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IMPERIAL 5074; MAY 1950



As we get deeper into rock history and the number of records coming out in a typical month starts to increase exponentially the thought around here was we’d at least be able to skip a couple of non-essential B-sides without anyone really missing them.

When looking at the upcoming schedule of releases this was one of the records that it made sense to skip over, especially when there was no label scan to be found of this side of Imperial 5074.

But either I’m a soft touch or an egotistical sonuvabitch who reasons that if we DON’T cover as many of these sides as humanly possible, then who will?

So given a last minute reprieve – albeit a mercifully brief one – here’s another look at the still young career of Tommy Ridgley just as he likely realized he wouldn’t be joining his soon-to-be ex-label-mates at Imperial in the winner’s circle.


I’ve Got Nobody To Talk To Me
Considering that he’ll last longer on the scene than many of those who’ve already gotten legitimate hits (Jewel King, Archibald, even Smiley Lewis) it’s not as if we’ll ever shake ourselves entirely of Tommy Ridgley, but while those aforementioned names – plus those of Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew – were reaching stardom during in the first half of 1950 with their first few releases, it makes Ridgley’s failure to join them in that growing constellation all the more conspicuous.

The first single, as well as the top side of this release, were all solid performances, certainly average or slightly above average for rock ‘n’ roll during this stretch, but when the hits started piling up for Imperial’s other acts then merely being good wasn’t good enough.

Lonely Man Blues doesn’t reach even that plateau, as this is his weakest cut of his debut session, an attempt at a ballad that doesn’t quite match his strengths, although as always he sort of battles it to a draw through sheer effort alone.

But unlike on the rest of his output from that day, here he’s not exactly helped a lot by Bartholomew whose arrangement for this is just a little but out of sync, making this something most listeners… if not certain reviewers… can comfortably skip over in Ridgley’s catalog without feeling pangs of remorse.


Stormin’ And Rainin’
The horn intro is a little sickly sounding, though it finds a nice way to to spotlight Bartholomew’s own trumpet at the tail end, but unfortunately as Ridgley comes into view the horns prove to be the albatross around his neck, particularly the saxophone which dominates the rest of Lonely Man Blues, “answering” Ridgley’s vocals in a way that distracts greatly from them, as well as subverts the entire melody.

Maybe the fact that the melody was essentially the same as what they already laid down for better songs, such as Shrewsbury Blues, meant that Bartholomew felt they needed to do something to disguise its similarities. But this wasn’t it.

Not only is the sax’s tone alarmingly thin and wispy, making it sound as if it was running on fumes, but it’s also hampered by the fact that’s it just wandering about in search of a good hook. There’s no compatibility with the rest of the song, or with Ridgley’s vocals, and so you have two competing elements neither of which seem very comfortable with their own parts.

Had they used a deeper more languid tone it might’ve been mournfully reflective and supplemented Ridgley’s downcast mood enough to provide adequate support. This however just draws more attention to the song’s overall weakness because it lets you know they have nothing up their sleeve to pull out along the way to turn things around.

Go Just Where You Choose
Though he was a better uptempo singer than he was with slower material, Tommy Ridgley certainly wasn’t incapable of handling a ballad, or a sad song at any speed, and he does his best here to make this work even though he’s overmatched by the song’s rickety construct.

As you can surely surmise by the title Lonely Man Blues finds him miserable thanks to another girl leaving for no apparent reason, an occurrence so common in early rock that it should forever put to rest the theory that to GET women you need to join a band!

Of course Tommy insists he did everything he could to please her and it wasn’t enough as she dumped him for someone with more money. But rather be happy he found out she was a gold-digger he sits and cries about it instead.

We’re not mocking Ridgley’s plight – I mean he genuinely sounds broken up over it – but with lyrics this rudimentary and no real reason to mourn his “loss” when we do get the barest of details, there’s not much we can say to cheer him up. This scenario doesn’t need a song for him to work out his dejected state of mind, he just needs a good night’s sleep and a sunny day spent at the beach tomorrow so he can see there are plenty of fish in the sea… and girls on the sand… to ease his sorrow.

The biggest problem though isn’t the skimpy story, it’s the crawling pace which forces him to draw OUT that skimpy story over far too many measures to feel comfortable. He tries compensating by doubling up on a word the second time through one of the lines but he can’t do that every time and so he’s left waiting for the band to get the end of the bar so he can start up again and that grates on your nerves far more than his whining does.

Now That She’s Left Me
It’s a tough way to end what otherwise was a pretty solid early run of sides, though of course he had no way of knowing at the time this would result in his being pulled from the lineup.

Following Lonely Man Blues he’d be sent to the minors, IE. left to scuffle for jobs around town without a recording contract to promote his appearances, all the while never being sure he’d get another chance to prove his worth.

It’ll wind up being a rather long wait but when he does get back in the game again he’ll show that his benching hadn’t been justified and this last meeting with him was hardly indicative of his abilities.


(Visit the Artist page of Tommy Ridgley for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)