Greg Ridley (pictured above, second left) was a much-loved and sometimes underrated co-founder of not one, but two key British bands of the late 1960s. The Cumbrian bassist-vocalist, of Spooky Tooth, Humble Pie and plenty more besides, was a mere 56 when he passed away on 19 November 2003 in Alicante, Spain. But he packed a whole lot of achievements into a frontline music career of little more than a decade.
Ridley cut his teeth in bands such as the V.I.P.s and Art, both of which also included guitarist Luther Grosvenor, before both became original members of Spooky Tooth. Then, early in 1969, Greg was invited by Steve Marriott to join the new band he was forming called Humble Pie. Ridley was still not yet 22.
Greg was on Spooky Tooth’s two albums for Island Records, who released It’s All About Spooky Tooth (which mixed originals with covers of songs by Bob Dylan, Janis Ian and others) and Spooky Too, on which Gary Wright emerged as the band’s chief songwriter.
Humble Pie, of course, were one of the first rock supergroups founded by Peter Frampton and Steve Marriott with a lineup that also boasted Jerry Shirley. The new band signed to Andrew Loog Oldham’s Immediate label and released two albums in the space of three months in 1969, 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.
By the time of that second album, Ridley was contributing not just bass and vocals but proving himself as a songwriter, penning ‘The Light Of Love’ and co-writing two other tracks. Another of his creations, ‘Greg’s Song,’ was added to the album’s reissue.
Humble Pie’s rock sensibilities went on to find generally more favour 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, and the band continued to tour there extensively even after Frampton’s departure, before disbanding — the first time — in 1975. As Spooky Tooth 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!”
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 2003 of pneumonia and complications from it, but his key role in two significant British bands is fondly remembered.