4. The Way
I Feel About You
7. I'm Gonna
Cross That River
8. You Mean
Everything To Me
10. I Don't Want Nobody Else
Guitars: Mem Shannon, Ernie Vincent, Gary Hulette
Female background vocals: Jill Jackson, Valerie Johnson,
Male background vocals: Eddie, Donald and Joel Bell
Arrangements: Tommy Ridgley, Gary Edwards, Ward Smith
For four decades Tommy Ridgley's name has been synonymous with excellent
New Orleans rhythm and blues.
dapper, confident and engaging performer, Ridgley has waxed an enviable string
of recordings that date back to 1949.
But while the music industry has undergone innumerable stylistic changes
during the interim, Ridgley has prospered simply by being himself.
Born in the Shrewesbury section of Jefferson Parish, (adjacent to New
Orleans) Ridgley began singing with the neighborhood church choir.
However, his taste in music had swung
towards blues by the time he had joined the U.S. Navy, and he eventually taught
himself to play the piano during his enlistment.
After his discharge in 1946, Ridgley entered and won one of
the weekly Dew Drop Inn talent shows and has been employed as a professional
entertainer ever since.
Ridgley's first real break occurred three years later when bandleader
Dave Bartholomew hired his as his group's male vocalist.
As luck would have it, at approximately the same time Bartholomew also
began producing records for Imperial Records.
Naturally, he tapped Ridgley who provided "Shrewesbury
one of the label's
first local successes.
Ridgley's tenure at Imperial lasted four years and provided several
other regional best sellers.
1953 he formed his first band, The Untouchables, and switched over to the
Atlantic label where he recorded the unforgettable instrumental "Jam
The late 1950's proved to be good years for Ridgley as he continued
to cut excellent records (for Herald) and his band was considered one of the
city's top R & B units.
For several years Ridgley and The Untouchables
were installed as the Dew Drop Inn's house band.
By the time the '60s arrived Ridgley was recording for the fledgling
Ric label where he recorded the memorable "Let's Talk It Over",
"Is It True?" and "Should I Ever Love Again?".
Unfortunately, Ric was a small label and
didn't have the funds to promote an artist beyond New Orleans.
As a result, Ridgley's reputation remained
local although several of his contemporaries enjoyed national success with
inferior records during this period.
Although the New Orleans 'Sound" was considered passe by the mid-1960's,
surpassed in popularity by the British Beat, Motown and Stax Sound, Ridgley's
career thrived while some other New Orleans performers abandoned music altogether.
The next two decades saw a profusion of Ridgley singles on nearly a
These singles served two purposes, as
they kept Ridgley busy with plenty of club work and they provided a vehicle
for his immense creativity.
So with more that 70 releases to his credit, one might will ask what's
so special about this particular album?
Well, according to Ridgley the answer is quite obvious.
"This record has more of me in it," he says.
"Not only did I write most of the material, but this is
really the first time I had a direct hand in the production end of my recordings."
"All of my previous albums were collections of old singles.
This is the first time I've built an album
up from scratch.
I have wanted to do for a long time."
While Ridgley admits the album took nearly a year to complete he contends,
"It was an easy record to make.
I tried all of the tunes on live audiences before I decided to record
I wanted to find out what the public liked
and disliked before I went into the studio."
"This isn't just your basic R&B album, there's some really
hip tunes here.
There's something old and something new.
There's something everybody can get into."
Jeff Hannusch (author of "I hear You Knockin': The
Sound of New Orleans Rhythm and Blues"; co-author of "Blakewell's
Guide to Blues Records")