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Every body has a story.

Every body has a story.

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Tommy Ardolino

Tommy Ardolino
January 12, 1955—January 6, 2012


Content warning: this article contains potentially disturbing content, including references to death and disease. Please use your best judgment as to whether you wish to read this content. Language is PG-13.

Thomas Robert Ardolino was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, on January 12, 1955, to Carmino and Marie Ferioli Ardolino. Virtually all that is published about is childhood is 1. he grew up in Springfield with his two brothers, and 2. he started collecting records and “song poems” at an early age. [I’d never heard of song poems before, but apparently they are poems written by amateur lyricists and set to music by professional music-producing companies. The way it’s described just about everywhere, it’s often a scam similar to vanity presses in book publishing. Instead of getting paid for their poems, writers pay the companies to produce the songs that use their lyrics. You learn something new every day!]

While still a teenager, Ardolino—a self-taught drummer who developed his own unique drumming style—heard the band New Rhythm and Blues Quartet (usually referred to as NRBQ–affiliate link). Like most discerning listeners, he fell in love with their music immediately. Ardolino wrote a (fan?) letter to the band’s keyboardist, Terry Adams, and Adams wrote back. They became two of the world’s coolest pen pals, swapping reel-to-reel tapes through the mail.

Ardolino was in the audience of an NRBQ concert one night when the band’s regular drummer (the also mega-talented Tom Staley) wasn’t able to finish an encore, so Adams invited Ardolino to fill in. Ardolino did such an impressive job, when Staley decided to leave the band for good in 1974 to spend more time with his young family, Ardolino was hired to replace him. The rest was harmonious history.

For 30 years Ardolino drummed for NRBQ, occasionally singing a number or two during concerts. Although it seemed as if The Q worked every night of the year, they did take breaks from time to time. On those rare occasions, Ardolino worked with the likes of Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, John Sebastian, and Bonnie Raitt. According to the Washington Post, who heard it from the Boston Globe, Raitt was a big fan, saying, “There’s [Rolling Stones drummer] Charlie Watts, and there’s Tom Ardolino. That’s it. [Ardolino] deserves an entire wing in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.”

You may think you’ve never heard of NRBQ or Ardolino, but if you’re a die-hard fan of The Simpsons (affiliate link) and/or Spongebob SquarePants (affiliate link) television shows, you’ve undoubtedly heard them (and him). Between 1999 and 2001 the band/their music were featured in six different episodes of The Simpsons. They were also immortalized in cartoon form (Simpson-style) in the episode, “Take My Wife, Sleaze.” As for Ardolino’s Spongebob connection, in 2006 he and the rest of the band contributed their talents to the classic SpongeBob SquarePants album, “The Best Day Ever.”

Ardolino released one solo album, 2004’s “Unknown Brain.” It was released on CD by Bumble Bee Records, Japan. According to the official NRBQ website, the CD contained “everything played and recorded by Tom around the summer of 1972.” It was apparently released on vinyl in the US in 2009 by Mystra Records. According to someone who owns the recording, the cover states, “WARNING: If out-of-tuneness bothers you, do not listen.”

In 2007 The Simpsons Movie was in production, and someone in the movie’s hierarchy thought it would be fun to have all of the different US cities named Springfield (about 34, if you don’t count the 36 or so Springfield Townships in the country) create and submit films to compete to be the Springfield that hosted the movie’s premiere. Long story short, Ardolino participated in the (unsuccessful) entry for Springfield, Massachusetts. Springfield, Vermont, won. So close!

Suffering from diabetes, Ardolino was hospitalized in late 2011 and passed away on January 6, 2012, six days shy of his 57th birthday. He left behind a wife, two stepchildren, many extended family members, a plethora of friends, and legions of grateful lifelong fans. The final disposition of his remains is known only to a few. I’m not one of them.

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