There is a distinct evolution in the music career of Richie Tipton. From his early days as the frontman for bands adhering to a hard-edged, southern-influenced sound, through experimental projects bordering on industrial rock, up to the present day where he produces genre-defying, soul-filled rock. Through it all, is a common thread of truth in what he does. That truth lies in his obedience to the voice within him. His ability to channel that voice is what appeals to those who have faithfully followed his career.

His latest release, Basin in the Rock, is the culmination of his history as a musician. The sound is pure and organic, inspired by his days at Verde Farm where he escaped from a life of hustling and found an existence surrounded by nature. His inner voice has changed its tune from one of angst and uncertainty, to one of life, love, and contemplation. He not only listened, he fertilized it, cultivated it, and produced his most organic recording to date.

Here’s a look back at Richie Tipton’s musicology. It is the path of an artist who has consistently pursued the sound best expressing the voice that drives him.

The Maxx Gibz Band

The Mountainfest Jam, 1982, Richie Tipton stepped up to the microphone as the singer/guitarist for the Maxx Gibz Band and let it rip. The rush of performing original music in front of a crowd was then forever etched into his psyche at the age of 19. “I just wanted to have as much fun as I could,” Tipton said. Among the highlights of The Maxx Gibz Band’s run, was opening for Warren Haynes, who would later join The Allman Brothers Band and form Gov’t Mule. At the time, Haynes was in his early twenties and had just branched out from his role as a guitarist with country music legend David Alan Coe.

The Maxx Gibz Band Lineup:
Richie Tipton - Vocals
Darrell Sherlin-Guitar
David Bradley-Bass/Vocals
Darrel Cole-Drums
Brian Martin-Guitar

The Rattlesnakes

rattlesnakes 300 The Rattlesnakes were a southern-rock, boogie band, and Tipton’s first serious songwriting foray with a group. Their burgeoning songwriting skills landed them a spot on a regional compilation album with the song, “Living in The 90s.” The group also played an early Warren Haynes Christmas Jam, performing with Toy Caldwell, and playing “Brown Sugar,” with The Rolling Stones’, Bobby Keys. A trip to Nashville to record demos led Tipton to form “Praying for Rain” with members of Asheville’s Crystal Zoo. You can listen to some of our demos HERE.

Rattlesnakes Lineup:
Richie Tipton - Vocals
David Bradley-Bass Guitar
Bill Altman-Guitar
Billy Bowden-Drums
Brad Durden-Keyboards

Praying for Rain

prayingforrain 300Tipton joined Praying for Rain in November 1991 as a vocalist and songwriter. Praying for Rain was a pure rock band rooted in the tradition of southern rock and blues-based music. The band released one album, "When a Rooster Crows", which was recorded at Waylon Jennings’ studio 1111 Sound in Nashville. The experience was one that would remain with him for a lifetime. Jennings, one of Tipton’s influences, would sometimes lurk around the studio while the band was recording. “I would see him eating a hamburger, telling stories about Jimmy Bowen and laughing,” Tipton said. Tipton credits his experience with Praying for Rain as being the period where he gained a new perspective on the art of songwriting. You can listen to songs from "When A Rooster Crows" HERE.

Praying for Rain lineup:
Richie Tipton - Vocals
Mike Barnes - Lead Guitar (Formerly of Rock City Angels)
Jeff Anders - Rhythm Guitar
David Bradley - Bass Guitar/Vocals
Rocky Lindsley

NC Rail

rail 300After years of performing in mainstream rock bands, Tipton’s artistic voice stirred and urged him to do something different. That something different emerged with NC Rail, a band some described as Nine Inch Nails meets Johnny Cash. Tipton’s alter ego, Ray Gene Hardin, came to the surface and became the voice of the band. NC Rail gained a strong regional following throughout the Carolinas and Georgia, and the bands fans were glossed with the name Railbillies. NC Rail shared bills with bands like Jason and the Scorchers, Southern Culture on the Skids, and Cry of Love. To this day, the phrase “Rail yeah!” can often be heard when Tipton takes the stage. The NC Rail years also led to a partnership with Matthew Knights, who still frequently collaborates with Tipton on projects.

