Samuel Ridgley passed away on Saturday, August 27, 2016 at the age of 78. Ridgley was born August 6, 1943; the youngest of 17 children (his brother Tommy, a well-known musician, was the oldest, born 18 years earlier) and raised in the Shrewsbury section of Jefferson Parish on Andover Street.
In a 1999 interview with OffBeat, Ridgley said, “When I was growing up Tommy had left home and was living around the corner. I grew up singing gospel at the First Zion Baptist church and I was a good football player. I was an amateur boxer and won all but one fight. A policeman wanted to train me to box professionally, but my mother wouldn’t go for it.”
As an adolescent, Ridgley found out that there were certain perks to being the younger brother of a successful recording artist. “I was the second best dressed kid at John H. Martin High School,” laughed Ridgley. “Every time my brother went out of town, he’d bring me back a shirt, a pair of shoes, or a suit. In high school, I had 20 pairs of shoes and 13 suits."
Though Sammy gained much influence from his brother, he considered his biggest early influence to be Joe Tex and his performances at the Dew Drop. Joe Tex's dance moves and showmanship made a big impression on the young Ridgley and he was soon performing with O.W. Scott & the Magnificent. In 1965, he spent time in the studio at Cosimo Matassa's and WYLD. In 1968, he started Operation Plus. In 1972, he signed with local producer/promoter Elijah Walker, but his longest lasting gig was with Tommy's band, The Untouchables, who he performed with since the 1960s. Upon Tommy's death in 1999, he became the leader of that group. Hear Sammy's performance of 'I Heard That Story Before' at his Ponderosa Stomp artist profile page.
Sammy Ridgley is survived by his wife of 58 years, Althea Wright Ridgley; his children, Samuel "Mutt" Ridgley, Jr. (Carolyn), Lacretia and Leslie Ridgley, Terrielynn Green (Randolph) and Rene Rhea Rodriquez (Kenneth), 11 grandchildren, 19 great grandchildren; a sister, Rita Mae Ridgley and a host of nieces, nephews, other relatives, and friends.