West Virginia Yesterday & Today

Written by: Mildred McKenzie (Aug 06, 2015)

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.

I'm still singing, I'm still singing and I ain't gonna stop!" The only downside to his blindness for Turley is that he has never seen his children, Amber and Adam; or been able to pore over their photographs as so many parents take for granted.

Turley has overcome another health crisis. In 1985 he had a scare in which he feared he was losing his voice. Occupational rehabilitation courses taught him skills such as massage therapy, computers and typing to replace singing and entertaining. Luckily this genetic problem was defeated and his voice returned. Turley also sees this situation as a gift and a positive instead of a negative experience. He was able to explore other life options and realized that he would always be able to make a living for his family; no matter what life throws at Turley he is able to turn it into a success.

He began his musical career in my Coonskin Park home when I asked him to perform at a children's birthday party. How far he has come since then! When Turley started performing professionally he hit a few rough patches. There was a time when he found himself alone, visually impaired, and sleeping in Central Park in New York City--with $1.83 to his name. He took a serious look at himself and where his talents lay. Instead of giving up and running home he began singing in pubs for food and making friends. This led to his first record deal with MGM/Verve Records. A lesson for everyone: Do what you do best and don't give up!

Turley hit the Billboard Top 100 Charts for the first time in 1970 with "Love Minus Zero, No Limit" a song written by Bob Dylan. Throughout his career he has sold 1.4 MILLION records! Turley has been signed with nine record companies including Warner Brothers and Atlantic Records. Many singers/songwriters go their entire career without ever getting ONE record deal. Every single he released was a Billboard "Pick Hit." What an accomplishment by this talented West Virginian!

Over the years Turley has shared the stage with some of the top names in entertainment including: Comedian Richard Pryor, Frankie Avalon, Tony Bennett, Kenny Rogers and the First Edition, the Jerry Lewis Telethon, Joe Walsh & Glen Frye of the Eagles, and Fleetwood Mac. He has appeared on Merv Griffin and the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson along with many many others. His resume also includes appearances at West Virginia's Mountain Stage and with comedy legend Tim Wilson during the Kentucky Derby festivities in Louisville. Turley has also hosted his own TV variety show.

The true testament of an artist's talent is their reputation among other artists. Turley has been praised by people in the music industry who know the music business and recognize talent.

Mike Post, of Mike Post Productions in Burbank, California is the writer of such television theme songs as "Magnum P.I., The Rockford Files, Law & Order, and NYPD Blue. He described Turley's voice as "soulful…giant…warm…Turley is a drop dead great singer...what a talent." But he is not the only show business talent that is blown away by Turley Richards.

Joe Boyland, President of Legend Artist Management and Big Street Entertainment of Nashville, Tennessee has known Turley since 1981. Joe has managed the rock and roll group Lynrd Skynrd and was instrumental in the first big hits of Pop Stars Mariah Carey and Celine Dion. Joe knows talent and of Turley he said, "I…appreciate and respect his integrity and professional attitude. Turley always wants to make everything as good as possible…this makes for good music. I highly recommend him."

Not only do legendary music producers recommend Turley, but legendary performers do as well. Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac has so much respect for Turley and his talent that in 1979 he designed the artwork for the front and back covers of Turley's album Therfu. Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood was the executive producer of the album. These talented artists have given Turley the ultimate compliment: their respect for his work.

Since 1985 Turley has been much more than a performer. He now lives in the Louisville Kentucky area where he is writing, producing, and recording as well as working as a music consultant and a much sought after vocal coach. Stevie Lee of Louisville radio station WSFR calls Turley "…a class act…serious talent and an outstanding vocal coach." Another example of how Turley Richards' skills and talent have become recognized both in front of and behind the microphone!

Turley is also recognized for "giving back". He performs at events that feature performers with visual impairments such as the "Bards and Storyteller Series" at the Callahan Museum in Louisville. This series of performances was sponsored by the American Printing House for the Blind and the Kentucky Humanities Council.

Turley is also at work on a new CD and his autobiography, both titled "BlindSighted" and to be published later this year. More information and samples of his wonderful voice &songwriting talent are available at his website: www.turleyrichards.com

Turley Richards is truly an inspiration to us all. It is always so nice to encounter successful people whom we know when they were children; to see where their lives have taken them. Turley is an amazing gentleman that is a credit to not only his family but to all West Virginians. From humble beginnings and incredible obstacles, he has forged ahead to share his great talent with the world. Keep singing, Turley!

