The Last Days of NRBQ: Some Kind Of Blues

Any lingering delusions concerning the silly charade that is the “Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame”  can be quickly dispelled by a single ludicrous oversight: NRBQ, short for the New Rhythm And Blues Quartet, has never made it onto a single ballot. Over the course of four decades, the band's vibrant, unruly take on everything from power pop to barrel house blues to free jazz has inspired generations of younger artists to emulate their infectious spontaneity. Peerless as musicians and songwriters, and unforgettable as performers, the group's classic line up of pianist Terry Adams, bassist Joey Spampinato, guitarist Al Anderson and drummer Tommy Ardolino was a musical Mount Rushmore, regularly drawing thousands of fans throughout the 80s and 90s to see their live spectacle, usually with little or no backing from a music industry too myopic to recognize their extraordinary appeal. When Anderson departed amicably in 1994 in order to pursue a highly successful career as a Nashville songwriter, Joey’s brother Johnny Spampinato nimbly replaced him on guitar, and NRBQ rolled on gloriously for nearly another decade.

Then in 2004, Adams was diagnosed with throat cancer. The band went on hiatus. The great ride, it seemed, was over.

It remains nearly impossible to overstate the devotion that the name NRBQ inspires in their ardent fan base. Counted within this coterie of admirers is a startlingly impressive cross-section of fellow artists and musicians, whose diversity and high profile are a tribute to the band's protean agility. Paul Westerberg and Elvis Costello have borne witness to the band's genius, and Keith Richards once handpicked Joey Spampinato to man the bass for his Chuck Berry tribute concert film Hail, Hail Rock And Roll. Everyone from Bonnie Raitt to Steve Earle to  She and Him  has covered their songs. Mike Scully, producer of “The Simpsons” counts the band as one of his very favorites, and has used NRBQ songs in multiple episodes. This is unsurprising - amongst other attributes - NRBQ songs are often hilarious.

Peter Jesperson, former manager of the Replacements, founder of the legendary independent label Twin Tone, and currently a vice president at New West records reflects the following: Whenever I hear statistics about who the biggest artist in the world is at any given time — whether it’s Elton John or U2 or Katy Perry - I always scratch my head. I mean — really? Why not NRBQ?”

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