Legendary Rock Interviews: Q & A with RIPT guitarist Ringo Nelson

By John Parks

In the late ’80s and early ’90s, Rockford rock and roll was gaining steam via the relentless national touring of the band RIPT, and their self-titled album was getting spins on both national and local radio. The guys from RIPT have returned in the past few years for some yearly “reunion” shows, and the aforementioned album has been re-released on Dark Star/Sony Records (available on Amazon and iTunes). This year, the band is coming back to rekindle Mother’s Day memories past for two shows at Whiskey’s Roadhouse (3207 N. Main St., 815-877-8007), May 10 and 11, and I talked to longtime guitarist Ringo Nelson about everything going on.

Q. Thanks for talking to us, man. How are things with you and your bandmates in RIPT these days, as far as your personal lives, and how are you feeling?

A: Everyone in RIPT is doing great and looking forward to the upcoming shows in Rockford. As for me, I love living in south Alabama. At this moment, I am sitting at my favorite bar, The Cigar Bar in Orange Beach, Ala., drinking an ice cold PBR looking out over the water.

Q. You played a big show a couple years back at Giovanni’s, and then last year, played the Vernefest at Davis Park. When did you decide that you were going to come back and reunite again this summer, and what made you decide to do it at Whiskey’s Roadhouse?

A: Well, we decided to play in the summer because Utley and myself really hate the cold (laughs). We are always trying to plan the next shows, and Whiskey’s just seemed like the perfect place for RIPT to play!

Q. You are going to be playing not one but two shows this time, and you are bringing along a very cool, young, all-female punk rock band called Bloody Mary as a special guest. There always seems to be some sort of special or new twist to the shows you guys do. Is that something that was important to you, even back in the day?

A: Yes. We always tried to add something to the shows back in the day, whether it was new originals, special guests or just plain going over the top. Bloody Mary are our label mates, and we know they are really going to add to the shows this year. Come on, an all-girl punk band … perfect!

Q. The lineup features all the original guys from RIPT, Wally on drums, Utley on bass and Ian on vocals, as well as DeCarlo and yourself on guitars. But since last year, you have also included Tim Speer as a third guitarist. Those who saw you at Vernefest will attest that it was literally a wall of sound! Does bringing in a guy like Tim present any additional challenges or benefits to you guys that the average fan might not realize?

A: Definitely no challenges; only benefits. First of all, Tim is a huge talent and a great guy. He just fit right in from the get-go. Also, it frees DeCarlo and myself up to be able to make way more mistakes live (laughs).

Q. Many fans that have been to recent shows have expressed interest in purchasing some of the merchandise you guys used to have, such as T-shirts, CDs, stickers … are there any plans to be able to bring those things to the show, or is that just too hard to coordinate since you guys just get together once a year?

A: I would guess it’s just to hard to put together and very costly, but we do love to see our fans wearing so many of our old T-shirts, etc., at the shows. It’s amazing how many we used to have. It seems we always see people wearing shirts that we had totally forgot about. It’s really cool!

Q. Playing inside a hot, sweaty club is something that RIPT used to do all the time at places like the Cherry Lounge, Reflections and others. As fun as it is to play the big outdoor places or nice rooms like Giovanni’s, do you expect it to be more of a flashback to your roots to be playing a roadhouse bar on North Main Street?

A: It’s going to be great to play in a bar setting again. It’s been a while since we have. When we were on the road, I think we played just about every dive bar across the U.S. — and had a great time doing it. You never know what’s going to happen, especially at a RIPT show!

Q. In all your gigs playing together and touring, what was the funniest or craziest thing you’ve ever seen someone in the audience do while you were onstage playing?

A: I will have to censor this one! I’ll just say that at RIPT shows, drinking was kind of the norm! We never really knew what was going to transpire each evening in the crowd. There were, shall I say, more than a fight or two over the years in the crowd. Anyone who remembers will understand.

Q. The fans and friends who have always come out to see you guys have come to enjoy being around you AND each other, and for the most part, many of us all know each other. Is that cool for you guys and almost as important as the bond you guys have with each other as bandmates?

A: Our fans are the best, like family. This also goes for the great guys who have worked with us over the years and are still with us today. We all really enjoy being around each other, be it jamming or just hanging out. We never considered ourselves to be a five- or six-piece band; we are actually about a 15-person band because we could not, and would not, be able to do it without so many great people around us being a part of everything that we do. It’s awesome to see so many old-school fans still coming to the shows. It’s like one giant RIPT family. I believe that’s why we keep doing what we do and enjoying it so much.

Q. Thanks again for talking with me. It’s awesome that we can still see RIPT all these years later, and even cooler that the band sounds better than ever! Is there anything else you wanna shout out to the people of Rockford?

A: I just want to say thanks and I am really looking forward to these shows. This is going to be two awesome nights of rock and roll and fun. We do have a couple more tricks up our sleeves, and can’t wait to get this weekend started. I also want to thank you, John, for all that you do for the music biz. You have covered RIPT for many years and always done a great job. We really appreciate you, brother. Take care, and we will see you at the shows!

From the May 8-14, 2013, issue

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