When Richard Pryor Sang The Blues
Best known for his comedy, Richard Pryor performed a moving blues standard on TV in the 1960s.
While these days Richard Pryor is known for his many outrageous comedy antics, he was a lot less controversial in the early 1960s and often appeared on TV variety shows.
During 1966 Richard worked as a writer and regular performer on The Kraft Summer Music Hall, a music and comedy variety show which ran as a spinoff from the long running Kraft Music Hall. Of the eleven summer episodes, Richard appeared in five.
On August 8 1966, the show featured standup comedy routines by Richard and ends with him joining the cast to sing a medley about rivers. The episode isn’t available online, but Vulture previously wrote about it in detail, noting, “Based on his enthusiasm I can’t tell if he was forced to do it or if he requested it. Either way, hearing Richard Pryor sing was the last thing I expected from the Kraft Music Hour.”
Although it was unexpected, he did perform at least one other song, and that has thankfully been shared on YouTube.
In the episode from August 1, host John Davidson introduces him as follows:
There’s a funny thing about show business. Many times singers want to be actors or serious actors just dying to be comics, you know to say a funny line. And sometimes comedians want to sing. Now take Richard Pryor for example. He’s been a guest many times on the show and he’s always a clown, right? We all know him for being a clown. But we found out that Richard's secret desire is to be a singer, is to sing. Well there’s no secret anymore because here is another one of the many talents of Richard Pryor.
Following a burst of applause, Richard appears on stage clicking his fingers along to a double bass and sings Nobody Wants You When You’re Down and Out. Watch it here.