Emil Richards

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Emil Richards
Birth nameEmilio Joseph Radocchia
Born(1932-09-02)September 2, 1932
Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.
DiedDecember 13, 2019(2019-12-13) (aged 87)
GenresJazz, classical, rock
Occupation(s)Musician, collector
Instrument(s)Vibraphone, percussion

Emil Richards (born Emilio Joseph Radocchia; September 2, 1932 – December 13, 2019) was an American vibraphonist and percussionist.



Richards began playing the xylophone aged six. In High School, he performed with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra. He studied with Al Lepak at the Hartt School of Music in Hartford, graduating in 1952. After being drafted, he belonged to an Army band in Japan and played with Toshiko Akiyoshi.[1][2] He cited Lionel Hampton as his first and biggest influence on vibraphone.[2]

In 1954, Richards moved to New York City, where he played with Charles Mingus, Ed Shaughnessy, and Ed Thigpen while doing studio recordings for Perry Como, the Ray Charles Singers, and Mitchell Ayres.[3] For about three years, he was a member of a group led by George Shearing, then moved to Los Angeles and worked with Don Ellis and Paul Horn. He led his own band, the Microtonal Blues Band, and spent time with composer and inventor Harry Partch. As a sideman, he accompanied George Harrison on tour and recorded with Frank Sinatra, Frank Zappa,[2] Doris Day, Judy Garland, Nelson Riddle, Steely Dan, and Sarah Vaughan.[3]

Richards worked often as a studio musician for movies and television. His credits include playing bongos on the theme song for the television program Mission: Impossible. Other television work included finger snaps for the Addams Family theme, and xylophone work for the opening theme of The Simpsons.[4] He led a band with Joe Porcaro, and he released a solo album, The Wonderful World of Percussion.[2] His mallet pupils included Morten Grønvad, Stan Levey and Bo Wagner.[5] Richards died on December 13, 2019.[6]


Percussion instruments
Percussion instruments from the Emil Richards Collection

In 1962, Richards went on a worldwide tour with Frank Sinatra to raise money for poor children. The tour increased Richards's fascination with ethnic percussion instruments.[3][7] During his career, he collected over 350 instruments, many of them more common in the East than the West.[1] Richards wanted his instruments to continue to be heard in recordings and other performances and to remain together as much as possible. The Emil Richards Collection includes common percussion, such as xylophone and marimba[8] and exotic, such as the angklung, bulbul tarang, chimta, flapamba, jal tarang, janggu, lujon, mbira, and pakhavaj.[7]

In 1992, he gave sixty-five instruments to the Percussive Arts Society museum in Lawton, Oklahoma. He was a member of the Society's Hall of Fame.[2] Part of the collection was sold to Los Angeles Percussion Rentals. Many instruments were restored and are used in recordings and other performances in Los Angeles.[9] LAPR works with Odd Art Fabrications to custom design and fabricate instruments and hardware such as chromatically tuned wood blocks and chromatically tuned bell plate.[10]


As leader[edit]

  • Yazz Per Favore (Del-fi, 1961)
  • New Sound Element Stones (Uni, 1967)
  • New Time Element (Uni, 1967)
  • Cosmic Sounds with the Zodiac (Elektra, 1967)
  • Journey to Bliss (Impulse!, 1968)
  • Spirit of 1976/Live at Donte's (Impulse!, 1969)
  • Wonderful World of Percussion (Interworld, 1994)
  • Luntana (Interworld, 1996)

With The Surfmen

  • The Sounds of Exotic Island (Somerset, 1960)
  • Hawaii (Somerset, 1960)

As sideman[edit]

With Louis Bellson

  • Ecue (Ritmos Cubanos) (Pablo, 1978)
  • Prime Time (Concord Jazz, 1978)
  • Louie Bellson Jam (Pablo, 1979)

With Alessi Brothers

  • Alessi (A&M, 1976)

With Frank Capp

  • Percussion in a Tribute to Henry Mancini (Kimberly, 1961)
  • Percussion in a Tribute to Glenn Miller (Kimberly, 1963)
  • Percussion in a Tribute to Lawrence Welk (Kimberly, 1963)
  • In a Tribute to the Dorsey Brothers (Kimberly, 2010)
  • In a Tribute to Count Basie (Kimberly, 2014)

