90-year-old violinist recorded with big names in rock, country music

Tamala Edwards Image
Thursday, September 22, 2022
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Tamala Edwards speaks with Vern Richardson, who played strings on what are now classic songs in both country and rock music.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Vern Richardson recently talked about his latest book at Blue Bell Place, the senior living community he calls home.

The book is called, "Far...Beyond the Starry Sky," and it's an autobiographical account of his life that shares both personal and professional moments.

"I can't think of a time when I wasn't interested in music," says Richardson.

He is classically trained in violin and has degrees in both music and music education.

Richardson says he still practices every day for at least an hour and plays a lot of classical music, including concertos from Bach, Brahms, Beethoven and Mozart.

Throughout his career, he taught college and performed.

Richardson says when he played in the Nashville Symphony, he also played solo recitals "all over the place" to build his musical reputation.

His talent was noticed, and he was called by a contractor looking for strings to play and record with a then-unknown artist.

"No one had ever heard of Roy Orbison at that moment, and certainly no one ever heard of 'Only the Lonely,'" says Richardson.

"We thought, 'oh, this thing will not sell a dozen copies," he says. "Within two weeks, the thing had sold a million copies and Roy Orbison was a household name."

The group of musicians that played with Orbison on that single became frequently requested and Richardson says his career "just went from there."

He estimates he played in 725 recording sessions as a violinist, playing with some of the greats in country music. He played on albums for Eddy Arnold and Patsy Cline. He also worked with some big names in rock and roll, like Connie Francis.

Richardson says he enjoyed his time with those artists and still loves playing solo.

"I love just to have the feel of the violin under my chin and just to know I can actually handle this bow and make a good sound out of this instrument - it's that basic," he says.