Tom Ardolino, a longtime drummer of the influential cult band NRBQ, died Friday (Jan. 6) after a lengthy battle with an unidentified illness. He was 56.

NRBQ announced Ardolino’s death with a note posted Friday on their Facebook page: "Friends, We regret to inform you that Tom Ardolino passed away today. Tom will be missed but his spirit lives on through those who were touched by him."

Ardolino joined NRBQ in 1974 after years as a dedicated fan and drummed with them for three decades, appearing on 15 studio albums and performing countless live shows over that span. “He had a totally unique style of drumming that nobody can ever duplicate," former NRBQ member Al Anderson said of Ardolino to the Hartford Courant. "That was one of the baddest rhythm sections in the world.”

His drumming was an integral part of both the recorded and the legendary live NRBQ experience. Known as much for for its wildly eclectic blending of genres as for its overall consistent lack of commercial success, the band counts several legendary musicians among its rabid fan base, including Bob DylanPaul McCartneyElvis Costello and Keith Richards.

NRBQ went on hiatus in 2004, and when the band regrouped in March 2011, Ardolino was too ill to take part. In December, the band announced via Facebook that the drummer was "dealing with a number of health issues" and was "expected to be int he hospital for some time." He was living in Springfield, Mass., at the time of his death.

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