If hearing Steve Marriott's voice at the helm of Humble Pie was the defining moment in my musical education - then next up, along with Frampton's guitar, was the big blonde guy who played bass, with the big booming voice and the rock star looks...or maybe he just seemed big at the time compared to the other three, who are all pretty small ?
Then further investigation reveals that he is a top bass guitarist, the
coolest bass player on the planet when he joined Humble Pie ! In fact an
important part of the "supergroup" story around Humble Pie's beginnings.
"Steve rang me up early on New Year's morning" said Jerry Shirley "and
told me he was joining me and Peter in Peter's band." Somewhat tongue in
cheek he added, "but what clinched it for me was that he was bringing Greg Ridley into the band - and he was THE bass player on the underground scene"
Greg and Jerry would go on to quickly become the driving rhythm machine
Greg Ridley could himslef put together a very decent "Best Of" from Humble Pie tracks....from Big George, to Sucking on the Sweet Vine, to Let Me Be Your Lovemaker, Drift Away, Send Me Your Loving, You're so Good to Me, Sweet Peace and Time and so on....and that's without his contribution to songs like Four Day Creep and Hallelujah I Love Her So.
Brilliant to see Greg again in 2001, stage centre, legs astride in his
famous pose, still wearing those trademark leather trousers.
A far cry from the early sixties in Carlisle, only a few miles from the
Scottish border, as Dino from Dino and the Danubes.
In quick succession he led the Dakotas and the Ramrods, before teaming up with school friend Mick Harrison in the VIP's in 1964. In talking to Greg,
this is a group he obviously remembers with great relish. In fact he was
tickled pink when a fan on the recent Humble Pie German tour brought some VIP records to sign. Don't know if many people know, but Keith Enerson was also a member for a short time
Anyway, the VIP's evolved to Art, with Luther Grosvenor and Mike Kellie,
and then into Spooky Tooth with American Gary Wright.
After Humble Pie, Greg worked on a still unreleased duo album with Steve
Marriott, and joined the ill-fated All Stars on their short US tour.
He tried out for Mike Patto's new band Boxer, and with Clempson/Powell in
Strange Brew before retiring from the music industry at the ripe old age
Ladies and Gentlemen...Greg Ridley.
Part 1 - Back on Track
I was really pleasantly surprised, and delighted, by the promo copy of
your new album. It's excellent - and it's a grower too. Some excellent
tracks - like Bobby's "Stay One More Night". How do you feel about it ?
Greg - I think it was a good and pleasing bit of work, having only 2 weeks
to complete due to low budget.
You seem to take major vocal duties on the album - featuring lead vocals
on about four of the tracks. Is it like riding a bike, doing the front man
duties ? Never really forgotten ?
Greg - I relish it and want to take on Front man duties.
Do you have plans to do UK dates ? I hear a lot of grumbling from the
folks on the e-list, as Humble Pie dates get advertised at venues around
the UK, and then get cancelled. Are you having Agent trouble, or is there
another reason ?
Greg - Agent trouble plus Promoters who aren't sure of our pulling power
plus guitarist Bucket, has a few commitments with Bad Company to fulfil.
I was fortunate to see the historic re-union of Humble Pie at the London
Astoria last year.How did you feel about meeting up with Peter again, and
did you enjoy the night ?
Greg - It was a thrill meeting up with Clem and Peter for the first time
in 30 years. With only 1/2 hour rehearsal, thought it sounded great
Rumours persist of a possible U.S. Tour in 2002 with Messrs, Frampton
and/or Clempson. Anything in it, do you know ?
Greg - We are talking about doing a one off album with myself, Jerry, Clem
and Peter this year. It's down to matching everybody's timetable
I guess you were missing (to my knowledge) from the music business from the late seventies until the Spooky Tooth reunion a few years ago. Did you stay uninvolved throughout those years ?
Greg - I more or less dropped out, reclusive fashion, and didn't maintain
any contact with any of the guys or the music business. Moved to the
Part Two - Sucking on the Sweet Vine
I guess it's a long time since Dino from the Danubes; and The Ramrods and
the Dakotas after that. You were always the front man. Do you ever regret taking up the bass guitar and giving the front-man main duties mainly to others ?
Greg - I only gave up front man to better singers....and Steve was the
best in the business. It was never my intention to play bass but thank god
I did. I love it. Bass and drums is the back-bone.
Did you know Steve prior to the famous New Year's Eve gig at the
Alexandria Palace ?
Greg - Only loosely in the studio with Spooky a couple of times and shared
Tell us the real story of that night. I think Jenny was there, and I read
that Spooky Tooth were the support band. I know you felt it was time for a
change...but what actually happened that night ? Was it a sealed deal
after your conversation?
Greg - He just came up back stage and said do you fancy being in a new
band. Instant reply...YES. Both of us needing a fresh challenge away from the creeping paranoia.
Legend has it that Ian McLagan tried out with Pie - in fact you recorded
one of his songs (Growing Closer) on the first album; but it was yourself
who didn't fancy the sound and vetoed the idea of him joining ?
