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Gene Ludwig

One of jazz's premier Hammond B-3 organists

Gene Ludwig is recognized as one of the leading jazz organists who helped revive the popularity of the Hammond B3.  During his long career he recorded and toured with Sonny Stitt, guitarist Pat Martino, jazz vocalist Arthur Prysock, guitarist Jimmy Ponder, Plas Johnston, and Red Holloway.  Highlights of his live performances include appearances at the Montreux, Mellon, and San Francisco Jazz Festivals, Birdland and the Blue Note clubs in New York and Los Vegas.  As a recording artist he had 10 releases on the Muse, Blue Leaf, and Loose Leaf Records labels.  He was endorsed by Hammond Organs.

”Gene Ludwig, one of jazz's premier Hammond B-3 organists, ….his music comes clean and straight, mad with swing and pure in logic.” - DOWNBEAT.COM March 2006

”The Pittsburgh-based Gene Ludwig, who played Philly's Zanzibar Blue this month, remains a formidable cat of the stun-and-gun jazz organ school.  Whether it's slinky grooves or moments of pure takeoff, Ludwig and his quartet are proficient at this nasty but necessary art.´- Karl Stark, Philadelphia Enquirer • August 28, 2005

Gene Ludwig, born in the Cambria County coal mining town of Twin Rocks, Pennsylvania in 1937, grew up in Pittsburgh.  His family moved to Swissvale when his father took a job with Westinghouse.  He began the piano in first grade taking formal lessons for twelve years.  Gene began performing professionally on piano in 1949 at the age of 12.  After graduating from Swissvale High School, Gene attended Edinboro State Teachers College studying physics and mathematics.  He was forced to drop out due to money problems when his father went on strike from Westinghouse.  He returned to Pittsburgh taking a job with a construction company.  In the evenings he listened to jazz musicians like Ramsey Lewis, Horace Silver, and Ahmad Jamal at The Crawford Grill and the Hi-Hat.  Around 1957 he saw organist Jimmy Smith at the Hurricane Club and knew that he wanted to be a Hammond B3 organ player.  He formed the Jazz Organ Combo with tenor saxophonist Sonny Stanton in 1958.  They played the clubs in Pittsburgh and Cleveland.  Forming another group with Gene Barr, Ludwig performed in Philadelphia, Buffalo, Indianapolis and St Louis and released an album on the Pittsburgh based LaVere label. 

Signing with agent Billy Driscoll, who also booked Dinah Washington, Gene got more prominent East coast gigs.   After hearing Gene’s trio perform at a Newark club Nesuhi Ertegun of Atlantic Records offered a recording date.  They recorded the single 'Sticks and Stones' followed by the album “Organ Out Loud” on the Mainstream label in 1964.  Gene had two releases in 1965 with “'This is Gene Ludwig“ on his own Ge-Lu Records and “The Educated Sound of Gene Ludwig” on  Travis records.  In 1969 Gene joined alto sax player Sonny Stitt’s band replacing Don Patterson.   He recorded on his Stitt’s “Night Letter” album and toured the U.S.  After the Stitt stint Ludwig returned to Pittsburgh to work with saxophonist Bill Easley and Walt Maddox.  Gene toured with jazz vocalist Arthur Prysock in 1974 and in 1979.  He released “Now's The Time” on Muse Records in 1979.  

During the '80s and '90s, Ludwig continued to play in Pittsburgh and on the road.  With a revival in organ jazz in the late 80’s Gene appeared at the Montreaux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and made frequent appearances on the East coast.  Gene was signed to the Loose Leaf/ Blues Leaf label by Joe Morabia in 1997 and released 5 CDs between 1998 and 2006.  As a session player Gene recorded on Rat Caldwell’s “Front” CD in 1998, Billy Price and the Keystone Rhythm band’s release “Danger Zone” in 2000.   Producer Bob Porter hired Gene for the Plas Johnson / Red Holloway CD “Keep that Groove Going” 2001 release.  Gene appeared on guitarist Jimmy Ponder’s “What’s New” CD in 2005.  “Duffs Blues” was Gene’s last release in 2008.  Gene passed away in July of 2010.