Thomas Herman Ridgley
(Tommy Ridgley)
October 23, 1925 - August 11, 1999

Perhaps you sent a lovely card,
Or sat quietly in a chair.
Perhaps you sent a floral piece,
If so, we saw it there.
Perhaps you spoke the kindest words,
As any friend could say.
Perhaps you were not there at all,
Just thought of us that day.
Whatever you did to console our hearts.
We thank you so much whatever the part.

from Earline on behalf of The Ridgley Family


Photo courtesy of Pat Jolly - click for larger imageNow 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 opinions.

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, Ridgley began 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 older audiences.

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.

l-r Deacon John, Tommy Ridgley & Willie T

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