Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Tommy Ridgley - Heavenly (Ric 993)


It's funny how things happen.

Twenty Five years ago, I was in the midst of a major New Orleans period. I had read John Broven's books, and bought Jeff Hannusch's I Hear You Knockin' in a record store down there on one of my semi-annual forays into town shortly after it was published. Luckily for me, Rounder Records was undergoing the same kind of Louisiana renaissance, and I bought every record they put out. I loved the new material from folks like Irma Thomas, Walter Washington and Johnny Adams, and it was through them that I first got acquainted with the music of my friend and partner, Nathan Williams. They had hired Hannusch as a sort of A&R man and talent scout down there, and he was instrumental in making all of this happen.

It was Jeff's friendship with New Orleans R&B legend Tommy Ridgley that led him, and Rounder, to the missing Ric and Ron masters. Previously thought to have been lost forever, it was Ridgley who helped to uncover them tucked in a closet in a small town just outside of New Orleans. To Rounder's eternal credit, they appreciated what they had, and began an ambitious re-issue campaign that included 'best of' compilations on both Ric and Ron, and full LPs on the labels' biggest stars, Ridgley and Eddie Bo. I bought them all, and played them to death. I made tapes for the car, the whole deal.

Right about then I met the woman who was to become my wife... at Fenway Park in Boston (but that's a whole other story). By sheer osmosis, she couldn't help but become immersed in this incredible music I was listening to, and through it all she latched on to one song, this amazing record we have here today. She would rewind the cassette and play it over and over... years later, when my second daughter was born, she wanted to name her 'Heavenly' (although cooler heads prevailed, and she was named after my Grandmother - something I swear she holds against me to this day!). What I'm getting at here is that this B-side is one that has remained central to our life together, and never fails to bring me back to those sunny days. I had looked for the actual 45 for many years on my trips to New Orleans and elsewhere, but I never found one.

As you may know, I've recently become involved in the Cosimo Code project and, as fate would have it, so have both Broven and Hannusch, the guys who paved the way for me all those years ago. At Broven's request, Jeff was working up a page for the site about the Ric and Ron labels, and how he and Tommy Ridgley found the tapes. He had 'Xeroxed' the tape boxes back then, he said, but Katrina came and washed all of that away. All he had left was some notes he had made on the original recording dates of some of the tracks. When he sent them to me, I noticed 'Ric 993 - December 8, 1962'... unreal. On a whim, I punched 'Ric 993' into Google, and lo and behold, there was a copy available as a 'buy it now' on Ebay for ten bucks. After all these years, somehow it seemed the record had found me.

One thing led to another, and with the Summer upon us, it was taking me just short of forever to get that Ric and Ron page coded and ready for the site. In the meantime, unbeknownst to me, Jeff had been tracking down the whereabouts of those original master tapes, and through Scott Billington and Adam Taylor at Rounder he had been able to find them. Out of the blue, Jeff sent me a forwarded email from Adam that read; "Sounds like an awesome project! I'm sending you a zip of the images I scanned a few years back. When I was going through the tapes I scanned all the boxes..."

I really couldn't believe it. Not only had I miraculously stumbled across the 45, but there among the scans Jeff had sent me was the original 1962 master tape! It's stuff like this that keeps me believing that somehow it's all connected and, as Sir Lattimore used to say, "If you move forward with Faith in your Heart, anything is possible..."

God is always on time!


Blogger Unknown said...

Real nice blog, Red... and the audio is something else too! The education I receive here never ceases to amaze me.

3:39 PM  
Anonymous Paul Pollmann said...

Amazing story and a wonderful song. Reminds me a bit of Lil Bob & the Lollipops. That New Orleans music is a fountain of joy.
Thanks again, Red.

7:06 AM  
Blogger Tom G. said...

Now THAT was an awesome post. I love song related stories like that. The audio was icing. Thanks.

10:15 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

as noted above, an education in a post--thanks.

2:14 PM  

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