Hagopian was born in Fowler, California to Armenian parents. He has been a musician since childhood, learning to play the violin and clarinet at nine years old. He started playing the oud at age of 11. At first he was self-taught, and then by invitation he studied Eastern (Ottoman Classical) music theory and oud under the Armenian kanun player Kanuni Garbis Bakirgian. Hagopian also took lessons by correspondence from legendary blind Armenian oudist Udi Hrant Kenkulian of Istanbul, who in 1969 gave him the title of "Udi" (oud master), being one of the few to receive this title.
Hagopian gained fame in the 1960s and 70s with the Kef Time Band. According to the liner notes of the 1968 LP Kef Time Las Vegas, the Kef Time Band was formed originally as the band for a Las Vegas show called the Cleopatra Revue, which ran at the Flamingo Hotel from 1963-1968. During this time the leader of the Cleopatra Revue band, Armenian-American dumbeg player Buddy Sarkissian, met Hagopian and immediately hired him after hearing him play the oud and sing. This was the beginning of the Kef Time Band's career; they would go on to become the most famous band playing the "kef" style of dance music popular among the Armenian-American community.
Hagopian for over 30 has years played annually at "Kef Time" events drawing typically 500-1000 people at dances ("Kefs") in Cape Cod, Hartford, and Detroit. His followers have demonstrated a deep passion for his unique style and authenticity, and overall ability to entertain through his oud mastery and vocal charm.
He currently claims to play over 50 instruments.
His son is the violinist Harold Hagopian, also a music producer who runs the small independent label Traditional Crossroads.
- Karoon Hayastan - Varoujan Assadourian with Richard Hagopian and His Orchestra
- An Evening at the Seventh Veil - Richard Hagopian and His Orchestra
- Kef Time Las Vegas - The Kef Time Band
- Kef Time Fresno - The Kef Time Band
- Kef Time Detroit - The Kef Time Band
- Kef Time Hartford - The Kef Time Band
- Best of Armenian Folk Music - Richard Hagopian
- Armenian Music Through the Ages - Richard Hagopian (Smithsonian Folkways, 1993)
- Kef Time (reissue of Kef Time Las Vegas and Kef Time Fresno)
- Kef Time Detroit (reissue)
- Kef Time Hartford (reissue)
- Gypsy Fire - Richard Hagopian and Omar Faruk Tekbilek
[in the Kef Time series CD reissues, a few of the songs have been re-arranged in order or placed on a different album and a couple songs were left out]
- "NEA National Heritage Fellowships: Richard Avedis Hagopian". www.arts.gov. National Endowment for the Arts. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
- Govenar, Alan, ed. (2001). "Richard Hagopian: Armenian American Our Player". Masters of Traditional Arts: A Biographical Dictionary. vol. 1 (A-J). Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio. pp. 237–239. ISBN 1576072401. OCLC 47644303.
- "NEA National Heritage Fellowships 1989". www.arts.gov. National Endowment for the Arts. Retrieved 11 January 2018.