Keith Thibodeaux talks fame, faith and playing Little Ricky on I Love Lucy.
It's been more than 60 years since Keith Thibodeaux first charmed the socks off North American audiences as Little Ricky, the pint-sized drummer on the classic 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy.
Now, at 67, Thibodeaux is the last surviving cast member of the show, and his time on set is something he still treasures. "Back in the day, I Love Lucy was the big show to be on," he says. "It was a very special show and a great opportunity, even for a little kid."
The musician-actor has since had more than his fair share of ebbs and flows with family life and career success over the years—and the rollercoaster began when he was just a preschooler. Thibodeaux's unexpected gig on Lucy all started with an overturned trash can in the backyard of his childhood home in Louisiana.
"My neighbour heard me playing on the trash can outside [when I was a toddler] and she said to my parents, 'I think your son is actually making a rhythm so you should buy him some real drums.' So my dad did just that," Thibodeaux recalls. "As a kid starting out, I was influenced by the little big band orchestras on the radio. That's how I learned music: by ear. It was just a God-given gift, I guess."
And it was a gift that ultimately took him from his childhood home at the age of six and thrust him into the international spotlight, with supporting roles on I Love Lucy and The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour before both series dissolved due to Ball's and Arnaz's highly-publicized divorce. But the immediate highs and the soul-crushing lows that accompanied life in the spotlight were all a bit much for a kid whose career suddenly crumbled around him before he'd reached the age of 10. "I had to hit the unemployment line," he says.
But Thibodeaux, now a father-of-one celebrating 40 years of marriage, only found his footing again after his life took a few more unexpected turns.
Here, we catch up with Keith Thibodeaux at his home in Mississippi to talk fame, drums, faith and I Love Lucy.
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