Rich Hepner was spotted by the Magic Band whilst they were on tour. Hepner was playing guitar in a band called the Fantabulous Jags at a bar in Denver. The Jags’ gimmick was the preposterously huge pompadour hairstyles all the band sported (see pic. Rich is second from top).
His playing was sufficiently impressive for Alex St Claire to move from guitar to drums to accomodate him. Although he was only in the band a short while he did get to record on the A&M sessions with them as well as playing a number of live gigs. John French recalls seeing him play and was very impressed with his B.B. King style blues licks.
Rich’s brother, Tom, contacted us to give us a bit of background information:
He is eight years my senior from my dad’s first marriage so I didn’t really know him well until I was in my 20s. Rich left home he was around 16, joined the Air Force when he was 17 so we didn’t see him for almost a decade.
We grew-up in Napa, Calif. He told me once that when he was a teenager, he would sneak into the blues clubs in Vallejo. That’s where he fell in love with the blues. Even though he has the best BB style vibrato I’ve ever heard, I believe Albert King was his favorite player. When he was discharged from the military, he spent a few years in the south playing on the chitin circuit. He played a Standel (Deluxe 102) guitar which I believe, he still has.
Rich has continued to play since those days but currently no details are available.
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Hepner was in the right place at the right time, but I don’t believe was ever considered to be a permanent member of the Magic Band.
The Magic Band’s drummer, Vic Mortenson, was called up for military service (Vietnam war era), only weeks before Beefheart and band were to make their first recordings for a major label, A&M Records. They won the privilege by winning a Los Angeles radio station-sponsored “battle of the bands”–with Mortenson. And it was, founder and at-the-time leader of the band, Snouffer who made the call to cover on drums and have Hepner play his parts on the scheduled dates.
The band fortunately then found its drummer in John French, Drumbo, the most longstanding member of the group. I consider him the most valuable member of the band, due to the assistance he provided in furthering the Beefheart sound. Probably a result of being the most well-rounded and trained musician in the group, he charted Beefheart’s ideas into something the band could follow. Otherwise, Beefheart’s ideas may have remained just that.
Richard Hepner is still kicking ass he still tours with some of the Greats.
“He’s my Uncle”…….
Wanting to contact Richard Hepner. Iam still in Napa, Calif
Looking for Richard Hepner. I am his sister Glenna and I still live in Napa. In the late 80’s and 90’s he lived at my home in the Coombsville area. We lost touch for years and I would like to find him again.
Hi Glenna, sorry but we’ve had no contact with Rich. I did have Tom contact me a few years ago and earlier this year he posted on Facebook but I’ve not been able to contact him either now. Regards, Steve
I’m Richard’s sister Glenna Hepner. Are u one of Rhea or Ronnie’s children? I still live in Napa Cal. He’s lived with me a couple of times but I haven’t been able to get a hold of him for years. He always talked about his sisters. Anytime we tried to do anything to show off to him he would always say Rhea and Ronnie can do it better. I met Estrella when I was very young. I saw yr name on this site and finally remembered the last name Roy. Hope u r well.
Glenna Hepner I’m Richard Roy, Richard is my Uncle and one of the most talented Blues / Rock Players that I’ve had the pleasure to hear live. Please give me a call 619-371-3281
I have a friend Tom Green who played with Rich in Wichita Kansas. He called to let me know that Rich passed away Nov 16th 2019. He was married to women in Canada. So sorry for the sad news we’re any of you related to the Curry’s in Napa. The last time we saw Rich was in 1976 but he Kept in touch with Tom Green thru the years
Sad to hear this. Are you sure it’s true? I’ve had contact with his brother Tom since then and he didn’t mention it!
Yes Ian sorry it is true. Another musician by the name of Gary Stephens that lives in washington state was very close with Rich. He got a call from Riches wife that he had passed away. He had been in very poor health for quite some time. I believe he had cancer
Had his brother Tom talked with Rich? You might let Glenna know
I will confirm that my Uncle did pass some time ago. He fought a good fight But in the end his lord wanted him back to play in the Best Rock Blues Band ever assembled.
I was in contact with his brother Tom and then it went silent.
Wierdly enough today I was decommissioning my computer and there was an email in there from his brother.
Looking forward to reaching out to Tom.
Uncle Richard was one cool cat.