Monday, 21 July 2014

Dig Richards - Dig's Big Four

I Wanna Love You/(Real Gone) Annie Laurie/Comin' Down With Love/My Little Lover

Born Digby Douglas Richards on 12th September 1941 in the remote western New South Wales town of Dunedoo, he was the son of a mounted policeman. His father's work kept the family in remote areas and while he was still young they moved to Narooma, where he grew up. His interest in music began after he found an old guitar in the woodshed. He began singing folk songs at school concerts and then moved on to ballads. He moved to Sydney at the age of seventeen and found work as a Cadet Executive in Waltons city department store. Richards spent his lunch hour looking at the latest guitars in Stanley Johnston's Music Shop. A chance meeting with two other boys at the music shop led to the formation of a group called Dig Richards and the R'Jays.

They held their first dance on 8th August 1958 at the Castlecrag Community Hall and before long had regular dances all round Sydney. Their first break was winning radio station 2UE's Amateur Hour talent contest at the Lane Cove Town Hall. This led to appearances on 2UE's Rumpus Room program and the Coca-Cola Beach Shows. They became the first group ever to play live on the Bandstand, where artists normally mimed their performances. In early 1959 following an audition for Ken Taylor, they were signed by Festival Records. Their debut single, I Wanna Love You, was written by Richards' fifteen-year-old brother and it made the Sydney Top 10 in August.

The success catapulted Richards, with his James Dean-type good looks and natural charm, to overnight stardom and regular television appearances on Six O'Clock Rock and Teen Beat followed. After receiving a petition from his fans, which had a reputed twelve thousand plus signatures on it, Lee Gordon used them as a support act on his Battle of the Big Beat Show tour In July. The tour was also the launching pad for what was to become Richards' trademark - a woollen jumper with a lightning bolt woven in the front of it. Channel Seven's new television pop show Teen Time also made its debut in July with Dig Richards and the R'Jays as the resident group. Their second single, I'm Through, was also written by his brother and reached the Sydney Top 40 in September.

On 8th October, just before he was to appear on Lee Gordon's Fabian Show tour, Richards was involved in a car accident on the Sydney Harbour Bridge that put him in hospital. It took several months for Richards to recover from his injuries, which included a broken hip, broken shoulder and forty stitches to his face. In the meantime Warren Williams and the Squares had replaced them as the resident group on Teen Time. When Richards and the R'Jays eventually returned to the show, the two groups shared the residency, appearing on alternate shows. During this period the R'Jays soldiered on, bringing in Lonnie Lee as a temporary replacement for Richards. They also landed a job as Festival Record's 'house band', supporting a wide range of acts over the following years.

Between January 1960 and June 1961 Richards and the R'Jays released four singles on Festival's subsidiary label Rex Records. Two of them made the local Top 40, the most notable being their first ballad called My Little Lover. During this period they appeared on two more of Lee Gordon's Big Shows; they became the first top-line rock 'n' roll group to tour Western Australia; Dig recorded a number of singles, EP's and an album under his own name; headlined a show at Melbourne's Sidney Myer Music Bowl with support acts Johnny Devlin and Lucky Starr. By 1962 there was a shortage of work available for groups with lead singers so Richards and the R'Jays decided to part company. He continued on as a solo artist with Festival Records, releasing a couple of relatively unsuccessful singles.

Richards made a brief comeback in the charts in October 1962 before turning his attention to grooming himself to become an all-round entertainer. He learnt to play the guitar and took vocal lessons at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. In 1963 Dig made his debut as an adult entertainer when he launched his new act at a Sydney nightclub. He made his acting debut in the Christmas 1963 surfing musical Once Upon A Surfie and on 10th July 1964 he married his sweetheart of four years. During 1965 he compered his own television show called the Dig Richards' Ampol Show. In 1967 he switched to CBS Records for a one-off single and then headed off overseas to perform on the club circuits and develop his songwriting skills.

As part of his South-East Asian tour, he entertained Australian Troops in Vietnam. He returned to Australia in 1971, by which time his musical direction had changed to country music. He signed with the RCA Records label and released an album that produced his first hit single in over nine years. Richards then set off on the concert trail, performing all around Australia and in 1973 he recorded his next album in Los Angeles. It produced one Top 20 and one Top 40 hit. He continued to record until late 1982. Sadly he died from cancer on 18th February 1983.

Read more:

No comments:

Post a Comment