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

Written by: Martha Elson (Oct 06, 2014)

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.

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."

1970 Berkley: Turley opens for Richie Havens

Written by: Unknown (Aug 06, 2014)

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.

Following the previously mentioned opener, "Jellyroll Man," Richards delivers his interpretation of one of Joni Mitchell's ea rly classics, "The Circle Game." His innate ability to make a listener ache with sadness permeates this performance, eliminating the wistfulness inherent to most renditions and bringing additional de pth to the song.

He next approaches gospel territory with an extraordinary cover of the Edwin Hawkins Singers' "I Heard The Voice Of Jesus." Regardless of the obvious religious connotations this is a powerful performance, exhibiting a jazz-inflected sophistication few other singer-songwriters of the era possessed.

Perhaps the most interesting number in the set is next, when Richards displays his softer sensitive side on Dylan's "Love Minus Zero/No Limit." One of Dylan's most beautiful songs, this is one of the only cover versions that brings anything new to the table, and it would grace Richards' first Warner Brothers album later in the year.

A return to the gospel flavorings heard earlier in the se t, the traditional "Amen, Amen" is another strong performance that showcases his vocal abilities. Near the end, Richards sounds enraptured, especially during a throat-shredding wail that is astounding in its intensity.

The set ends with an utterly unique solo acoustic rearrangement of The Rolling Stones’ "(I Cant Get No) Satisfaction." Filled with spontaneous improvisation, this version sounds like Richards is channeling the great Otis Redding, rather than emulating Mick Jagger. Finding the bluesy roots of this song, Richards raps out improvised vocals over a bluesy vam p. Although some of this sounds dated, with plenty of sock-it-to-yous and other catch phrases of the era, it is a remarkable performance clocking in at nearly ten minutes, with only voice and acoustic guitar to keep the audiences attention.

Turley Richards is still alive and well and he continues to perform and produce music. His ability to overcome his challenges and retain his optimistic attitude continues to drive his music forward to the present day.

White Men Can’t Jump! The Turley Richards Story

Written by: Martin Gavin (Scotch Martin) (Aug 06, 2014)

"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.

Richards was born in Charleston, West Virginia. At school he was an unusually talented basketball player and could have pursued a career in sport had it not been for a childhood eye injury that would eventually lead to blindness in 1969. He now lives in Louisville and has two children, Adam, 28 and Amber, 25. "I love them with all my heart," he says. "We have a tremendous relationship and I'm so very proud of them." Pride is an enduring characteristic of this very polite and genuine man, maybe partly because of his determination not to be labeled or marketed as a "blind" performer, or maybe just because he’s proud of his very eclectic and substantial body of work over the last 40 years.

Despite having sold over 1.4 million records, with appearances on Top of the Pops (anyone got the footage?) and at the Royal Albert Hall, Richards failed to reach the heights of success that his good-looks and outstanding voice warranted. In a typical stroke of bad luck the hugely soulful, I’m A Lonely Man, from the 1966 Columbia session, was shunned by black radio stations that had been championing the track after Columbia released his photo to Billboard in a disastrous attempt to woo white stations. Ironically, when Turley first started singing with two black friends and another white kid in the late 50s, he was taunted as a n****r lover and found it hard to get bookings. Thankfully this type of bigotry has no place on the Northern Soul scene.

Since Cleethorpes in the mid 70s the Columbia barnstormer, I Feel All Right, has been leading a charge to the dance floor and is finally in the Northern Soul big league where it belongs. Also making waves is the 1965 R&B dancer, I Need to Fall in Love, on 20th Century, recorded with an audience in the studio. But these two gems barely scratch the surface of a career covering folk, jazz and rock that, but for confusion about where he fitted in, should have taken him to the very top.

"I learned to sing in a little black church and even today black people love my singing," he says. "Sure, they know that I don't sound black, but I sing black and as BB King said, the colour of soul is blue."

His first recording was for tri-state label Fraternity in 1959. "I had no idea what was going on," says Turley. "I was 17 and recording at King Studios, Cincinnati. The entire band recorded at the same time, live. There were no headphones and even if you messed up on the last bar everyone did it again. I dread to think what the stuff sounds like, I don’t have any records today. I started singing R&B in Charleston with three black kids and two white fellas and we had a hard time for sure, from all camps. We did Drifters, Coasters and Midnighters material."

