Tag Archives: NRBQ

Bonnie and Dave and the boys

After the passing of NRBQ drummer Tom Ardolino last week, I ripped some covers of NRBQ songs, then decided against using them in that post. It was getting plenty long as it was.

Let’s give them a listen, shall we?

NRBQ’s popularity among critics, fans and their peers peaked as the ’70s started to turn toward the ’80s. During that time, NRBQ released three albums widely regarded as among their best: “At Yankee Stadium” in 1978, “Kick Me Hard” in 1979 and “Tiddly Winks” in 1980.

Bonnie Raitt noticed. Disappointed at how her 1979 LP, “The Glow” was received, she decided have a little fun with her next record. She rocked out on “Green Light,” released in 1982. Who better to have fun with than NRBQ? So she covered two of their songs.

“Me And The Boys” and “Green Lights,” Bonnie Raitt, from “Green Light,” 1982. It’s out of print but is available digitally.

Dave Edmunds noticed, too. He picked a bunch of covers for “D.E. 7th,” his first record after the breakup of Rockpile. One was an unreleased Bruce Springsteen song. There also were covers of Chuck Berry, Brian Hyland and Doug Kershaw. And an NRBQ cover, one also chosen by Bonnie Raitt.

“Me And The Boys,” Dave Edmunds, from “D.E. 7th,” 1982. The buy link is to a double-length CD that also includes the “Information” LP from 1983.

Edmunds kept some of that spirit on his next record, “Information,” in 1983. Though most remembered for Jeff Lynne’s production and songs, Edmunds still worked in covers of songs by the J. Geils Band, Moon Martin and Otis Blackwell. And one by NRBQ.

“I Want You Bad,” Dave Edmunds, from “Information,” 1983. The buy link is to the same double-length CD mentioned earlier.

See how they compare to the originals.

“Green Lights” and “I Want You Bad,” NRBQ, from “At Yankee Stadium,” 1978.

“Green Lights” written by Terry Adams and Joey Spampinato.

“I Want You Bad” written by Terry Adams and Phil Crandon.

“Me And The Boys,” NRBQ, from “Tiddly Winks,” 1980. It’s out of print. The song is available digitally. It’s part of “The Rounder Records Story,” a 4-CD, 87-song set released in 2010.

“Me And The Boys” written by Terry Adams.

At this point, I must state for the record — so to speak — that both the Bonnie Raitt record and the NRBQ records were brought to the party by the lovely Janet, who at the time was my girlfriend and who somehow decided to stick around and become my wife.

Now if I could only find our copy of “Tiddly Winks.” We used to have it, and I can’t imagine we let it go in either the Great Record Purge of 1989 or our Great Garage Sale of 2006. If so, that’s another story for another day.


Filed under January 2012, Sounds

A little magic from NRBQ

NRBQ was, and is, a cult fave. I know. I went underground to see them.

The news that NRBQ drummer Tom Ardolino died on Friday night reminded me of those long-ago gigs in Madison, Wisconsin. It was the mid-1980s. WORT, our local indie, free-form radio station, was playing NRBQ in advance of a show. The message, essentially, was “This stuff is OK, but you really ought to see them live.”

So I went down to Headliners, which was a music club built below street level. Situated next to the Church Key, a cramped bar in an old church, Headliners was more spacious. You probably could squeeze 1,000 people into it. NRBQ drew a nice crowd for a college town, but nothing close to capacity.

My lingering memory is not so much NRBQ’s songs, but its loose, joyous, energetic and irreverent stage presence. NRBQ played tunes from all kinds of genres. They also made the audience part of their show, happily fielding requests.

Some 20 years later, NRBQ played on a side stage at a big outdoor festival here in Green Bay. There might have been 20 people in the audience, tops, but we got the same kind of show I saw at Headliners years before. I found the following about that Green Bay show, posted last year on an NRBQ bulletin board. I don’t know who wrote it, but it’s accurate:

“It was an odd gig since no one in the audience seemed to know who NRBQ was. We talked to the guys after the 1st gig and when Terry (Adams) asked where the audience was, we told him that people seemed to be more into the Beatles cover band playing on another stage. Tommy said ‘Well, maybe we should play more Beatles songs!’ The 2nd night, sure enough, they played 3 Beatles covers … and everyone loved them.”

