Natural Born Bassman: Spooky Tooth And Humble Pie’s Greg Ridley
Before he was 22, Ridley had been a co-founder of two key British bands of the late 1960s, Spooky Tooth and Humble Pie.
Greg Ridley was only 62 when he died, but the bassist packed a whole lot of achievements into a frontline music career of little more than a decade. Before he was 22, he had been a co-founder of two key British bands of the late 1960s, Spooky Tooth, and Humble Pie, worked with musicians such as Steve Marriott and Gary Wright and sung on a UK Top 5 hit single.
Greg, born on October 23, 1947 in Aspatria in Cumberland, cut his teeth in northern bands like the V.I.P.’s and the Ramrods, who transmuted into Spooky Tooth when Wright (later the “Dream Weaver” hitmaker in the US) and Luther Grosvenor (subsequently of Mott The Hoople) joined the line-up.
Island Records were hip to their blues-rock experimentation and signed them, and two albums soon followed, It’s All About (which mixed originals with covers of songs by Bob Dylan, Janis Ian and others) and Spooky Too, on which Wright emerged as the band’s chief songwriter.
Then in 1969 came the invitation from Steve Marriott to be part of his new adventure in Humble Pie. One of the early supergroups, their line-up also included drummer Jerry Shirley and, of course, former “Face Of ‘68” Peter Frampton from The Herd.
An Immediate success
They signed to Andrew Loog Oldham’s Immediate label (“Happy To Be Part Of The Industry Of Human Happiness,” as their slogan ran), and that year brought not one but two albums, As Safe As Yesterday Is and Town and Country. That summer, it also brought a substantial hit single, as Marriott’s “Natural Born Bugie” climbed to No.4 on the UK charts.
That certainly wasn’t what they were expecting, as Ridley had made clear when they announced their arrival in a Melody Maker article on May 3, 1969. “I’ve been fooling around with the bass for about four years, trying to find a style that satisfies me,” he told Chris Welch. “Steve suggested the name Humble Pie. It just sounded like a nice name and shows that we are all going to be equal in the group – not Steve Marriott and Peter Frampton and two backing musicians.
“That’s the way THEY want it,” added Ridley, referring to the industry establishment. “The pop star bit isn’t relevant to what we are doing.”
Humble Pie’s rock sensibilities went on to find generally more favor in the US than on their own side of the Atlantic. Both the Performance – Rockin’ The Fillmore live album and the studio follow-up Smokin’ went gold in America. The band continued to tour there extensively even after Frampton’s departure, before disbanding – the first time – in 1975. As Spooky Tooth, meanwhile, reformed early in 1973, the band’s Mike Harrison good-naturedly told Let It Rock magazine of Ridley: “l remember ’im when ’e were a farmer in Carlisle, and ’e’s a millionaire with ’Umble Pie now!”
Listen to the Work From Home Rock playlist, featuring scores of great guitar-led anthems.
Ridley made an album with Marriott that wasn’t released, and apart from some attempts at collaboration with Boxer and Mike Patto, left the industry. He resurfaced to be part of the moving tribute concert to Marriott in London in 2001, along with Shirley, Frampton and his replacement in the band, “Clem” Clempson, and toured and recorded for a while with a latter-day Humble Pie approximation before becoming ill. He died in Alicante in 2003 of pneumonia and complications from it, but his key role in two significant British bands is fondly remembered.
Buy the CD and vinyl editions of Spooky Tooth’s The Island Years — An Anthology, 1967-1974.
October 23, 2014 at 10:31 pm
Saw him play with Humble Pie, Chicago,71,72 One of the greatest bassist, who ever lived. He drove the band. Along with Jerry Shirley, they were the backbone of Humble Pie. They don’t make bass pkayer’s like that anymore. Greg Ridley, was intense, he was great.
October 24, 2014 at 5:33 am
Ditto…not another bass player comes close. Still my favorite bass player.
