Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Ludwig, Gene (David Eugene)
Ludwig, Gene (David Eugene), Hammond B-3 Organ and piano; b. Twin Rocks, PA, 4 September 1937. His mother was Mary Kinney Ludwig (born: Sept. 16, 1909, died: Aug. 1, 1993). His father was George Kenneth Ludwig (born: Sept. 20, 1903, died: March 5, 1993). His brothers are Edwin Kenneth Ludwig (born: May 9, 1930), John Wesley Ludwig (born: Oct. 1, 1942 died: May 30, 1988) and Paul Roger Ludwig (born: Nov. 15, 1933 died: Feb. 8, 1957).
Ludwig was born in Twin Rocks, a tiny coal-mining town in Cambria County. Four years after he was born his father took a job at Westinghouse and moved the family to Wilkinsburg and later to Swissvale where Gene spent most of his youth.
At the home in Swissvale, Ludwig started tinkering with an old piano that the previous owners had left. His mother provided young Gene with piano lessons as early as the first grade in 1943 and witnessed his musical growth from then on. She would have preferred that he became a concert pianist but soon realized that his musical preference lay in rhythm and blues. At age 6, Ludwig started taking lessons with Elizabeth Boose and studied with her for the next six years. He continued to practice during high school, but he discovered a broader variety of music while listening to radio legend Porky Chedwick, who was a disc jockey for WHOD in Homestead. "I got a really good taste for R&B from Porky," said Ludwig. "He was playing a lot of Ruth Brown, Big Joe Turner and organ players like Bill Doggett and Wild Bill Davis. The music was so different from the big band stuff I had been listening to. I just fell in love with the groove, and I started trying some of that on the piano."
In 1955, he graduated from Swissvale High School and enrolled in Edinboro State Teacher's College, where he studied physics and mathematics. After two years, he was forced to quit because money was tight and his father was on strike at Westinghouse. He returned to Pittsburgh, where he eventually accepted a position at Fuller Construction, which was erecting several new buildings downtown. At the Hurricane in the Hill District, where food and music fought for top billing, Gene Ludwig was inspired by musicians such as organist Jack McDuff. He eventually started performing with singing groups around town. One night, he went to the Hurricane, a Hill District nightspot, to hear organist Jimmy Smith. Ludwig eventually purchased a Hammond M100 organ and later a C Model.
Gene's first Jazz Organ Combo was led by tenor saxophonist, Sonny Stanton. They gigged around town in places like, the Hi-Hat on the Northside, Mason's in the Hill, Tropics in Braddock and Dave's Walnut Inn in McKeesport. They traveled to Cleveland before Gene switched to another quartet led by Gene Barr. This group ventured out even further going to St. Louis, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and Buffalo. By this time, Gene's musical career was firmly rooted in the organ genre. During an Atlantic City concert in 1964, Ludwig played on the same bill with Smith, who used Ludwig's C Model. After the show, Smith thanked Ludwig and then told him he should try to get a B-3 because the C Model would work him to death. Ludwig returned to Pittsburgh, bought a B-3 and started performing with his trio. They traveled to Count Basie's club in Harlem, the 100 Club in Cleveland and other clubs that featured the organ.
In 1969, Ludwig replaced Don Patterson in Sonny Stitt's band. The relationship lasted about a year. After the Stitt job ended, Ludwig returned to Pittsburgh and started working regularly with saxophonist Bill Easley and, later, Walt Maddox. Soon, Arthur Prysock came calling, and Ludwig joined the vocalist on two separate occasions, for a year beginning in 1973 and again in 1979. Throughout the '80s and '90s, Ludwig continued to travel and work in local venues such as the Crawford Grill and James Street Tavern.
When Joey DeFrancesco came on the scene with the backing of Columbia Records, jazz organists all over the country started dusting off their organs and pulling out their drawbars. Gene was right there with the best of them welcoming the return of his favorite instrument to the modern music scene. He appeared at the Montreaux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and made numerous stops in and around the Eastern cities. In fact, soon after Don Patterson passed away in 1988, Gene performed in Don's birthplace, Columbus Ohio where Don was honored posthumously. Gene even accepted the award on his behalf and handed it over to Don's mother. He played the next year with Hank Marr in Columbus and, more recently, has been organizing his own Jazz Organ Jams in Shadyside (Pittsburgh area) at a club called The Balcony. Gene has brought two of his three organs to the gig so that he and Jack McDuff, Joey DeFrancesco and Papa John DeFrancesco can play together in his 'ExtravOrganza'. Locally, Gene has played at Esta-Esta in Monroeville, Baby O's in Greensburg and the Keystone Elks in Washington, Pennsylvania.
In recent years, Ludwig has been mounting something of a comeback, at least in terms of visibility beyond his own hometown turf of Pittsburgh. In 1997, Joe Morabia of Blues Leaf signed the B-3 veteran to a deal. It led to appearances in the New York and New Jersey area. Producer Bob Porter, who had been hip to Ludwig's singular talent for some 30 years, ended up calling on the organist once again for a Plas Johnson/Red Holloway session he produced in 2001.
He married Pattye Zamborsky Ludwig on September 30, 2000.
Mr. Fink (45 RPM, 1960); Sticks And Stones (45 RPM, 1963); Organ Out Loud (1964); This Is Gene Ludwig (1965); The Educated Sound Of Gene Ludwig (1965); The Vamp (45 RPM, 1965); Soul Mountain (45 RPM, 1966); Mother Blues (45 RPM, 1967); Now's The Time (1979); Blues And More (1982); The Street Preacher (45 RPM 1987); Back On The Track (1998); Soul Serenade (2000); The Groove Organization (2002)
Sonny Stitt: Night Letter (1970); Randy Caldwell: Front (1998); Shawnee Lake: Diamonds And Sausages (1999); Jose Taylor: Walking The Walk-The Serious Saxaphone Of Jose Taylor (2000); Plas Johnson And Red Holloway: Keep That Groove Going (2001); Jimmy Ponder (2003)
A Life in Tune: Ludwig grooves on jazz organ; October 26, 2003; By Nate Guidry, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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