Smokestack Lightnin' Home Page -- The Blues Profile Page
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 traveling 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
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. 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 and relocate to the Philadelphia area. In 2003 he recorded his first CD for Blue Beet Music, Bohemian Life. This CD features 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. Bohemian Life reached number 18 on the Living Blues charts in May/June 2003, almost an impossible feat for an artist virtually unknown in the U.S. Bohemian Life received airplay in over 200 stations across the U.S., Canada, South America, Europe and Australia.
In June 2005 Richard Ray released a second CD with Bluebeet Music, Acoustic Roots. This CD features classic ragtime and delta blues covers from the 20’s and 30’s. The recording was done live with no overdubs and features Richard Ray on guitar, vocals and occasional harmonica on the rack. Acoustic Roots was recorded, mixed and mastered by 3 time Grammy Award winning engineer Mike Tarsia of Philadelphia, PA. This CD reached number 20 on the Living Blues Charts.
In October 2006 Richard, together with Steve Guyger, released Down Home Old School Country Blues. This CD immediately reached #18 on the Living Blues Charts and is getting world-wide air play. This CD has placed Farrell and Guyger amongst the top blues duos in the world today.
Richard Ray can be found playing with his band, solo, or with well known musicians living the tri-state area, including Steve Guyger and Steve Gomes. Richard continues to tour in Europe and is frequently accompanied by Italian harmonica virtuoso Marco Pandolfi.