NRBQ in 2007
|Genres||Rock, power pop, jazz rock|
|Years active||1967–2004, 2007, 2011|
|Past members||Joey Spampinato
NRBQ is an American rock band founded in 1967. It is known for its live performances, containing a high degree of spontaneity and levity, and blending rock, pop, jazz, blues and Tin Pan Alley styles. Its best known line-up is the 1974–1994 quartet of pianist Terry Adams, bassist Joey Spampinato, guitarist Al Anderson, and drummer Tom Ardolino. 2004 saw the beginning of a several-year long hiatus interrupted only by a few reunion performances, while band members pursued other projects. In 2011, the band returned with keyboardist Adams as the only member from any previous lineup.
The abbreviation "NRBQ" stands for New Rhythm and Blues Quartet (originally Quintet). It also, coincidentally, corresponds to the four New York City Subway lines that answer the question "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?"
The band's music is a blend of styles from rockabilly to Beatles-influenced pop to Thelonious Monk-inspired jazz. They have attracted fans as diverse as Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello, Keith Richards and Penn and Teller. NRBQ songs have been performed by Bonnie Raitt, Los Lobos, and Dave Edmunds, among many others. In addition, the group served as the unofficial "house band" for The Simpsons for the season 10-12 period in which NRBQ fan Mike Scully was head writer and executive producer. NRBQ allowed several of their songs to be used on The Simpsons, including "Mayonnaise and Marmalade", written specifically for the show. The band also appeared in animated form as well as on camera during the end credits to perform the show's theme song during the episode "Take My Wife, Sleaze". The band also recorded a song entitled "Birdman" for an episode of Space Ghost Coast to Coast entitled "Pilot". The group appeared in feature films, including Day of the Dead, Shakes the Clown, and 28 Days.
NRBQ's has a devoted following from many years of live shows. The band never works with a set list, so fans never knew what songs to expect. In addition to its own compositions, the band performs a broad range of cover material and audience requests.
The band made only one appearance on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in its nearly 40-year recording career ("Get That Gasoline Blues" reached No. 70 in 1974.) More than once, NRBQ garnered a major-label record deal, only to be dropped after one or two albums due to poor sales. Over the years, the group played sets while wearing pajamas, hired professional wrestler "Captain" Lou Albano as its manager (for whom they penned a song in tribute), and exploded Cabbage Patch Dolls on stage.
Steve Ferguson was playing in a popular Louisville, KY band called the MerseyBeats (no relation to the Liverpool group who recorded “I Stand Accused”). When the band began to get more popular and started recording, the name was changed to “MerseyBeats USA” to avoid any potential for confusion or lawsuits. In 1966, the keyboard player took a night off for his senior prom. The local union sent a substitute named Terry Adams. Later in the summer Terry became a permanent member when the original keyboardist left the band to get married.
Terry and Steve hit it off from the beginning. Steve came from a blues and rock background while Terry was deeply rooted in jazz. Later that year, the pair left the MerseyBeats USA to start a new group. The name NRBQ was adopted early with several other local players joining in. It wasn't until the next year when the pair went to Florida to try the waters that the band formally known as NRBQ developed.
Ferguson and Adams moved to Miami, where they met the remnants of a band called the Seven of Us, singer Frank Gadler, drummer Tom Staley and bassist Joey Spampinato (originally known by the stage name of Jody St. Nicholas), and formed NRBQ in 1967. The group relocated to the northeastern U.S., living for a while in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and gaining attention in local clubs and performing at the Fillmore East. NRBQ was signed to Columbia Records in 1969, and released its self-titled debut album the same year. The record featured cover versions of everyone from Eddie Cochran to Sun Ra, along with a number of similarly wide-ranging original songs. The following year, the group collaborated with rockabilly legend Carl Perkins on an album titled Boppin' the Blues."
However, before NRBQ could finish its third album, Columbia dropped the group. Over the next three years, the band experienced personnel shifts, with the departure of Ferguson (replaced for one year by Ken Sheehan), Gadler, and Staley, and the arrival of two new members: guitarist/singer Al Anderson formerly of The Wildweeds, known for the Connecticut and Massachusetts regional hit No Good To Cry, and drummer Tom Ardolino. The Adams/Spampinato/Anderson/Ardolino quartet stayed together longer than any other incarnation of the band (20 years, from 1974 until 1994), and was often augmented by the Whole Wheat Horns. In 1994 Anderson departed the group to become an award-winning Nashville songwriter for many country-western acts. He was replaced in NRBQ by Joey Spampinato's younger brother, Johnny Spampinato, who was (and still is) a member of power-pop band The Incredible Casuals.
On April 30 and May 1 of 2004, the group celebrated its 35th anniversary with concerts at the Calvin Theater in Northampton, Massachusetts. The shows featured every former and current member of the band, as Ferguson, Gadler, Staley, Sheehan and Anderson came back for a NRBQ reunion.
