Contributor’s Note: Recently, legendary Southern rock band Georgia Satellites released “Ultimate Georgia Satellites”, which features the three main albums in their discography that they released under Elektra Records back in the 1980’s. Rick Richards has been recognized by Vintage Guitar and by NPR for having that classic, gritty sound that made Georgia Satellites a household name in the Southern Rock world. Mark Dean of Madness To Creation Podcast recently chatted with Rick Richards to discuss their legacy as a band as well as what’s next for the band. Fans can find Georgia Satellites at www.thegeorgiasatellites.com
Mark Dean Interviewer: Okay. Cherry Red Records have brought out a recent box set with the first Georgia Satellites albums. I just wondered if I could take you through each album. Maybe you could share with me some insights and what was going on with the Georgia Satellites at that time, maybe a little on the road stories, some studio stories to illustrate the development of the band through those albums.
Rick Richards: Okay. What’s your name, mate?
Mark Dean Interviewer: Mark Dean from the UK.
Rick Richards: All right, Mark. Yeah, yeah. Okay, cool. Yeah. So what happened was, we were playing around in the clubs in Atlanta and Southeast and made some demo tapes. And our friend from England who was our tour manager at the time went to see his family and took the tapes over to London and presented them to a label called Making Waves. Independent label over there. And they went ahead and pressed it up and put it out. This was an independent EP on their label. And what happened was it got great reviews in Melody Maker and NME, which blew me away of course. But at the time, we’d almost practically split up. It was like nothing was happening. So with those great reviews, we decided to give it another go, put the band back together, played around a bit and then got some attention from Electro Records and Warner Brothers. And they decided to use some of the songs that were on the first independent EP and then record some of the new material. And that became the first record.
And actually the song Keep Your Hands to Yourself was on the first record, and it was actually kind of an afterthought, really that song. We just put it on there for the hell of it, and it turned out to be a hit record, so we didn’t know what was happening. But we did … It was the first record. And then around the time we’d finished touring, we did a lot of touring on that first record. Second record still hadn’t come out. Kind of an extension with the first record actually. It was more of a … Yeah, I would’ve liked to put them together and made a double album, but it’s not my call on that one, baby.
So anyway, you have a second record, it went good. We had Ian McLagan come in, recorded part of it in Texas in Austin and just hung out with them. Ronnie Lane was living there at the time as well. So I got to meet Ronnie and have Mac on the record. It was fantastic. I was a huge Faces fan, of course. So the second record went well, we toured more, and no real surprises on it. The third record, Land of Salvation and Sin we decided to cut in Memphis, because we had a guy named Joe Hardy produce it. We got Ian McLagan back on the keyboards on it. And that’s how the succession of those three records happened, really.
Mark Dean Interviewer: What was your breakthrough that allowed you to tour Europe? I remember seeing you in Belfast a couple of times over the years. Would that have been the first album?
Rick Richards: Oh my God, yes. Yeah, yeah. First and second and maybe third, but I’m pretty sure at least the first two, we did a lot of European stuff. That was the first time we’d been over, and it was great. We’re all such Anglophiles that we were just in … We were gobsmacked, man. So much fun.
Mark Dean Interviewer: Do you remember paying actually a gig in a hotel in Belfast? The Europa Hotel?
Rick Richards: Yeah, the Hotel Europa. Yep. Yeah, we get there, man, the guy goes, “Welcome to the second most bombed hotel in the world.” We went, “What’s the first?” He goes, “Oh, that’d be the Beirut Hilton.” But that was fun. And then it’s so weird, yeah, because one year we were there and there was a pub across the street we used to go to.
Mark Dean Interviewer: Yep.
Rick Richards: Next year we come back to the pub. It’s blown up. That was serious business back then.
Mark Dean Interviewer: I remember, as I said, going to see those Belfast shows. Were you quite surprised that playing the style of music that you did, you seem to have a great following among heavy rock fans? Was that something you were aware of?
Rick Richards: Yeah, man. Exactly. Well, yeah, we’re definitely aware of it. We were huge fans of Status Quo and that kind of showed in some stuff. And I think that some people seemed to think that it was cool to like us also.
Mark Dean Interviewer: Yeah. I was looking at these albums. Who made the decision to include cover versions? And do you feel in hindsight that that was something that may have harmed the band? Because you had a hell of a lot of strong material of your own.
Rick Richards: Yeah. But we grew up on that stuff, and the inception of the band was based on those songs, are that style of just taking other people’s material and bastardising it, if you will. Rocking it up. Maybe take a country song and rock it up. And so, yeah, that’s always been one of our strong points was taking cover songs. So I have no aversions of doing cover songs if they’re good, and if they’re suitable for the band.
Mark Dean Interviewer: Yeah. Obviously some cover versions lend themselves to play live. I just wondered about their actual inclusion on the albums, and they were maybe chosen rather than original material.
