By Bob Marovich
JGM was saddened to learn from Debra Ligon and Libra Boyd’s post that singer and guitarist Richard Wallace of the Mighty Clouds of Joy passed away Monday, July 27, 2020.
According to essays by Opal Nations, Richard Edward Wallace was born June 9, 1940, in Austin, Texas. He and his brother Lee O’Daniel migrated west to Los Angeles and, in 1956, joined the Stars of Bethel, a quartet that included cousins from Texas who had moved to LA ahead of them. The quartet later changed its name to the Stars of Bethlehem and cut an album for Ensign Records in 1960.
Sometime that same year, Wallace, along with members of the Sensational Wonders quartet Ermant Franklin, Elmo Franklin, Leon Polk, David Walker, and former Clouds member-turned-Sensational-Wonder Willie Joe Ligon, joined Johnny Martin in a reconstituted version of the Mighty Mighty Clouds of Joy. Shortly thereafter, the quartet signed a long-term contract with Peacock Records, leaving one “Mighty” off their name.
Interestingly, Wallace had recorded for Peacock two years prior to the signing, when he played guitar behind the Alpha-Omega Singers’ 1958 sides for the Houston-based imprint.
In 2005, Wallace told Clint Yeatts of KLTV that he got saved while a member of the Clouds. “I lived, I call it a sinful life,” Wallace said. “Singing for God on the stage but not living for Him after I left the stage. Although I was in the church I was not living saved, but then God saved me. What I mean be that he gave me his Holy Ghost, the peace within to know that He is the reason I even exist.”
The Mighty Clouds of Joy went on to win GRAMMY Awards and become one of the top quartets of the 1960s and 1970s.
Wallace remained with the Clouds for the remainder of his career, leaving the parent group in 2010 to form his own iteration of the Mighty Clouds.
JGM extends its sympathies to the family, friends, and many fans of the late Richard Wallace.