In 1966 two kids who were not being watched carefully started a garage band in their hometown of Shively, KY. Terry Adams played keys and sang, brother Donn played horns and percussion. The brothers recruited a buddy on drums and recorded some home tapes, on one of which Donn announces “Here they are, the New Rhythm and Blues Quintet!” despite the fact there were only three guys there. Here’s a moment that starts the band name and the sense of humor that would define the band and their stage persona for the next 50 years.
Terry and the band moved to Florida in 1966, and in 1967 some members returned to Kentucky but Terry stayed in Florida joining the band Seven of Us which included Joey Spaminato from the Bronx on bass. Bands crap out. It happens. So by the spring of ’67, kicking off the Summer of Love, the band was Terry Adams on keys and vocals, Joey Spaminato on bass and sweet vocals, Tommy ‘Rock-A-Baby’ Staley on drums, Frank Gadler on vocals, and Steve Ferguson on guitar. It wasn’t the seven of anything. It was the NRBQ.
The band worked with Eddie Kramer (!!!) at the Record Plant near the end of 1968 and was signed to a two record deal with Columbia. Their first album NRBQ was released in 1969 and in 1970 they worked with Carl Perkins on their Boppin the Blues album. These guys were quickly and clearly on their way during one of the most prolific periods in rock history. Right.
By the third album changes were made, one epic and the other typical of the rest of their career. ‘Big Al’ Anderson from The Wildweeds (Featured in Copper #92) replaced Steve Ferguson on guitar to begin a 22-year journey with great music and even greater live performances. The other change was they switched record companies to Kama Sutra and recorded their third LP, Scraps. Please. If you take nothing else away from this article get a copy of Scraps. I believe this was their greatest work, a classic in itself with at least three songs that will thrill your heart/libido/first car memory.
I’ve been listening to a lot of NRBQ music to prepare for this column and there are greats out there, each album with at least one song capable of a national hit. Love the fifth album NRBQ at Yankee Stadium. From the title you’d assume they played Yankee Stadium but instead the title is literal. The boys had gone on a tour of the iconic venue and had their picture taken there. See There they are. Right there. Squint a little. They’re sitting in the dugout…I think.
Just after Scraps Tom Ardolino replaced Staley on drums and the band was set until 1994. In the ’70s my wife and I used to see NRBQ at the Shaboo Inn which raised hell situated between UConn and Eastern Connecticut State in Willimantic. When the Q were there, you went. Period.
Every studio album showcases the humor and out-and-out wackiness of these guys. But live they were just SO much damn fun. Here from the eighth album TiddlyWinks, “It Was An Accident”.
And from the same show “That’s Neat, That’s Nice”.
Man those voices complement each other like cheeseburgers and fries. BTW, those are the Whole Wheat Horns that joined these nuts often.
This version of NRBQ sported three live albums. I don’t know Honest Dollar, but God Bless Us All and Diggin Uncle Q are gems. Here is “Daddy Loves Mommy-O Who Does Daddy-O Love”. Bout a couple that goes out on the town separately and find each other in a club.
As wacky as they were each album had at least one beauty of a love song on it. This is a live version of “You’re So Beautiful”. Sweet arrangement with nice solo work and singing from Al.
The dipshit record companies seriously whiffed on these guys. Thank the Lord they don’t run things anymore. No one seemed to know what to do with this obviously talented group of musicians and songwriters. Audiences adored them and the critics loved them but the record companies could not get a handle on NRBQ. After the first two albums with Columbia came two albums with Kama Sutra. Then one with Red Rooster, one with Mercury and two with Red Rooster/Rounder. Followed by one with Bearsville, three more with Red Rooster Rounder, one with Virgin and one with Rhino. This last Message from the Mess Age in 1994 was Big Al’s last gasp with the band. He moved back to Windsor, CT for a few years where he lived around the corner from my brother Ed. Al Anderson eventually moved to Nashville where his song writing talents were finally appreciated, writing hits for folks like Vince Gill, Alabama, Jimmy Buffett, Carlene Carter, George Strait, and Trisha Yearwood, including a number 1 with Tim McGraw.
This is a vid from the Dennis Miller Show where Miller screws up the intro and the band performs the lead song from their last album together, Message From The Mess Age.
A fitting allegory for how the record companies never knew what they had and despite that the band kills.
In 2014 Vince Gill listed his 14 favorite guitarists for Rolling Stone. He had Big Al on the list with guys like Jimmy Page, Sonny Landreth, Chet Atkins, Joe Walsh, and Derek Trucks. Nuff said.
I left this column a little short because I really wanted to include a lot of music. I hope you are enjoying this dance with me. Had a great time jumpin’ in my seat. From a TV show in 1980 “Rocket in My Pocket”, Al in a tux for some reason. Probably came right from court.
You see an example there of the gas lighting style of Terry Adams on the keys. But what you picked up live and on their albums, Adams was a helluva piano player. On this cut the guys pull out Thelonious Monk and end rocking.
“Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”. Sorry Gordon. Hahahaha!
In the late ’80s there was this show called Saturday Night with Connie Chung. I got a call from a CT buddy yelling that NRBQ were on TV. Let’s end with that. Thanks for sticking with me. NRBQ was a GREAT Rock and Roll band, and a great act.
OK, OK I’m getting requests for another tune. This is one of my favorite love songs of all time and a beloved Q tune. From Scraps, “Magnet”. Big Al’s sweet little licks all through the song and Terry on the piano.
Shiver me timbers.