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.