Robert Ringwald, the pianist who played and promoted jazz in California for more than half a century, has died, according to his daughter, the actor and musician Molly Ringwald. He was 80.
Born in Roseville, California with vision problems, Ringwald went blind at an early age. He began taking piano lessons at 5 and started his first band at 13.
“Four years later, at the age of 17, he was able to grow enough of a beard to be able to pass for an adult to play in nightclubs as a professional musician, an occupation he held for the next six decades,” his daughter wrote.
At first drawn to modern jazz, the music of Louis Armstrong instilled in Ringwald a lifelong passion for the performance and preservation of traditional New Orleans jazz.
By the 1970s, Ringwald was playing piano at clubs seven nights a week.
He co-organized the first Sacramento Jazz Festival in 1974, and his band headlined the event, which became an annual city tradition. In 2012, Ringwald was honored by the festival as “The Emperor of Jazz.”
In addition to music, Ringwald’s passions included ham radio and the Los Angeles Dodgers, for whom he once served as a guest announcer, reading the lineup in Braille.
“Anyone who knew Bob also knew his mischievous streak, and his ever-present, slightly ribald sense of humor. If you didn’t sufficiently beg to get off of his email joke list, you would have received one just a couple of days before he died,” Molly Ringwald wrote.
Besides his daughter Molly, Robert Ringwald is survived by Adele, his wife of 60 years; a sister, Renée Angus; another daughter, Beth Ringwald Carnes; a son, Kelly Ringwald; two grandsons; two granddaughters; two step-granddaughters; one great-grandson; and one step-great-grandson.
A memorial service is pending.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made either to the Foundation Fighting Blindness or to CURE Childhood Cancer.