Lyle Ritz, who worked as a session bassist during L.A.’s golden era of recording, passed away on March 3rd. He was 77 years old.
Ritz began his musical career working at the Southern California Music Company, where he worked in the small goods department. It was here that he picked up the ukulele, which he also became famous for. He served in the United States Army Band during the Korean War at which time he learned the play the double bass. After he had returned, jazz guitarist Barney Kessel heard him play the ukulele and got him started in the commercial music scene.
Ritz turned to the bass to support himself, racking up over 5,000 recording credits ranging from Herb Alpert’s “Taste of Honey” to The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.” He backed up artists like Sonny & Cher, The Monkees, Herb Ohta, Dean Martin, and Linda Ronstadt. He also performed the TV soundtracks to The Rockford Files, Name that Tune, and Kojak.
He was featured in the documentary “The Wrecking Crew,” which posted the news of his passing. “On Friday, March 3rd, we lost another legend,” Denny Tedesco wrote on Facebook. “Lyle Ritz was one of the great Bass Players of the Wrecking Crew but was the master of the ukulele. It took me many years before I was able to interview Lyle, but it was worth the wait. Not only was he an incredible musician, he was an incredible kind man. My father, Tommy Tedesco had said, Lyle Ritz stood alone when it came to Jazz Ukulele.”
Check out this clip of Ritz talking about working with Sonny & Cher:
Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Lyle Ritz.