Rickey Godfrey


“I’ve been playing guitar since I was 13. Though my main axe is the guitar, my first instrument was piano, which I started playing at the age of 6. People say I’m mostly a blues and soul guitarist, but I see myself as more versatile!”

Whether you’re talking vocals or instrumental ability, guitarist Rickey Godfrey brings an excitement to the stage we don’t often experience. His music is known for its gritty soul sound, frequently featuring the multi-talented artist on both guitar and keys. Godfrey is considered to be one of Nashville’s premier blues guitarists, although he has not yet achieved national renown. After performing at the Lowcountry Blues Bash in Charleston, S.C., festival organizer Gary Erwin said, “Revelation – Rickey Godfrey is the best blues guitarist you’ve never heard of!” In a recent interview, Don Wise, longtime saxophonist for Delbert McClinton , said, “Rickey Godfrey is the real deal. He’s a wild man on guitar … and I was stunned the first time I heard him play piano. He does it all … an amazing musician.”

Godfrey brings an electrifying blend of hot rockin’ blues and hip-shakin’ soul to every performance. Blind since birth, he started studying classical piano and voice at the age of seven, while attending the South Carolina School for the Blind, and, at age 13, began playing guitar as well. “Because I was a keyboard player first, I have a real insight into chord triad formations and their inversions, ” he says. “I also have a thorough understanding of harmonic progression and the most commonly used series of chords.”

At 16, Rickey Godfrey joined his first band, the Fresh Licks, a rock band that won the 1972 South Carolina Battle of the Bands. In 1974, he and his brother Ronnie Godfrey, formed their own band, Garfeel Ruff, along with Franklin Wilkie, Buddy Strong and the late drum legend Alan Pearson. The group signed with Capitol Records in 1978. While with Capitol, Garfeel Ruff scored and performed most of the soundtrack for the movie, The Hitter. In 1979, Garfeel Ruff recorded its third LP, Born To Play, but before it was released, the band broke up. Soon afterwards, bassist Wilkie joined the Marshall Tucker Band.

Godfrey recorded a solo album, Let the Big Dog Eat, in 1983. Musicians on the LP included Toy Caldwell, Paul Riddle and George McCorkle from Marshall Tucker Band; Harvey Dalton Arnold from the Outlaws; and Artemis Pyle from Lynyrd Skynyrd. Later in the eighties he worked with well-known boogie pianist Rudy Blue Shoes, and played gigs with Sonny Turner, of the Platters; Bill Pinckney, of the Drifters, and Junior Walker and the All Stars.

Since moving to Nashville in 1993, Godfrey has worked with artists such as Donna Fargo, Rufus Thomas, Sam Moore, Billy Preston, the Box Tops, Clifford Curry, Marion James, Bobby Hebb, Johnny Jones, E. G. Kight, and Cash McCall, just to name a few, and Rickey has been performing throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe. In 1995, Godfrey was playing with the Amy Watkins Blues Band when it won best unsigned band in Nashville and went to the nationals in Memphis where the group received Honorable Mention in the final competition. In 1998, playing with Richard Waters & the Blues Boyz, Godfrey was again a winner, this time over 35 other bands in the Pete’s Wicked Ale contest.

He has been nominated by the Music City Blues Society as both Guitarist and Keyboard Player of the Year.

In February 2003, Godfrey formed the Rickey Godfrey Band, which catered to R&B and blues audiences in the Carolinas. The band released its first CD, Soul Sensations. The next year, the group garnered four CBMA awards including, Group of the Year, Producer of the Year, Group Album and Song of the Year, “Can’t Change My Heart” which was the number one song in Carolina charts for 13 months in a row. During 2005, the band posted three additional Top Tens.

Winter 2006 saw the completion of the Once In a Lifetime Love CD, released on Mossland Records in March. The band went on to storm the 2006 CBMAs again, earning awards for Blues Album of the Year, Group of the Year and Group Album of the Year .

Over the last several months, Godfrey has been writing, composing and recording for his upcoming – and as yet, untitled – blues album. Local blues fans love it whenever he’s able to stop by the Nashville All-Pro Blues Jam at the Bourbon Street Blues & Boogie Bar in Nashville, Tenn. Godfrey performs a solo act as well as working with his trio or five-piece band. He often plays with southern rockers Donnie Winters, of the Winters Brothers and former bandmate Frank Wilkie, as well as the Southern Rock All Stars. Fresh from sessions work with Greenville, S.C. artist Chocolate Thunder, he also appeared with the band at the 2009 Montreal Jazz Festival.

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