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When John’s mother and father met, music, Methodism and Alcohol merged.
The granddaughter of John Sharkey, the landlord of the Black Horse at Sodom (Upper Ettingshall) in the Black Country, met the son of the Choirmaster of Sodom Chapel (Arthur Richards) who unlike many Methodists of the time felt than an hour in the pub before choir practice was essential.
Both families were very musical and as well as the Choirmaster liking a pint, the pub landlord was a violinist and also liked a pint. By the time John was born there was a collection of choirmasters, singers and musicians across the two families.
John’s mother was a lead soprano and his father a member of the bass section and stand in chapel organist.
After some years of under achievement on piano, John’s practice of wandering around the house strumming his mother’s violin final persuaded his parents to buy him his first guitar, an Eros six string acoustic.
A handful of lessons about chords made John realise that the years of playing piano with Uncle Harold had not been wasted and that, together with singing at chapel, it had given him a really strong musical foundation for the future. He quickly established that even just three chords could open the door to hundreds of songs. John had started to earn money, to repay personal loans he took for his living needs.
The guitar teacher was also teaching his two nephews, one lead and one bass, so he taught John rhythm guitar and John also took on the lead vocals. The acoustic guitar was replaced with a red and white Watkins Rapier 33 guitar and a Watkins amplifier, a drummer was recruited and the Echo 4 was born.
A few years of local youth clubs and working men’s clubs followed with the band playing numbers by the Small Faces, The Who and other mod bands together with R’n’B standards. Sadly O levels and A levels took over and with the added lure of a Lambretta TV 175 the music was shelved for a while.
After a couple of years John the mod sold his scooter, bought a Hoyer 12 string and grew his hair. John, now a keen John Peel fan became a regular at the Catacombs Club in Wolverhampton enjoying its progressive rock and Blues based acts. His interest in the Blues grew and he started to trace the music back to the original artists.
Robert Johnson, Mississippi John Hurt, Leadbelly, Son House, Reverend Gary Davies, Big Bill Broonzy, Sonny Terry and Brownie Mcghee and Muddy Waters all joined the Richards’ record collection and it was the involvement of acoustic blues in the folk revival that led John into the folk clubs.