Ricky began his career as Roy Ayers’ drummer through his Ubiquity years, and after playing with Roy, went on to have an amazing career playing extensively with Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Anita Baker, Whitney Houston, and The Yellowjackets, just to name a few. His radiant spirit and skillful expertise will be missed. I was fortunate enough to spend time with him in mid-2013. Of course my gratitude increased exponentially after finding out about his passing only months after our first meeting.
Ricky spent most of his career as a session player, but that didn’t stop him from spouting out his accomplishments during our conversation. Whitney Houston I Will Always Love You, Anita Baker Sweet Love, touring with Michael Jackson, Phil Collins, and George Duke, winning a Grammy for Best Album with the Yellowjackets in 1990. “I even got a Super Bowl jacket for playing with Whitney for her ‘Star Spangled Banner” he stated. Yeah, Ricky proved that life as a session player could be wonderful, and he had a great attitude to go along with his career.
.”I never saw any royalties from playing on “Everybody Loves the Sunshine”, but all I cared about was having Roy get his credit.” Roy Ayers gave Ricky his first break when Ricky was fresh out of High School. They toured the summer after Ricky’s High School graduation, with Roy Ayers close to 30 years old, and Ricky only a teenager. Though he was young and experienced, the experience with Roy Ayers gave Ricky a great platform to have a flourishing career in the 1980s and through the 90’s, until his passing.
“I’m the only player to play with Roy Ayers to have a Grammy”. That was his claim. That doesn’t mean that others including Roy didn’t deserve a Grammy, but Ricky was the one who actually brought home the hardware.
Ricky was forever grateful to Roy Ayers, and although Roy was nearly 15 years his elder, we saw Ricky pass when he was 59 years old, due to an aneurysm.
His name is not as recognizable as some of jazz’s more esteemed heavyweights, but his career was more than excellent, being a loved and respected member of the jazz community, and also receiving critical acclaim.
Rickey Lawson died young, but he died doing what he loved most, and he has left a legacy that will forever remain.
Written by: @Haylow