Monday, 23 May 2016
Ain't She Sweet/Sweet Sue, Just You/What Do You Want To Make Those Eyes At Me For/Love Is Just Around The Corner
Digby George Richards (1940-1983), singer and composer, was born on 12 September 1940 at Dunedoo, New South Wales, elder child of New South Wales-born parents Gordon Forrest Richards, policeman, and his wife Mona, née Dennis. Dig attended Narooma Central and Moruya High schools. After completing the Leaving certificate in 1957 he worked at Waltons-Sears Ltd in Sydney.
His family and American rock’n’roll music were major influences on Dig. His brother Doug learned melody lines on their father’s guitar and started writing songs. Dig abandoned his retail traineeship for music, after becoming the vocalist for the band ‘The R-Jays’, which sought a recording contract. Ken Taylor of Festival Records auditioned the band in 1959 and, largely on the strength of Doug’s song I Wanna Love You, signed them. They became the third local artists, following Johnny O’Keefe and Col Joye, to gain a contract with Festival Records. The song entered radio 2UE’s Top 40 on 25 July 1959, and spent seventeen weeks on the charts, reaching number eight. Between his first hit and May 1960, Dig recorded more songs with ‘The R-Jays’, three of which—I’m Through, (Real Gone) Annie Laurie and Comin’ Down with Love—entered the charts, but did not have the success of their first record.
A handsome man with a good stage personality, Dig Richards was a popular performer who supported American singers including Ricky Nelson and Crash Craddock. Television shows such as ‘Bandstand’, from 1958, and O’Keefe’s ‘Six O’Clock Rock’, from 1959, extended his audience and popularity beyond dances and live performances. From August 1959 ‘The R-Jays’ were the studio band for ‘Teen Time’ on Channel 7.
Richards’ career was threatened as a result of injuries he sustained in a car accident in October 1959. A couple of years later he and ‘The R-Jays’ parted amicably and he began to write his own material. While he kept his early fans, he wanted to broaden his appeal. He took voice and guitar lessons and developed a new image. A comeback single in 1962, Raincoat in the River, defined his change from rock’n’roller to a slightly folky, country singer. On 10 July 1964 at the Church of St John the Baptist, Milsons Point, he married with Anglican rites Susan (Suzanne) Margaret Clark, a telephonist. That year he hosted the ‘Ampol Stamp Quiz’, a television show for children. Often performing in clubs, he sought new markets in South-East Asia, touring there—including Vietnam—in the late 1960s.
In 1970 Dig went to England he returned to Australia in 1971 and, as Digby Richards, continued performing and recording with a mainly country style. That year his next album, Harlequin, appeared on RCA. It provided four singles, "A Little Piece of Peace" (June 1971) No. 28, "Just Loving You" (September), "People Call Me Country" (February 1972) No. 24, and "Dirty River" (May). In 1973
he travelled to Los Angeles where he recorded his next album, Digby Richards (February 1974). Four singles were issued from the album, "If I Could Write a Love Song" (December 1973), "New York City (Send My Baby Home)" (No. 35, April 1974), "Do the Spunky Monkey" (No. 21, June) and "Be My Day" (September).
Richards next album, Collection (1975) provided three singles, "Mr Hard Times" (January 1975), "Little Suzuki" (May) and a re-recorded version of "Raincoat in the River" (August). By 1977 Richards had relocated to the UK again. His 1978 album, Whiskey Sundown, appeared in December and from late that year into the next year he toured Europe as the support act for Dolly Parton, including shows in London. His next album, The Thing is ...?, appeared in January 1981 and was followed by If You Could Read My Mind in December the following year. On 17 February 1983 Digby Richards died of pancreatic cancer, aged 42.