Kelly Richey: Road Warrior for the Blues
When it comes to touring, Cincinnati-based blues rocker Kelly Richey can truly claim the title “Queen of the Road Warriors.” The veteran guitar-slinger has covered the USA, Canada, Europe, and Australia in her 30-year professional career, logging a mind-boggling 1 million road miles … and counting. At one point, Kelly performed an exhausting 275 gigs in just one year, so it’s no wonder one of her favorite expressions is “I’ve seen everything — twice.”
Today, a staggering 4,000 gigs later, she has long since earned her reputation as a master guitarist and singer/songwriter. And she did it the hard way – live and on stage, working without a net. When Kelly Richey starts working her musical mojo onstage, backed by only a drummer and bassist, you can’t help but stare in amazement. Standing five-foot-nothing, she’s a self-confident dynamo dressed in black, with an intense, hard-driving blues guitar sound all her own. A tube amplifier devotee, Richey rotates between her two vintage Fender Super Reverbs and a Princeton reverb model onstage. Watching Kelly slash at the strings on her battle-scarred, sunburst Stratocaster, stomp on her arsenal of effects pedals, and belt out her heart-felt lyrics, you realize you’re in the presence of an elemental force.
This ain’t no polite, watered-down sound. It’s hardcore blues-rock on steroids, a blistering, in-your-face tour de force. The late Lonnie Mack – no slouch on the guitar himself – was so impressed with her hyper-muscular playing and singing that he described her as “Stevie Ray Vaughan trapped in a woman’s body, with Janis Joplin screaming to get out.” Listed among the “top 100 gifted guitarists” by the influential Truefire Community, Kelly Richey frequently draws comparisons to guitar icons from Stevie Ray to Jimi Hendrix. She has fronted her blues-rock power trio, The Kelly Richey Band, since the early1990s, releasing 16 albums so far on her private Sweet Lucy label. Kelly is currently writing songs for her next recording and creating fresh new material with an amazing power trio. She also performs solo, delivering a show that mixes electric and acoustic guitars with synthesized loops and beats.
Born in Lexington, Kentucky but based in Cincinnati since 2000, Richey started playing guitar at the age of 15 after having “her mind blown” by Jimi Hendrix. “I honestly had no idea guitars could even make that sound,” she remembers with a grin. “So much feedback, all those effects…It was the coolest thing I’d ever heard.” Since then, the rock-solid guitarist has honed her skills to a razor-sharp edge in an endless stream of rehearsals, recording studios, music festivals, theaters, and other music venues. Over the years, Richey has shared the stage with such legends as Lonnie Mack and Albert King and opened for Joe Cocker, Lita Ford, Johnny Winter, Edgar Winter, Walter Trout, Little Feat, Foghat, REO Speedwagon, George Thorogood, Average White Band, Robben Ford, Warren Zevon, and James Brown.
Richey has been teaching guitar for more than 30 years in private one-on-one lessons, at guitar workshops across the country, and through TrueFire.com, the oldest and most respected online guitar instruction platform. Drawing on her encyclopedic knowledge of blues guitar techniques and styles, Kelly has produced two series of videos, “Blues Grit” and “Focus On: Blues Rock Power Trio,” for TrueFire. She also has her own virtual classroom on the site, which allows her to exchange personalized lessons with students and critique their progress and includes access to all 250(!) of her guitar instructional videos. Richey has taught at least 1,000 students to date, something she obviously loves to do: “I’m passionate about teaching all of my students, from absolute beginners to advanced players. I try to tailor my lessons to each player’s individual needs, so I can help them achieve their full potential as a musician.”
Between shows, Richey also heads a nonprofit organization, Music for Change, focused on keeping music education alive in underserved and underfunded schools and communities. Through Music for Change, Kelly also volunteers her services to the nationwide program Guitars 4 Vets, holding free guitar workshops with U.S. armed services veterans and giving them access to her online guitar instruction resources.
A firm believer in self-improvement, Kelly holds several life-coaching, personal, and spiritual development certifications, including Certified Dream Coach, Dream Coach Group Leader, and True Purpose Coach. Richey takes her clients through a process to help identify and remove obstacles that hold people back from doing what they truly love. “This process enables you to identify what you were most designed to do and who you were most designed to be in this life,” she explains. Kelly is currently in a three-year training program at Wellstreams in Columbus, Ohio, to become a Spiritual Director.
An avid writer who has also suffered from dyslexia since childhood, Richey developed her own methods to overcome this debilitating problem and has kept extensive handwritten journals since her teens. In 2015, Kelly became a certified writing facilitator and affiliate for the Cincinnati nonprofit group Women Writing for (a) Change. As an extension of Music for Change, she has created a unique writing program, “A Piece of Paper Always Listens,” which she presents in workshops, community circles, school programs, and private coaching sessions. A frequent public speaker, Richey shares her own story, reads from her work, and performs original music on acoustic guitar. For more information about the work Kelly does through her nonprofit organization and her private coaching practice, please visit her other websites at music4change.org, poweredbyintention.com, and apieceofpaperalwayslistens.com.