In 1963 Turley packed up and moved to New York. "I guess I thought it was a waste of time trying to achieve anything in Charleston, and with my sight worsening I was very driven. I’d visited LA but things were slow so I moved to New York with $87, my guitar and my Mother’s blessing. Man, it wasn’t what I expected.

"When I ran out of money I didn’t know what to do, but I sure wasn’t going home with my tail between my legs. In ‘64 I started playing in bars around Greenwich Village for food and pocket money supporting comedian Richard Prior. I’d sweet-talk the girls and usually got lucky and they’d take me home, but I never lied. I’d say, ‘I’ll sleep on the floor, the couch or in your bed but I can’t make a commitment’. Probably the most influential figure in my early career was Norman Schwartz, he was the manager that actually got things started. Then Paul Tannen, my producer, took over and got deals with Columbia, Kapp and Warner Brothers. Beyond that, there were not many people in the business that made me feel comfortable with who they were."

Tannen was the producer (PMT Productions) on the summer 1966 Columbia session that produced, I’m A Lonely Man, and, I Feel All Right. Turley then revealed the amazing band that had been hired by Leon Glover for the session. "I still had some sight then and when I walked into the studio most of the crew was black," he says. "I’d come from the beach and I don’t think they were too impressed by my blonde hair, blue eyes and suntan when I arrived, but I won them over. Bernard Purdie was on drums, Chuck Rainey on bass, Cornell Dupree was the guitarist, piano was provided by Paul Griffin and backing vocalists were Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson."

"NYC was very nice in the 60s, compared to the 70s and beyond," says Turley. "Being 6’ 4" and 220 lbs. helped to keep me safe, but you didn’t really have to worry too much. I saw lots of acts at the Apollo that never really made it and also Stevie Wonder, when he was just a kid." I mention to Turley that I could hear traces of Jackie Wilson in his vocal style. "Right on! I learned a lot of my vocal inflections from Wilson. I also like Clyde McFadder, Chuck Jackson and Little Richard. I met Wilson Pickett at the Columbia studios and he was great too, but I didn’t meet many other big soul acts face to face". Turley’s favourite singers as a young man were Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles, leading him to joke, "Maybe I should have chosen different musical heroes!"

I asked if attitudes towards blindness have changed. "I think the better people understand it, the better they deal with it. I don’t appear to be blind so it's very funny sometimes when I meet people for the first time. Someone on the phone actually said, ‘You don't sound blind Turley’. My answer now after hearing this so often is, ‘Up until now, you didn't sound stupid’."

I revealed to Turley that his Columbia record, I Feel Alright, started getting played at soul discos in the UK about 1975, and asked about his circumstances at that time. "I recorded, I Feel All Right, at Columbia on 52nd Street along with three other tracks. I had no idea that anything was happening in Europe with the songs that came out of that session. The entire band was made up of great black sidemen. I do believe that all musicians can forget about the colour. When someone is really good, we don't give a damn what colour they are, but society wants to always make something out of it. The stuff I recorded for Kapp was awful, that was because they didn’t get my scene.

"When you guys in the UK were playing the track in 1975 I was in my third year of retirement," he says. "I was sick and tired of major labels wanting me to be like whatever singers were hot. They stole my R&B style from me and never let me go back to it. I was soulful, man - they sank me with them. But I'm not bitter," he laughs, quite genuinely for someone who’s been let down time and again by short sighted record label bosses. "The 20th Century deal was secured through the manager that I mentioned earlier, courtesy of number 13!" he adds.

I wondered if Richards’ love of soul had somehow held back his chances of commercial success, after all he’s signed deals with nine major labels in his career including Atlantic, Epic and Kapp. "Yes and no," he says. "I wasn't really writing that much although I did write, I Need To Fall In Love. I think my problem was the fact that I could sing just about anything. I had an unusual five-octave range and could do everything. After I went blind, I was pushed into the folk scene but I don't think the labels had a clue what to do with me. At one time, they felt that I was a possible blind guy that they could sell as 'sexy'. That's when I quit for about four years."

Career wise the 70s and 80s were a series of all-too-familiar brushes with stardom that didn’t quite come off. According to Turley a six-album deal with Atlantic, brokered by Mick Fleetwood, fell through when Ahmet Ertegun took the decision not to proceed with the deal when sales of the first record were short of the target by just a few thousand albums. There’s some really interesting background to this story but I don’t fancy meeting Atlantic’s lawyers across a US courtroom.

