Story of...a Children's Entertainer

Richard Peeples, 53, and his quirky songs have delighted thousands of youngsters over the past decade.

Roberto Gonzalez

Richard Peeples, 53, and his quirky songs have delighted thousands of youngsters over the past decade. 

Ten years ago, Peeples, better known as Mr. Richard, left his Orange County Library job to forge a career as a musician and recording artist for children. Thousands of shows and five albums later, Mr. Richard and his guitar are a staple at kids’ birthday parties, festivals and bookstores across the city and beyond. 

“I sold 60 copies of my first CD at my first show. After I counted the money, I had enough to pay the rent and utilities that month. It kind of felt like I was headed in
the right direction.” 

Peeples does around 400 shows a year, mostly on his own but sometimes with a drummer and bass player. “My record is five shows in one day.” 

He writes all his own music. “My sound can be folksy, but my true leanings are pop rock. The Kinks, The Who, The Replacements. A couple of my songs have a Rolling Stones feel to them. You borrow from whomever you like.”

Kids are his muses, randomly giving him song ideas. “Some songs are from things I remember when I was a kid. They come from anywhere. Some drop right in your lap and some you labor over to get them right.” His songs typically feature foot-thumping beats kids can’t help but wiggle to or sing along with. The quirky subjects range from overflowing cereal bowls and missing front teeth to dog kisses and things that stink.

His strangest performance? “A lady called me because she promised her son that if he went poopy on the potty I would come to his house and play. He pooped, and I made it over to the house that week and played for him and a few friends and family.” 

He has performed at more than 2,000 birthday parties and usually does a couple each weekend, although he’s slowed his schedule down some since his wife, Danielle, was diagnosed with cancer in 2012. “Sometimes I wake up and I’m not in the mood, but the kids always get me in the mood. They’ve been a nice tonic lately.” 

For Peeples, kids are the ideal audience. “They’re smart and honest and they pick up if you’re fake and call you on it.” But the best part: “They don’t have cell phones and they pay attention.’’ 

Kids are also impressionable, something Peeples appreciates. “I’ve had moms tell me that their kid started playing an instrument because of my shows. It makes me proud to know I influence kids this way. I hope there will be a whole bunch of bands one day who’ll say when they were little they came to my shows. That would be a nice legacy.’’

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