Remembering Ralph Ameduri
Friends recall a dedicated musician who helped shape the local scene; plus Lou Barlow on the role of bass guitar in music
Published: February 5, 2014
In addition to his ample activity as a musician, Ameduri was also constantly four-tracking and ultimately became a producer, recording local bands like New Mexican Disaster Squad at his studio, No Ambition Records. Ameduri also recorded legendary local jazz artist Sam Rivers with Chris Charles, who is now part of the New Sam Rivers Rivbea Orchestra.
“Ralph had his hand in every project you could possibly know, and if you never met him, I’m sure you were in the same room with him,” Sweat says.
Music snob. The Great Debater. These were a couple of nicknames Ameduri earned among his friends and bandmates. His influences are so varied that it’s hard to discuss his tastes without condensing them into a Wikipedia-like compilation of bands and artists. When he was younger, Ameduri raided his father’s record collection for old 45s, spinning through all of them and initiating his own obsession with record collecting, resulting in an impressive, 10,000-strong vinyl library covering everything from classic country to deep reggae to hardcore punk.
“A while ago you could get a whole bunch of records for 50 cents or a dollar or something, so we’d always buy records if it had a cool cover or just sounded weird or something,” Sterling says. “That was a huge influence on him. That was one of our favorite pastimes, just finding records. We’d be on the frontlines more than in stores, garage sales and thrift stores, stuff like that.”
Eventually, Ameduri would open for some of the major artists whose records he’d collected and respected. Chodorcoff recalls the early days of the JC’s, when they were invited to open for huge acts like James Brown and B.B. King. When the band played Voodoo Fest the year Katrina hit New Orleans and the festival was moved to Memphis, they opened for Dr. John, an experience Chodorcoff says was surreal. But it was a different gig that perhaps represents the JC’s at their peak, with the original lineup of Ameduri, Chodorcoff, Sterling, Cole, Eugene Snowden, Jeff Nolan, Clay Watson and Brett Crook.
“I remember we had a gig, we opened up for a Bad Company reunion show, and we had a standing ovation there, and we had to leave to get to another gig,” Chodorcoff says. “We walk in to get to this other gig, and we get a standing ovation before we even played a note.”
Wynn credits this lineup of the JC’s for pushing him to pursue music as a serious career. Eventually, his band the Wynn Brothers opened for the JC’s, and after the show, Wynn remembers how Ameduri encouraged his brother, bass player Jordan Wynn. It impressed him and pushed him to become worthy of Ameduri’s praise.
“I just remember seeing [Ralph Ameduri] and Anthony Cole, who played drums for them, and just thinking that they were the best rhythm section I’ve ever seen in my life, personally,” says Wynn, who is 19 years younger than Ameduri was. “And that they were in my town – or that I was in their town, I guess – was very inspiring.”
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