He couldn’t be there for the big party Sunday in Thibodaux, but former Beatle Paul McCartney did send along a video wishing a happy birthday to his friend “Thad.”
Thaddeus Richard, who plays horns, keyboards, guitar and lots of other instruments, celebrated his 73rd birthday a day early, taking the stage with fellow musicians for a party arranged in his honor at Thibodaux Regional Wellness Center.
In the short video, shown during the party, McCartney strums an acoustic guitar and sings a salute to his friend and former bandmate.
“Hey, Thad, you’re quite a lad,” McCartney sings. “You know we love ya’, no one above ya’.”
In a long life of music, Richard said his performances with Paul McCartney and Wings were most memorable. He toured the world with the band from 1974 through 1980. A video on YouTube from those days shows Richard playing the iconic soprano sax solo from the 1975 hit “Listen to What the Man Said.”
“Take it away, Thaddeus,” McCartney sings from behind the piano.
Asked what it was like to perform with one of the world’s most famous bands, Richard said “for a 25-year-old boy from Thibodaux, you’ve got to be joking — it was heaven.”
Richard went from the Chitlin’ Circuit, where sometimes he had to be handed baloney sandwiches through the back window, to jetting around the globe with McCartney and making a lot more money.
In the days of state-imposed racial segregation, Richard and other Black musicians made the rounds on the Chitlin’ Curcuit, an unofficial string of nightclubs that ran through Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and up to Chicago.
Musicians like Irma Thomas, The Meters and the Neville Brothers played at nightclubs in Thibodaux, Richard said. One of the most popular clubs in town was Hosea Hill’s Sugar Bowl.
Those nightclubs, Richard said, didn’t pay enough, so he packed up his instruments and moved to Nashville. The decision paid off big when in 1974 he was found by McCartney.
What is swamp pop?:Meet its past stars and discover its Louisiana roots
Richard was playing as part of a horn section in a studio for some of McCartney’s recordings and was pointed out by someone as exceptional on the saxophone. McCartney had a piece of solo music he had written with his wife, Linda, and he gave it to Richard, who had never seen it.
“He put me in a studio, gave me a microphone and said, ‘Play,’ ” Richard said. “When I finished soloing, all I could hear in the recording booth where they were, they were calling me ‘King Thaddeus.’ ,
McCartney isnt the only famous musician Richard has performed with. Others include Al Green, Johnnie Taylor, Joe Tex, ZZ Hill, Tony Dorsey, Candi Staton, Clarence “Frogman” Henry, George Porter, Jeremy Davenport and Danny Blanchard.
At his birthday celebration, about a dozen musicians took the stage at one point or another. Among them: Dr. Greg Ward on percussion; John Autin, 65, of Houma, piano; Herman Jackson, 70, of Baton Rouge, drums; Harry Anderson, 61, of Zachary, bass; Ray Mouton, 67, of Jackson, guitar; Aaron Fletcher, 42, of New Orleans, saxophone; Quiana Lynell, 41, of Gonzales, singer; Frank Ball, 72, of Houma, guitar; George Bell, 63, of Thibodaux, trumpet; and Charles “Chuckie See” Elam, 65, of New Orleans, saxophone.
A member of the Thibodaux Mayor’s Office gave Richard a key to the city. Richard joked that he wanted to try it on a local bank.
The party was put together by the Music at St. John’s Concert Series. Dr. William Robichaux is a board member of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Thibodaux and a lifelong fan of Richard.
Richard pursued music as a child; he says it’s in his blood and is all he’s ever wanted to do. His mother, Alma Rose, was a church organist, and his father, Renald, was a band director and composer who wrote music for Ray Charles.
Richard attended St. Augustine High School in New Orleans, where he played oboe for the concert band.
“They had too many good sax players, so I couldn’t get in,” he recalled.
Mary Anne Hoffman, 91, of Hoffman Music in Thibdaux, said she remembers a 16-year-old Richard coming into her store.
“He would run right across the keys of the piano,” Hoffman said. “I said, ‘Oh, man, this guy’s got it.’ ,
Whatever instrument Richard picked up, musicians who attended Sunday’s party said, he excelled at it. Many of the others who took the stage Sunday said Richard helped them learn their craft.
More:Does the Rougarou still roam Louisiana swamps and haunt childhood dreams? Learn more
Sometimes, as Autin would practice his piano at Nicholls State University late at night, Richard would stop by to play some of the instruments. Richard would give Autin pointers and help teach him free of charge.
“He was always everyone’s first choice on piano,” Autin said. “And it wasn’t even his main instrument.”
Family and colleagues said Richard’s musical talent is matched by his compassion. Richard’s baby brother, Sean Richard, 50, told of how Thaddeus would take him along to shows and have him carry equipment. Sean said he didn’t realize it at the time, but his brother was showing him the world.
“It was easier for me when I went in the military because he had already taken me around the world,” Sean said.
Sean and Richard’s daughter, Swann Coxen, 51, said Thaddeus is the family member who helped the different generations relate to one another.
“He was the glue,” Coxen said.
Thaddeus had a knack for creating memorable family moments. Sean and Swann told how one Halloween, Thaddeus took nine of the younger family members, including Sean, trick-or-treating. Thaddeus said it was a time when some people were putting razor blades in apples, and to avoid these problems, he was taking the children to houses he knew.
During the outing, Thaddeus decided to scare the youngsters by driving into a cemetery.
“I pulled in the cemetery, got out of the car and ran,” Richard said. “Boy, they was scared, they were screaming and hollering, and they never forgot that.”
McCartney didn’t forget his old friend and fellow musician, either.
“Congratulations, Thad, quite an honor,” McCartney sings at the end of his video. “You deserve it, man.”