Emil Richards started playing the xylophone at age six. While in tenth grade, he joined the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, working under Arthur Fielder and Frtiz Mahler. He is a graduate of Julius Hart School of Music and Hillard College.
Emil has worked with many of the world's top musicians throughout his successful career, and continues to be one of the first-call musicians in Los Angeles. He has toured and/or recorded with such artists as Bobby Hackett, Flip Phillips, Chris Connor, Charlie Mingus, Ed Shaunghnessy, Ed Thigpe, Perry Como, Ray Charles, Mitch Aires, George Shearing Quintet, Paul Horn Quintet, Jimmy Witherspoon, the Shorty Rogers Big Band, Lennie Bruce, Lord Buckly, Frank Sinatra, Nelson Riddle, Judy Garland, Sarah Vaughan, Doris Day, Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Bing Crosby, Nat Cole, Roger Kelloway and the Cello Quartet, Stan Kenton's NeoPhonic Orchestra, George Harrison, Ravi Shankar, and Frank Zappa's Electric Symphony, among many others.
Emil also helped to form many well-known groups, including the Hindustani Jazz Sextet, with Don Ellis; Micro-Tonal Blues Band, with Joe Porcaro and Dave Mackay; The New American Orchestra, comprised of 85 of Hollywood's finest musicians; and Calamari (with whom Emil continues to perform).
In response to a request from President John F. Kennedy in 1962, Emil and a small jazz combo joined Frank Sinatra on a tour around the world for the benefit of under-privileged children. This was the beginning of Emil's interest in and collection of ethnic percussion instruments. Emil continued to travel the world, studying and collecting ethnic percussion instruments. In 1976, he traveled to Sicily to trace his roots and to study the maranzano, the "Jew's harp". He stopped in England to record with George Harrison, and befriended one of the world's greatest percussionists, Sir James Blades.
He has also worked on countless film scores, in between all of his other activities. This has allowed him to play for some of his childhood heroes, including Bernard Herman, Dave Rakson, Alex North, Max Steiner, Lionel Newman, Hugo Friedhoffer, Walter Scharf, and Ernest Gold.
Emil won the National Academy of Arts and Sciences Most Valuable Player Award for six consecutive years, and was presented with the NARAS Emeritus Award. In 1994, he was inducted into the PAS Hall of Fame, having served on the Board of Directors. Emil donated his entire library of percussion books, along with a substantial number of his instrument collection, to the Percussive Arts Society's Percussion Museum. He still possesses over 650 percussion instruments in his personal collection.
Emil Richards, The Wonderful World of Percussion was recorded using several instruments from his collection, with Emil overdubbing all of the parts himself. He feels that there is a world of new and unusual sounds to be found and heard by marrying many of the percussion instruments together. This is a dedicated goal of Emil's projects and educational ventures. He has also served as head of the percussion department at the Los Angeles Music Academy, as well as on the Board of Directors of the Mister Holland's Opus Foundation.
Emil has recorded on over 1,350 film scores and counts over 650 artists with whom he has recorded and performed.
Emil lives in the Los Angeles area with his wife, Celeste, sons Claudio and Emilio Jr., and daughter Camille, with her husband Oliver Hecks, daughter Carolina, and little boy on the way.