Soul Blues entertainer Ritzy Lee talks about the Dell Vikings, Apollo Theater, Double Trouble and his Co.

"Soul and Blues tells the stories of the heart that everyone can relate to, and those who can play this music reaches deep down into their instruments to bring out sounds that make the soul relate to what the ear is hearing."

Ritzy Lee: Deep Soul Feeling

Ritzy Lee is a recording, and producing entertainers in the blues, rock, and pop fields. Lee's music career began in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, as a member of a "Do Wop" group called the "5 Treys". While a member of that group he penned a song Titled "The Sun", which was later recorded by The Dell Vikings, and a-cappella singing group called "The Persuasions". Ritzy was persuaded to join the Dell Vikings by his then good friend Kripp Johnson, and remains a member of the Original Dell Vikings until this day. Ritzy also became a good friend of Clarence Quick who was the founder of The Dell Vikings.

Ritzy Lee, who has a God given talent of seeing the whole picture, persuaded Kripp Johnson, and Clarence Quick into laying aside their personal differences, and  join together in unity, to reform The Dell Vikings to become a strong entity in the entertainment field. Carl Stevens, and were signed to the label immediately.  In the meantime Ritzy brokered a deal with "K-Tel Records" founder Philip Kives, and Joe Averbach. Ritzy Lee, along with Kripp Johnson, also brokered "booking" deals with Milt Shawl, who booked the group to open for such noted acts as Sam Cook, Lloyd Price, & The great Count Basie in many  of the world’s famous venues, such as the Apollo Theater, Radio City Music Hall, and The Palladium in the United Kingdom. Ritzy Lee has produced 2 CDs and a video of The Dell Vikings and is currently looking for "young Talent" with a love for music, and real "Instrumentation"...Rather than computer generated sounds. Also, he’s part owner of a recording company titled Rock Bottom Blues Company. Ritzy Lee, Albert Lee, Jimmy Vaughan, Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton of Double Trouble, included in the debut album of Robert Brantley Jr.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How do you describe Ritzy Lee sound and progress, what characterize Rock Bottom Blues Company philosophy?

I describe the sound and progress as “Blues Rooted” from my early teens throughout my whole career.

And Rock Bottom Blues Company was formed by likeminded partners, to keep the blues alive & well using musicians & singers who have the same love of the music which “fathered” the deep soul feeling that gets to the listeners who appreciate real instrumentation, and stories of life.

Which is the most interesting period in your life? Which was the best and worst moment of your career?

The most interesting period in my life has been my career as a Del Viking which has been a non-stop Joy in the things I’ve done and the people I have met.  The best moment of my career was the first time at Radio City Music Hall, and the worst moment was getting the news that kripp Johnson had passed away.

Why did you think that the Soul and Blues music continues to generate such a devoted following?

Soul and Blues tells the stories of the heart that everyone can relate to, and those who can play this music reaches deep down into their instruments to bring out sounds that make the soul relate to what the ear is hearing.  Therefore the whole body reacts to it, because it feels good.

Do you remember anything funny from the recording and show time with The Del-Vikings?

Thinking back on everything, I can truly say that every moment (on stage & off) was a “blast” with the group, because Kripp, Doug, Clarence, and Norman provided fun things that had us laughing all the time. And even when I think of those clowns now, I lose it!

What’s the best jam you ever played in? What are some of the most memorable gigs you've had?

That would be the first time at The Apollo Theater with The Platters, The Teenagers, and The Drifters, (who were my favorite Artists) and every gig at The Apollo was most memorable (really)!!

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What is the best music advice ever given you?

The meetings that were the most important experiences for me and the guys were always our private meetings when we discussed, and took votes on what we were going to do to further our career. These meetings were always private, and kept between us. NO EXCEPTIONS! And the best advice ever given to us came from Pookie Hudson, and Lloyd Price. Which was “always wear the best clothes when you go on-stage, because if you look good you will always capture a crowd before you sing a note.”

"After the shows at the Apollo we would all make the rounds to The Palm Café, Smalls Night club and Well’s Chicken & Waffles to mingle with the fans and eat great food but what was most memorable about all of the above mentioned people was that they all were loving people and it was just like having a family reunion every time we worked together."

What do you miss most nowadays from the 50s - 70s? What are your hopes and fears for the future of music?

I miss the Friends, who are no longer with us, But I do listen to their music from time to time and I close my eyes and think about the good times we shared (on stage and off). And my hopes for the future of music is that the entertainers will bond with their fans in a real way, and not just for the money, but for the love of the music.

What is the best advice ever given you and what advice would you give to new generation?

The best advice ever given to me, came from my father when I decided that I was going to sing, and write for a living: He said “if you are going to this, then you treat it like it’s a job … and put as much time into it EVERYDAY, just like the time you put into your job” And that’s the advice I would give to any generation

Which memory from The Apollo with Bo Diddley, Sam & Dave, Big Joe Turner, Jackie Wilson and Etta James makes you smile?

Yes, after the shows at the Apollo we would all make the rounds to “The Palm Café”, “Smalls night club” and “Well’s Chicken & Waffles” to mingle with the fans and eat great food but what was most memorable about all of the above mentioned people was that they all were loving people and it was just like having a family reunion every time we worked together.

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues with Soul and continue to Doo-Wop, Jazz and Gospel music?

The lines that connect the legacy to it all is Gospel Music The True Roots of the Soul,

And I think every Artist will attest to that fact.

"I describe the sound and progress as 'Blues Rooted' from my early teens throughout my whole career."

What do you learn about yourself from the blues and what does the blues mean to you?

I have learned that the writer (the artist / musician) has poured out his/her heart in music to feel better about a temporary situation in their lives, because it’s a way of release at the time… so they write and compose because they know that there are a whole lot of people who feel the same, and have the same things going on in their lives too … and we also know that what has changed in our lives for the better will change for the better in the lives of the listener… So we write, we sing, we play.

What experiences in your life make you a good Music Publishing, Manager, Songwriter, Performer and Businessman?

That’s the answer,,, All of the experiences during my career … the ups,  the downs, the good and the bad things, and all of the successes have made and shaped my character. And the knowledge to know that my character is my most important asset.  You do get back what you give out!

How has the music industry changed over the years? Do you believe in the existence of real Soul Blues nowadays?

Oh wow, has it changed!!! And I do believe and participate in the existence of Real Soul Blues!

Are there any memories from Wire Recording in Austin, Texas with Jimmie Vaughn, Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon?

The week we spent at Wire Recording Studio in Austin TX was one of the best sessions I have ever been involved in.

Jimmie Vaughan, Chris Layton, and Tommy Shannon as well as Junior Brantley are awesome, hardworking Pros, who give their all to making every song “hit” material, and these gentlemen are just that GENTLEMEN IN EVERY SENSE OF THE WORD.  I know that I am very fortunate to have these Icons to do my songs.

"Rock Bottom Blues Company was formed by likeminded partners, to keep the blues alive & well using musicians & singers who have the same love of the music which “fathered” the deep soul feeling that gets to the listeners who appreciate real instrumentation, and stories of life."

(Photo: Ritzy with Jimmy Vaughan, Tommy Shannon, Chris Layton, Robert Brantley Jr. and Anson Funderburgh)

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?

Cancun  July 1990 … We loved we partied on the beach together, and we all enjoyed ourselves like it was our last time together … that was the last gig before the death of my best friend, KRIPP JOHNSON our fearless leader.

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