My love of music began at age 8 when my brother and I received a 78-rpm turntable for Christmas, 1956 in Leland, Mississippi. Along with this turntable was a record by Fats Domino. I was amazed when I played “Ain’t That a Shame” and “Blueberry Hill” on that record player and heard Fats’ big voice and all the instruments playing behind him.
As I grew up I listened to Bill Haley, Elvis, Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, The Drifters and Jerry Lee Lewis. By the early 1960s my best friend Lee “Herk” Hetherington was turning me on to radio stations WLS in Chicago and WDIA in Memphis. I started hearing music by Ray Charles, James Brown, Otis Redding, Booker T. & the MGs, Wilson Picket, The Staple Singers, Sam & Dave, The Four Tops, The Temptations, Martha & the Vandellas, Little Stevie Wonder, The Beatles and on and on.
All of this great rhythm and blues, Motown and rock music got into my heart and soul at a young age and I listened to it with unbridled amazement. It shook me to my core and I was hooked big time.
I got a set of drums and started a band in the 8th grade. I was playing by ear and loving it. The guitar players were playing wrong-sounding chords to Beatle songs so I took it upon myself to find out the correct chords. They didn’t like this very much so I sold my drums, bought a guitar and amplifier and off I went as a guitar player. I soaked up as much guitar music as I could from other friends who played. I found out I could listen to records and had an ear good enough to learn to play along with the bands on the records. This new found ability awed me. It was truly a gift.
I played in rock and roll dance bands through the end of high school.
This all set the stage for forming a killer 10-piece R&B band named “The Royal American Showmen” in 1966 once I got to college. We played for five years throughout our college days all over the Southeast. This was just about the most fun I ever had in my life. There is nothing quite like being on a stage with five horns, Hammond B3 organ, two guitars, bass, drums and nine singers entertaining a hungry dance crowd in a party mood.
After I finished up my music-education degree at Ole Miss I decided to take another leap of faith and go study photojournalism with Cliff Edom at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.
I put my guitar under my bed and dove into learning about my new chosen profession of taking photographs to tell stories and communicate with the world. Cliff was known as “The Father of Photojournalism” and I learned a great deal from him.
I worked for newspapers in the NYC and Westchester County area after leaving college and continued to learn on the job. After a few years I jumped at the chance to come to Florida to work for newspapers. At that time Florida newspapers were some of the best in the USA for high-quality photojournalism.
I never quit listening to and loving music but I did take a 23-year hiatus away from playing my guitar. I missed making music badly.
About 17 years ago a chance encounter in a guitar shop allowed me to meet and speak with a very cool guy named Richard Vargo. He invited me to come over to his house to play guitar together and a lifelong friendship was born.
Rich Vargo is a truly amazing musician and he taught me a ton of his songs. He encouraged me to play rhythm guitar behind him where I love to be in a musical mix. Rich was very patient with me as I worked to get back into shape again.
Some of the Rich & Red tunes on this website are songs Rich wrote as well as great tunes of others that we recorded with our own arrangements.
To say Rich is a monster guitar player and musician is an absolute understatement. However I would be remiss not to tell you he is one of the finest people I’ve ever known. He is kind, has an enormous heart, does many things for others without being asked and has the best sense of humor in the world.
I truly owe my “small musical comeback” to Rich Vargo.
Some of the other folks I’ve been fortunate to play with since getting back into music are Rich Machesney, Erin & Hughie Burns, Bob Kendall, Doyle Smith, Norm Rowland, Lee Hetherington, Marc Trager, Russ Perkins, Doug Boldman and Conrad Serina.
I have a core belief that music and photography are very similar as artistic endeavors. One is aural, the other is visual. Each discipline has the capability to move people’s souls. If you can get into people’s hearts with your songs and images then you have hit the bullseye in art. I truly believe each one makes me better at the other.
I am a very fortunate guy to have both music and photography in my life. They each give me great pleasure.