Richard Atkins estimates that his career in music lasted roughly three months. Well, that’s the first time around.
Atkins, who was born and raised in North Hollywood, is a former member of Richard Twice, a folk-style duo that released an album on Mercury records in 1970. He was on his way to the top when a bout of stage fright and some frustrations made him realize the music business was not for him.
That was the whole story up until last year when Atkins, now 66, found out that the album had been re-released and was making waves in Europe.
There’s the teenager in Italy who has become a Richard Twice super-fan; there’s the DJ in Denmark who had the album featured at a music convention; and there’s the write-up in Seattle’s The Stranger that selected his song “If I Knew You Were the One” as its song of the day.
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It’s all come as a bit of a shock to Atkins and his wife, Ginny, who recently moved to the Key Peninsula. Atkins still writes, but he rarely performs.
The goal for Atkins was never notoriety. He picked up the guitar and learned to write while he was confined to bed as a 17-year-old. While hitching a ride to work on his friend’s motorcycle he was struck by a car. He lost part of his leg and spent months recuperating.
A few lessons from his neighbor set him on his way writing folk songs. He began writing songs to help process the events in his life, such as the accident and the death of his grandfather.
“I did nothing but play all day long,” Atkins said. “It was therapy.”
With a few songs under his belt, he met up with his neighbor, Richard Manning, a member of several touring bands, who was looking for original material to make his mark. Atkins’ music was just what he was looking for, so a session was booked at the Capitol Records studio on Hollywood and Vine.
To call Atkins rise meteoric would be an understatement.
“The was the first time out of (playing in) my bedroom and I was recording at Capitol Studios,” he said.
Richard Twice was backed up by the Wrecking Crew, a band famous for recording the Monkees music and many others in the 1960s.
Signed to Mercury records at 19 — two years after picking up a guitar — Atkins’ album was a success and Richard Twice landed an opening spot on Strawberry Alarm Clock’s national tour.
“I was right there on the edge of stardom,” he said.
A warm-up gig in front of music business who’s who and Atkins was left to improvise while an amplifier was fixed. He figured he’d do a little soft-shoe but then it hit him: He only had one leg. He froze, he never went on tour and Richard Twice split.
From that point on, he felt stage fright. He discovered that performing was not his true passion; he purely loved songwriting. But being a songwriter wasn’t an easy gig and he didn’t have connections.
One morning, a few years after his three-month whirlwind, fortune smiled once again. He climbed to a spot in the Hollywood Hills to sing his new song, “Burgundy Woman,” out into the canyon. He didn’t think he had an audience, but he woke up Goldie Hawn.
Hawn wasn’t upset. In fact, she loved the song and was in the process of recording her own album and needed songs for it. One climb to the hills and all of a sudden Atkins was being managed by Art Simon and Hawn.
But as happens, Hawn’s album was never released and Atkins career fell away once again. He didn’t mind too much. He kept writing, married the love of his life, had children and even at one point built the mantel in the oval office at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
Now, music beckons again. After a few open mics recently, he’s ready for the stage again at the Harbor History Museum on July 16.
Tickets are on sale at harborhistorymuseum.org or by calling the museum at 253-858-6722. The show begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 for members and $20 for non-members and include a soup dinner. A cash bar is available.
Goldie Hawn will most likely not be in attendance, but based on Atkins’ life, it’s anyone’s guess about what will happen.