Tammy Ridgeway

Tahlequah resident Tammy Ridgeway will be first female drummer inducted into the Oklahoma Blues Hall of Fame.

Tahlequah native and blues drummer Tammy Ridgeway goes by many names. In Tulsa, she's known as the Funky Drummer, and in Oklahoma City, she answers to Bam Bam. But now, all throughout Oklahoma, she'll be known as the first female drummer to be inducted into the Oklahoma Blues Hall of Fame.

"It's beyond an honor," said Ridgeway. "It's beyond my wildest dreams. I've been beat up, threatened, had my leg broken just so I couldn't play. If you look for other female drummers in blues, you're going to have a hard time to find one. I'm the first female drummer to be inducted. All I can think is that I'm justified."

Ridgeway comes from a musical family. Her father was a pianist, and her older brother was in a band of his own. Ridgeway began to play the drums when she was very young. In the early 1960s, she was inspired by the female drummer in her older brother's band. One day after their practice, Ridgeway sneaked into their practice area and started playing on the kit. After being scolded, she knew that she had to play it some more, thanks to her stubbornness.

"I'm really stubborn and hard-headed, even to my own detriment," said Ridgeway. "After I was told no, I knew that drumming was what I had to do."

There was a period of time in Ridgeway's young adult life when she no longer had the time or money to continue drumming, and she began working numerous jobs to get by. She was a florist, a construction worker, and a post office employee. During her time with the post office, Ridgeway injured her knee seriously. As part of her recovery process, she returned to drumming, using it partially to rehabilitate her knee.

Ridgeway attributes much of her success to the time she spent playing with Dorothy Ellis, who is known to many avid jazz and blues fans as Mama Blues.

Ellis is a decorated vocalist and was inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame in 2014. Ridgeway, along with many others, considers Ellis to be a legend in her craft.

"That woman sang with passion," said Ridgeway.

"Everything that came out of her mouth was an emotion. She could make you feel every emotion there was by the end of a single song. She drug it out of you and she made you feel it."

Ridgeway believes that, more than anything, people should follow their dreams and what their hearts long for.

"Doing something you were born to do is not selfish," said Ridgeway. "You need to do what you're good at and what your heart desires."

Check it out

The Oklahoma Blues Hall of Fame induction ceremony is set for June 20, with a rain date of June 21. The OBHOF encourages all attendees to practice social distancing and to bring face masks if they desire. Learn more at dcminnerblues.com.

Recommended for you