Richard Blackmon



Richard's earliest music experience was as a member of the John A. Shaw Elementary School choir, in New Orleans. It was during that time he was first introduced to the Autoharp. As a teenager he took vocal lessons and became a member of the Elysian Fields Baptist Church Choir. In high school, he was a member of the Geri Wall Variety Troupe, which entertained at hospitals, schools and assisted living centers in the Gulf Coast area.

In the early 60s, he discovered the music of Peter, Paul & Mary and the Kingston Trio. "From then on, I wanted to be a folk singer. But as hard as I tried, I just couldn't learn to play guitar, so that put an end to that!" At least for a while...but he did buy his first Autoharp, continued to sing through the 70s, and started writing songs. He also became interested in the recording process and bought his first 4-track tape recorder.

  When 1980 rolled around, he discovered the Penny Post Coffeehouse in uptown New Orleans. "That's when everything changed. The first time I walked in the place, I knew I was home." In the fall of 1980 Richard met Larry Stultz and before long, they formed Higher Ground, Larry playing mountain dulcimer and guitar, Richard playing autoharp, and both doing vocals. "Larry introduced me to both the mountain dulcimer and hammered dulcimer, neither of which I had ever heard of. It wasn't long before I was hooked!" Larry built Richard's first mountain dulcimer, and helped him build his first hammered dulcimer. They performed regularly at the Penny Post as well as music festivals from Texas to Georgia. Higher Ground also recorded two self-produced cassette albums, "In Search of Higher Ground" in late 1980 and "Magic Mountain Music" in 1981.  
    Higher Ground disbanded in 1982 and Richard went on to pursue solo performances. He continued to perform regularly at the Penny Post and other New Orleans locations. "It was during this time that I really began to study the old traditional folk music in depth." He recorded his first solo cassette album, "Selfsong" in 1982.  
  In 1984 he teamed up with Julie Stripling and Susan Mack to form A Cut Above. The trio soon expanded to include Carl Steen and Kent Marcoux. "I loved playing music with my friends. But I also continued with the traditional folk music." By this time he had added the Irish Harp and Bowed Psaltery to his instruments.  
  In 1987 Richard teamed up with Susan Mack and Carl Steen to record "Spirits Dancing" which was a cassette album of ambient inprovisational music. Richard left his native New Orleans in 1988 and relocated to the Ozark Mountains of northwest Arkansas. "The Ozarks had been calling me for years, especially Mountain View and Eureka Springs." He became a licensed street musician in Eureka Springs and also performed regularly throughout the region. He recorded three cassette albums during this time, "The Lakes of Pontchartrain" in 1987, "Precious Memories" in 1990 and "The Wild Rover" in 1992. Occasional trips to New Orleans allowed him to keep up with old friends and do an occasional gig at the Penny Post and later at the Neutral Ground Coffeehouse.  

Richard relocated to Lincoln County, Mississippi in the summer of 2001. He was joined by longtime friends Susan and Carl Steen in 2002. The three recorded the self-titled CD "Whisperwood" in late 2003. "We combined their soft rock / jazz roots with my traditional folk, and came up with a pretty unique sound."

Julie St. Ripling joined the community following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In the months that followed, she and Richard once again joined forces and began to play in various clubs in the region. "It's good to be playing out in public again." Several new recording projects are currently in the works.