It seems that from the earliest days of his childhood when he would be sitting around
and listening to the radio, country and gospel music have played a major part
in Tommy Riddle's life.
In 1944, when he was just seventeen, Tommy joined the United States Navy to serve as many did
during World War II. It was during this time in the service that his father, John Riddle,
bought him his first guitar.
Tommy got his inspiration from Eddy Arnold, who was beginning his own legendary career
on the Grand Ole Opry. Tommy taught himself to play the guitar and began to write
his own music as well. He trained his voice and writing style to be as close as he could
get to that of Eddy Arnold. He finally determined he was ready to take the next
step in his musical career and formed his first band, the Tomahawk's. Tommy and his
band started performing in clubs around the Norfolk, Virginia area.
After Tommy got his discharge from the U.S. Navy in 1946, he took a day job
at the National Linen Service company in Norfolk. At night, he continued his musical
endeavors, performing in clubs all over an area that is now known as the Hampton Roads.
In the early 1950's, he did shows from the Norfolk area to Nashville Tennessee for
a new area radio station. While at this radio station he met a gentleman by the name of Bill
Davis. Bill took Tommy under his wing and helped guide Tommy through the music
business. At that time, Bill was working with the name of "Sheriff Tex Davis"
and was the manager of recording artist Gene Vincent. He was the
entertainment manager for the radio station and was responsible for
bringing the Grand Ole Opry shows to the Norfolk Arena (which no longer exists today).
Tommy's band had the opportunity to open these shows and played for any of
the big Nashville stars that needed a band back then. During this time,
Tommy performed with legends and pioneers such Norman Phelps, Charlie Daniels
and Garland Abbott.
During this part of his career, he met the musical inspiration of his life, Eddy Arnold.
Eddy gave him a lot of hope. Tommy went on to appear on radio
station WSM on the Ernest Tubb show three times. Ernest was well-known for giving young
acts of the day a chance to be heard by the larger listening audience that WSM could provide
with its clear channel signal.
Tommy's continued to hone his songwriting talent as well during this time.
He became a writer for B.M.I. and went to Nashville to record his songs.
He wrote and did such county songs as "Starlight Starbrite" "Papa Papa Da Da", "Number Nine Stone",
"Something Special Someone", "Good Bye Tear Drops", "Live With the Blues",
"Musical John", "Bloods Thicker Than Water", "World of Beauty"
and "Love Ain't Love Till You Give It Away".
In June of 1955, Country & Western Jamboree magazine's editor was letting the readers
know that WAVY in Tidewater, Virginia was starting a new show called the WAVY Tidewater Jamboree
with Lucky Lon Backman doing the emcee chores and Tommy and his band, the Melody Rangers
was one of the three bands that were regulars on the show.
He recorded on several labels including Train Records, Spin Records and Starday Records.
In addition, Country and Western Jamboree noted he had a single on Cactus Records (45-108B)
- "When You Kiss Me Darling" b/w "Don't Throw Your Life Away", giving
it four stars out of a five star rating for a tune that they said "He feels so blue because
he has treated her so mean."
In the early 1980's, Tommy wrote and recorded his only gospel album
"Jesus is Here Bye My Side" on Eddy Crooks label, Harvest Records.
Along with several classic gospel songs, Tommy included some of his own work on
this album, including "Jesus is Here By My Side","Everyday","Me and My Guitar"
and "A New Creature". All of Tommy's songs on this Gospel effort were published with B.M.I.
On the personal side, in 1962 Tommy married the former Phyllis Lewis,
of Portsmouth, Virginia. Shortly after that event, they had two children,
Robin and Rodney. Along with two children from previous marriages,
Debbie and Tommie Jo, they now have 7 grandchildren, Brett, Christopher,
Nicholas, Melissa, Brittany, Ryan and Brandon.
In the early times of country music it was hard to balance a family and
the demands of performing every night. Even with a lot of accomplishments and
success, Tommy's love and dedication to his family gave and even today gives
him the strength and focus to provide the best possible life for his family.
In 1989, Tommy retired as a crane operator. Today he is working for a well
know security agency as a captain.
With the help of his son, Rodney, and today's technology all of his songs
have been compiled and recorded to a compact disk (CD) titled
"Papa Papa Da Da".
His music can be heard on the station that plays
all of the classic country, "The Goldmine" AM 1490, radio station manager
Big Bad John McIntyre.
Tommy today still lives in Portsmouth, Virginia and notes that he will always have
a deep love for country music. He can presently be contacted though
e-mail at email@example.com.
Credits & Sources
- Hillbilly-Music.com wishes to thank Tommy Riddle himself
for contacting us and providing us with information about his career for the site.
- Country & Western Jamboree; June 1955; Maher Publications, Inc.;
- Country & Western Jamboree; March 1956; Maher Publications, Inc.;
- Country Song Roundup; No. 44; June 1956; American Folk Publications, Inc.;
|Sound Sample(RealAudio Format)