|Birth name||Lyle Joseph Ritz|
|Born||January 10, 1930|
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
|Died||March 3, 2017 (aged 87)|
Portland, Oregon, U.S.
|Genres||Jazz, blues, rock, Hawaiian|
|Instruments||Ukulele, double bass, bass guitar|
|Associated acts||The Wrecking Crew, Herb Alpert, Beach Boys, Herb Ohta|
Lyle Joseph Ritz (January 10, 1930 – March 3, 2017) was an American musician, known for his work on ukulele and bass (both double bass and bass guitar). His early career in jazz as a ukulele player made him a key part of the Hawaii music scene in the 1950s. By the 1960s, he had begun working as a session musician, more often on double bass or electric bass guitar. His prominence in the Los Angeles session scene made him a part of the Wrecking Crew, an informal group of well-used Los Angeles-based musicians. Ritz contributed to many American pop hits from the mid 1960s to the early 1980s. Starting in the mid-1980s, a rediscovery of his earlier ukulele work led to him becoming a fixture in live festivals, and a revival of his interest in playing the ukulele. He was inducted to both the Ukulele Hall of Fame Museum and the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in 2007.
Southern California Music Company & US Army Band
Lyle Ritz began his music career as a college student working at the Southern California Music Company in Los Angeles. Responsible for the small goods department, he demonstrated instruments including the ukulele, which was being popularized by Arthur Godfrey at the time. He purchased a Gibson tenor ukulele for his own use.
Drafted into the US Army during the Korean War, Ritz played tuba in the United States Army Band. Stationed at Fort Ord, Ritz learned to play the acoustic bass. While on leave, Ritz visited the Music Company and played a few tunes on the ukulele at the urging of his colleagues. Unbeknownst to him, Guitarist Barney Kessel, a talent scout for Verve Records, was standing there.
After hearing Ritz play, Kessel approached him and made the connection that resulted in his first commercial records.
Verve released Ritz's first ukulele record, How About Uke?, in 1957. 50th State Jazz was released in 1959. Both records became very popular in Hawaii and started a wave of new ukulele players. However, the records had only limited popularity on the mainland.
The Wrecking Crew
To support himself, Ritz abandoned the ukulele and became a session musician on the bass guitar. He joined the Wrecking Crew, a popular group of studio musicians in the Los Angeles recording industry. Ritz compiled over 5,000 credits including such notable tracks as Herb Alpert's "A Taste of Honey", The Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'", and the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations". Other notable recording artists he backed up include Sonny & Cher, the Monkees, Herb Ohta, Dean Martin, and Linda Ronstadt. He also played bass on television soundtracks including The Rockford Files, Name That Tune, and Kojak.
In 1979 Ritz was hired to play the ukulele in place of Steve Martin when Martin was shown playing in The Jerk. In 1980, Ritz was a musician playing bass on Face the Music, a game show centered on musical puzzles.
Return to ukulele music
Roy Sakuma, a fellow ukulele player and record producer, looked up Ritz in 1984 and brought him to Hawaii for the Annual Ukulele Festival. Ritz had no idea how popular his Verve records still were in Hawaii, but he participated at the festival during the next three years. In 1988 he decided it was time to retire from the circuit, but he continued to play; his third album, Time, was released by Roy Sakuma Records the same year. In 1999, Jim Beloff, founder of Flea Market Music, put together the annual UKEtopia concert in California. Among the notable events was Bill Tapia and Ritz trading jazz licks in an impromptu cutting contest.
In 2005, Ritz purchased an Apple laptop and a copy of GarageBand, software used to make home recordings. After a half year's work, he completed a new solo album, No Frills, released in 2006. He recorded the bass track using a synthesizer so he could concentrate on the jazz ukulele. Ritz was inducted into the Ukulele Hall of Fame in 2007. His citation reads in part: "Ritz will always be known as the brilliant pioneer in the area of ukulele jazz."
