RIP: Tom Ardolino of NRBQ

photo by Eric Predoehl /

The LOUIE Universe has lost another friend.

Tom Ardolino, drummer with NRBQ, died on January 6 at the age of 56.

The band announced Ardolino’s death on their Facebook page on Friday: “Friends, We regret to inform you that Tom Ardolino passed away today. Tom will be missed but his spirit lives on through those who were touched by him.”

Tom Ardolino was 15 years old when he first heard NRBQ at a high school event, where he became mesmerized by their music. Using an address listed on the back of an NRBQ album, Tom sent off a fan letter, which was read and answered by keyboardist Terry Adams, which led to a great friendship, trading music tapes through the mail, with Tom attending attending virtually every NRBQ show in Western Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Four years later at an NRBQ show at the Rusty Nail in Sunderland, Tom Staley, the regular drummer wasn’t able to return to the stage for an encore, and Terry called Tom Ardolino to the stage to play drums with the band. Not long after that moment, Tom Staley decided to leave the band, and Tom Ardolino was invited to join the band. As Tom told the Boston Globe about his entry to the band, “It was like being high on drugs all the time after that.”

Tom Ardolino wound up recording and touring with NRBQ for the next thirty years.

The band built up a great reputation amongst music critics and fellow musicians, including such admirers as Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, Paul McCartney, and REM’s Peter Buck. Cartoon likeness of the band occasionally showed up on “SpongeBob SquarePants’’ and “The Simpsons,’’ whose executive producer Mike Scully, made an hourlong documentary about the band.

In 1990, I had an opportunity to work with NRBQ when my buddy Jesse Block and I were hired to shoot video at a private Village Music party at Sweetwater’s in Mill Valley, California. NRBQ was the headliner of the show that also included Johnnie Johnson (Chuck Berry‘s original keyboardist), Steve Douglas (saxophonist extraordinaire), Annie Sampson (of Stoneground) and my friend Richard Berry, author of LOUIE LOUIE.

It was another one of those great moments where I felt especially fortunate to be hired to work with some talented people I would have gladly paid to see perform.

photograph © John Goddard

Tom Ardolino, was a kindred spirit when it came to record collecting. In hindsight, it made perfect sense that I would meet him performing at a private party thrown by a record store with a collection that seemed more comprehensive than any library or museum I’ve ever visited.

One of the projects that Tom worked on was a collection of songs from the MSR record label, which specialized in producing customized music for poetry provided by customers. The first release – “The Beat Of The Traps- MSR Madness” led to a whole series of similar compilations celebrating the song-poem genre.

As I’ve witnessed via emails and internet social networks, there were a lot of people that loved Tom Ardolino. As Terry Adams mentioned to a writer for Boston Globe, “Tom had more friends than anybody I know, and each one had the feeling they were his best friend.”

I was fortunate that I was able to Tom to share some of his thoughts on LOUIE LOUIE.

As a tribute to Tom, here’s an excerpt from his testimonial, exclusive to the project.

Get the Flash Player to see this video.

Rest in peace, Tom.
You will absolutely not be forgotten….


Boston Globe obituary
Rolling Stone obituary
Pollstar obituary obituary

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