Arcata,Bolinas,Barra de Navidad,Eureka,Villa Obregon,Mexico,& Italy
Papa John Ridella is a San Francisco native. Born on March 30, 1930 John was destined to become part of the Bay Area Beat Era and instinctively he followed his creative roots. Along with many other vital artists of all generations, John was part of the difinitive arts and poets scene of the 70's and 80's in Bolinas, California.
He and Neil Brandt & Key 22 (The Venusians Band) shared the stage with some of the greats of Jazz, Poetry and Rock and Roll at the Bolinas Community Center Hall.
He and Jean made their first visit to Melaque, Mexico in 1999, and fell into the then undeveloped music scene in Melaque, Villa Obregon and Barra de Navidad. John has played with every group that comes into these little Mexican towns and is cherished for his talent, professional demeanor and the spectacular pants Jean makes for him. They enjoy their Winter months in Mexico playing at local clubs with other hot musicians, many of whom are well known. He also became a mentor for a young local Mexican man, Jaime, who also played the saxophone. This continues to this day.
He says his last gig will be playing with Gabriel.
When the Korean war started most of his buddies who were then in the reserves were called up to serve. In his youthful idealism he thought that he should also go and support his friends. But the Marines had other ideas and put him in the band.
He was stationed first at Treasure Island, then sent to Pearl Harbor. It was there that he had the honor of backing up Billie Holiday when she came through on a tour.
In the early 70s, his son Tom told him about a sax someone was selling for $50 and he bought it. About this same time in Bolinas, California (30 miles south of San Francisco) an adult eduction program was forming, so he joined it and became part of the orchestra for Carmina Burana.
While living in Bolinas he played with many local bands in San Francisco, Marin and Sonoma Counties. Including Living Proof, Golden State Blues Band, Tiny James and the Swing Kings. It was at this time he hit the road with The Dynatones on their cross country tour.
He was discharged in 1954, having married and started a family while he was in the Corps. Realizing that in order to stay with music he would have to be on the road to make a living, John decided to give up playing music professionally so that he could remain at home close to his family. Over the years he worked at a variety of jobs including driving a bus for the City of San Francisco.
John and his wife Jean moved from Bolinas to Orcas Island where they became involved with the art and music scene of the island and Washington mainland. It was on Orcas Island that John played the part of Sister Mary in the local production of Dan Groggin's "Nunsense.
John played with the Shakin' Snakes (above) for years, and is currently living with Mama Jean in Humboldt County playing with Jimi Jeff and the Gypsy Band.
"When John was about 7 years old, he used to go up the street where a neighborhood teenager had a band who rehearsed in the garage. This is where he started to think about learning to play the clarinet. It was at this age that his mother sent for a correspondence course and John began to learn how to play the clarinet. During World War II he joined the Musicians Union and it was at this time he began playing USO shows, Barnum & Baily Circus, and a few gigs with the San Francisco Symphony. These were the days he played with local San Francisco musicians including Dave Brubeck, Johnnie Coppola, Cal Tjader and other musicians who later found their way to fame"