heritage Festival every year since 1972, the French
Quarter Festival, The House of Blues where he and his band opened
for The Blues Brothers. Ridgley can be found at some of the local clubs
and most of the local festivals.
compiled by Offbeat Magazine
Blues (Imperial, 1949)
This was Ridgley’s
recording debut and a tribute to the neighborhood he grew up in ("just
two miles from town"). "That record
came out before Fats’ first record ["The Fatman"], said Ridgley. "That
puts my career in perspective."
This was later
covered by the Griffin Brothers and provided the inspiration for Big Joe
Turner’s 1954 hit "Ti-Ra-Lee."
Jam Up (Atlantic,
only contribution to this rousing instrumental was yelling the title during
the into, it nearly became a national hit. The song has appeared on several
oldies packages and Ken Burns used it on the soundtrack of his baseball
documentary during the Mickey Mantle segment.
When I Meet
My Girl (Herald, 1957)
A big local record
for Ridgley, the tune has a Scottish beat (if such a thing exists). It
helped Ridgley get on the college circuit.
Should I Ever
Love Again (Ric, 1960)
All of Ridgley’s
Ric sides were excellent examples of New Orleans R&B, but this track
is among the best. A cover of an obscure Wynona Carr song, Ridgley’s impromptu
intro sells his version.
I Want Some
Money Baby (Johen, 1964)
New Orleans meets
Motown on this rare single. A big band and great vocals make this one.
Fly In My Pie
(International City, 1968)
Recorded for New
Orleans deejay Bobby Robin’s short lived label, in collector circles this
single can fetch $200 (much more than Ridgley made from the session). Never
reissued, it was a northern soul hit in the UK.
I’m Not The
Same Person (Ronn, 1970)
This was the B-side
of the remake of "When I Meet My Girl." Ridgley does an outstanding cover
of a Johnnie Taylor LP track and dramatically out-souls the "Soul Philosopher."
I Can’t Wait
Any Longer (Hep’ Me, 1978)
Several New Orleans
hit-makers from the 1960s made their way to Senator Jones’ label in the
70s, including Ridgley. This is an outstanding Wardell Quezergue production
which became Ridgley’s last local radio hit.