Emil Richards

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Emil Richards
Birth name Emilio Joseph Radocchia
Born (1932-09-02) September 2, 1932 (age 84)
Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Drums, percussion
Associated acts

Emil Richards (born Emilio Joseph Radocchia; September 2, 1932) is an American drummer and percussionist.[1]


Richards started playing the xylophone at age six. He graduated from the Julius Hartt School of Music (now part of the University of Hartford) and Hillard College. Richards was a private student of the distinguished and Schillinger accredited teacher Asher George Zlotnik. Even before then, he performed with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and with various jazz artists in New England. After he left the military service, where he had been Assistant Band Leader of the First Cavalry Army Band in 1952 and 1953, his performing career rapidly gained momentum. In the 1950s and 1960s he played various percussion instruments with jazz ensembles first in New York and then in Los Angeles, where he settled permanently in 1959. He became known as one of the most desirable percussionists in jazz, rock and other popular music and was called on to play in countless movie and television soundtracks.

In 1954 Emil moved to New York where he played jazz gigs with Charles Mingus, Ed Shaughnessy and Ed Thigpen while doing studio recordings for artists such as Perry Como, the Ray Charles Singers and Mitch Aires. In 1955 Emil joined the George Shearing Quintet. He stayed with the group for over four years, playing 51 weeks a year. In 1959 he moved to Los Angeles where he worked with the Paul Horn Quintet, Jimmy Witherspoon, the Shorty Rogers Big Band, Don Ellis, Lenny Bruce and Lord Buckley and the Bob_Thompson_(musician) orchestra. He also recorded with Frank Sinatra, Nelson Riddle, Judy Garland, Sarah Vaughan and Doris Day. In 1962, in response to a request from President John F. Kennedy, Emil and a small jazz combo joined Sinatra on a tour around the world for the benefit of underprivileged children.[2] This group helped to found the first hospital in Israel for Jewish and Arab children.[citation needed] This was the beginning of Emil’s interest in, and collection of ethnic percussion instruments. While Emil is renowned for his prodigious recording career, he is also known in the industry for his giant percussion instrument collection, the Emil Richards Collection.[1] He soon began working with the legendary microtonal pioneer Harry Partch around this time too.

After this world tour, Richards returned to Los Angeles where he recorded with such artists as the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Bing Crosby and Nat Cole. He became a member of Frank Zappa’s Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra and recorded several albums with this large orchestra, including Zappa’s first solo album, Lumpy Gravy, in 1967. He also worked on film scores for Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams, Henry Mancini, Elmer Bernstein, Johnny Mandel, Quincy Jones, Oliver Nelson, Neal Hefti, Lalo Schifrin, Dave Grusin, Michel Legrand, Alex North and Bill Conti, to name a few.

Richards soon became a "first call" percussionist for the Hollywood film industry, and has played for hundreds of films. He was involved in The Zodiac: Cosmic Sounds concept album and has played for many groups, including Blondie, The Doors, George Harrison and Frank Sinatra. He has served several terms on the Board of Directors for the Percussive Arts Society, and donated the largest single-donor collection of instruments to the society museum.[3]

Richards is active in Musicians' Union Local 47 as part of their compaign to get musicians credited in the film industry.[2]

L.A. Percussion Rentals[edit]

Part of Emil Richards' Emil Richards Collection was sold to L.A. Percussion Rentals.[4] He wanted his instruments to continue to be heard in recordings and other performances; he also wanted his collection to stay together as much as possible. Emil’s collection included the well-known, standard percussion instruments (such as xylophone and marimba) to the very eclectic (such as flapamba and chromatic sleigh bells).[4] Emil’s instruments have played an integral part in the recordings he’s performed on, which numbers over two thousand in his career. LAPR finalized the purchase of a large portion of the Emil Richards Collection in early 2012.

LAPR works with Odd Art Fabrications to custom design and fabricate instruments and hardware such as chromatically tuned wood blocks and chromatically tuned bell plates,[5] as used in Star Wars: In Concert.[6] Many of Emil Richards' instruments have been restored by LAPR, and continue to be used in recordings and other performances in the Los Angeles area.[7]

Selected discography[edit]


  • 1961: Yazz Per Favore
  • 1968: Journey to Bliss (Impulse!)
  • 1969: Spirit of 1976 (Impulse!)

As sideman[edit]

With Dizzy Gillespie

With Paul Horn

With Stan Kenton

With Irene Kral

With Shelly Manne

With Alphonse Mouzon

With Jack Nitzsche

With Shorty Rogers

With Lalo Schifrin

With George Shearing and Dakota Staton

With Bob Thompson Orchestra

  • Just for Kicks (RCA, 1958)
  • MMM, Nice! (RCA, 1959)
  • On the Rocks (RCA, 1959)

With Gábor Szabó



  1. ^ a b Yanow, Scott. "Emil Richards Biography". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 21 March 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Ulaby, Neda (27 February 2011). "Emil Richards: Timekeeper Of Tinseltown". NPR Music. 
  3. ^ Mattingly, Rick. "PAS Hall of Fame". Percussive Arts Society. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  4. ^ a b "PAS Industry News". Percussive Arts Society. 
  5. ^ "Odd Art Fabrications". OAF. Retrieved 5 September 2012. 
  6. ^ Mabry, Kat (5 August 2011). "Where the melodies are made". The Santa Clarita Valley Signal. 
  7. ^ "Emil Richards Collection". Los Angeles Percussion Rentals. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 

External links[edit]