Richard (aka Dick) Clay was born in Holbeach in South Lincolnshire but came to Leeds University and stayed on in Leeds. He learnt violin as a child and then, in his teens, took up mandolin and guitar. He played in several folk, jazz and rock bands in the Leeds area, (notably “Nonesuch”, "The New Metronome All Stars", and "Bop City") collaborating firstly with singer/guitarist Pete McGuffin and later with keyboard and bass player Andy Macgill. “Nonesuch”, in a concert at Leeds Met, supported the duo The Sallyangie - the young Mike Oldfield and his sister - and also supported The Strawbs in a concert at Leeds Town Hall.
Richard did little serious music for nearly twenty years as family and career took up more time, though he did organise music for young people in his time as a teacher. He ran school jazz bands (the jazz pianist Robin Aspland started his career in one of Richard's bands, as did the world music instrumentalist Adrian Freedman) wrote musicals and concert pieces, and played guitar, violin, double bass, french horn, and saxophone in school bands and orchestras. He also sang in, and composed for, the Leeds Teachers' Choir.
With children growing up he eventually started performing again. He formed the folk-rock band "Rattlebag" with Simon Kilner and Pete 'Peanut' Turner, and they were later joined by James Whelan and Beth Harris. When Rattlebag split up he formed the acoustic trio "Mulberry Blue" with Beth and James, which enjoyed considerable success around the Yorkshire area for a couple of years. When Beth left Mulberry Blue to pursue her teaching career, Richard and James continued performing under the name "Mixing up the Medicine" playing blues, bluegrass, and their own original songs. Both "Mulberry Blue" and "Mixing up the Medicine" played support spots for US singer/songwriter Tom Pacheco on his UK tours.
Richard collaborated with many musicans on the Yorkshire folk/acoustic scene during that period. He performed in a duo with Tim Light, with Nick Hall of the Hall Brothers, and with Dave Allen and Barry Smith in The Allensmith. In 2008 Richard and Beth Harris reformed Mulberry Blue (as The New Mulberry Blue - a five piece rock band) with Alec Taylor on guitar, Richard's son Matthew Clay on Bass, and drummer Al Roberto).
This lineup didn't last long, but the core of the band evolved into "The Other Band" with singer Andy Dunderdale replacing Beth Harris, and new drummer Tom Dunderdale. This band also proved to be short lived.
In 2009 he then put together the more successful six-piece folk/rock band "Mahogany Monkey" with singer and whistle player Barry Smith and Alec and Tom from "The Other Band". Added musicians were Richard's Leeds based daughter Sophie Clay on fiddle, and her partner Patrick Gilligan on bass. They played regularly at festivals and concert venues all over the north of England until the summer of 2011.
Richard, Sophie and Patrick began playing trio sets of more jazz style songs at some Mahogany Monkey gigs. The three of them joined up with singer/guitarist/ entertainer Kevin Hicks, and began gigging in the York area as a jazz/folk quartet under the name "Eclectic Sparks". They were offered a residency at The Slip Inn and have subsequently played at many other venues in the York and Leeds area to increasing acclaim.
Richard plays an Oakwood Teardrop Special, originally an 8-string mandolin but now fitted with only four strings, and sometimes a custom built four-string solid body electric mandolin made especially for him by Otley based instrument builder Ani McNeice in the shape of a VOX guitar. Both mandolins go through a Zoom effects pedal which he uses to get sounds that are very uncharacteristic for a mandolin. He says four rather than eight strings on the mandolins allow him to play with a cleaner sound, and more speed and attack They also make it possible to use the guitar effects.
Richard's first career was as a physics teacher in Leeds but he left teaching in 2006 to join the publications department of the Stockholm Environment Institute. After living in Bishopthorpe, near York, for a decade he has now returned to Leeds.