Richard Hadlock (1927-2022)

Richard Hadlock

Richard Hadlock of Berkeley, California was born in Schenectady, NY, spent his childhood in rural New England and his teenage years in Rio de Janeiro (his father was President of RCA-Brasil).  He played in an Army band in Arkansas, 1946-47.  Dick studied clarinet with Garvin Bushell in 1952-56;, and had further studies with Lee Konitz.

The chapter of his mentoring by Sidney Bechet is significant, but didn’t care for being treated as a personal assistant. Yet flashes of the master’s tone and technique were undeniable in Dick’s soprano saxophone sound.

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He performed with the Red Onion Jazz Band. And after 1958 in the San Francisco Bay Area he played with Pops Foster, Elmer Snowden, Kid Ory, Joe Sullivan, Muggsy Spanier, Ralph Sutton, Burt Bales, Amos White, Frank Goudie , Roger Bell, Dave Dallwitz, Ade Monsbourgh, Bob Helm, Bob Mielke and many others.

(Courtesy The Mississippi Rag)

If you read Hadlock’s landmark book, Jazz Masters of the 20s (1965) or his well-considered liner notes, you might have thought of him primarily as a brilliant jazz journalist. He wrote for Down Beat and Metronome magazines. But he also owned and edited The Record Changer magazine (1956-58).

Richard worked for RCA and Fantasy Records (1956-60) and was jazz editor for the San Francisco Examiner (1961-65).

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You might easily think of him as primarily a jazz musician. Hadlock played most of the saxophone family and clarinet exquisitely. First graduating to professional musician in 1957, he was hired by Turk Murphy to replace the departing Bill Napier and handed a book of some 300 tunes to learn in a week.

(Courtesy The MississippiRag)

In the 1980s and ‘90s, Hadlock’s interpretive 20th Century Masters performance series educated and entertained Bay Area audiences. Informative and tuneful, the concerts celebrated great American songwriters Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Fats Waller, George Gershwin and Duke Ellington.

Those who listened to his Annals of Jazz radio programs broadcast on various San Francisco radio stations since 1959 think of Hadlock as a broadcast oracle.

In the San Francisco Bay Area during the 1970 and ‘80s Richard (he preferred that to Dick in later years) performed frequently with cornet player Leon Oakley, pianist Ray Skjelbred, trombonist Bob Mielke and in Dick Oxtot’s bands.  Singers Barbara Dane and Barbara Lashley were friends and colleagues.


Lashley Hadlock Tiburon 1985
With Barbara Lashley at Old St. Hilary Church, Tiburon, CA, 1985.

Hadlock developed an uncanny ability to emulate Lester Young’s distinctive tenor saxophone tone, cadence and rhythm.  Yet he always brought a fresh musical perspective to the Jazz idiom.

Richard garnered a Grammy nomination with his liner notes for a Time-Life Giants of Jazz box set. In 2020, he was honored with the Marian McPartland-Willis Conover Award for Lifetime Achievement by the Jazz Journalists Association.

This only hints at the gentle humanity, humility, generosity, skill, dedication and exquisite music making of Richard Hadlock.

Published Obituary from San Francisco Chronicle

Dave Radlauer is a six-time award-winning radio broadcaster presenting early Jazz since 1982. His vast JAZZ RHYTHM website is a compendium of early jazz history and photos with some 500 hours of exclusive music, broadcasts, interviews and audio rarities.

Radlauer is focused on telling the story of San Francisco Bay Area Revival Jazz. Preserving the memory of local legends, he is compiling, digitizing, interpreting and publishing their personal libraries of music, images, papers and ephemera to be conserved in the Dave Radlauer Jazz Collection at the Stanford University Library archives.

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