RICHARD RAY FARRELL:
Some people live to make money, and some people make money to live. Some people are music lovers, some people are hobby musicians, and then again some people live and breathe music. They are the "real deal," so to speak. Richard Ray Farrell is one of them. He has not only mastered the art of singing and playing the blues--he has literally "lived" the blues for years on end.
Born in Niagara Falls, New York in 1956, Richard Ray left his hometown only two weeks after graduating from high school and backpacked his way through Europe, not knowing at the time that music would be his destiny. More than twenty-five years on the road as a travelling blues musician was to give him substantial credentials as a top-notch talent in the world of the blues.
Richard Ray started as a street musician or "busker" in Paris, France in 1975. Totally fascinated with the music of Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson and other legendary blues players, Richard played for hours on end in the halls and tunnels of the Parisian "Metro" subway, scraping out a living as a musician, literally a "po' boy long way from home."
Little by little, Richard worked his way up from the subways and streets of cities throughout the continent, eventually forming his own band and going on to perform on some of the largest and most prestigious stages in Europe, together with some of the true "giants" of traditional American blues music.
In 1978, Richard got an offer to front a blues-rock band in Spain. These were hard times for Richard. He was making even less money than when he was playing on the street and sometimes was "down to his last shirt and pair of jeans." All this time, Richard had been living as a "tourist" and was unable to take a normal job, having no official working papers.
Richard lived the life of a true gypsy for years, and actually did live with a Gypsy family for six months in Spain in the late 1970's. To make things even harder, Richard became a father to a baby boy in 1980. He made the move to Germany with his then wife and child in 1985 and started playing for a local blues band in the Stuttgart area. In 1987, Richard opened for Joe Cocker at the Backnang Open Air Festival. He was still playing on the streets, as the blues band just didn't make enough money to live on. But things were starting to pick up.
Richard formed his first trio, the Richard Ray Farrell Band, in 1989. Living in Germany and gradually making a name for himself, Richard started touring in Italy, Switzerland, France, Holland and Belgium with a former sideman to R.L. Burnside, Jon Morris Nerenberg. It was through Jon that Richard started meeting older bluesmen from the American south and accompanying them on tours throughout Europe. Tours with Lazy Lester, Big Jack Johnson, Big Boy Henry, Louisiana Red, Frank Frost and R.L. Burnside followed.
This was a great development process for Richard. He learned first hand from legendary masters of the blues, touring on and off with R.L. Burnside and Frank Frost for a period of about four years between 1990 and 1993. In 1992, Richard drew the attention of German record producer Alf List, founder of the Stormy Monday label. Richard put out his first CD produced by List, "Live in Germany" later that year.
In 1993, Richard and Jon formed the band "Street Talk" together with David Olson (Robert Cray's Grammy Award winning drummer) and Joel Foy (ex-of James Harman, William Clarke and Screamin' Jay Hawkins). This proved to be an excellent band, but they couldn't stay together for geographic reasons--Richard lived in Germany, Jon lived in Holland, David lived in New York and Joel lived in California. Richard went back to doing his solo acoustic thing and playing with his electric trio.
In 1995, Richard got a phone call from Jimmy Carl Black, legendary drummer with Frank Zappa's "Mothers of Invention" and a Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame inductee. Jimmy had recently moved to the area and was looking for a blues guitarist to form a band. Richard and Jimmy appreciated each other's talents immediately,
and soon formed the "FARRELL & BLACK" band. The group proved to be very successful and went on to record two CD's for Stormy Monday Records, "Cataract Jump" in 1996 and "Black Limousine" in 1999.
During this period, Richard honed his skills in arranging and songwriting, composing the music and writing the lyrics for eight of the sixteen songs on "Cataract Jump" and eleven of the fourteen songs on "Black Limousine." Richard also put out an impressive solo acoustic CD on Stormy Monday in 1998 entitled "Street Songs, Jazzy Tunes & Down Home Blues".
In an extreme turn of events, Richard Ray decided to move back to the United States in 2001. Now living in the greater Philadelphia area, Richard recently put together a new CD featuring sixteen original songs. It was recorded with the help of an all-star lineup of musicians, including a guest appearance by harmonica virtuoso Jerry Portnoy. Entitled "Bohemian Life," the CD is Richard's current release on the newly formed BlueBeet label from southern California.