He purchased a Gibson tenor ukulele for his own use. Drafted into the US Army during the Korean War, Ritz played tuba in the United States Army Band. Stationed at Fort Ord, Ritz learned to play the acoustic bass. While on leave, Ritz visited the Music Company and played a few tunes on the ukulele at the urging of his colleagues.
Unbeknownst to him, Guitarist Barney Kessel, a talent scout for Verve Records, was standing there. After hearing Ritz play, Kessel approached him and made the connection that resulted in his first commercial records. Verve released Ritz's first ukulele record, How About Uke?, in 1957. 50th State Jazz was released in 1959. Both records became very popular in Hawaii and started a wave of new ukulele players. However, the records had only limited popularity on the mainland. To support himself, Ritz abandoned the ukulele and became a session musician on the bass guitar.
He joined the Wrecking Crew, a popular group of studio musicians in the Los Angeles recording industry. Ritz compiled over 5,000 credits including such notable tracks as Herb Alpert's "Taste of Honey", The Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling", and the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations". Other notable recording artists he backed up include Sonny & Cher, The Monkees, Herb Ohta, Dean Martin, and Linda Ronstadt. He also played bass on television soundtracks including The Rockford Files, Name That Tune, and Kojak. In 1979 Ritz was hired to play the ukulele in place of Steve Martin when Martin was shown playing in The Jerk.
In 1980, Ritz was a musician playing bass on Face the Music a game show centered on musical puzzles. Roy Sakuma, a fellow ukulele player and record producer, looked up Ritz in 1985 and brought him to Hawaii for the Annual Ukulele Festival. Ritz had no idea how popular his Verve records still were in Hawaii, but he participated at the festival during the next three years. In 1988 he decided it was time to retire from the circuit, but he continued to play; his third album, Time, was released by Roy Sakuma Records the same year. In 1999, Jim Beloff, founder of Flea Market Music, put together the annual UKEtopia concert in California.
Among the notable events was Bill Tapia and Ritz trading jazz licks in an impromptu cutting contest. In 2005, Ritz purchased an Apple laptop and a copy of GarageBand, software used to make home recordings. After a half year's work, he completed a new solo album, No Frills, released in 2006. He recorded the bass track using a synthesizer so he could concentrate on the jazz ukulele. Ritz was inducted to the Ukulele Hall of Fame in 2007.
His citation reads in part: "Ritz will always be known as the brilliant pioneer in the area of ukulele jazz." Discography 1957 How About Uke? - Verve Records 1959 50th State Jazz - Universal Distribution 1998 Time - MVM 2001 Ukulele Duo - JVC Victor 2004 How About Uke? (Re-Release) -Verve Records 2005 A Night of Ukulele Jazz Live at McCabe's - Flea Market Music 2006 No Frills - Flea Market Music 2007 I Wish You Love - CD Baby / PDX Uke 2007 Becky & Lyle Bossa Style - CD Baby Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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