Richard Newell Passes

Tuesday, January 7, 2003    <A HREF="";>Back</A>    The Halifax Herald Limited  

Hamilton's King Biscuit Boy, harmonica player, dies at 59 
By Angela Pacienza / The Canadian Press

Toronto - Blues great Richard (King Biscuit Boy) Newell, one of the country's 
greatest harmonica players and singers, has died. He was 59. 

He died Sunday in his sleep while watching TV in his Hamilton home, said his 
friend, singer Ronnie Hawkins. 

"He was one of the great ones, boy," Hawkins said Monday. "He was one of the 
most talented kids I'd ever seen." 

Newell performed with some of the industry's best known musicians including 
Muddy Waters, Otis Span, Etta James, Joe Cocker, Dr. John and The Band. 

Fans included Huey Lewis, Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers, and Rolling 
Stones guitarist Keith Richards, who once said King Biscuit Boy was his 
favourite harmonica player. 

"He was the best known harmonica player outside of Canada over the last 30 
years," said Holger Petersen, who runs Stony Plain Records in Edmonton, which 
released three of Newell's albums, and hosts Saturday Night Blues on CBC 
Radio One. "He totally devoted his life to his love of blues." 

Newell recorded eight albums and one EP during his 40-year career. His 
singles included Biscuit's Boogie, Boom Boom, Tore Your Playhouse Down, 
Ashamed of Myself and One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer. 

Born in Hamilton, Newell began playing harmonica in 1961. With no local 
players to learn from, the teenager would head to Buffalo, N.Y., to hang out 
in blues bars. It was there he met and played harmonica with Muddy Waters. 

Newell was one of the few white musicians playing blues music in the '60s. 

"He played blues music as a white performer when there was just a handful of 
them doing it, including Paul Butterfield," said longtime friend Dave Booth, 
a music archivist who once hosted The Daddy Cool Show on Toronto's CFNY radio 
station. "He was the best blues singer in Canada. There was nobody his equal. 
Nobody could touch him." 

Singing for Hamilton band The Barons, he became part of the famed Yorkville 
music scene of the late '60s which gave birth to Joni Mitchell and Gordon 

It was through the Yorkville crowd that Newell was introduced to Hawkins, 
whose band, The Hawks, he joined as a harmonica player in 1968. 

Hawkins gave Newell the nickname King Biscuit Boy after a Helena, Ark., radio 
program called King Biscuit Boy Flour Hour that featured harmonica player 
Sonny Boy Williamson. 

"He didn't like (the name) so well for a year or two, but then it became 
him," Hawkins recalled. "He knew all those songs and licks of the radio cats 
when we used to practise down in that basement (in Helena)." 

Newell joined Hawkins in Alabama in 1969 while the singer was recording an 
album. There Newell met guitarists Allman and Jimmie Johnson who invited the 
young star to join their band, which later became The Allman Brothers. He 

In 1970, The Hawks turned into The Ronnie Hawkins Band while Hawkins was on a 
European publicity tour. Upon his return, he broke up the group saying, "You 
guys are so crazy you could (mess) up a crowbar in three seconds." 

The musicians then became known as Crowbar, and released an album that same 
year. Crowbar had a minor radio hit with Corrina, Corrina in 1970. 

But Newell didn't last long in the band and went on his own by the end of the 

Newell leaves behind one son, Richard. 

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Alan R



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