- How About Uke? (Verve, 1958)
- 50th State Jazz (Verve, 1959)
- Time (Roy Sakuma, 1995)
- A Night of Ukulele Jazz (Flea Market Music 2001)
- Ukulele Duo (JVC, 2001)
- No Frills (Flea Market Music, 2006)
- Les Baxter, Moog Rock (GNP Crescendo, 1969)
- The Beach Boys, 15 Big Ones (Reprise, 1976)
- Martin Bell, Songs from the Way of the Wolf (Seabury Press, 1970)
- Theodore Bikel, A Folksinger's Choice (Elektra, 1964)
- Brewer & Shipley, Down in L.A. (A&M, 1968)
- Les Brown, Swingin' the Masters! (Columbia, 1963)
- Dennis Budimir, The Creeper (Mainstream, 1965)
- Cher, All I Really Want to Do (Imperial, 1965)
- Cher, Cher (Imperial, 1966)
- Randy Edelman, The Laughter and the Tears (Lion, 1972)
- Randy Edelman, You're the One (Arista, 1979)
- Ron Elliott, The Candlestickmaker (Warner Bros., 1969)
- Phil Everly, Star Spangled Springer (RCA 1973)
- Bob Florence, Bongos/Reeds/Brass (HiFi 1960)
- Roosevelt Grier, Soul City (Recording Industries, 1964)
- James William Guercio, Electra Glide in Blue (United Artists, 1973)
- Screamin' Jay Hawkins, What That Is! (Philips, 1969)
- Dan Hicks, It Happened One Bite (Warner Bros., 1978)
- Paul Horn, Impressions! (World Pacific, 1958)
- Sarah Kernochan, Beat Around the Bush (RCA, 1974)
- Al Kooper, Easy Does It (Columbia, 1970)
- Claudine Longet, Colours (A&M, 1968)
- Bob Morrison, Friends of Mine (Capitol, 1971)
- Mystic Moods Orchestra, Extensions (Philips, 1969)
- Randy Newman, 12 Songs (Reprise, 1970)
- Harry Nilsson, Pandemonium Shadow Show (RCA Victor, 1967)
- Van Dyke Parks, Song Cycle (Warner Bros., 1967)
- Mike Post, Fused (Warner Bros./Seven Arts 1969)
- Mike Post, Railhead Overture (MGM, 1975)
- Dory Previn, Dory Previn (Warner Bros., 1974)
- Emitt Rhodes, The American Dream (A&M, 1970)
- Ann Richards, Live at the Losers (Vee Jay, 1963)
- Nelson Riddle, Contemporary Sound of Nelson Riddle (United Artists, 1968)
- The Righteous Brothers, Back to Back (Philles, 1965)
- Jerry Riopelle, Saving Grace (ABC, 1974)
- Austin Roberts, The Last Thing On My Mind (Chelsea, 1973)
- Linda Ronstadt, Linda Ronstadt (Capitol, 1971)
- Sonny & Cher, Look at Us (ATCO, 1965)
- Townes Van Zandt, Our Mother the Mountain (Poppy 1969)
- Loudon Wainwright III, Unrequited (Columbia, 1975)
- Sammy Walker, Sammy Walker (Warner Bros., 1976)
- Sammy Walker, Blue Ridge Mountain Skyline (Warner Bros., 1977)
- Ian Whitcomb, Yellow Underground (Tower, 1967)
- Andy Williams, Solitaire (Columbia, 1973)
- Mason Williams, The Mason Williams Ear Show (Warner Bros./Seven Arts 1968)
- Mason Williams, The Mason Williams Phonograph Record (Warner Bros./Seven Arts 1968)
- Stan Wilson, Stan Wilson at the Ash Grove (Verve, 1959)
- Ritz, Lyle (2001). Jumpin Jim's Ukulele Masters. Flea Market Music. ISBN 978-0634027642.
- Ritz, Lyle; Beloff, Jim (2002). Jumpin' Jim's Ukulele Masters: Lyle Ritz Solos. Flea Market Music. ISBN 978-0634046582.
- Ritz, Lyle (2008). Lyle Lite: 16 Easy Chord Solos Arranged by Ukulele Jazz Master Lyle Ritz. Flea Market Music. ISBN 978-1423437819.
- Jeffries, David. "Lyle Ritz Biography". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
- Tranquada, Jim (2012). The Ukulele: A History. University of Hawaii Press. p. 150. ISBN 978-0-8248-3634-4.
- Ritz, Lyle (January 7, 2009). "The Ukulele Podcast". UkeCast 201 (Interview). Interviewed by Nina Coquina.
- Whitcomb, Ian (2012). Ukulele Heroes: The Golden Age. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Hal Leonard. p. 138. ISBN 978-1-4584-1654-4.
- Face the Music (TV Series 1979–1981) on IMDb
- Chang, Heidi (March 9, 2017). "Ukulele artist played jazz, influenced isle musicians". Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
- Chang, Heidi (July 29, 2007). "Bassist Lyle Ritz: Father of Jazz Ukulele". NPR Music.
- "2007 Hall of Fame Inductee Lyle Ritz". Ukulele Hall of Fame Museum. Retrieved March 8, 2017.
- "Lyle Ritz, Wrecking Crew Bassist, Dies at 87". Best Classic Bands. Best Classic Bands. Retrieved March 6, 2017.
- Marble, Steve (March 9, 2017). "Lyle Ritz dies at 87; 'Wrecking Crew' bassist became Hawaii ukulele legend". Los Angeles Times.