Born into middle England, an overbearing father thwarted Richard’s early dreams of performing, instead demanding that he pursue a trade. The international hotel business beckoned and at 18, he hit the lights of London where he trained at the 5-star Grosvenor House Hotel. Astonishingly, among the first people he encountered were his idols – Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson (with whom he shared a brief, exciting moment on stage), Sir John Mills, Barbra Streisand – and Richard vowed one day to be on their side of the reception desk!
But life took twists and turns and it wasn’t until he was 32 that he fulfilled his dream and found the courage to swap the trappings of the corporate success he’d established, and overcome his fathers wishes and fulfil his own dreams.
Having spent years acting in small productions and working in broadcasting as a hobby, Richard and a group of friends formed a London theatre company and that was it! He ditched his job and started over. His first professional role was in the touring production of Agatha Christie’s, ‘A Murder is Announced,’ alongside Richard Todd, star of the great British movie ‘The Dam Busters’. Richard’s dreams were finally up and running.
Over time and with a catalogue of appearances in theatre and television, Richard landed the role of Young Scrooge in ‘Scrooge the Musical’ on the London stage opposite Academy Award nominee Anthony Newly. It was this fortuitous collaboration that gave Richard the impetus to focus on another dream - a music career independent of acting.
‘Tony represented what I wanted – the chance to act and sing,’ said Richard. ‘To me, he somehow embodied a British Sinatra role-model and it fascinated me.’
A new love emerged and another journey began – working out how to forge a singing career starting from the bottom up. Early repertoire included the American Songbook and jazz standards, and over the course of several years, Richard worked towards headlining at London’s famous Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, with many radio, TV and film appearances including the movie ‘I Capture the Castle’.
Then synchronicity started to play a significant part in Richard’s life. “I’d always been a huge Frank Sinatra fan. In fact, as a teenager, I played my fathers cassette of ‘My Way’ more than he did. I just indelibly absorbed and understood the music and lyrics. Physically, I’d known I resembled him from childhood,” says Richard. “In 1999, my room mate Helen gave me a book called ‘Rat Pack Confidential’ for my birthday inscribed, ‘This is how they did it, Richard – go get’ em’. I re-read the book time and again.”
Then came the real double-whammy – two years later Richard was approached to play his idol Frank Sinatra on the London stage in the award-winning dramatization of the same book! The play focussed on the dark side of Sinatra’s life, meaning Richard had to dig deep into the psyche of this brooding icon and produce a characterisation which was dark one moment and produce a smile that ‘turned on and off like a light bulb’ a moment later, as well as hit all the right notes with the singing.
Richard’s performance earned him a nomination as ‘Best Actor in a Leading Role’ from the ‘Manchester Evening News Awards’ and stunning national reviews (see enclosed).
This success led to international performances across Europe, the Middle East and Asia and eventually to the famed Abbey Road Studios in London where he recorded his first major studio album, ‘Top Cat’ accompanied by a 65-piece orchestra.
Soon after, acting caught his attention again and Richard was thrust into the national spotlight, landing a two-year role as series regular, Adam Forsythe - the murderously charming doctor - in the long running British TV drama ‘Emmerdale’.
On leaving the show, Richard focussed again on music and among many engagements, was asked to perform for HRH Prince Charles at Windsor Castle, Sir Elton John at the ‘White Tie and Tiara Ball’, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, at London’s Colisseum Theatre with the BBC Concert Orchestra and the BBC Big Band.
Then came a role in the Academy Award nominated movie ‘My Week with Marilyn’ where he met movie producer Harvey Weinstein, and was asked to perform at the movie’s wrap party. Weinstein commented to Richard “You were wonderful – just wonderful!”
Around this time, Richard turned 50. ‘I found myself wondering what you are supposed to do at 50? Just accept the next stage of life or embrace and live your dreams?’ Always keen to follow his dreams, he set off on a new adventure and headed for America and L.A. - the land of dreams.
It was on his initial recce mission that he realised L.A. was, indeed, his destiny. By a series of flukes and coincidences, Richard experienced signs which told him he was exactly where he should be; inside the last home of Frank Sinatra just as builders had started to demolish it; at a reception at the British Consul where he was introduced to a TV producer making a show about finding a home for one of Sinatra’s tuxedos - Richard was invited to try it on and found it fit like a glove. He had to buy it!
“The more and more I got into it, these things just happened to me and I just knew it was the right path,” said Richard. “But it also seemed the best thing I could do was bring something to L.A. – not just to take from it.”
Just before leaving London, Richard met ‘BBC Young Composer of the Year’, Alex Rudd who was also moving full-time to LA. They reconnected by chance in the Hollywood Bowl at a 17,000 strong crowd at a Tony Bennett concert. “I want to write a song for your album,” said Alex. “If you can write ‘Come Fly with Me’ meets ‘Fly Me to the Moon’, we’re in business,” replied Shelton.
Richard contacted Capitol Studios with a view to recording his new album and ‘An Englishman in Love in L.A.’ was born.
The ‘love’ referenced in the song title is the city of LA, partly inspired by the 1984 Sinatra /Quincy Jones recording. On this album, however, the songs are a mix of original and contemporary, with just two standards.
And the 13-song repertoire is mostly British, played by some of Sinatra’s band mates and other great L.A. based musicians recorded in Sinatra’s ‘Studio B’ and using his famed microphone.
A few months later, Richard was asked to perform a big band concert in London’s Cadogan Hall to a capacity crowd to commemorate Sinatra’s ‘The Main Event’ concert. On wearing Sinatra’s own tuxedo on a promotional TV talk show, fellow guest and movie star, Sir Roger Moore commented, “Yes, that’s Frank’s suit,’ he said. ‘Frank asked me where I got my suits. I told him to go to my tailor, Cyril Castle and that’s definitely his.”
Back in the US, in June 2015, Richard produced a series of three Sinatra concerts titled ‘A Very Good Year’ at San Diego’s ‘US Grant Hotel’, working with Chuck Berghofer (bass), Gregg Field (drums) and Mike Lang (piano), all of whom worked with Sinatra, sharing his studio and stage.
Richard can be currently seen on UK cinema screens in ‘Brash Young Turks’ playing the unscrupulous property tycoon, Conrad Holmes. On US screens, Richard can be seen playing Mr Benson in TV’s ‘House of Lies’ and in the pilot series ‘The Britishes’. Richard has made several independent and features films and this fall, is set to film ‘Merrily’, ‘Home to Roost’ and ‘Primitive Technology’ in L.A.