The Wizardry of Ricky Peterson

This post was originally written during the recording of American Pop Music Experiment’s “Always Starting Again” album in 2012. It’s another Lovecraftian-esque ode, this time to visionary Hammond B3 organist Ricky Peterson.

What do John Mayer, Prince, Bonnie Raitt, and David Sanborn have in common??

Ricky Peterson on Hammond B3 organ of course!

The phone rang… Caller ID indicated I was being summonsed by engineer Davide Raso. Anxious the communication may augur ill that afternoon’s session, I immediately accepted the call. Forthwith and absent any sort of greeting, Davide began speaking as if in tongues. The connection was weak and his garble divulged only fragments. As best I could make out he was saying “‘Riiii…..’, ‘somethi.. wonderful…’, ‘its beautifu….’” His shrill voice sounded a million miles away and incoherent at best.

“Yes Davide, I know, I’m excited to track with Ricky too but you’re breaking up, where still on right?” Again, the half-discernable “wonderful” and “beautiful”. “What are you talking about? are we still on for today?” I pleaded. His answer jolted me; his voice was loud and clear as a bell, as if standing right beside me: “SOMETHING WONDERFUL IS GOING TO HAPPEN!” he intoned. The non-sequitur ended as strangely as had began with the phone abruptly going to dialtone a fraction of a second later.

I must say I was a little shaken and worried. Was Davide okay; of sane mind? He was to arrive at the studio early, prepare the session, and procure a bowl of M&Ms (with the blue ones taken out as is my wont), but if his bizarre hail originated from anywhere other than Creation Audio Studios in South Minneapolis, the session was at serious risk of not happening as I doubted his ability to safely operate a motor vehicle! My concern grew with every passing minute as I made my way to Nicollet and 26th Avenue.

The studio was housed in a nondescript brick building probably built in the 1940s. The gentleman that greeted my entrance did so with nothing more than a nod and a Cheshire Cat smile. He gestured with his eyes towards the hallway into which I was to proceed. As I did, suddenly, a large framed man of jovial disposition flanked by Davide came straight down the hall way, toward me. In a friendly, booming voice, he greeted me. “I’m Ricky!, how are you!? You must be Michael Raymond Reitz”. He thrust his hand out in the most affable of manner, and in a split second erased any worries manifested as a result of Davide’s strange communique an hour before. Without further adieu, I was ushered into the control booth.

To my right sat Davide. “So how you doing” I asked/greeted. He looked at me or should I say looked “through” me. His eyes were glazed as if in spiritual bliss. He responded with one word in a dream-like voice- “Ricky”. Mercifully, Ricky’s engineer cut short our awkward moment and commenced the session. Tracking organ on “Chemicals In My Mind” had begun in earnest!

I must admit that the more I listened to Ricky’s B3 wizardry, the more Davide’s trance made perfect sense. I found myself intoxicated as his fingers danced betwixt the split keyboard; feet pumping pedals all the while. Within about 30 minutes of recording we had three different versions of the tune to choose from and called it a day.

Walking back out onto the street I felt a little strange; a little weak in the knees… as if I’d been on a boat all day.. or maybe, as if descending from a drug induced high. Either way, what exactly had happened to me? To Davide? Was it a shaman-like spell cast by the erudite Ricky Peterson with his B3? …….or just the rigors of a long day?

I’m not sure that I’ll ever really know but when I got home that night my wife asked why my eyes were glazed over….

Michael Raymond Reitz