I have made up a few rules that I hold dear and one of those is Rock & Roll Band Quorum. This rule states that if you don’t have a simple majority of original band members on stage, you are not that band. “The Who,” “KISS,” competing versions of “Foghat” and scores more are serial offenders. However, every rule has an exception and I just came face to face this rule’s anomaly when I saw the new lineup of NRBQ.
Terry Adams formed NRBQ with Steve Ferguson in Louisville in 1966 and since their inception, the band has seen members come and go. Most people cite the version with Adams, Joey Spampinato, Tom Ardolino, and Al Anderson as being the “classic lineup,” but somehow, Adams has kept their approach and intent intact over the decades. He is the common thread running through this off-kilter sweater that only seems to improve with age. Noted Nashville musician Bill Lloyd likened this phenomenon to the bands of Count Basie and Bob Wills, ensembles which retained their signature sounds through regular lineup changes. I compare it to having a great coach who always manages to field a winning team. Whatever your analogy, NRBQ continues to be one of the most adventurous outfits making music today.
NRBQ’s new album, Brass Tacks, sounds of a piece with band’s substantial catalog.
It’s the way I see things. I’m not saying I did everything but it is a vision of mine.
How did that vision develop?
You learn a lot from different musicians. For me, it showed me that there was more to the world than what they were showing me in Louisville, Kentucky. I could hear in the speakers that there was something else going on.
What was the first record that really grabbed your attention?
It’s not really about individual records, it was about sounds. When I was very young, there was a Mother Goose 78 RPM set I had and I liked the sound of that organ. I played it over and over again. Later, it was Elvis Presley and stuff like that. But I was fascinated by all sounds. I would even play records I didn’t like very much because I was interested in what was going on, sound-wise. Things like Doris Day records that I would play again and again and again.
After a while, it gets more personalized. I heard something in Thelonious Monk. Obviously, it had something to do with New York City but I had never been there. But I could hear the city in his music. Perseverance, sticking with what you believe in was a major lesson from him. If you love the music, then you have to obey what you learn.