I finish by asking him what the future holds. "I've just finished a new CD 'Back to My Roots' and I'm going to put some samples on my website. I'm always writing. I've written over 600 songs and one day, if someone records one of them and has a hit, I will be ready to give all the producers all the songs they can handle. I'm also a vocal coach and I produce some of the local bands or solo singers. If they are good enough, I will take advantage of what contacts I still have, but, unfortunately, I've not found that one act that I feel can get to the next level. But I’ll keep trying, it’s what I do." Just before closing Turley demonstrates his great wicked humour by explaining the meaning of his 1970s rock LP, Therfu, which is regularly on eBay. Fill in the blanks, **therfu****!

Not all black music is soul. Similarly, in my opinion, not all soul music is black. The very essence of what I call Northern Soul is the lack of colour and the presence of soul, and Turley Richards has bucket loads of the stuff.

Original Atricle: Here

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

Written by: Monica Orosz (Mar 31, 2011)

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.

The stories, enough to fill a book - which he actually is working on - weave nicely with the topics of his songs.

When he was 4, Richards lost sight in one eye during a childhood mishap with a bow and arrow. Infection spread to his other eye, although for years he could see a bit from it.

He lost sight completely in his late 20s.

"The thing about it, if you're going to go blind, I think I was the luckiest guy in the world because I was in the music business," Richards said by phone from his home in Louisville, Ky. "What if I'd been an electrician?"

He said because he never saw well, losing sight in the second eye wasn't really a physical blow - he'd already adapted to daily living skills.

"The process for me was mental. I saw myself as a ladies man, a basketball player and a pool shark. When I lost my sight completely, I saw myself as a frail little guy tapping my way around with a cane. It took me 18 months to deal with it. One day, I said to myself, 'You know, man, you don't live on a two-way street. You live on a one-way street and you need to get off this pity pot.' "

On the bright side, Richards, who turns 70 in June, laughs that the photographic memory he has of himself was from his last album cover before he lost his sight, a photo taken when he was 28.

"I'm 28 and I'm going to stick with it," he said, laughing.

Interestingly, Richards notes that of 650 songs he's written in his career, 50 are about mirrors.

His last hit was in 1980, "You Might Need Somebody," recorded with Atlantic Records, though Richards was asked later to consider making a country album. He declined.

"I can't be a country singer.

"I started out as a jazz singer - I can't be phony," Richards said.

"This is an awful thing to say, but it's the state of the music business today," Richards said, noting that he particularly dislikes "acrobatic singers" who wind their way through their range for the sake of showing it off.

"I had a five-octave range, but I never did any of that because I grew up in jazz, where you have to have a dynamic flow," he said.

These days, Richards stays busy singing once a month at a local pizza place "to keep my chops together" and at private parties. He's also a vocal coach and a songwriting coach.

While he's had opportunities to move back to New York, Richards said he didn't want to move away from his now-grown son and daughter. Daughter Amber will be coming to South Charleston with him to perform a couple of songs Saturday night.

"She's an incredible singer. She's a cross between Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin and Bonnie Raitt," he said.

As for his own repertoire, the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame nominee said he likes to let the audience determine that.

He may include his songs that made the charts - 1970's "Child of Mine," "I Heard the Voice of Jesus," "Love Minus Zero - No Limit" and 1980's "You Might Need Somebody" and perhaps a jazzy cover of Bobby Hebb's "Sunny."

"I think for this one I'm actually going to have the first nine songs worked out," he said. "And I wrote a special song for this, 'It's so Nice to Come Back Home,' because this is my first actual concert in my hometown. And I'll be doing a medley of 'Please Come Home to Boston' with 'Desperado.' "

Richards said he is content with his current schedule and honestly, with his life, which he figures will make a good book - he even envisions a movie deal coming from it.

"I wouldn't trade my life with anybody else. I would like to see, but it's just a hangnail. Two things bother me about being blind.

"The second one is that I have to depend on other people to get me from Point A to Point B. But the first one is that I've never seen my kids and I won't be able to see my granddaughter."

He then tells a story of being in a Kroger store with his daughter one day and telling her that he could talk about his regret over not seeing his kids without getting emotional, but if he talked about never having seen his 'babies' he got emotional.

"And she stepped around the cart and put her arms around me and said, 'Our daddy sees us with his heart.' "