tommy ridgley Oct 23, 1925 - Aug 11, 1999
during the 90's i had the great fortune to work with some of the old guard of new orleans rhythm and blues. i would work any show, anywhere, as a sound man/monitor guy/stage manager/lighting geek/consiglieri/gopher and anything else that was needed. there were always shows happening in the easy, everyday, (and as many as one could handle on the weekends), done in all kinds of venues; school gyms, open air festivals, hotel ballrooms, even the superdome. and we did 'em all ... fats, ernie k-doe, the funky meters, dr. john, neville bros., clarence 'frogman' henry, irma thomas, gatemouth brown, earl king, rockin' dopsie, and many more legends, most of whom are gone now.
but tommy ridgley was the most down to earth performer of all from that era. that man was a fashion plate if there ever was one. tommy would show up at a gig, dressed to the nines in the latest in leisure suit wear, in the most outlandish colors known to man ... with shoes to match. he would sit and talk with everyone and make it feel as if you knew him all your life, remembering your name and your momma's, (in the easy it is always polite to ask, 'how's yo' mamma?), and he was always very sincere and funny as shit. many a show tommy would hang by the soundboard to joke and kid about the old days with me right until he ran onstage to sing. and it didn't matter if it was a show at the aquarium, a buisiness convention or the jazz fest, he was always tommy ... what a wonderful man.
tommy had his first hit in '49 with 'shrewsbury blues' on the imperial lable. shrewsbury is where he was from, a little part of metry at the lower part of causeway in jeff parish, where it meets the river. he went on to record many regional hits during the 50's, riding the rock and r&b wave, including the immortally wild 'looped' and the influential instrumental 'jam up'. he was always a must see at the new orleans jazz fest from it's inception until his death from kidney troubles in '99. his band, 'the untouchables' also backed many of the other new orleans legends including miss irma thomas, whom tommy took under his wing and started her long career.
his birthday is october 23, so i needed to get this down before we head down the road to see the destruction first hand, (we split that day). so, tommy, where ever you are has to be a better place for you being there ...
a few of mr ridgely's good stuff on mp3 from yousendit:
and a good book to read: rhythm and blues in new orleans
and fats went home to the 9th ward today, but as of press time i couldn't squeek a link from anywhere .... from what i saw on cnn he didn't look too happy to see his white piany all flipped over in his flooded, muddied purple mansion on st. claude avenue... more to follow ...
buy some tommy ridgely music!