The NC Rail lineup:
Richie “Ray Gene Hardin” Tipton - Vocals
Matthew Knights - Lead Guitar
Rudy Colombo-Guitar
Frank Roberts-Drums
James Barnette-Bass

Rooster Tones

Richie Tipton returned to a more mainstream sound and realigned himself with Jeff Anders, of Praying For Rain, to form the band Rooster Tones. His growth as a vocalist, songwriter, and musician, continued in this project. It was during this era, between 1997-2000, that Tipton began finding new ways to express himself vocally by adding Faron-Young like vibrato to his delivery. While with Rooster Tones, Tipton wrote the song Laundromat Heart, which later appeared on Basin In the Rock, released in 2012.

Rooster Tones lineup:
Richie Tipton - Vocals
Jeff Anders -Guitar
David Bradley-Bass Guitar
Scott Raines-Lead Guitar
Rocky Lindsley-Drums

Solo Era

Major life changes, including a move to Huntington, West Virginia, pulled Richie Tipton away from the community of musicians he’d bonded with in his career to this point, but that didn’t stand in the way of his continuing to seek the stage. For the first time in his career, he took the stage backed by nothing but the guitar strapped around his neck. His high-energy style of performing still shone through even without a band backing him. The new experience allowed him to focus on writing songs in a voice uniquely his own. Songs written during his days of performing solo would also later appear on recordings by Richie Tipton and the First Kings.

Billy the Six

Richie Tipton describes Billy the Six as a cousin to NC Rail, as it too was a project filled with creative expression and experimentation. Unlike the material performed by many of his other bands, the songs of Billy the Six were born of rage and angst. “It was certainly a political statement,” he said. Though short-lived, Billy the Six made an impression during several shows in Asheville, including performances at Stella Blue.

The Billy the Six lineup:
Richie Tipton - Vocals/Guitar
David Bradley-Bass Guitar
Billy Bowden-Drums
Rudy Colombo-Guitar


Richie Tipton and the First Kings

richie tipton greenearth mother shutter 300After spending several years separated from the community of musicians he’d bonded with in the Asheville area, Richie Tipton returned home with a new collection of songs. He then realigned himself with the likes of Matthew Knights and Jeff Anders to create Richie Tipton and the First Kings, produced by Anders. The result was a good-times rock recording with a traditional sound. The band recorded their self-titled album at Echo Mountain, a former church turned recording studio, in Asheville. The setting for the recording, a studio where Band of Horses and Tom Petty recorded, was as much an influence on the sound, as was Tipton’s reunion with old friends. The unit played in Asheville at venues like The Orange Peel, and also in Tipton’s new home in West Virginia. You can purchase "Richie Tipton and the First Kings" on CD Baby -

Richie Tipton and the First Kings lineup:
Richie Tipton -- Vocals/Guitar
Matthew Knights - Guitar
David Bradley-Bass Guitar
Rocky Lindsley-Drums

Richie Tipton, Basin in the Rock

In 2012, Richie Tipton entered Matthew Knights Williams' Spartanburg studio and recorded Basin in the Rock. This collection of songs was a departure from previous projects, in that the lyrical content was reflective of a man who had spent the previous 20 years performing for crowds throughout the south. The songs on Basin in the Rock were also inspired by Tipton’s new life on Verde Farms, a place whose natural setting proved inspirational. “On the farm I have time to think,” he said. “Here you pick up the guitar and songs just come out of you.” Basin in the Rock featured something new for Tipton. The final track, “Beautiful Satan” was recorded nearly acapella (See Live Performance). The only accompanying instrumentation is one low, steady note held throughout the song. You can purchase "Basin in the Rock on CD Baby - and on iTunes -