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Louisville, Est. 2004

1970 Berkley: Turley opens for Richie Havens

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Turley Richards is a talented West Virgina-born singer-songwriter and producer who has been on the verge of stardom several times, only to remain a well kept secret. Damaging his vision in a childhood accident and completely blind by his late 20s, his life has been a whirlwind ride, where predictions of him being "the next big thing" have led to him being signed by seven different labels over the course of his career. Standing at 6' 4", and blessed with a soulful exuberant voice, Richards is a commanding presence.

This vintage Turley Richards performance, recorded at Berkeley's Community Theater when he was opening for Richie Havens, captures the man just after he had signed with Warner Brothers Records, but prior to the release of his self-titled first album for the label. Other than the opening blues-inflected original "Jellyroll Man," the set consists of Richards performing songs by other songwriters, where he exhibits a gifted and distinctive ability at interpretation. Unlike most white singer-songwriters of the era, who usually came from a folksinger background, Richards’ style is firmly rooted in blues and soul music. His vocal inflections reveal an obvious love for the singing style of Jackie Wilson and Ray Charles, with a bit of Wilson Pickett and even Little Richard tossed in for good measure. This makes his approach to songs by the likes of Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell unlike anyone else.

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White Men Can’t Jump! The Turley Richards Story

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"You have to ask yourself, have you felt pain?" says Turley Richards. "Ask that about African American’s back then and the answer was clear. And me, I can tell you that the blues visited my heart and soul every single day of my life and still do because as a blind man I’ve never seen my children." Turley Richards has certainly known pain, and that comes through in his music, but he’s also positive, very funny, inspiring and committed to recording again after an absence of 20 years. He’s made some serious money at points. He’s also drifted around the edge of major stardom all his life and with a new CD in the can he’s bubbling over with enthusiasm for the music that first inspired him, but it’s been a hard row to hoe. After hearing his soul material I’ve become a huge fan in recent years and I spoke to him at the end of 2005 about his career and his remarkable life.

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Singer-songwriter lives with losing his sight poised at the brink of stardom

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Daily Mail staff Charleston Daily Mail
Thursday, March 31, 2011

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Whether you call him Turley Richards or Richard Turley is your choice - he answers to both.

Folks who remember the blind musician and his family from South Charleston will go with the latter. Folks who know his history as a singer-songwriter-guitarist signed on with eight record companies during his career know him as the former, a professional name that came about by accident when a fellow musician - who was dyslexic - accidentally switched the names.

The name stuck, though Richards said his mother was none too happy about it, particularly when she was interviewed once and the writer called her "Miss Richards."

"My name is not Miss Richards," she told the writer. "He went off to New York and changed his damn name."

It's one of many stories Richards is likely to tell when he performs at South Charleston's LaBelle Theater Saturday night, his first visit back to West Virginia in a while.

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West Virginia Yesterday & Today

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West Virginia can claim its fair share of stars; Kathy Mattea,  Don Knotts, and Charles "Chuck" Yeager to name a few. But West Virginia has only  one "Superstar": Turley Richards from Charleston. Turley, as so many West Virginians  do, turned tragedy into triumph with a musical career that has spanned five decades.

Turley is the son of Cody & Silba Turley of South Charleston,  West Virginia. Cody was one of seven children of Frank & Mary Price Turley of South  Hills. Silba was the daughter of Lon & Mary Woods Eskew of Tornado; there were six  children in her family. Turley says of his mother, "Mom provided me with the strength  to handle anything that comes my way. All parents should learn how to give that  to their children."

A childhood accident left Turley blind in his left eye. He and  another boy were playing with a bow & arrow and Turley was shot and blinded. As  the years passed, he lost sight in his right eye as well. Surgery after unsuccessful  surgery followed but Turley refused to give in to frustration or depression. He  looked upon these setbacks as giving him the strength to overcome challenges both  in life and show business. His mother's advice still rings true to him today, "It's  a tough world and you have to be tougher than the toughest." Turley says, "Blindness  will never defeat me.

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Singer, songwriter working on a comeback Blind artist hoping to reconnect with fans

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The Louisville Courier-Journal

LOUISVILLE, KY -- More than 25 years after Turley Richards landed his last major  record deal, the Louisville singer/songwriter has recorded songs for two new albums  and is working on a comeback.

Since the 1950s, he has performed or shared the stage with Ray  Charles, Neil Diamond, Fleetwood Mac, Richie Havens, Aretha Franklin and other big  names.

Now 65, he is performing regularly at several places around town,  hoping to revive his old fan base and add to it.

He seemed to be succeeding at both recently as he performed before  an enthusiastic audience at the American Printing House for the Blind's Bards and  Storytellers series at the printing house's Callahan Museum in Clifton.

The series features entertainers who are blind. It is funded in  part by the Kentucky Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Talking freely and humorously about his life and career, Richards  performed a string of songs and made observations about the music industry: "In  a perfect world, Elvis would be alive and all the impersonators would be dead,"  he said.

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