Greg - . Its difficult mixing and matching personalities in any group of
people, but I think the decision was his.
I hear a lot about one of your early UK tours when you were still doing
the acoustic stuff.Steve sang a song along the lines of "I Worship the
Ground". Can you remember anything about it ?
Greg - . Self-indulgence and still seeking our direction.
I think I read that you stayed in Beehive Cottage for a bit - in the
little outhouse across from the Cottage that I think later became the studio. Then after that , you lived quite close by. Is that true ?
Greg - Yes, I lived in a room above his garage, the loft, which later
became the recording studio and I moved to Epping Forrest a couple of miles away.
I was in the audience for my first ever Concert the night you recorded Eat
It in Glasgow.Unforgettable for me. Do you remember much about that
night...or about the Glasgow gigs in the 70's ?
Greg - That night, a very high time is all I can say! Previous fond ruff
and tuff memories of Glasgow and Scotland in my early VIPs days.
On the subject of gigs, when in Carlisle, or even in Spooky Tooth, did you
ever think you'd make it to Shea Stadium, Madison Square Gardens and yde Park ? What are the standout gigs ?
Greg - In the early days I thought if we made the bright lights of London
from Carlise, we'd made it. The stand out gigs would be Madison Sq Gardens
headlining with a giant poster lit up in Times Sq. Wow,, Bigtime. Flown
into Shea Stadium by helicopter, but the Beatles did it first. Playing to
120,000 people at some big festival but can't remember where but like Woodstock. The Filmore East and West were always great. Promoter Bill Graham. Heady days.
In England on a sunny day at Charleton Football ground with the Who and
many others and of course Hyde Park. Another fabulous gig.
On many bootlegs I've got of the German Tour in 1974, Steve announces you miscellaneously as "king drug" and "resident junkie". Was Steve hard to get mad with or easy ?
Greg - Funky Junky was another. Never did get mad with him, it was great
fun. His smelly feet could be off putting though!
I remember one interview with Steve where he said words to the effect that for a year or so in the U.S. Humble Pie were the kings of the world. How does that feel now ?
Greg - We were on a high. The music was great, the audiences were
fantastic. I'd love to have a taste of it again.
In the 70's I saw just about every big act live...Led Zeppelin, Jethro
Tull etc etc. The Who were the only group who came close to you on
stage...but Humble Pie were head and shoulders in front as a live act -
with Marriott the best front man bar none. Were you aware how good you
were at that time ?
Greg - Our sound turned us on and we turned the crowds on and put fear
into the other bands. We were a little army primed for battle.
There was a CD release a year or two ago - titled Running With the Pack,
under the Humble Pie name. It appears to me to be many of the tracks from the "Joint Effort" project. Can you remember much of what you recorded for Joint Effort ? Why did nothing come of it ?
Greg - Too many joints I suspect.
I've got a tape of a live show (in Philadeplphia) which was the All Stars
first ever US show. Yet, within the month the All Stars were disbanded,
never to play live again. What happened ?
Greg - After being at the top of the mountain with Pie it was an
anti-climax, a bit of a let down playing small gigs. Things seemed on the
wain, tired and tarnished.
Part 3 - Questions from Illegal Smile Group Members
To a youngster starting it out. What would your advice be for happiness -
a rock musician or Furniture restorer ?
Greg - Belief in your self. Tenacity is as important as ability and it has
to be fun. Doing something creative is self rewarding. Its very hard to
make it in the music biz. If you do, its even harder but fantastic.
I saw the stage show with the Blackberries - which was stunning. How did
feel though ? For example it kind of squeezed you out of singing duties
for a while
Greg - Doubtful at first in case we lost our hard rock edge, but Steve was
all for it and the girls were great singers and good fun so things worked
out and gave another flavour to the band.
Are you aware of any unreleased material that we can keep our fingers
crossed about ?
Greg - I'm sure there are some tapes and tracks that haven't surfaced yet
but I don't have any.
When you reformed, did you have to go back to the albums to review the
bass lines, or did you still have them in your head after all these years ?
Greg - I didn't have any of the Pie albums until this year when a German
fan sent me copies. But before that, after a couple of run throughs it soon
fell into place.
Was anything ever recorded with Strange Brew ?
Greg - . There must be some rehearsal tapes somewhere, but probably lost
Desperate to hear anything about your gear.
Greg - I use Hartke amp. Spkrs, american
What kind of distortion pedal did Steve use (eg One Eyed Trouser Snake
Greg - Don't remember Steve using any pedals.
Your precision bass. What year is it ? When did you get it ?
Greg - I think my bass must be 60's but can't recall where I got it. But
it seems to have been with me forever, and is still the same one I use today.
What did you think of Peter's first few solo albums ?
Greg - . Well done, good luck.
Who were you closest to in Humble Pie ?
Greg - We were all very close but I spent more time with Steve.
Did you always have free reign, or did Steve direct the traffic a great
Greg - We all had our say and influences in how we played it but mostly in