Rick Richards: Yeah, that was a mutual decision by the band and the record label. So our A&R people were really keen on including some of those songs, because when they came to see us and we would do showcases, we’d do those songs, and it was just part of the act.
Mark Dean Interviewer: I’m looking at the three CDs here. You’ve got a bunch of bonus tracks on each one. I just wondered if that was all that was in the Georgia Satellites archives, or is there some other tunes, maybe some live versions, some different songs that you haven’t previously released? Do you still have material or-
Rick Richards: Yeah, I’m sure there are. I’m sure there’s a tonne of stuff out there, but I really don’t know who’s archiving all that stuff to tell you the truth. I don’t know where they find this stuff, but I’m sure there’s plenty of stuff out there.
Mark Dean Interviewer: Your last studio album, 1997, which was a bit of a mix, bit of a compilation, I’m just wondering, Georgia Satellites is still going. Do you have any plans to do a new Georgia Satellites album?
Rick Richards: No.
Mark Dean Interviewer: None at all.
Rick Richards: No. No, not at this point. The new version, which I’m doing all the singing and stuff, we’ve been taking it out for a few years now, but I don’t really see any … With this pandemic thing going on, I’m just kind of waiting to see a scenario as to what my next move is going to be. But I don’t think there’s going to be more Satellite stuff.
Mark Dean Interviewer: Yeah. What about yourself? Obviously as an artist, maybe not Satellite stuff, but you’re obviously still going to be creating music. Have you got any musical projects on the go at the moment?
Rick Richards: No, just the thing over here … The thing. The sickness, the evil, the plague, it’s been really slow. So there’s nothing going on. I’ve done a couple of sessions with some local artists. Country’s Step was one. One’s a country thing, one was a rock and roll thing. But yeah, I’m just waiting it out. I’m planning by ear. Soon get back on the road maybe. And I don’t know, it’s in limbo right now.
Mark Dean Interviewer: Yeah. Has there ever been any calls for a reunion of the Georgia Satellites from the lineups that recorded the first couple of albums?
Rick Richards: No man. No. That genie’s out of that bottle, man. I don’t think that’s going to happen.
Mark Dean Interviewer: Yeah. You’re not in touch with the guys anymore? No?
Rick Richards: No. I haven’t spoken to any of those cats in awhile.
Mark Dean Interviewer: Right. Okay. No worries. What’s next for you then? Moving forward, obviously nobody knows how things are going to pan out in terms of live shows. How do you spend your time these days? Is it still music, or if you’ve got other interests, other things going on?
Rick Richards: Well, I’m surrounded by my guitars and shit over here, but other than that, just sitting around playing, keeping limber, that’s about it, mate. I ain’t nothing going on here.
Mark Dean Interviewer: I guess it’s difficult for you as well, because you’ve had a long career, and you must really miss playing live in front of an audience and seeing that reaction.
Rick Richards: Oh yeah. The aspect I most miss is the travel.
Mark Dean Interviewer: Really?
Rick Richards: That was my thing. I dig travelling. Yeah. But the stage thing, sure, of course. Of course.
Mark Dean Interviewer: Were you involved in … Just returning to this box set, were you actively involved? Were you asked about putting that together, or was that something that was totally out of your hands?
Rick Richards: That was out of my hands. I heard Mick Brown was putting it together, and I did a blurb on the inner sleeve, some liner notes. But yeah, I’m really happy the way it turned out. I thought it was a great job. I thought he did an excellent job, and I think the added attractions, the extra songs are good. I’m really pleased through that aspect of it.
Mark Dean Interviewer: How do you view the part of your own musical legacy? Obviously you’ve done other things with Izzy Stradlin and different other musical projects, but how do you view those three albums, looking back? Is there something that still makes you proud of what you achieved in pretty much a short time?
Rick Richards: Yeah, it was a flash in the pan actually, but it was great fun, and it was getting out there and meeting some great people. I met a lot of my so-called heroes, and that aspect of it’s also fun. Playing with Ian McLagen and with Izzy, with Ron Wood, and Nicky Hopkins, those are people that I thought I would … I couldn’t be in the same room with my calibre and their calibre, just too diverse. But man, it was great. Stuff like that I really remember, and I really cherish that kind of stuff.
Mark Dean Interviewer: So listening to those albums back today, it’s only brought great memories for me personally of not just the songs, but actually seeing you guys live. Because at that time, not many bands were actually playing in Belfast.
Rick Richards: Yeah. Right. Yeah, yeah. Good times in Belfast. Had a blast.
Mark Dean Interviewer: That’s been brilliant. Rick, it’s been good to talk to you. Good luck with-
Rick Richards: Hey man, I appreciate you calling. Thanks a lot. If you need anything else, give me a call if you think of something. Anytime.
Mark Dean Interviewer: Brilliant. Thank you very much for chatting to me.
Rick Richards: All right, cheers mate. See you.
Fans can find this episode featuring Rick Richards of Georgia Satellites via SoundCloud below: