Sunday, May 6, 2007
Looking for Richard
In the comments a few days ago, someone asked me to look into the orthography of Keith Richards changing his name to Richard and then back again to Richards. Granting that I don't know what "orthography" means, I am not one to back down from a challenge.
The name switch sounds at first blush utterly pointless; "Richard" is not any easier to remember or simpler to pronounce than "Richards" is. It shouldn't come as any surprise that this ploy was hatched by Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham, who was only 19 when he came up with this one, just after the band's first single (a cover of a Chuck Berry song called "Come On") came out in England in the summer of 1963. The stated reason was that it echoed the name of the British Elvis, Cliff Richard (Little Richard would have made more sense). This seems lame even by the standards of Andrew Loog Oldham, and is believed to be the last time the Rolling Stones ever attempted to connect themselves with Cliff Richard.
It is a somewhat open question as to when Keith changed his surname back to his father's. The August 19, 1971, issue of Rolling Stone magazine proudly boasts of its interview with "Keith Richard." My copy of Exile on Main St., which was released on May 12, 1972, clearly lists among its credits the guitar work and songwriting of one Keith Richards. Maybe Andrew Loog Oldham thought he would benefit from the association with Mary Richards. I haven't been able to narrow down the date any further than that. Perhaps at some point, deep in the South of France, Keith took a look at his passport and said to himself, "Wot? Who changed my name?"