Ritenour was born January 11, 1952 in Los Angeles, California. He played his first session when he was 16 with the Mamas and the Papas. Nicknamed "Captain Fingers", he (along with Larry Carlton) was a sought-after session guitarist by the mid-1970s. He is noted for playing his red Gibson ES-335 and his Gibson L5 guitars. One of his most notable influences is the pioneering jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery. In 1976, he released his first solo album, First Course.