Slim Richey passes

Slim RicheyMichael Richey, known personally and professionally as Slim, died Sunday In Austin, TX. He had been in and out of hospitals this past year, accepting treatment for cancer. Slim was 77 years old.

As a musician, he practiced the jazz arts, and was part of what kept Austin weird. But he played an important role in the story of bluegrass music in the 20th century as well.

In the 1970s and ’80s, Richey ran Warehouse Music, a mail order company that marketed instructional materials for students of bluegrass music. They also developed one of the very first commercially-produced variable speed tape machines designed to assist in transcribing recorded music. These were quite costly at the time, and lacked the precision that is available now with inexpensive software, but were received with open arms by eager, budding transcriptionists at the time.

Slim also ran a number of record labels, most memorable in our world being Ridge Runner Records. Specializing primarily in acoustic music from Texas and Oklahoma, the label produced some groundbreaking projects which are still cherished and studied today. Among those were early records from Sam Bush and Alan Munde (solo and as a team), Country Gazette, Roland White, Buck White, Marty Stuart, Joe Carr and others.

Perhaps most notable was one that bore his name, Slim Richey’s Jazz Grass, which blended elements of both jazz and bluegrass, with Richey featured on guitar. Alan Munde, Bill Keith and Gerald Jones played banjo; Richard Greene, Ricky Skaggs, and Sam Bush were on fiddle; Joe Carr and Kerby Stewart played mandolin; and Dan Huckabee was on reso-guitar. Included were interpretations of jazz standards like Stompin’ At The Savoy, Night In Tunisia and There’ll Never Be Another You next to Slim’s originals. It was an epic and seminal album, from a time when things like that simply weren’t done.

In retirement, Richey had settled in Austin and performed with his jazz, swing band, The Jitterbug Vipers.

Slim will be remembered by a large musical family for his love of music, especially jazz, his aggressive individualism, and his strong libertarian beliefs. There will not be another like him in this world.

R.I.P., Slim Richey.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.