Rick grew up in a musical family. His great grandfather on his mother’s side led a brass band at the turn of the century in Milford, NY where he played trumpet and met John Phillip Sousa. He also owned a silent movie house and Rick's grandmother, Edith, played the piano to accompany the films. Growing up, Rick's earliest memories are of gathering around his grandmother’s piano singing hymns and show tunes on a Sunday afternoon. This tradition continued into his teens around his own family's piano, with the neighborhood kids sitting on the porch listening while Rick's family sang songs from Brigadoon, Fiddler on the Roof, Oklahoma, South Pacific and My Fair Lady, to name a few.
Rick started piano lessons in 2nd grade and took them for 5 years until his teacher was injured in a car accident. He shifted to clarinet in the school band, then when forced to choose between band and baseball, taught himself guitar from a Mel Bay guitar manual when he was 12, using his mother’s $15 Sears Silvertone guitar with bridge cable strings that he originally had to press down with his thumb. During this time he sang in church and school choirs and appeared in a couple of grade school and Middle School musical productions.
Rick played keyboards in 7th or 8th grade in his FIRST first rock band, which was led by the cousin of the hit band the Critters. They even had a few gigs and played stuff by Paul Revere and the Raiders and other popular songs of the day. In high school he was lead singer and guitarist with the 2nd best band in school, called Time’s End, where he rocked out to Jimi Hendricks, Cream, the Rascals, Van Morrison and the Luv.
Soon after he discovered he could woo girls with songs by Dylan, Simon and Garfunkle and James Taylor, and started his career as a humdinger folk singer, all the while continuing to sing in school and church choirs.
College came and Rick continued as an acoustic player and singer with some help from his off-the-wall but talented-and-polished freshman year roommate Roger, who turned Rick onto Dave van Ronk and taught him to drop his D and play some blues. Junior year was life changing as he had a chance to trade a 2-line role in their production of Lenny for a weekly radio show on the college station WXAC at Albright College. There he had the good sense to bring in friends with more extensive and varied musical knowledge and let them loose in the extensive library. Among the many performers he learned about were John Prine, Steve Goodman, Doc Watson and David Bromberg.
Shortly after that the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band came out with “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and Rick was on the trail of traditional music. It was then he hooked up with the Reading Area Folk Alliance, started writing his own songs and began to perform at coffee houses, bars, colleges and small local folk festivals, either as a solo act or with a friend with a beautiful voice, Jessie Wessner.
This continued at grad school at Penn with regular appearances at the Graduate Towers on Thursday nights, and an occasional open mic at Cavanaugh’s where he was exposed to people who actually were earning a PhD in Folk Music. It was there, with their songs and recitations that Rick was first exposed to Celtic music, which struck an immediate chord with him, long before he knew anything about his Irish and Scottish roots. Next thing he knew he was going to see Mick Maloney and Eugene O’Donnell and DeDannon and the die was cast.
A few years later Rick moved to the Lehigh Valley and within a year was up to his elbows with the community staff at WMUH at Muhlenberg College where he served at various times as Secretary, Vice President, President, news director and folk program coordinator. During this time they established a block format that gave equal time to all musical genre’s and also promoted diversity within each format. So within “folk” they had Bluegrass, singer- songwriter, avant-folk and Celtic music. Brian Landers was an early host of that show, and continued with it when the group started WDIY, going on the air in January 1995.
During the past six years Rick has been the host of the weekly radio show “Celtic Faire” and has been exposed to a world full of great tunes and songs from the Celtic tradition. In part because of that, he was inspired to start playing again, learning the fiddle and making the transition to Irish fiddle tunes on the guitar, open chording, and learning new songs.
Rick says, “I had the great good fortune to meet Terry Hartzell, Megan Everett and Ed Saultz, and was soon playing with “Murphy’s Tenants,” playing at the bi-weekly sessions at Porter’s Pub in Easton where I met co-session leader Fred Gilmartin and joined the current line-up in “Piper’s Request,” where I play guitar, sing and fill in on tenor banjo, bouzouki and fiddle.
And I still sing sometimes with the church choir. Life is good.”
You can learn more about Rick here:
WDIY public radio, where he hosts the “Celtic Faire” radio show every Thursday night from 7-9pm.