A New York native, Richie Strell spent his early years surrounded by music during a turbulent time in history. His father Philip was a piano player and also played some sweet harmonica and gave Rich his first harmonica and harmonica lesson when he was just 8 yearls old. All the folk song books of the era were around the house and Phil would play them all for family and friends.
In the late 50's Richie became obsessed with the new Rock & Roll and collected 45 records of the likes of Elvis, Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, Del Shannon and many others. Then in the summers of the 1960's Strell would attend a summer camp where music seemed to be everywhere and he learned some basic guitar and played a bit more harmonica and sang with his fellow campers all the protest songs of the era. That led to his infatuation with the up and coming folk singers of the time. As a young teenager in the early 1960's he found a sneaky way to see many Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger and Peter Paul & Mary concerts at Carnegie Hall.
In the 70's Richie collected many LPs and went on to enjoy many other folk artists like Tim Buckley, Leonard Cohen, Richie Havens, Phil Ochs, Paul Robeson, Judy Collins, Carol King and Joni Mitchell. His brother Alan turned him on to some of the early Bluegrass and Jug Band stuff with Flatts and Scruggs and Jim Kweskin.This also inspired both of The Strell Brothers to play the spoons. A family talent passed on also to their sister Wendy. Many trips to The Fillmore East to see the likes of The Grateful Dead, The Who, The Jefferson Airplane, Joe Cocker, Quicksilver, The Moody Blues, John Mayall, The Love Group and others… contributed to shaping Richie's musical tastes.
Strell's obsession for surfing, beginning on the Long Island beaches in 1964, nurtured his love for the music of The Beach Boys and caused him to relocate to the better waves of California. In the summer of 1969, on one of his surfing safaris, Strell had the fortune of staying at Carol King's home in Laurel Canyon and watching the great Gerry Goffin compose songs.
A bit later… The Blues kicked in with names like Paul Butterfied and Blood Sweat and Tears influencing his tastes. His cousin Joel Itzkowitz played harmonica with some of the early Blues greats in Chicago and had a profound influence on Richie's desire to play harp.
His childhood friend Alli Lubin went on to be a folk singer in Vermont and inspired Richie to try to perform some of the music that was inside him. Richie appears on one of Alli's albums from the 1980's performing a duet on Alli's Lament…a song he composed. In the mid 1980's Richie took a song writing class with Nashville's great Hugh Prestwood. His song "Reno" came out of that class. Strell went on to write many more lyrical compositions and continues to do so today.
Work, family, friends and surfing dominated Strell's life throughout the decades, and it was only recently that Richie "came out of his shell" with a passion to release the music trapped inside…. and take the car and shower singing onto the stage. The weekly Bluegrass group in Encinitas provided the necessary nudge and Richie was off and running with the 5 piece band, The North County Boys, who performed throughout the San Diego area. Recently Richie has been taking advanced harmonica lessons with Dan Byrnes and the renowned TJ Klay which helped him to win a local harmonica competition at The 2015 San Diego Harp Fest.
Ultimately, Richie met JT Moring at the Swami's Encinitas Open Mic and the rest is history. He joined JT and Annie Rettic to form their current trio. It was a long time coming….but Strell is elated in being included on the current 2015 CD "Kids Ride Free" and hopes to be involved in many more musical projects with JT and Annie.
Strell still lives and thrives in the San Diego area with his beautiful wife Lia, a talented sculptor… and their 17 year old daughter Cori Ana who sings and plays guitar with amazing talent.