AIN’T THAT THE TRUTH-THE RIC AND RON STORY VOLUME 2.

AIN’T THAT THE TRUTH-THE RIC AND RON STORY VOLUME 2.

Having founded the Ric and Ron labels in 1958, Joe Ruffino spent the next four years, transforming them into two of New Orleans’ premier independent R&B labels. During this period, artists of the calibre of Professor Longhair, Irma Thomas, Johnny Adams, Eddie Bo and Eddie Laing released singles on the Ric and Ron labels. Many of these artists were brought to Joe by his A&R men.

This included Edgar Blanchard, Harold Battiste and Malcolm “Mac” Rebenack. They were Joe’s ears. He  trusted them to find him artists who would bring success to his labels. His three A&R men had a good track record, they’d discovered artists like Irma Thomas and Chris Kenner, before they found fame. 

They were brought to Joe Ruffino and he signed them to his Ric and Ron labels. For the first four years, many of the singles were written or produced by Joe Ruffino.  That presented a problem.

Tragedy struck for the Ruffino family in 1962. Joe died suddenly of a heart attack. He had been the driving force behind the Ric and Ron labels. His drive and determination transformed them from a successful New Orleans label, into a label that was on the verge of nationwide success.

Three singles had transformed the fortunes of Ric and Ron. Joe Jones’ You Talk Too Much started the ball rolling. It was a success across America. Then Johnny Adams’ A Losing Battle and Eddie Bo’s Check Mr. Popeye came close to making a breakthrough nationwide. Joe Ruffino’s four years of hard work had paid off. However, following his death, there was a problem.

Joe was the only member of the Ruffino family who played an active role in the running of Ric and Ron. Following his death, this presented a problem. After all who would succeed Joe? This problem wasn’t unique to the Ruffino family. Many family businesses have problems regarding succession. However, the problem of succession hit the Ric and Ron labels hard.

In 1963, Ric only released two singles. Ron didn’t release any singles. Worse was to come. Harold Battiste and Malcolm “Mac” Rebenack, Joe’s trusty lieutenants moved to Los Angeles. The men that had been Joe’s ears, headed to the West Coast. As if this wasn’t bad enough, two of Ric and Ron’s top artists left.

The first to go was Eddie Bo. He went on to record for a number of New Orleans’ labels, enjoying a successful career. Johnny Adams recorded two more singles for Ron. They were produced by Walter Quezergue, who would go on to become one of the biggest players in the New Orelans’ soul scene. After the release of Johnny Adams’ two singles, Ric and Ron shut their doors. 

After five years, Ric and Ron, the labels that Joe Ruffino gave birth to, were no more. Joe’s brother-in-law, Joe Assunto became the custodian of Ric and Ron’s master tapes. He repressed many of Ric and Ron’s most successful tracks. Then in the late seventies, Joe Assunto died. 

His daughter took over the running of Joe’s label for a while. Then she moved on to other business ventures. By the late eighties, Rounder Records reissued some of Ric and Ron’s music. That was over a quarter of a century ago. A widespread reissue program of the back-catalogue is well overdue. That’s where Ace Records comes in.

Earlier this year, Ace Records released You Talk Too Much-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 1. This was a tantalising taste, of one of New Orleans’ most important, independent labels. However, there’s much more still to be heard. That includes the twenty-four tracks on Ain’t That The Truth-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 2. It was recently released by Ace Records. 

Ain’t That The Truth-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 2 features some of the biggest names in the Ric and Ron story. The majority of the music was released between 1960 and 1963. This includes contributions from Bobby Mitchell, Johnny Adams, Tommy Ridgely, Eddie Bo, Martha Carter, Joe Louis and Barbara Lynn, which I’ll pick the highlights of.

Bobby Mitchell opens Ain’t That The Truth-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 2 Send Me Your Picture. This is one of two tracks from Bobby. It was released in 1960 on Ron. A dramatic, piano driven arrangement provides the backdrop for Bobby’s needy, hopeful vocal. Bobby’s other contribution is Mama Don’t Allow. This was the the B-Side to There’s Only One Of You. Arranged by Mac Rebenack, it’s an irresistible fusion of pop, R&B and soul.

Given that Johnny Adams played such an important part in the Ric and Ron story, it’s no surprise he features five times on Ain’t That The Truth-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 2. His first contribution is Life Is Just A Struggle, the B-Side to his 1961, single on Ric, I Solemnly Promise. It features an emotive, vocal powerhouse from Johnny. There’s also an alternate take of Johnny’s 1961 single The Bells Are Ringing. It’s never been released before, and makes a welcome debut here. Another B-Side was A Losing Battle, which was the B-Side to Who’s Gonna Love You, Johhny’s 1962 single. Penned by John Dauenhauer and Mac Rebenack, despair and despondency are omnipresent in Johhny’s vocal. Showdown was also released in 1962. This was one of Johnny’s 1962 singles. Released on Ric, it features a wistful, hurt-filled vocal. The last contribution from Johnny is the previously unreleased How Come (And Why). Never before has this demo track been released. It’s best described as a hidden, soulful gem, with a nod to Sam Cooke.

There’s a trio of tracks from Tommy Ridgely on Ain’t That The Truth-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 2. No wonder. He played an important part in the labels’ rise and rise. Should I Ever Love Again is the first contribution from Tommy. This was the B-Side to his 1961 single Double Eye Whammy. Released on Ric, Tommy lays bare his hurt and heartache for all to see. A year later, In The Same Old Way is the was released on Ric in 1962, and features a heartfelt vocal from one Joe Ruffino’s biggest success stories. Tommy’s final contribution is Honest I Do, the B-Side to I’ve Heard This Story Before. Written by Tommy, Honest I Do was his swan-song for Ric Records, and saw him leave on a soulful high.

