NRBQ (New Rhythm and Blues Quartet) drummer Tom Ardolino passed away on January 6, 2012 of complications from diabetes at the age of 56. It has been two years, yet his unmistakably distinctive style will live on forever. Tommy helped define NRBQ’s sound with impeccable taste and timing for well over thirty years. He could easily play anything from the ‘Q’s extensive repertoire of tunes, and was the perfect drummer for the band. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of American music, with much of it drawn from his own world-class record collection.
“ There’s Charlie Watts, and there’s Tom Ardolino,” Bonnie Raitt once told the Boston Globe. “That’s it.” Mr. Ardolino “deserves an entire wing in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.”
Sadly, Tommy’s death should be a serious wake-‐up call. NRBQ’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is long overdue. The core group of Terry Adams, Al Anderson, Joey Spampinato and Tom Ardolino have been referred to as the ‘American Beatles’. Some of their many fans include; Bob Dylan, Sir Paul McCartney, Bonnie Raitt, Keith Richards, and Elvis Costello.
Costello once told Rolling Stone, “I’d much rather any day go see NRBQ playing than any of our illustrious punk bands in England.”
Tommy joined NRBQ in 1974 when original drummer Tom Staley departed. He subsequently recorded 15 studio albums and toured the world with them numerous times. Everything about him was instantly recognizable. His fans loved the passion and exuberance of the group. His self-‐taught drumming style was original, and totally his own. He was a rare combination of talent, personality, and loved all things music. Watching him play live was a sight to behold. His rockin’ out on “It’s A Wild Weekend”, “Green Lights” and “Me And The Boys” was amazing.
Former NRBQ guitarist Al Anderson said this about Tom Ardolino:
"He was a great drummer and a great guy, "He had a totally unique style of drumming that nobody can ever duplicate. That was one of the baddest rhythm sections in the world."
Once again, one of America’s all–time greatest bands are still not enshrined in The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. It makes no logical sense, and is a sad commentary on the entire music industry. Mainstream musical success should not determine greatness. The original NRBQ made great music which will ultimately stand the test of time. The ‘Q’ were completely spontaneous on stage, never working from a set list. Their many performances over the years were legendary, upwards of 250 shows a year.
Founded in 1967, The New Rhythm and Blues Quartet released their first record on the Columbia label. In 1969, the legendary Carl Perkins and NRBQ collaborated for a second album titled “Boppin’ The Blues”. From these storied beginnings, the “Q” as they are affectionately known, began carving out their long musical legacy. They have a trademark sound like no other, and a unique blend of multiple styles that can be only be defined as truly American. After a short hiatus, and some new members, NRBQ are still together, and their sound is unmistakable. It is impossible to confuse them with any other band in the world, NRBQ never sold out; they didn’t change musical directions to fit the trends, or compromised their integrity for profit. Once again, Tom Ardolino and NRBQ were not among the Hall Of Fame inductees this year. I’ll always keep wondering “WHY”.
Photo Credit : Lili Chilson