If you have gone out around town and listened to live music there is a good chance you have heard Ricky Stanfield play. Ricky is one of those exceptionally gifted musicians. The kind that has music pulsing in their soul. With a quick wit and a desert dry sense of humor Stanfield brings a sharp yet mellow control to the stage.
I got the chance to talk with Ricky and his passion for music shone through his words. His first memories of playing music he credits to his grandpa. When he was 11 his grandfather gave him a “really heavy Squire Strat.” Ricky liked the Beatles, especially “The Ballad of John and Yoko.” and it was with that that he taught himself to play.
It was two years later that he got his first bass and began formal instruction with Tom Lavato. When asked about his first time playing in public, he shared that it was with Lavato on a flatbed trailer outside of a church in Poplar Bluff Missouri. He added with a smile, “He was great. He’s still kickin around Branson somewhere.”.
I asked when he first knew he wanted to play professionally, “I always figured that’s what I wanted to do since way back then and not much has really changed. Just different genres a few different times.” After that first show Ricky played at a local coffee shop with Tom and it was then he started learning to play the drums.
It wasn’t until he moved to Florida at the age of 16 that he played the drums on stage. He joined a band with Christian Mayes and Scott Shovea called “The Trees.” It was then that Stanfield finally thought it was something cool and he could make money doing it. The young band’s first show was at Walton County Fair. After that The Trees played in local venues for quite a few years.
After the breakup of The Trees Stanfield tried his hand at the banjo. While he was mastering the art of picking he played drums with a heavy metal band in Panama City. Around the same time Ricky and Jimi Hall started playing Bluegrass and formed the “Funky Groovy Cowboys.” After a short run with Hall Ricky joined the touring band “Blue Ribbon Healers” playing drums. “I did that for about a year. Then I left town. Had a baby. Came back and started playing Bluegrass seriously.’” Soon the well sought after “Dismal Creek” was born. While exploring the roots of Bluegrass Ricky met a banjo playing mentor named Bob Reese through the “banjohangout.org.” Stanfield states,” We are still great friends and he has been huge in me finding the real hidden Bluegrass world here in the Florida Panhandle. I started going to Laurel Hill and Henderson Alabama Bluegrass Festivals meeting more and more people and getting my musical butt kicked all while receiving the most gracious hospitality from strangers. I’d never seen anything like it and I was hooked.”
Ricky Stanfield plays a wide variety of instruments in all genres. Guitar, Bass, Banjo, Mandolin, Drums, some Keys, Dobro, Fiddle, Accordion and even the Clarinet. He says he had a Pedal Steel for a bit and it was really hard but he loved it and will revisit it eventually. I asked Stanfield how he was able to be so versatile in his playing. His answer, “ It’s all about rhythm and syncopation. Every instrument.You can just play one note over and over but if you play it with feel that sits in the tune in a certain way you can put a signature stank to it. That’s what separates players. That is what I hear when I listen and what I strive for when I play. Oh! And no video games.”
Today Ricky has two beautiful children and you can find him playing with the church band at A Simple Faith and banjo with “Longleif Drive” for Sunday brunch at Stinky’s on 30A.