There aren’t a lot of NRBQ records in the racks behind me. They just don’t measure up to the live shows.

Here, though, is one track that captures a little bit of what NRBQ was like on stage. “Time for the box!” means it’s time to pick something from the Magic Box, which sits on stage and is stuffed with fans’ requests for covers.

“North To Alaska,” NRBQ, from “Kick Me Hard,” 1979. It’s out of print, but a 1989 CD release with extra tracks is available digitally. They’re accompanied by the Whole Wheat Horns — trombone player Donn Adams and sax player Keith Spring — on this cut.

This, of course, is a loosey-goosey cover of the old Johnny Horton song. One of those extra digital tracks is a loosey-goosey cover of “Spinning Wheel.”

Photo: Al Anderson, Tom Ardolino, Terry Adams and Joey Spampinato from the back cover of the “At Yankee Stadium” LP from 1978.

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Filed under January 2012, Sounds

Three under the tree, Vol. 20

Tonight, we find three under the tree from members of The Q.

NRBQ — the New Rhythm and Blues Quartet — has been around since the late ’60s, cranking out good-natured, irreverent tunes in a variety of styles.

Having seen them two or three times, I assure you they’re better live than recorded. They’re best seen with an audience that gets them. They played to respectable, enthusiastic crowds at the old Headliners club in Madison, Wisconsin, in the mid-’80s. They played to a tiny, clueless crowd at a summer festival in Green Bay, Wisconsin, just a couple of years ago. I think there were eight of us in the audience at one point.

But let us return to the late ’80s, when I received NRBQ’s “Christmas Wish” as a Christmas gift from the lovely Janet.

When NRBQ recorded this, its lineup consisted of Terry Adams on keyboards, Al Anderson on guitar, Joey Spampinato on bass and Tom Ardolino on drums. These guys were together for 20 or so years, from the mid-’70s to the mid-’90s, and are considered the classic NRBQ lineup.

Though only Adams and Spampinato remain as regular members of NRBQ, it’s not clear whether the band remains a going concern. They’ve played on and off over the last couple of years, with the usual variety of side projects.

Regardless, we have “Christmas Wish.”


“Christmas Wish,” the single, was written by Spampinato. It came out first on a 45, backed with “Jolly Old St. Nicholas,” and released in 1980 as Red Rooster/Rounder 1006.

Five years later, they rounded up those tunes, added some live bits and other assorted noodling and released it on a 12-inch 45. “Christmas Wish,” the EP, clocks in at a crisp 11 minutes. Typical irreverence from The Q.

“Christmas Wish” Side 1: “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “Christmas Wish,” “Electric Train” and “Here Comes Santa Claus.” It runs 5:26.

“Christmas Wish” Side 2: “Jolly Old St. Nicholas,” “Jingle Bells,” “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” and “Christmas Wish (Reprise)” It runs 5:34.

All by NRBQ, from “Christmas Wish,” the original vinyl 12-inch 45 EP, 1985. It’s out of print, but was re-released on CD this year as “Christmas Wish: Deluxe Edition.” It’s expanded from eight short tunes to 19 short tunes and presumably is just more of the same silliness.

While doing some research for this post, I came across a couple more holiday downloads at NRBQ’s web site. Head over there for an instrumental version of “Christmas Wish” and a live, slightly less wild version of “Here Comes Santa Claus,” also featuring Evans on the keyboards.

But I digress.

Al Anderson spent 22 years in NRBQ, then left in 1993 to forge a career as one of Nashville’s best songwriters. He wrote tonight’s third tune, which is sung by one of my all-time faves, Carlene Carter. They also teamed up to write “Every Little Thing,” one of her biggest hits.


“Rockin’ Little Christmas,” Carlene Carter, from “A Giant Country Christmas, Vol. 1,” 1994.

In the mail the other day was a note from Brad, who oversees the fine Carlene Carter Fan Club web site. In that note, a little Christmas cheer: Carter, who rarely has played in the States in recent years, has a gig at B.B. King’s Blues Club in New York on Jan. 13. Here’s hoping she sees fit to play some more dates. Also, her new album, “Stronger,” is scheduled to be released on Yep Roc Records on March 8. A good match of artist and label.

Again, I digress.

Enjoy. More to come.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2007, Sounds