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Passings: Ammon Tharp of Bill Deal and the Rhondels (1942 - 2017)

by VVN Music
Ammon Tharp (left) and Bill Deal

Ammon Tharp, the drummer for Bill Deal and the Rhondels from their inception until 1977, died on Friday (September 22) at his home in Virginia Beach, VA at the age of 75.

Tharp met Deal in the late 50's while the two were still teenagers and playing in bands around the Virginia area. Their mutual love of R&B led to the formation of the Rhondels who played at local high schools and, eventually, clubs along the Virginia beach.

Their reputation grew over a number of years of playing but it was the chance playing of an old Maurice Williams song, "May I", that launched their career. The band had been playing it for a number of years but, for fun, they added a polka beat to the song at one show. The crowd's reaction told them they were onto something and they quickly recorded the arrangement, putting it out in local Norfolk stores.  A national producer, Jerry Ross, came across the record and signed the band to Heritage Records.

"May I" became a major hit among the east coast Beach Music scene and went to 39 in 1969 on the national charts.  They made the national tallies twice more in 1969 with "I've Been Hurt" (1969 / #35) and "What Kind of Fool Do You Think I Am" (1969 / #23).

Further singles charted low on the Hot 100 and, by the mid-70's, Deal and Ammon decided to cut back on their Rhondell's shows, returning to their Virginia roots playing the beach clubs. In addition, Tharp formed his own Fat Ammon's Band which played into the 90's. Recently, he had performed with a band called Ammon Tharp and Ammon's All-Stars.

Ammon is survived by his wife of 47 years, Pat, and their children William (Bubba) and Sarah.


Anonymous said…
Thanks for this write up. Just noting a typo regarding the charting of "May I": I'm sure you men 1969, not 1959. Thanks!