Ode to Richard Manuel.
Richard Manuel was born in Stratford, Ontario, Canada. His father Ed was a mechanic employed by Chrysler, and his mother was a schoolteacher. He was raised with his three brothers, and the four sang in the church choir. Manuel took piano lessons beginning when he was nine, and enjoyed playing piano and rehearsing with his friends at his home. Some of his childhood influences wereRay Charles, Bobby Bland, Jimmy Reed and Otis Rush. He was given the nickname “The Beak” by his friends because of his prominent nose.
He and three friends started a band when he was fifteen, originally named the Rebels but later changed to The Revols, in deference to Duane Eddy and the Rebels. The group also included Ken Kalmusky, a founding member of Great Speckled Bird, and John Till, a founding member of the Full Tilt Boogie Band. Manuel developed a rhythmic style of piano unique in its usage of inverted chord structures. He was also a naturally talented vocalist, with a soulful rhythm and blues style, and a rich timbre, often compared to that of Ray Charles. These talents were showcased in The Revols.
Manuel first became acquainted with Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks when The Revols opened for them in Port Dover, Ontario. According to Levon Helm, Hawkins remarked to him about Manuel: “See that kid playing piano? He’s got more talent than Van Cliburn.” The two bands once again connected at the Stratford Coliseum in 1961 when The Revols ended a show featuring The Hawks as headliners. After hearing Manuel singing “Georgia on My Mind“, Hawkins hired The Revols’ pianist rather than competing with them.