James L. Richard and The New Sekret Service cover hits instead of presidents.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Looking at James L. Richard’s family, it was fairly safe to say that the Oakland native was not going to be a street sweeper or a computer programmer. From the get go, the current band leader for the Bay Area’s New Sekret Service was introduced to music by his talented musical family. His uncles are William Richard and Roy Richard of the doo wop group The Robins. His older brother Billy has been a member of the legendary R&B group The Coasters since 1961.
The precocious musician started playing drums at 4 years of age and moved on to piano at 5. During college, Richard says he formed an Oakland band called The Millenium Falcons. He says that the group, which lasted from 1979 to 1981, dressed up in rugby shirts adorned with clothes pins and played new wave and punk rock tunes.
Following his punk phase, Richard became enamored by Prince and a burgeoning new music form known as rap. During this time, Richard wanted to form a band called The Secret Service but found he had to settle for The Sekret Service. “You can’t copyright a name of a government agency,” he says.
While the old version of the The Sekret Service played all the popular artists of the time, like Michael Jackson and Prince, Richard says the band also covered more adventurous fare. “We were a top 40 band, but we took chances,” he says. “We did Depeche Mode.”
By the mid-‘80s, Richard had another brother who started making waves in the music industry, Jay King. King was the man behind the Timex Social Club—who had a hit with “Rumors”—and Club Nouveau, known for their remake of Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me.”
In 1986, Richard pulled the plug on The Sekret Service to focus on doing studio work. He says he ended up working with artists like R&B outfit Tony! Toni! Tone! and hip-hop act Digital Underground.
But, in June of last year, Richard realized he was missing
the feel of performing in front of a crowd and formed The New
Sekret Service. With experienced musicians like former MC
Hammer drummer Tyrone Duncan, The New Sekret Service plays
songs by everyone from The Temptations to Outkast.
Richard says they embrace the same philosophy that the past version of his band adhered to.
“We pick material that is huge number one smash hits, but we make sure no one else plays it,” he says. “If we hear another band do a song, we drop it.”
The New Sekret Service plays Sly McFly’s, located at 700 Cannery Row in Monterey, Friday at 9pm. 649-8050.