Tommy Ridgley Biography

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30 October 1925, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, d. 11 August 1999. Originally a pianist, Ridgley played with a dixieland group and Earl Anderson’s band in 1949 before his powerful R&B voice made him one of New Orleans’ most respected singers for nearly three decades. His first record was ‘Shrewsbury Blues’, named after a district of the city and produced by Dave Bartholomew for Imperial Records in 1949. He also recorded the humorous ‘Looped’ before Ahmet Ertegun’s Atlantic label came to record in New Orleans in 1953. The label recorded Ridgley singing ‘I’m Gonna Cross That River’ and ‘Ooh Lawdy My Baby’, with Ray Charles on piano. Both were highly popular locally. ‘Jam Up’, an instrumental with Ridgley on piano, later appeared on anthology albums. In 1957, it was the turn of Al Silver of the New York-based Ember label to fish in the New Orleans talent pool. He recorded Ridgley in a more mellow blues ballad style on ‘When I Meet My Girl’ and ‘I’ve Heard That Story Before’. At this point, Ridgley turned down a booking at New York’s Apollo because ‘the money they was offering didn’t match up to the money down here’. By now, Ridgley and his band the Untouchables were resident at the New Orleans Auditorium, backing touring rock ‘n’ roll package shows when they reached Louisiana. Several young singers also started their careers with his group, notably Irma Thomas. In the early 60s, Ridgley recorded for the local Ric label, owned by Joe Ruffino. Among his singles were ‘In The Same Old Way’ and ‘I Love You, Yes I Do’. Later tracks were produced by Wardell Quezergue while in 1973, Ridgley turned to production, having a local hit with ‘Sittin’ And Drinkin’’ by Rose Davis. He remained a familiar figure on the New Orleans music scene throughout the 70s and 80s when Rounder recorded him. His debut for Black Top featured gutsy horns and support from Snooks Eaglin (guitar) and George Porter Jnr. (bass).

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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