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

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.

He also talked about his prospective albums, the acoustic "Blind Sighted" and the soul and rhythym-and-blues "Back to My Roots." He has soft-pedaled his own career while his children, Amber, 25, and Adam, 28, have grown up, and he partially lost his voice as the result of an esophageal problem during the 1980s.

Carla Ruschival of Clifton, who attended the performance, said she has been a fan since the 1980s. "He has a story to tell, and he does it well," said Ruschival, co-host of the Sound Prints radio show on WKJK-AM, sponsored by the Kentucky Council of the Blind.

She interviewed Richards for her show in April and requested a Chuck Berry number at the museum performance. "His versatility is incredible," she said.

Richards lost sight in one eye as a child after accidentally being shot with an arrow. He lost sight in the other eye at age 28 while living and performing in New York, the result of an infection from the first incident.

"I went from being a singer to being a blind singer," he recalled this week, sitting at the sound mixing board of his basement recording studio. He now has two prosthetic eyes.

A native of West Virginia who excelled in basketball and baseball, Richards passed through Louisville and performed at a club on Washington Street in 1967. He came back and did his own television show in 1972 and has been here since, except for stints in Nashville and Atlanta.

Richards is upbeat about his life.

He attends Southeast Christian Church and recorded two contemporary Christian albums in the 1990s. Much of his income comes from playing at private parties, including ones on the West Coast, he said.

He has performed in Europe, and over the years has continued to perform locally.

He has earned a black belt in judo and has worked as a massage therapist. He also works as a music producer and vocal and songwriting coach.

He has sold about 1.4 million records, he said, and considers his biggest hit songs to be "You Might Need Somebody" and "Love Minus Zero, No Limit," the latter by Bob Dylan. He said he's written more than 650 songs, including a new one he sang at the museum, "Dancing With the Man In the Moon."

He was divorced in 1986 and says, "My kids are my life."

His daughter will join him during a performance tomorrow at Captain's Quarters restaurant.

While he's hoping for another record deal, "I just want people to hear the music."