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On January 6, 2012, Tom Ardolino, a drummer best known for his 30 years with rock band NRBQ, died at the age of 56.

According to the New York Times, NRBQ (New Rhythm and Blues Quartet), was one of the “most beloved rock groups never to have a Top 40 single.” (They did, however, often appear on The Simpsons.) They may not have had a top 40 hit, but you probably recognize their tunes, even the sillier ones, such as “Wacky Tabacky” and “Rocket In My Pocket.”

Ardolino retained that playful sense of humor on his solo album, Unknown Brain, released in 2004. The cover reads: “WARNING: If out-of-tuneness bothers you, do not listen.”

Ardolino joined the band at 19, replacing the group’s original drummer, Tom Staley, in 1976. With NRBQ, he played on 15 studio albums and at thousands of its eclectic and spirited live shows. Bandmates at the time included frontman Al Anderson, pianist Terry Adams, and bassist Joey Spampinato.

“He was a great drummer and a great guy,” said Anderson. “He had a totally unique style of drumming that nobody can ever duplicate. That was one of the baddest rhythm sections in the world.”


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Enjoy Ardolino’s unrestrained, animal-esque style in the following videos. Above is “Ridin’ In My Car” from All Hopped Up.

“Rocket In My Pocket”

“Do You Feel It”

“Get Rhythm”

Song by Johnny Cash. Performed by NRBQ on Nashville Now.

“I Want You Bad”

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