Thursday, January 31, 2013

Bruce Johnston, Ritchie Valens and "Donna" (Ludwig)

I've heard a lot about Ritchie Valens from Dion DiMucci from their time together on the Winter Dance Party in 1959 and Chan Romero told us about the influence Ritchie's music had on his career.  Because Ritchie died so young, I haven't met many that had a connection to him.  I was excited to get this story from The Beach Boys' Bruce Johnston and his connection to both Ritchie and Donna Ludwig as well as learning about LA's Dick "Huggy Boy" Hugg .  Here's what Bruce sent in:

In the early days of my music path (my age at the time was 16) and in the summer of 1958, I was in a Los Angeles local house band called Kip Tyler & The Flips. Our job was to back up the 'one hit wonders of the day' at dance & shows around LA County and we often backed up Ritchie Valens at the start of his recording & performing career. Ritchie's first released single at the time was "Come On Let's Go" which reached a national USA chart position of #42 in 1958. My role on stage in the band back then was to play keyboards while Ritchie played his guitar and sang. This took place a few short months before the release of Ritchie's "La Bamba" and "Donna" recordings.

Donna Ludwig
Just after Ritchie passed away in 1959, I was asked to sing backing vocals on an 'answer recording' to Ritchie Valens' album track "We Belong Together." The 'artist' was Donna
(Donna Ludwig) and she was Ritchie Valens' girlfriend (and friend) starting in the 10th grade. Donna's song was called "Lost Without You." I actually sang in my normal tenor voice instead of my future-higher-Beach Boys-vocal-range voice. The recorded backing vocals for Donna's single release had very little harmony & were mostly sung in unison.

Dick "Huggy Boy" Hugg, a local white Los Angeles DJ playing R&B music on KRKD-AM (very successfully in the fifties broadcasting live from the front window of the Dolphin's of Hollywood record store located in the South Central Los Angeles/Watts area) helped put this Donna recording project together in early 1959.