Kelly Richey is one of the hardest working independent musicians out there; to date logging an extraordinary 1,000,000 miles touring, and at one point in her 30-year professional career, gigging a grueling 275 days out of the year. Richey has toured in the USA, Canada, Europe, and Australia. Born in Lexington, Kentucky but now based in Cincinnati, Richey started playing guitar at the age of 15. Today, a staggering 4,000 gigs later, she more than earns the title of master guitarist and singer/songwriter. She has been described as “Stevie Ray Vaughan trapped in a woman’s body with Janis Joplin screaming to get out”. She has been listed as among the top 100 gifted guitarists by the Truefire Community in 2011, and frequently draws comparisons to blues guitar icons Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Richey has shared the stage with such legends as Lonnie Mack and Albert King, and has opened for Joe Cocker, Lita Ford, Johnny Winter, Edgar Winter, Walter Trout, Little Feat, Foghat, REO Speedwagon, George Thorogood, Average White Band, Robben Ford, Warren Zevon, and James Brown. Richey has fronted her blues/rock power trio, The Kelly Richey Band since the early 1990’s, and she also performs an intense, dazzling solo show incorporating electric and acoustic guitar, looping, beats, electronic sound synthesis, and some of her more personal acoustic material.
Richey has been teaching guitar almost as long as she’s been playing; with over three decades of teaching experience under her belt, she is a deeply dedicated and inspirational guitar instructor who has taught well over 1,000 students to date. Richey teaches both privately and through the online teaching course with TrueFire. Richey has put out a number of instructional videos and teaches several guitar workshops around the country. Richey has a rock solid understanding of blues guitar techniques, which she passionately passes on to her students. She’s a warm, outgoing and dynamic guitar instructor with a unique teaching style who relates exceptionally well to her students no matter what their skill level or background may be. Her goal is to provide expert instruction tailored to meet each student’s individual needs, so that he or she can excel to full potential.
During a holiday break in late 2008, Richey just happened to watch the movie “You Can Heal Your Life”, which is a film about the life and teachings of healer Louise Hay; and thus began Richey’s journey— first, taking charge and changing her own life in many positive ways, and secondly, deciding to take the steep, three-year learning curve to become a Life Coach herself. Richey’s mission is to create a sacred space for people to heal themselves and to provide inspiration to those who seek a deeper meaning in their lives. As a Certified Dream Coach, Dream Coach Group Leader and True Purpose Coach™, Richey takes clients through a process to help identify and remove obstacles that hold people back from doing what they truly love. In her own words Richey says, “This process will enable you to identify what you were most designed to do, and who you were most designed to be in this life”. Richey teaches her clients a process to develop effective tools that deal directly with one’s fears and break free from the self-limiting constraints of one’s past.
In addition to Life Coaching and as an adjunct to her music, Richey is an avid writer. Although suffering from dyslexia since childhood, she has developed ways to get around this debilitating problem and has kept extensive handwritten journals since her teens. In 2012 Kelly released a poetry book “Whisperings – A Collection Of Poems From Blues Guitarist Kelly Richey”. Richey’s poems deal with finding one’s true self, relationship struggles, emotional turmoil, the ups and downs of life, vulnerability, survivorship, spirituality, love, lost love, heartache, longing, and passion. The book is a special collection of 89 writings (including a companion spoken word CD) highlighting Richey’s ultra-personal poems that were pulled from over 5,000 journaled writings spanning three decades.
KELLY RICHEY – MUSIC CAREER
Based in Cincinnati, Kelly Richey is one of the hardest working independent musicians out there; to date logging an extraordinary 1,000,000 miles touring, and at one point in her 28- year professional career, gigging a grueling 275 days out of the year. Richey started playing guitar at the age of 15. Today, a staggering 4,000 gigs later, she more than earns the title of master guitarist. She has been described as “Stevie Ray Vaughan trapped in a woman’s body with Janis Joplin screaming to get out”. She has been listed as among the top 100 gifted guitarists by the Truefire Community in 2011, and frequently draws comparisons to blues icons Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Richey has shared the stage with such legends as Lonnie Mack and Albert King, and has opened for Joe Cocker, Johnny Winter, Edgar Winter, Walter Trout, Little Feat, Foghat, REO Speedwagon, George Thorogood, Average White Band, Robben Ford, Warren Zevon, and James Brown.
Richey is a no-holds-barred, serious axe grinder. Setting up her band as a power trio (drums, bass, and guitar) showcases her muscular, incendiary leads and masterful guitar chops. Playing live is where Richey shines, literally bringing down the house at every show she plays. Cognizant of the emotionality in her live shows, Richey steamrolls; she hits the audience hard and fast, grabs on and doesn’t let go. Making music that’s hard rocking, blues-based, and guitar driven, she blasts her audiences with jaw-dropping lightening fast riffs and a muscularity of playing that even many of the best male guitarists don’t possess. Her soulful voice– a big, powerful alto, provides the arc that completes the circle for a total sonic experience that is not to be forgotten. There is no denying that Richey’s stage presence is powerful. The first few notes from her guitar and you know you are in very competent hands; in particular, her effect on the audience is not to be missed. Those who have never seen her play before are stopped in their tracks, stunned and speechless.
Although starting out on electric guitar, Richey also mastered the acoustic guitar, and for many years played in folk/rock duos, co-writing and singing with other musicians. She is a seasoned songsmith as well, weaving together gritty blues-based rock and Americana-ish roots-based music that’s filled with introspection and cutting emotion. The brilliant song crafting very evident, in particular, on Richey’s last four studio releases which contain all original material. Richey and her band were named Best Rock Band (1999 Cincinnati Entertainment Awards), Best Blues/R&B Band (2002 CAMMY Awards), City Beat’s (Best of Cincinnati) Best Local musician in 2000, and she was honored to be the winner of the Arts Award for the 2011 Hot Mommas Project.
