King Biscuit Boy
|King Biscuit Boy|
King Biscuit Boy in 1970
|Birth name||Richard Alfred Newell|
March 9, 1944|
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
|Died||January 5, 2003
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
|Genres||Blues, country blues, R&B, soul|
|Instruments||Vocals, guitar, harmonica|
|Associated acts||King Biscuit Boy & Gooduns
Son Richard and the Chessmen
And Many Others
Richard Alfred Newell (March 9, 1944 – January 5, 2003), better known by his stage name King Biscuit Boy, was a Canadian blues musician. He was the first Canadian blues artist to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S..
Newell was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and played guitar and sang, but was most noted for his harmonica playing. His stage name was taken from the King Biscuit Flour Hour, an early American blues broadcast. He was given the name by Ronald "Ronnie" Hawkins, a pioneering rock and roll musician, while he was part of Hawkins' back-up band.
Newell reportedly started his career by stealing his first harmonica (Marine Band, key of B) from a joke shop near his home on Hamilton Mountain, Hamilton, Ontario.
Newell played with The Barons (later renamed Son Richard and the Chessmen) from 1961 to 1965, followed by a stint with The Midknights and in the summer of 1969 helped to form And Many Others, which was Ronnie Hawkins' backing band at that time. After one LP and several US appearances, Hawkins fired the entire band in early 1970, upon which the members, including Newell, formed themselves into their own band, which they named Crowbar. Newell recorded an album with Crowbar, then embarked on a solo career, although he played with Crowbar off and on throughout his career.
After leaving Crowbar, he signed a major American deal with Paramount/Epic. Seven solo albums followed, along with two Juno nominations (the Juno Awards are the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. Grammy Awards).
Newell released his last album in early 2003 at Race Records, an independent record label in Hamilton, Ontario. It was a collaboration with saxophonist Sonny Del-Rio (a former Crowbar bandmate and long-standing friend) entitled Two Hound Blues. The album was a combination of six lost tracks from the 1981 King Biscuit Boy album, Biscuits 'n' Gravy, and the 1991 Sonny Del-Rio effort, 40 Years of Rock & Roll and All I Got's the Blues, which was recorded in 2002.
Blake 'Kelly Jay' Fordham (a former Crowbar bandmate and friend) recalled that Newell had a soft spot in his heart for 1950s doo-wop music. "We'd do a medley, four chords in F, and see how many songs we could fit into it; stuff by Johnnie & Joe - ""Over the Mountain, Across the Sea," and "You Belong to Me", or "Talk to Me", by Little Willie John. Each week we'd try to best ourselves, see who could come up with more. He would always find the most obscure stuff."
Newell preferred Hohner Special 20 (diatonic) harmonicas, and was using a Danelectro amplifier late in his career. He rarely played a chromatic, either on stage or in the studio.
Health and death
Newell fought repeated battles with alcohol abuse throughout his life. Poor health due to alcoholism stunted his career through the 1990s. The bright spot in this time period was his release of the album Urban Blues Re: Newell in 1995. Newell succumbed to the disease at his home in Hamilton, Ontario, in 2003, just two months short of his fifty-ninth birthday.
A couple of months after his death, friends of Newell held a benefit show at a downtown Hamilton, Ontario club, to create a trust fund in his name. More than 100 musicians from across the country showed up to play at Club 77 at the first annual "Blues With A Feeling" benefit show. The show was successful and "The Friends of Richard Newell" have held one every year since, with the money raised going to a music scholarship fund at Mohawk College of Applied Arts and Technology in Hamilton, Ontario.
- Official Music (as King Biscuit Boy and Crowbar) (1970, Daffodil; 1996, Stony Plain)
- Gooduns (1971, Daffodil; 1996, Stony Plain)
- King Biscuit Boy" (aka The Brown Derby Album) - Epic 1974
- Mouth of Steel (1979, UK, Red Lightning; 1982, Canada, Stony Plain)
- Badly Bent (The Best of King Biscuit Boy) (1982, Daffodil)
- King Biscuit Boy AKA Richard Newell (1988, Stony Plain)
- Urban Blues Re: Newell (1995, Blue Wave; 1995, Stony Plain)