Ain’t That The Truth-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 2 doesn’t just feature soul men. No. It features soul sisters like Martha Carter.  She features three times. Her first contribution is I Don’t Talk Too Much, her 1960 single. It’s a tongue-in-cheek reply to a Joe Adams single. You Can If You Think You Can was the B-Side to One Man’s Woman. It’s an uptempo jewel written and arranged by Harold Battiste. For Then I’ll Believe, proved to be Martha’s final single. Penned by Eddie Bo, under his Dolores Johnson alias, Martha drops the tempo and releases a feisty, sassy vocal powerhouse. Sadly, not long after the release of Then I’ll Believe, Martha underwent a throat operation which went wrong. This left Martha unable to sing. That day, music lost a hugely talented vocalist.

Eddie Bo has to feature on any compilation of Ric Records and Ron Records. He played such an important part in the labels’ success. Ain’t It The Truth Now is his first contribution. This was the B-Side to his 1960 single Warm Daddy. Released on Ric, it’s soulful and long on hooks. Two years later, Check Mr Popeye gave Eddie a nationwide hit. This slice of R&B helped raise the profile of Joe Ruffino’s burgeoning empire. Baby I’m Wise was Eddie’s Ric Records swan-song. Just like Check Mr Popeye, it was penned by Eddie Bo, under his Dolores Johnson alias. It’s Eddie at his best. He vamps and hollers his way through this driving fusion of R&B and soul.

My final choices from Ain’t That The Truth-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 2 come courtesy of the prolific,  and sometimes, underrated Barbara Lynn. She recorded two demos for Joe Ruffino, Found My Good Thing and Question Of Love. Sadly, they were’t released until 2012. Found My Good Thing is a compelling track. Barbara gently strums a guitar, and delivers a vocal that’s equal parts hurt and hope. Question Of Love is delivered against an equally understated arrangement. That doesn’t matter, as Barbara’s accusing, angry vocal takes centre-stage. Despite these two tracks being demos, it’s apparent Barbara was destined for soul greatness.

Ain’t That The Truth-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 2 picks up where You Talk Too Much-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 1 left off. It goes some way to filling in the gaps in the story of Ric Records and Ron Records. There was no happy ending in this story. Just as Joe’s burgeoning empire was taking shape, he died of a heart attack.

Joe had been the driving force behind the Ric and Ron labels. His drive and determination transformed them from a successful New Orleans label, into a label that was on the verge of nationwide success. After Joe’s death, he left behind a huge void.

He was the only member of the Ruffino family who played an active role in the running of Ric and Ron. Following his death, this presented a problem. Who would succeed Joe? There was no answer to this question. None of the other members of the Ruffino family stepped up to the plate. That’s not surprising. They’d no experience of running a record label. Within a year of Joe’s death, the Ric and Ron labels were all but a  memory.

In 1963, Ric only released two singles. Ron didn’t release any singles. Worse was to come. His A&R men jumped ship. Then some of Ric and Ron’s top artists exited stage left. Joe Assunto became the custodian of Ric and Ron’s master tapes. He repressed many of Ric and Ron’s most successful tracks. Then in the late seventies, Joe Assunto died. This, to all intents and purposes was the end of the Ric and Ron story.

Despite this, people were still interested in Ric and Ron’s back-catalogue. It’s never been reissued for twenty-five years. This meant a generation of music lovers have never heard Ric and Ron’s discography. Someone had to rectify this. 

That’s where Ace Records come in. Earlier this year, Ace Records released You Talk Too Much-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 1. This was a tantalising taste, of one of New Orleans’ most important, independent labels. However, there was so much more music still to be heard. That includes the twenty-four tracks on Ain’t That The Truth-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 2. It was recently released by Ace Records. 

Ain’t That The Truth-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 2 features some of the biggest names in the Ric and Ron story. The majority of the music was released between 1960 and 1963. This includes contributions from Bobby Mitchell, Johnny Adams, Tommy Ridgely, Eddie Bo and Martha Carter. They all played their part in transforming Ric and Ron from mom and pop labels, to labels on the verge of nationwide success. Then fate intervened.

Who knows what heights Ric and Ron might have reached? Especially with Joe Tuffino at the helm. He surrounded himself with people brought commercial success and critical acclaim to his labels. Edgar Blanchard, Harold Battiste and Malcolm “Mac” Rebenack were Joe’s ears. He trusted them to find him artists who would bring success to his labels. They had a good track record. Who knows who they might have gone on to discover if Joe had lived? 

Maybe now, Ric and Ron would’ve been one of the most important soul labels? Sadly, we’ll never know. What we do know is that Ric and Ron released a wealth of quality soul and R&B. Proof of this is Ain’t That The Truth-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 2, which along with You Talk Too Much-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 1, is the perfect introduction to the Ric and Ron labels.

AIN’T THAT THE TRUTH-THE RIC AND RON STORY VOLUME 2.

ric-and-ron-volume-2

R-5280264-1409639051-3256

 

R-5054606-1400180257-5585

CDCHD-1416b

 

R-3092633-1369425126-8042

R-6165992-1412708600-6654

R-5162661-1400974762-9923

CDCHD-1416a

 

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