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Richards, Digby George (1940–1983)

by Glenn Mitchell

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Digby George Richards (1940-1983), singer and composer, was born on 12 September 1940 at Dunedoo, New South Wales, elder child of New South Wales-born parents Gordon Forrest Richards, policeman, and his wife Mona, née Dennis. Dig attended Narooma Central and Moruya High schools. After completing the Leaving certificate in 1957 he worked at Waltons-Sears Ltd in Sydney.

His family and American rock’n’roll music were major influences on Dig. His brother Doug learned melody lines on their father’s guitar and started writing songs. Dig abandoned his retail traineeship for music, after becoming the vocalist for the band ‘The R-Jays’, which sought a recording contract. Ken Taylor of Festival Records auditioned the band in 1959 and, largely on the strength of Doug’s song I Wanna Love You, signed them. They became the third local artists, following Johnny O’Keefe and Col Joye, to gain a contract with Festival Records. The song entered radio 2UE’s Top 40 on 25 July 1959, and spent seventeen weeks on the charts, reaching number eight. Between his first hit and May 1960, Dig recorded more songs with ‘The R-Jays’, three of which—I’m Through, (Real Gone) Annie Laurie and Comin’ Down with Love—entered the charts, but did not have the success of their first record.

A handsome man with a good stage personality, Dig Richards was a popular performer who supported American singers including Ricky Nelson and Crash Craddock. Television shows such as ‘Bandstand’, from 1958, and O’Keefe’s ‘Six O’Clock Rock’, from 1959, extended his audience and popularity beyond dances and live performances. From August 1959 ‘The R-Jays’ were the studio band for Teen Timeon Channel 7.

Richards’ career was threatened as a result of injuries he sustained in a car accident in October 1959. A couple of years later he and ‘The R-Jays’ parted amicably and he began to write his own material. While he kept his early fans, he wanted to broaden his appeal. He took voice and guitar lessons and developed a new image. A comeback single in 1962, Raincoat in the River, defined his change from rock’n’roller to a slightly folky, country singer. On 10 July 1964 at the Church of St John the Baptist, Milsons Point, he married with Anglican rites Susan (Suzanne) Margaret Clark, a telephonist. That year he hosted the ‘Ampol Stamp Quiz’, a television show for children. Often performing in clubs, he sought new markets in South-East Asia, touring there—including Vietnam—in the late 1960s.

In 1970 Dig went to England, returning as Digby, complete with beard and longer hair. He recorded Harlequin, an album of his songs, which had several hits including A Little Piece of Peace and People Call Me Country. Recording earlier with CBS Records, he switched to the Radio Corporation of America and RCA Records of Australia Pty Ltd. In 1973 he recorded in Los Angeles with top session-musicians, who were attracted not only by the quality of his songs but also by his Australian accent. This album, Digby Richards, also produced several hits.

Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in April 1982, Richards died on 17 February 1983 at St Leonards, Sydney, and was cremated. His wife and their son and daughter survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • N. McGrath, Noel McGrath’s Australian Encyclopedia of Rock and Pop (1984)
  • J. Hayton and L. Isackson, Behind the Rock and Beyond (2010)
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Glenn Mitchell, 'Richards, Digby George (1940–1983)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/richards-digby-george-15594/text26804, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 25 July 2021.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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