With George Duke

  • I Love the Blues, She Heard My Cry (MPS, 1975)
  • Liberated Fantasies (MPS, 1976)
  • From Me to You (Epic, 1977)

With Michael Giacchino

  • Coco (Walt Disney, 2017)
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming (Sony, 2017)
  • War for the Planet of the Apes (Sony, 2017)

With George Harrison

With Paul Horn

With James Newton Howard

  • Off Limits (Varese Sarabande, 1988)
  • Grand Canyon (RCA, 1991)
  • Outbreak (Varese Sarabande, 1995)
  • Waterworld (MCA, 1995)

With Quincy Jones

  • The Hot Rock OST (Prophesy, 1972)
  • Roots (A&M, 1977)
  • The Color Purple (Qwest, 1986)
  • Basie & Beyond (Qwest, 2000)

With Roger Kellaway

  • The Roger Kellaway Cello Quartet (A&M, 1971)
  • Come to the Meadow (A&M, 1974)
  • Nostalgia Suite (Discwasher, 1978)

With Stan Kenton

With Julie London

With Henry Mancini

  • The Hawaiians (United Artists, 1970)
  • Symphonic Soul (RCA Victor, 1975)
  • The Jazz Sound from Peter Gunn (Fresh Sound, 1994)

With Harry Partch

  • The World of Harry Partch (Columbia, 1969)
  • Delusion of the Fury (Sony, 1999)
  • Harry Partch: A Portrait (New World, 2015)

With Shorty Rogers

With Lalo Schifrin

  • More Mission: Impossible (Paramamount, 1969), featured in a chimes solo on "Self-Destruct"
  • Rock Requiem (Verve, 1971)
  • Gypsies (Tabu, 1978)
  • Rush Hour 2 (Varese Sarabande, 2001)
  • Rush Hour 3 (Varese Sarabande, 2007)

With Shadowfax

With George Shearing

With Frank Sinatra

With The Manhattan Transfer

With Singers Unlimited

  • Bossa Nova (Valiant, 1963)
  • Just in Time (Pausa, 1978)
  • Feelings (Universal, 2007)

With L. Subramaniam

  • Fantasy Without Limits (Trend, 1980)
  • Blossom (Crusaders, 1981)
  • Indian Express (Milestone, 1983)
  • Spanish Wave (Milestone, 1983)
  • Salaam Bombay! (DRG, 1988)

With Frank Zappa

With Hans Zimmer

  • Broken Arrow (Milan, 1996)
  • The Thin Red Line (RCA Victor, 1999)
  • The Last Samurai (Elektra, 2003)

With others


  • Richards, Emil (2009). Mallet Chord Studies – Chord Voicings and Arpeggio Patterns for Vibraphone and Marimba. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 978-1423469919.
  • Richards, Emil (2009). Sight Reading for Mallets. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 978-1423469902.
  • Richards, Emil (2009). Melody & Rhythm Permutations. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 978-1423469926.
  • Richards, Emil (2009). Exercises for Mallet Instruments. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 978-1423469896.
  • Richards, Emil (2013). Wonderful World of Percussion: My Life Behind Bars. BearManor Media. ISBN 978-1593932657.


  1. ^ a b Yanow, Scott. "Emil Richards". AllMusic. Retrieved 15 August 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e Mattingly, Rick. "Emil Richards". Percussive Arts Society. Retrieved 22 August 2017.
  3. ^ a b c Ulaby, Neda (27 February 2011). "Emil Richards: Timekeeper of Tinseltown". NPR.org. Retrieved 15 August 2017.
  4. ^ Barnes, Mile (December 17, 2019). "Emil Richards, Legendary Percussionist and L.A. Session Player, Dies at 87". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 23 December 2019.
  5. ^ Frank R. Hayde. Stan Levey: Jazz Heavyweight (2016), Chapter 12
  6. ^ Announcement family of Emil Richards on Facebook
  7. ^ a b "Emil Richards Collection – Los Angeles Percussion Rentals". L.A. Percussion Rentals. Retrieved 15 August 2017.
  8. ^ PAS Industry News. Percussive Arts Society. {{cite journal}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ "Emil Richards Collection". Los Angeles Percussion Rentals. Retrieved 22 March 2015.
  10. ^ "OAF". Odd Art Fabrications. Retrieved 5 September 2012.

External links[edit]