Thomas Herman Ridgley was a part of the flourishing New Orleans Rhythm And Blues scene in the 50s. Born on October 23, 1925, he learned to play piano in the Navy during World War 2 and, after the war, easily won a talent show at the Dew Drop Inn, where his singing skills netted him the handsome sum of five dollars. (Here's a wonderful article on the Dew Drop Inn.)
Tommy Ridgley became a singer with the Bama Band in the late 40s, belting the blues a la Joe Turner and Roy Brown. Then he switched over to Earl Anderson's band, and finally, in 1949, was recruited by bandleader/trumpeter Dave Bartholomew. His first recordings were for Imperial in 1949: "Shrewsbury Blues"/"Early Dawn Boogie." (Shrewsbury was the name of the neighborhood where he grew up.) These were followed, in 1950, with "Boogie Woogie Mama" and "Lonely Man Blues."
In 1951, he did "Tra-La-La" for Decca, as the uncredited vocalist with Bartholomew. He also recorded "Anything But Love" for Decca under his own name. A 1952 King Records session, with Bartholomew (once again uncredited), produced "Lawdy Lawdy Lord."
Ridgley returned to Imperial in 1952 and turned out three more records, under his own name, including "Lavinia" and "Looped." In 1953, he left Bartholomew to form his own band, the Untouchables.
Then it was on to Atlantic in 1953, for a New Orleans session which produced "Ooh Lawdy My Baby" (with Ray Charles on piano). At a later session, he recorded "Jam Up," an instrumental on which he himself tickled the ivories.
Tommy Ridgley had grown up with Lloyd Price, and when Price couldn't find a company to record his "Lawdy Miss Clawdy," Ridgley almost ended up doing it (but in early 1952, Specialty Records came through at the last minute). Tommy even formed the first band for Price (with Fats Domino on piano).
After Atlantic, both Ridgley and Bartholomew seemingly did some recording for Enoch Light's Waldorf Music Hall label of Harrison, New Jersey: the former as "The Shrewsbury Kid" and the latter as "Dave Barton and his Royal Playboys." Tommy's "Got You On My Mind" and "Booted" were released as part of a 10-inch Waldorf LP in 1955. However, since all the songs on the LP were covers of 1951 and 1952 hits, they'd probably been recorded (and possibly even released on a different label) years earlier.
1957 found Tommy Ridgley with Al Silver's Herald label, where he turned out six records over the next couple of years. "When I Meet My Girl," "Baby Do-Liddle," and "I've Heard That Story Before" were local hits; as usual, the sessions were done in New Orleans.
All through the late 50s and the 60s, Tommy Ridgley played with his band, the Untouchables, in the New Orleans area (they became the house band at the Dew Drop Inn, where he'd won that talent contest so many years before). He recorded for Ric, a small local label, from 1960 to 1963, but had no hits. In 1962, Atlantic dusted off his 1954 recording of "Jam Up" and rereleased it as "Jam Up Twist".
For the rest of the 60s, Tommy appeared on a succession of small New Orleans labels: Cinderella, Johen, Blue Jay, White Cliffs, River City, International City, Ronn, Hep' Me, and J-Bees. There were more recordings in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, but even with no hits he seemed to be content with just having steady work and an occasional record to show for it.
In time, he went into the production end of the music business. He's also credited with discovering thrush Irma Thomas (who did the original recording of the Rolling Stones' "Time Is On My Side").
Thommy Ridgley died, from lung cancer, on August 11, 1999. Although he had no real chart action to show for 50 years in the business, he never lacked for work and had a career other local artists envied.
Special Thanks to George Moonoogian and Victor Pearlin.
5054 Shrewsbury Blues/Early Dawn Boogie - 49
5074 Boogie Woogie Mama/Lonely Man Blues - 50
48216 Tra-La-La [Ridgley on vocal]/Teejim [these are listed under Dave Bartholomew] - 51
48226 Anything But Love/Once In A Lifetime - 51
4523 Lawdy Lawdy Lord, Part 1/Part 2 (as vocalist with Dave Bartholomew) - 52
5198 Lavinia/I Live My Life - 52
5203 Looped/Junie Mae - 52
5214 Nobody Cares/Monkey Man - 52
1009 Ooh Lawdy My Baby/I'm Gonna Cross That River - 53
1039 Jam Up/Wish I Had Never - 54
WALDORF MUSIC HALL
136 New Orleans Blues - 55
Got You On My Mind - Shrewsbury Kid [Tommy Ridgley] & Royal Playboys
Booted - Shrewsbury Kid [Tommy Ridgley] & Royal Playboys
Kiss Me Baby - Dave Barton [Bartholomew] & Royal Playboys
Night Train - Royal Playboys
Shine On - Helen Marino & Royal Playboys
How Many More Years - Clarence Samuels w/Edgar Blanchard & the Gondoliers
Bookies Blues - Meyer Kennedy & Ork.
Flamingo - Meyer Kennedy & Ork.
501 When I Meet My Girl/Whatcha Gonna Do - 57
508 Baby Do-Liddle/Just A Memory - 57
513 Want'cha Gone/Come Back Baby - 58
526 Mairzy Doats And Dozy Doats/I've Heard That Story Before - 58
537 I'll Be True/The Girl Across The Street - 59
540 Tina/How I Feel - 59
968 Is It True/Let's Try And Think It Over - 60
973 Please Hurry Home/Do You Remember - 60
978 Should I Ever Love Again/Double Eye Whammy - 60
982 The Only Girl For Me/Three Times - 61
984 The Girl From Kooka Monga/In The Same Old Way - 61
990 My Ordinary Girl/She's Got What It Takes - 62
2136 Jam Up Twist/Wish I Had Never - 62 [these are the 1954 masters]
993 Heavenly/I Love You Yes I Do - 63
994 I've Heard That Story Before/Honest I Do - 63
1024 The Goose/No One But You - 63
9200 All My Love Belongs To You/I Want Some Money Baby - 64
158 Call On Me Baby/Pretty Little Mama - 65
260 Hey Little Chick/Did You Tell Him - 67
728 I'm Asking Forgiveness/There Is Something On Your Mind - late 60s
702? Fly In My Pie/My Love Gets Stronger - 68
36 In The Same Old Way/I'm Not The Same Person - 69
129 I Can't Wait (Any Longer)/Shack Up With Me - 70
J-BEES (part of Hep' Me)
133 Let Him Down Easy/When I Stop Leaving - 70
NOTE: There are many more recordings after this point; the discography is not meant to be exhaustive.