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Jerry Ricks in memoriam 1940 - 2007
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  12/12/2007 | In Memoriam , Friends | Unrated
The passing of a Blues legend
Blues Guitarist Jerry Ricks Dies

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) - American blues guitarist "Philadelphia" Jerry Ricks, who mastered the sound of the 1930s' Delta Blues, died in a clinic in Croatia on Monday. He was 67.

Ricks learned from and performed with blues greats such as Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee and Lightnin' Hopkins.

He and his wife, Nancy, moved to Croatia this year after performing a concert in the country. His death was announced by the Croatian Music Union, which said he had been hospitalized in August after a stroke.

Ricks was born in Philadelphia and began playing guitar in the coffee house where he washed dishes.

He played throughout Europe in the 1970s and 1980s, recording albums in Germany, Hungary and Yugoslavia. In the 1990s, he returned to the United States to live in the Mississippi Delta, before deciding this year to move to Kastav, Croatia.

Funeral arrangements were not immediately made public.


 by Richard J. Skelly
"Philadelphia" Jerry Ricks has taken the art of blues guitar to new levels with his two groundbreaking releases for the Rooster Blues label. Raised in the City of Brotherly Love, Ricks has been splitting his time between Philadelphia and parts north during summer and Mississippi during the winter in recent years. Ricks got his master's degree in acoustic blues by hanging out with the likes of Mississippi John Hurt, Skip James, and other 1960s blues revival folk-blues musicians when they came to coffeehouses and small bars in Philadelphia. These were artists who were both great names and great personalities: Son House, Jesse Fuller, Libba Cotten, Lightnin' Hopkins, Mance Lipscomb, and others who were around for the 1960s folk and blues revival. In his capacity as booking manager for the Second Fret Coffee House in Philadelphia from 1960 to 1966, he had the chance to learn and practice "hangout-ology" with all the above-mentioned bluesmen and Cotten and other blueswomen.

Ricks was born May 22, 1940, in Philadelphia. He began playing guitar around Philadelphia area coffeehouses in the late '50s. "I played trumpet as a child and then switched over to the guitar because I used to watch people playing guitar in the streets," Ricks recalled in a late '90s interview. Lonnie Johnson and a few other classic bluesmen showed Ricks his first few blues chords while he was learning to play guitar. After traveling with Buddy Guy's band to East Africa in 1969 on behalf of the U.S. State Department, he caught the travel bug. He did some field research in Arkansas in 1970 for the Smithsonian Institution, working under Ralph Rinzler, and then departed for Europe.

Unlike other bluesmen who came up in a less progressive era, Ricks didn't leave the U.S. because he found the racial atmosphere too oppressive at home, as did people like Memphis Slim and, later, Luther Allison. (To be fair, Allison and Memphis Slim both found more work in Paris.) "I wanted my kids to be able to learn a foreign language," he said, "and it was good for me, 'cause there were like five blues people in all of Europe. I got married and divorced while I was over there, and after my divorce, I stayed there." Ricks said he got to know so many of the classic acoustic bluesmen on good terms because the performers would typically have "residency" shows at the Second Fret in Philadelphia. "I lived a couple of blocks away, so they would stay at my house. Acts at that time would have to play a minimum of two or three weeks, so I had them all day and all night for almost a month. We brought in Reverend Gary Davis, Jesse Fuller, Sleepy John Estes, and later, in 1963, we had Mississippi John Hurt and Skip James."

Ricks has two albums out on the Rooster Blues label, the critically acclaimed Deep in the Well and Many Miles of Blues, a 2000 release. Deep in the Well, released in 1998, garnered Ricks W.C. Handy Blues Award nominations in three categories: Acoustic Blues Artist of the Year; Acoustic Album of the Year, and Comeback Blues Album of the Year, the last because Ricks had spent so much time overseas and American audiences were largely unfamiliar with him. Despite a 13-album discography in Europe, Deep in the Well was Ricks' first U.S. release. He credits the great classic bluesmen of the 1960s for helping him to keep the faith (and enthusiasm) for live performing through the years. "I already knew how to play guitar when I met a lot of them," he explained, "and I had figured out a lot of stuff from their old records. Mainly, they talked to me about how to keep my head together and not run off on some kind of trip."