Born in 1962, Richey was adopted as an infant, and raised in Lexington, Kentucky. A rebellious, troubled teenager who suffered greatly in school because of undiagnosed dyslexia and ADHD, she began playing guitar (after learning piano and then learning to play the drums) to release frustration, acquire an identity for herself, and gain social acceptance. She instantly took to the instrument, and practiced non-stop, literally bringing it with her wherever she went. She became proficient very quickly. Richey auditioned for her first band after 4 months, and formed her first band after 18 months. She began touring right out of high school. Shortly after joining Stealin’ Horses in 1986, the band was signed to Arista records. She toured on and off with Stealin’ Horses between 1986 and 1990, but came to realize that it wasn’t her destiny to be a sideman. In 1994, feeling that it was time to branch out on her own, she took a cue from independent artist Ani De Franco and founded her own independent record label, Sweet Lucy Records. Richey ultimately released a total of 15 CD’s and 1 DVD over the next twenty years, and gained national distribution with her third CD, Live At Tommy’s On Main.
Inspired by the Black gospel music she heard in church as a youth, and later on by artists like Roy Buchanan, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin, Richey found her roots in blues-based rock music. Blues had the raw soul that she deeply connected to and that gave her a musical platform for her emotional intensity to let loose, unfettered. Asked what she feels when she plays, Richey responds with a broad smile, “When everything is working, I get to go away, like floating in a cloud”, and indeed it shows; watching her play is a joy in itself. Of her playing style, Richey says, “I’m aggressive, percussive, and emotive — lots of passion.” The phrase, “You play like a guy” has been heard often throughout her career. When asked if this bothers her, she says, “Not at all. It’s a compliment. I never wanted to play like a ‘girl’. I wanted to be good as a guitar player, not just good for a girl.”
A self-described “gearhead”, Richey takes great pride in her guitar rig and her sound. She owns several vintage amps, including two Black-face Fender super reverbs, and a 1965 Princeton reverb. She tours with a Fender Deluxe Re-Issue amplifier, bringing in a Mesa Boogie closed-backed single 12 cabinet when she needs to. To get her huge tone, Richey uses two tube screamers, turned on at the same time. Also in her arsenal are delay, vibe and wah pedals. She uses Seymour Duncan Classic Stack Humbucker pickups because, as she explains, “They sound as close to the original pickups as I can remember…beefy, yet Strat-y sounding.” Which brings us to Richey’s exquisite vintage 1965 sunburst Fender Stratocaster that sports a 63’ body, and a 65’ neck. Acquired when she was only 18 years old, it has been her main guitar for over 30 years, and came to her without a scratch on it. All of the battle scars acquired since are hers and hers alone. Forget the new, made to look old, “Fender Relic” Stratocasters. Richey’s guitar is the real deal. After 25 years of relentless touring and hard playing, the rosewood neck is seriously worn down and has been re-fretted at least a dozen times. Aged, battered and heavily road worn from decades of use, the guitar’s wear is a genuine testament to Richey’s extreme dedication, hard work, and passion for playing. The guitar has become part of Richey’s soul and has been her one loyal and constant companion over the years– it has seen her through hardship and struggle; it has been her life, her relationship, means of an income, her identity and her best friend. Still playable, but semi-retired due to the extreme amount of wear, it is, as it has always been, lovingly taken care of.
In 2006, Richey had RS Guitars make an exact duplicate of the guitar’s neck and had them mount it to a 62’ sunburst fender Strat Re-issue. Per Richey’s request, the new guitar was painted black, and sported a pearl pick guard along with the same electronics as the 65’. Although she loves her black Strat, the vintage sunburst 65’ will always remain her favorite guitar. Richey says that they are so bonded and in tune with each other after all of the blood, sweat and tears of the last 30 years, that the guitar practically “plays itself.”
Richey’s involvement with music goes far beyond recording and performing. She has been a longtime guitar instructor, and in 2003 she developed a Guitar Workshop and a Blues History program to take into school classrooms. In 2004, she became an “Artist on Tour” with the Cincinnati Arts Association, and in 2005, was added to the Kentucky Center’s artist roster. Also, that same year, Richey taught an adult education program that included a six-week Guitar Instruction class at Butler Technology and Career Development Schools. In 2006, Richey created Music for Change, a 501(c)(3) non-profit committed to bringing music education into public schools; a variety of programs offering live performances, lectures, and interactive participation serve to facilitate learning opportunities for students while keeping the history of American music alive and prospering. In addition to the above, in 2013, Richey joined the TrueFire guitar instruction roster, the largest, most successful online guitar instruction school of it’s kind.
Socially and politically aware, Richey is perceptive and bright. Her hard traveling years on the road have honed a street-smart sense of the world, evidenced by one of her favorite sayings, “I’ve seen everything. Twice”. Intelligent, self-confident and articulate, she exudes an easy Mid-western charm that belies her past struggles with drugs and drinking, and the subsequent depression that living an unhealthy life on the road can bring. Today, Richey’s hard drinking days are long over and she is committed to personal growth, complete sobriety, and total health in mind, body, and spirit. After all the years of struggle and pain, she is stepping into her own and finding happiness and peace within herself. The road has been long and hard, but she is grateful for the wonderful teachers she’s had along the way. In her never-ending quest to understand and make sense of the world, Richey says that she will never stop learning; true connection via honest, vulnerable, unapologetic sharing with her audience has always been her ultimate goal.