NRBQ is an American rock band founded in 1966. 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 current membership comprises the quartet of pianist Terry Adams, bassist Casey McDonough, guitarist Scott Ligon and drummer John Perrin. Some of the most notable members in the band's long history are bassist Joey Spampinato; guitarists Al Anderson, Steve Ferguson, and Johnny Spampinato; and drummer Tom Ardolino.
The abbreviation "NRBQ" stands for New Rhythm and Blues Quartet (originally Quintet).
NRBQ in 2007
|Genres||Rock, country, folk, jazz rock, R&B|
|Years active||1966-2004, 2011-present|
|Past members||Joey Spampinato
Bobby Lloyd Hicks
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, The Replacements, and Penn & Teller. NRBQ songs have been performed by Bonnie Raitt, Los Lobos, Dave Edmunds, and many others. Also, 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 and on camera during the end credits to perform the show's theme song during the episode "Take My Wife, Sleaze" and to perform Edmunds's cover of "Me & The Boys". 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. Their song "Down in My Heart" was featured in the series finale of Wilfred.
NRBQ has a following from years of live shows. The band has been known to not work 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.
In their nearly 50-year history, NRBQ's records have been released by many record companies, including Columbia Records, Kama Sutra Records, Mercury Records, Virgin Records, Rhino Entertainment, Rounder Records, and more. Their song "Get That Gasoline Blues" (on Kama Sutra) reached No. 70 in 1974 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. 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.
NRBQ began in late 1965 as a rehearsal band in the Shively, Kentucky home of brothers Terry and Donn Adams, and appeared on stage for the first time in 1966. Along with drummer Charlie Craig, they made home tapes of their experiments. The first known reference to the band's name can be heard on one of these home tapes, with Donn announcing, "Here they are, the New Rhythm and Blues Quintet!" as though presenting them to a live audience.
In late spring of 1966, guitarist Steve Ferguson was invited to join NRBQ after he quit Merseybeats USA (no relation to the Liverpool group who recorded "I Stand Accused"). He'd met Terry Adams when the latter briefly joined Merseybeats USA to fill in for the regular keyboard player. After playing a few live dates in Louisville, Jimmy Orten (Soul Inc) was recruited on bass and vocals and the band left for Florida in late 1966.
In Miami, early January 1967, NRBQ played six nights at The Cheetah. Soon after, Jimmy and Steve returned to Louisville. Terry stayed behind and joined The Seven of Us, a band that was playing the same club. In May 1968, Terry and Steve re-formed NRBQ in Miami. By August, the band was Terry (keyboards), Steve (guitar), Joey Spampinato (bass) and Frank Gadler (vocals) from The Seven of Us, and Tom Staley (drums).
The group relocated to the northeast in late November 1968, and played The Choo Choo Club in Lodi, New Jersey and Steve Paul's Scene in New York City. In December 1968, they began recording with Eddie Kramer at the Record Plant and by early 1969 were signed to a two-record deal with Columbia Records. Their self-titled debut album was released that year, with songs by both Eddie Cochran and Sun Ra, and 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.
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 (Donn Adams, Keith Spring and others). 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.
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 recovered 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 was replaced by Casey McDonough.
Bobby Lloyd Hicks became the new drummer from 2013 to 2015 when he was replaced by John Perrin. He is featured on some tracks on the 5 CD set "High Noon".
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.
Bobby Lloyd Hicks died on February 20, 2017.