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Tommy Riddle
and the Melody Rangers
Born:  October 7, 1927
Died:  January 15, 2010
America's Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame (2005)
Virginia CMA Pioneer Award (2005)
WAVY Tidewater Jamboree
WCMS Norfolk, VA

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.

Tommy Riddle - 2005 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 tcr27@cox.net.

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.; Chicago, IL
  • Country & Western Jamboree; March 1956; Maher Publications, Inc.; Chicago, IL
  • Country Song Roundup; No. 44; June 1956; American Folk Publications, Inc.; Derby, CT

Sound Sample—(RealAudio Format)
No Right To Cry

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Recordings
 
Harvest
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  02187 A World of Beauty
  02187 B Love Ain't Love Until You Give It Away
 
Starday
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  337 A Stolen Love
  337 B Starlight, Starbright
 
Train
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  1203 A Number Nine Stone
  1203 B Fighting A Memory
  1205 A Truck Drivin' Ain't What It Used To Be
  1205 B No Right To Cry
 
Bright Star
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  5455 A Musical John
  5455 B Dreaming Country
 
Clover Records
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  300 A Starlight Starbright
  300 B Stolen Love
 
Spinn Records
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  1001 A Poppa Poppa Da Da
  1001 B Unclaimed Soldier
  1010 A Live With The Blues
  1010 B Goodbye Teardrops


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