It finally got to me, the little snippets I'd seen about this supposed "best bar band in the world." I thought where better to start? So I bought the first NRBQ LP and got as far as the second song and was stopped dead in my tracks. After just hearing their cover of Eddie Cochran's "C'mon Everybody," it was a one of those "what the hell is this?!" moments, a cover of Sun Ra's "Rocket Number Nine." Now, if you know the song, and you know what you would expect when listening to a "bar band," you'll know why this record had me scratching my head. I was intrigued. The LP also had covers of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee's "C'mon If You're Comin'" and Bruce Chanel's "Hey Baby," mixed in with originals. Weird. They got chucked into the "keep an eye on these guys" stack.
A few years later, I stopped by a record store on my way home from work, and was browsing when I noticed that there were four guys in the store who all stuck out because they looked rather ramshackle, and not at all in typically ramshackle way. The other thing that stuck out was that they were in different sections of the store. One in imports, another in blues, another in international music...yeah, you can guess where this is going. Later on that night when I went to my first NRBQ show, I realized the guys I'd seen in the store were NRBQ. Now, this is where I try to explain my fondness for a band that may seem only marginally interesting to a casual listener. The record store was a good twenty miles south of their southernmost gig, meaning that before their gig, they drove twenty miles to go to a record store. Motherfuckers stole my heart. They were record fiend brethren. So, their worth to me is not that of a band I like, it's of freaks. Because there's no denying it, to whatever degree, they let it fly.
NRBQ's long time drummer Tommy Ardolino just died. A quote from a 1992 L.A. Times interview with Ardolinio: " I know all the good record stores in every town." Yes. A fiend among fiends. He started out a fan, and began to swap tapes with Terry Adams, the keyboard player. He sat in on a gig, and in 1974, when the original drummer left, he joined. He played with them for roughly thirty years. I believe it was he in the blues section of the record store. (Record Store Day is April 12. Yo, occupy.)
~ NOTE: ALL MEDIA IS HOSTED BY THE BLOGS & SITES NAMED BELOW ~Listen (streaming):
NRBQ - Rocket Number Nine (streaming) at YouTube
NRBQ - You Can't Hide (streaming) at YouTube
NRBQ - That's Alright mp3 at Art Decade
NRBQ - That's Neat, That's Nice mp3 (plus one other) at Star Maker Machine
Tommy Ardolino - Excellent profile/obituary at the L.A. Times