Hiatus and return
Near the end of 2004, NRBQ went on hiatus. Adams had developed stage 4 throat cancer. During this time, Ardolino and the Spampinato brothers started playing shows as a trio, under the name Baby Macaroni. After a number of months, Adams would recover well enough to tour with former drummer Staley and Japanese rockabilly group the Hot Shots.
In June 2006, Adams and Ferguson released the album Louisville Sluggers (with Ardolino on drums, Pete Toigo on bass and other supporting musicians), and this album's lineup performed some live shows in the U.S. and Japan as "The Terry Adams - Steve Ferguson Quartet" and "Rock & Roll Summit Meeting."
Also in September 2006 came the release of a SpongeBob SquarePants album, The Best Day Ever, which included backing music by all four NRBQ members, as well as Al Anderson. The album, a collection of '60s-influenced pop/rock produced by Andy Paley, and co-written by Paley and the voice of SpongeBob, Tom Kenny, also included such musical luminaries as Brian Wilson, Tommy Ramone, James Burton, Flaco Jiménez and Philadelphia DJ Jerry "The Geator" Blavat.
In March 2011, Terry Adams posted an open letter to fans announcing that with the release of the upcoming album Keep This Love Goin', this lineup would take on the NRBQ name. He also explained that while he did have tendonitis, the real reason for the hiatus was his treatment for cancer. In May 2012, the group released a live album, We Travel the Spaceways, on Clang! records. In September 2012 bassist Pete Donnelly quit the band and was replaced by Casey McDonough.
On April 27 and 28 of 2007, NRBQ gave a pair of "38th Anniversary" performances in Northampton, Massachusetts, the first public NRBQ shows since 2004. Both Al Anderson and Johnny Spampinato appeared in the lineup, along with "Whole Wheat Horns" Donn Adams and Jim Bob Hoke, and unannounced guest appearances by John Sebastian, original NRBQ drummer Tom Staley and the band's former road manager Klem Klimek on saxophone.
Steve Ferguson died of cancer on October 7, 2009.
Tom Ardolino died on January 6, 2012, following a long illness.
- NRBQ (Columbia) 1969
- Boppin’ the Blues (w/Carl Perkins) (Columbia) 1970
- Scraps (Kama Sutra) 1972
- Workshop (Kama Sutra) 1973
- All Hopped Up (Red Rooster) 1977
- At Yankee Stadium (Mercury) 1978
- Kick Me Hard (Red Rooster/Rounder) 1979
- Tiddlywinks (Rounder/Red Rooster) 1980
- Grooves in Orbit (Bearsville) 1983
- Tapdancin' Bats (Rounder/Red Rooster) 1984
- She Sings, They Play (w/Skeeter Davis) (Rounder/Red Rooster) 1985
- Lou and the Q (w/"Captain" Lou Albano) (Rounder/Red Rooster) 1986
- RC Cola and a Moon Pie (Rounder/Red Rooster) 1986
- Uncommon Denominators (Rounder-era compilation covering '72 through '84) (Rounder) 1987
- God Bless Us All (live album) (Rounder) 1987
- Diggin’ Uncle Q (live album) (Rounder) 1988
- Kick Me Hard- the Deluxe Edition (reissue, w/8 bonus tracks) (Rounder) 1989
- Wild Weekend (Virgin) 1989
- Peek-A-Boo (multi-label compilation covering '69 through '89) (Rhino) 1990
- Honest Dollar (Live compilation) (Rykodisc) 1992
- Stay with We (compilation of Columbia years, w/unreleased songs) (Columbia/Legacy) 1993
- Message for the Mess Age (Rhino) 1994
- Tokyo (live album) (Rounder) 1996
- You’re Nice People You Are (Rounder) 1997
- Tapdancin' Bats - The Anniversary Edition (reissue, w/4 bonus tracks) (Rounder) 1998
- You Gotta Be Loose (live album) (Rounder) 1998
- Ridin’ in My Car (reissue of All Hopped Up, w/unreleased songs) 1999
- NRBQ (sometimes known as "The Yellow Album") (Rounder) 1999
- Scraps (reissue, remastered, w/3 bonus tracks) (Rounder) 2000
- Scraps Companion (15 tracks from radio show from Memphis in 1972 and 6 Outakes from Scraps sessions) (Edisun) 2000
- Atsa My Band (Edisun) 2002
- Live from Mountain Stage (Live performances from the Mountain Stage radio show) (Blue Plate) 2002
- Live at the Wax Museum (previously unreleased concert from 1982, with guest John Sebastian) (Edisun) 2003
- Dummy (Edisun) 2004
- Transmissions (2-disc Japan-only compilation featuring about 40 percent unissued material) (Caraway) 2004
- Froggy's Favorites Vol. 1 (compilation of unreleased live tracks 1979-1999) (Edisun) 2006
- Ludlow Garage 1970 (previously unreleased concert from 1970) (Sundazed) 2006
- Christmas Wish- Deluxe Version (Clang!) 2007
- Keep This Love Goin' (Clang!) 2011
- We Travel the Spaceways (Clang!) 2012
- NRBQ homepage
- Terry Adams homepage
- Al Anderson homepage