November 20, 2014 at 12:17 am
Not even Felix Pappalardi or Jack Bruce?
November 20, 2014 at 11:28 am
Why does it always come down to this argument. I saw Pappalardi (in Mountain), Bruce in BLT and Greg Ridley countless times in Humble Pie. There was no ‘greatest’ or ‘No-one came close’ They were all fine musicians and are sadly missed from a jaded music business.
November 21, 2014 at 2:57 am
I wholeheartedly agree… Stanley Clarke isn’t bad either…
March 1, 2016 at 8:17 pm
Jack and Felix were different, they were LEAD Bass players……..there was nothing subtle about their playing vs Greg. Saw ALL of them live….MSG Farewell for CREAM, multiple venues like the Fillmore East and Colleges for Mountain and I was there for Live at The Fillmore and earlier shows plus the farewell concert at MSG for “The Pie” as they were known on the end
October 24, 2014 at 2:08 pm
We seen them preform at Alexandria , Va at the Alexandria Skating Ring, 1969 . Excellent Band , outstanding Bass Player …. RIP
October 24, 2014 at 6:51 pm
October 24, 2014 at 4:11 pm
I was privileged to attend one of the concerts, that Greg helped make the mood. He made a lot of people very happy! GOD will love him!!!
Just an old hippie
Love the one your with!!!
November 19, 2014 at 10:56 pm
I saw Humble Pie in Dayton, Ohio in 1975. I have never before or since play with that much energy.Greg Ridley played with so much passion and Steve Marriott’s raspy vocals was incredible. They are both missed.
November 20, 2014 at 8:46 am
still my fav bass player, saw him three times in London, what a player brilliant, sadly missed
November 20, 2014 at 1:53 pm
“I been drinkin’ gin, like never before…” Once owned 3 Spooky Tooth LPs, including the ‘I Am The Walrus’ cover. Saw Greg Ridley with Humble Pie ’bout 4 times and what an intense player and singer. Bands don’t perform like this anymore. When I inform a younger group about musicians like these guys I sense a feeling I got when my parents told me about Cab Calloway, Louis Jordan etc. The ’70s was the golden age of Rock music with Greg & Co.’s place firmly planted as progenitors of that artistic movement.
November 13, 2015 at 4:23 am
Brilliant player and side-vocalist for The Ramrods; The VIP’s; ART( absolutely brilliant ; wish they had made more recordings Supernatural Fairytales just isn’t enough); Spooky Tooth and Humble Pie.
January 29, 2016 at 4:38 am
Greg Ridley was truly one of the great Bassist-Singers in R&R history. He had such God given talent. His voice was one most classic rock “Lead” Singers would trade theirs for in an instant! That man could sing. His Bass playing was sublime, bluesy-jazzy-soulful genius….A Fender P Bass and Ampeg and a bottom end that was thick and full. His kind is sorely missed in modern rock music, and will sadly never be seen again. He was truly a stellar musician.
July 18, 2016 at 6:43 pm
Greg was my all time favorite and my role model how to be a bass player.
July 22, 2016 at 8:34 pm
Between Greg Ridley, Andy Frasier and Gerry McAvoy…we were able to witness the BEST bass players ever.
October 5, 2020 at 1:04 am
Greg was a powerhouse rock bassist. His was a huge sound that just can’t Be imitated because his sound came from the heart. I saw him twice with HP and he kicked some low-end a$$! Huge energy, perfect fills, great tone. He set the bar so high.
Dottie S McWhiney
November 21, 2021 at 1:09 pm
He was 62 when he died…not 57.
December 6, 2021 at 10:30 pm
Thanks for letting us know, Dottie! We’ve changed that in the article now.
October 23, 2022 at 2:26 pm
Clem Clemson was the guitar player in later Humble Pie, not the bass player ergo not Ridley’s replacement. Minor kvetch aside, HP remains one of my favorites. Appreciated learning more about the great Greg Ridley!