Teddy DeLano Riedel (1937–2014)

aka: Teddy Redell

Teddy DeLano Riedel was a professional musician and songwriter. He toured widely throughout the nation and world, and his songs were recorded by artists such as Elvis Presley and country music star Sonny James.

Teddy Riedel was born on June 7, 1937, in Quitman (Cleburne and Faulkner counties) to Ted Wilson Riedel and Mabel Quinn Riedel. His parents were farmers, primarily growing strawberries, which were a major crop in the region.

Riedel graduated from Rose Bud High School in Rose Bud (White County). While in high school, Riedel played piano on KWCB radio in Searcy (White County) and became a member of radio show host Lloyd Sutherland’s band. He was befriended by the harmonica virtuoso Wayne Raney, who recruited the self-taught teenage musician to join his band. In 1955, Riedel toured with Raney playing a rockabilly, boogie-woogie-style piano at venues in southern and northeastern states. Riedel and the band also performed on KRCG television in Jefferson City, Missouri; WSLB in Baltimore, Maryland; and XERF radio in Del Rio, Texas. The band had a weekly show, “The World’s Original Jamboree,” on WWVA radio in Wheeling, West Virginia.

Riedel performed during an era when patrons at rural Arkansas music clubs frequently resorted to fighting to settle disputes. Riedel recalled the fatal shooting of a bartender at the C&R Club at Trumann (Poinsett County) and remembered bouncers carrying “blackjacks” (small clubs) to help them eject rowdy patrons. When performing at these clubs, Riedel said he often carried a gun under the front seat and a Bible in the glove box of his car.

In 1956, Riedel returned to Arkansas and began touring with Tommy Trent. In 1959 and 1960, he produced four records under the name of Teddy Redell at the Trumann-based Vaden Records. His most successful song was “Judy,” and the following year, Elvis Presley’s version of the song on RCA Records spent several weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 list. At this time, few songwriters understood how to protect their property through copyrights, and record labels frequently re-issued songs without compensating the songwriters. However, Riedel had registered his song with the Library of Congress. When the record label learned the song was protected, it was forced to pay him royalties.

After two years of military service in Texas, Riedel returned to Arkansas and recorded on the Razorback Records label, a label created by Bobby Crafford and based in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Crafford was a musician with the Newport (Jackson County) band the Pacers, a band that featured Sonny Burgess. Another member of the Pacers band, Fred Douglas of Heber Springs (Cleburne County), got his first professional work as a member of Riedel’s band, including playing guitar on the initial recording of “Judy.” Riedel also wrote songs that were recorded by country singer Sonny James.

In 1964, Riedel stopped performing and settled in Rose Bud, where he worked for many years as a piano tuner for Arkansas colleges and universities. From 1988 to 2005, Riedel returned to the stage and performed on several European tours and in national venues. During this period, several compilation albums and CDs of his recordings were produced.

Riedel and his wife, Rose Payne Riedel, also of Quitman, were married for forty-nine years and had two children. Riedel died on September 3, 2014, at Greystone Nursing Home in Cabot (Lonoke County) and is buried at Crossroads Cemetery in Hopewell (Cleburne County). The Teddy Riedel Memorial Piano Fund was established at the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) in Conway (Faulkner County) by his daughter Priscilla Riedel-Cohan. The fund provides for the care and tuning of the school’s Steinway pianos.

For additional information:
Chandler, Arline. “Saying Good-bye to Two Greats.” RVLife.com, September 12, 2014. http://rvlife.com/rv-travel-tales-saying-good-bye-to-two-greats/ (accessed October 22, 2020).

Schwartz, Marvin. We Wanna Boogie: The Rockabilly Roots of Sonny Burgess and the Pacers. Little Rock: Butler Center Books, 2014.

Teddy Reidel. http://teddyriedel.com/ (accessed October 22, 2020).

Fred Dale Douglas
Heber Springs, Arkansas


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