Members of the category-defying band NRBQ knew from the outset that their prospects of mainstream success were slim to none.  The quartet spent the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s recording and touring chiefly for the reward of accolades from fellow musicians including Paul McCartney, Keith Richards, Elvis Costello and Bonnie Raitt, as well as devoted fans scattered across the planet.

The group’s anything-goes-and-usually-does approach was what first caught the ear of 15-year-old drummer Tom Ardolino, who sent a fan letter to keyboardist Terry Adams after catching one of the group’s shows in Springfield, Mass. In 1974, Adams invited him to join the group when drummer Tom Staley quit.

Ardolino spent the next few decades providing nimble, propulsive backbeats for bandmates Adams, guitarist Al Anderson and bassist Joey Spampinato until health issues forced him to quit touring. Those problems contributed to his death Friday at age 56 from alcoholism-related illness.