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Richard Gardner (King Richard)
Richard Gardner, long-time Omaha resident, is originally from Madill Oklahoma. Seventy-three years young, Richard was one of the most incredible guitar players and musician of all musicians to perform, in Omaha, Nebraska, for decades. Because he was one of the first musicians to pass on his incredible talents to all the younger players, he was lovingly called and referred to as ‘King Richard’.

King Richard was and is the father musician. He inspired every musician who game after him by being both a mentor and a supreme player. According to Richard, when he was about 11 or 12 years old, a family friend, coming out of the service, had an old guitar that he gave him. Both Richard and Wayne Bennett (who would one day become his brother-in-law), became interested in their musical roots. He and Wayne loved the music and started playing and teaching themselves. Wayne continued to play. Richard didn’t. At 18, King Richard joined the Air Force and put his music to the side. Wayne went on to play with people like Bobby Blue Band and other great musicians of their time. Wayne Bennett became one of the greats of his time.

After four years in the Service, King Richard, picked his instrument back up and began to play all over Omaha. At that time, there was the American Legion, the Offbeat, Allen’s Showcase, The Dreamland, and Johnny Owens’ place, to name a few. Omaha had become one of the ‘musical meccas’ throughout the United States from the 20’s on. King Richard was a big part of that history, playing heavily during the 50’s and 60’s, when the funky down home Blues was the highlight. King Richard married Shirley Bennett Gardner in the 50’s. His two brother-in-laws, Wayne and Jerry Bennett became world-class musicians, while King Richard was a world-class musician who graced the streets of Omaha for years to come.

Richard owned four barbershops in Omaha for 46 years. All the young guys used to hang out there, learning how to play from him and learning how to live from him. Calvin Keys, Larry Bell, and Wali Ali were some of his biggest fans and musical ‘sons’, so to speak. They went on to exemplify the music and talent they experienced through King Richard and his legacy.

Richard has either played, taught, or showcased with all of Omaha’s great music makers, such as, Preston Love, Richie Love, Lester Abrams, Mike Lewis, Henry Red, and many others. As far as we know, he hasn’t yet retired his guitar at 73 years old. King Richard is still as proficient as he was over 50 years ago, and whether you believe it or not, King Richard is still the King.