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Emil Richards (born Emilio Joseph Radocchia; September 2, 1932) is an American vibraphonist and percussionist.

Emil Richards
Birth nameEmilio Joseph Radocchia
Born (1932-09-02) September 2, 1932 (age 87)
Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.
GenresJazz, classical
Occupation(s)Musician, collector
InstrumentsVibraphone, percussion
Associated acts



Richards started playing the xylophone at age six. In high school he performed with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra. He studied with Al Lepak at the Hartt School of Music in Hartford, graduating in 1952. After being drafted, he belonged to an Army band in Japan and played with Toshiko Akiyoshi.[1][2] He cites Lionel Hampton as his first and biggest influence on vibraphone.[2]

In 1954 Richards moved to New York City, where he played with Charles Mingus, Ed Shaughnessy, and Ed Thigpen while doing studio recordings for Perry Como, the Ray Charles Singers, and Mitchell Ayres.[3] For about three years he was a member of a group led by George Shearing, then moved to Los Angeles and worked with Don Ellis and Paul Horn. He led his own band, the Microtonal Blues Band, and spent time with composer and inventor Harry Partch. As a sideman, he accompanied George Harrison on tour and recorded with Frank Sinatra, Frank Zappa,[2] Doris Day, Judy Garland, Nelson Riddle, and Sarah Vaughan.[3]

Richards worked often as a studio musician for movies and television. His credits include playing bongos on the theme song for the television program Mission Impossible. He has led a band with Joe Porcaro, and he released a solo album, The Wonderful World of Percussion.[2]

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Emil Richards among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.[4]


Percussion instruments from the Emil Richards Collection

In 1962, Richards went on a worldwide tour with Frank Sinatra to raise money for poor children. The tour increased Richards's fascination with ethnic percussion instruments.[3][5] During his career he has collected over 350 instruments, many of them more common in the East than the West.[1] Richards wanted his instruments to continue to be heard in recordings and other performances and to remain together as much as possible. The Emil Richards Collection includes common percussion, such as xylophone and marimba[6] and exotic, such as the angklung, bulbul tarang, chimta, flapamba, jal tarang, janggu, lujon, mbira, and pakhavaj.[5]

In 1992, he gave sixty-five instruments to the Percussive Arts Society museum in Lawton, Oklahoma. He is a member of the Society's Hall of Fame.[2] Part of the collection was sold to Los Angeles Percussion Rentals. Many instruments were restored and are used in recordings and other performances in Los Angeles.[7] LAPR works with Odd Art Fabrications to custom design and fabricate instruments and hardware such as chromatically tuned wood blocks and chromatically tuned bell plate.[8]


As leaderEdit

  • Yazz Per Favore (1961)
  • New Sound Element "Stones" (1967)
  • Journey to Bliss (Impulse!, 1968)
  • Spirit of 1976 (Impulse!, 1969)
  • Ritmico Mundo (Interworld, 1994)
  • Luntana (Interworld, 1996)
  • Calamari: Live at Rocco's (2000)
  • Emil Richards with the Jazz Knights (2003)
  • Maui Jazz Quartet (2006)[9]

As sidemanEdit

With Louie Bellson

  • 1977 Ecue Ritmos Cubanos
  • 1978 Louis Bellson Jam
  • 1978 Prime Time

With George Harrison

With Paul Horn

With Quincy Jones

With Stan Kenton

With Irene Kral

With Peggy Lee

With Julie London

With Shorty Rogers

With Shadowfax

With George Shearing

With L. Subramaniam

  • 1979 Fantasy without Limits
  • 1981 Blossom
  • 1983 Spanish Wave

With Nancy Wilson

With Frank Zappa

With others


  • Richards, Emil (2009). Mallet Chord Studies - Chord Voicings and Arpeggio Patterns for Vibraphone and Marimba. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 978-1423469919.
  • Richards, Emil (2009). Sight Reading for Mallets. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 978-1423469902.
  • Richards, Emil (2009). Melody & Rhythm Permutations. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 978-1423469926.
  • Richards, Emil (2009). Exercises for Mallet Instruments. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 978-1423469896.
  • Richards, Emil (2013). Wonderful World of Percussion: My Life Behind Bars. BearManor Media. ISBN 978-1593932657.


  1. ^ a b Yanow, Scott. "Emil Richards". AllMusic. Retrieved 15 August 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e Mattingly, Rick. "Emil Richards". Percussive Arts Society. Retrieved 22 August 2017.
  3. ^ a b c Ulaby, Neda (27 February 2011). "Emil Richards: Timekeeper of Tinseltown". Retrieved 15 August 2017.
  4. ^ Rosen, Jody (June 25, 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
  5. ^ a b "Emil Richards Collection - Los Angeles Percussion Rentals". L.A. Percussion Rentals. Retrieved 15 August 2017.
  6. ^ "PAS Industry News". Percussive Arts Society. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  7. ^ "Emil Richards Collection". Los Angeles Percussion Rentals. Retrieved 22 March 2015.
  8. ^ "OAF". Odd Art Fabrications. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  9. ^ "Emil Richards | Album Discography | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 16 August 2017.

External linksEdit