Rich O’Brien is an artist of extraordinary versatility. Acoustic Guitar Magazine calls him ….”the house guitarist for the cowboy music revival.” He has been inducted into both the Western Swing Society’s and the Western Music Association’s Halls of Fame. In addition, his work has won him a herd of Wrangler Awards from the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Ranger Doug of Riders In The Sky writes “There is no one I’d rather hear play guitar than Richard O’Brien. His taste and musical sensibilities are exquisite. He has great technique, of course, but there is a vast difference between a facile technician and the brilliance and perfect feel that is Rich O’Brien’s. He’s a national treasure!”
Famous for his Western guitar, his playing spans a variety of influences, from swing and jazz, to tejano, folk, and classical. Rich O’Brien was born in Southwestern Missouri, when “America ruraled” He credits his mother Gracie, a Carter Family style guitar player herself, with fostering his love of music. Family music sessions were frequent with his six brothers and three sisters. His ability to use the entire fretboard of the guitar was a gift from his brother Paul, who O’Brien once described as “the best guitar player in the family.” Leaving home with less than ten dollars in his pocket and the vague promise of a prison guard job, Rich headed for Texas. There, he quickly fit in with local music scene, playing western swing with the likes of Tom Morrell and the Time-Warp Top Hands and touring with Country stars Moe Bandy, Gene Watson and Ray Price. Texas is also home to Cowboy singers Don Edwards, and Red Steagall, and O’Brien quickly found Western music’s blend of traditional American folk and swing styles and Old West subject matter fit his style of writing, playing and his love of history. It proved to be the genre in which he would make his biggest mark. Word of his playing, composing and also of his skill for arranging music quickly spread through a rapidly growing Western music scene. O’Brien has now played on or produced over six hundred recordings for such players as Don Edwards, Riders in the Sky, Waddie Mitchell, Sons of the San Joaquin, Red Steagall and Marty Stuart. Television and radio appearances include Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion, The Grand Ol’ Opry, The Roots of Country Music, Texas Connection, The Music of The Wild West, On Stage and plays the roll of Badger on Red Steagall’s syndicated radio show and RFDTV show, Boys in the Bunkhouse. Rich’s talents have twice led to White House performances. He regularly appears at the top Cowboy Gatherings in the United States and has commercial clients including Southwest Airlines, Wal-Mart, and Dairy Queen.
His debut release for Western Jubilee Recording Company, Seasons, Roads, and Faces, demonstrated for fans what insiders to the music industry have known for a long time, that O’Brien is a force in Western music. Dirty Linen says; “The distance between Gene Autry and Django Reinhardt never seemed more insignificant….” His recording Be Ready Boys, with Norman Blake is further proof of his versatility, talent and love of our musical roots. Since, Rich has been at the helm of many more Western Jubilee releases, including his own, It’s Christmas, and Southwest Souvenirs, as well as A Prairie Portrait, featuring Don Edwards, Waddie Mitchell and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.
In 2009 Rich O’Brien was inducted as a living member into the Western Music Association’s Hall of Fame. In addition, he is the recipient of over a dozen prestigious Wrangler Awards from Oklahoma City’s National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, a record for any recipient in any category in the Museum’s history. Currently, Rich O’Brien is touring his one man show on a select basis throughout the United States. This acclaimed solo performance includes O’Brien’s soulful and engaging vocals, masterful musicianship and wonderfully dry humor. In addition, 2013 finds Rich performing and recording with Krystyn Harris, and Devon Dawson as Badger and the Belles. The trio offers Rich O’Brien and two, already established performers, on vocals, upright bass fiddle and guitars. Badger and the Belles present strong vocal harmonies and instrumentation with selections composed by Rich, classic Western Swing and the unexpected. The late Cindy Walker referred to Rich as a “full blooded guitar man”.
Rich has been often called the ‘Charlie Russell of the Western Guitar,’ and there is no doubt that he is.