U Rijeci umro "Philadelphia" Jerry Ricks

Američki blues gitarista,jedan od najznačajnijih predstavnika  tradicionalnog,odnosno country bluesa,umro je  danas, (ponedjeljak,10.12.2007.g.) u Riječkoj bolnici u kojoj se od sredine kolovoza liječio od posljedica teškog moždanog udara. Već neko vrijeme živio je u Gradu Kastvu - praktično je postao naturalizirani primorac,odakle je odlazio na turneje po Europi.U Hrvatsku je stigao na poziv poznatog gitarista Damira Halilića - Hala.

Rođen je 1940.g. u Philadelphiji (Memphis - USA), središtu crnačke glazbe i bio je primjer  pravog "ramblera", lutalice, koji se nikada nije mogao zadržati na jednom mjestu. Obišao je svijet promičići autentični crnački blues. Višestruko je nominiran za čuvenu nagradu "W.C.Handy Awards", a u bogatoj diskografiji nalazi se više od 20 naslova i nekoliko solo albuma. Bio je stručni suradnik i savjetnik brojnih institucija koje se bave proučavanjem bluesa i folklora. Nastupao je sa velikanima bluesa kao što su Lighting Hopkins, Sonny Terry,Jesse Fuller,Doc Watson... te sa nekim istaknutim imenima modernog jazza : Archijem Sheppom i McCoyem Tynerom.

Hrvatska glazbena unija
Primorsko goranska županija
Podružnica br.3 Rijeka

Formatted for CROWN by   Marko Puljić
Distributed by This message is intended for Croatian Associations / Institutions and their Friends in Croatia and in the World. The opinions / articles expressed on this list do not reflect personal opinions of the moderator. If the reader of this message is not the intended recipient, please delete or destroy all copies of this communication and please, let us know! Or simply...enjoy and spread the word and good vibrations.

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  • Comment #1 (Posted by Scott Shetler)

    I had the pleasure of meeting Jerry touring in the Efes Pilsin blues tour in 2006 I was playing saxophone with Mighty Sam McClain, who was also on the bill.
    He was an absolute lexicon of music & musical information after the shows I could always find Jerry ready to hang out until the wee hours Jamming and talkin' shit I learned a lot from him, A legend now I heard about his passing on a gig I shed a tear and then went on and played the last set
    thinking of Jerry and realized that a little of him was in my horn from being with him. Guys like him really keep the tradition alive.
  • Comment #2 (Posted by joan fenton)

    What a loss. There is no one like Jerry, as a musician, and a human being, and as a bearer of a tradition.
    We will all miss him. Its been more than 35 years since I first met him and every time I play i think of something he taught me. Let us all keep him and Nancy in our hearts
  • Comment #3 (Posted by Anthony)

    I lived with Jerry in Austria for a short time and he was a wonderful person and we had a lots of fun together.He was a true blues man and I will never forget him and what he done for me. I wish his wife and his children the best and God bless.
  • Comment #4 (Posted by Alan K)

    Jerry Ricks was a teacher at a school in NC in the late 90's. I happened to hear about this school sometime after the Robert Johnson collected CD came out. I had listened to this music for the first really and was amazed to learn that blues came before rock and roll. In the secretive world of Black culture, there was no way for most people and
    Caucasians to know what art was done. I was no less impressed to learn several things in Jerry's classes--that there is such a thing as an African scale that is descending for example. What really floored me was the chance to learn songs that the old musicians played. He taught how to play Dust My Broom like Johnson.I could not believe it! That Jerry had preserved the knowledge of these songs. It was then I knew, you can't have history without teachers. Things must be passed down. Music is history.

    I have a couple photos of Jerry that I took without his permission one day. It was very disrespectful. I have always felt bad about this. I would like to return them to his family.
  • Comment #5 (Posted by Jamie R.Ricks)

    Hi,my name's Jamie,&I'm Jerry's son,&also the oldest.I appreciate what you wrote about my Pop,&I don't think he would've minded the pictures,he was far from camera shy(lol).I would however love to see them.So if you could email a copy of them,I'd really appreciate it.Pray that you,&yours have a safe,happy,blessed holiday season.From our family to yours,peace be with,&God bless you all. . "Team Ricks"
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