Richard D. Kelley, longtime L.A. Philharmonic bassist, dies at 76

Richard D. Kelley, a bassist whose tenure with the Los Angeles Philharmonic lasted nearly six decades, died on Tuesday at 76. The musician died at his home in La Puente following a long battle with cancer, according to an orchestra spokeswoman.

Kelley was one of the orchestra’s longest serving musicians at the time of his retirement in October. He joined the bass section in 1956 at the age of 19. During his 57-year tenure, he played under six different music directors, most recently with Gustavo Dudamel. (Kelley’s tenure with the L.A. Philharmonic began 44 years before Dudamel was born.)

Kelley came from a family of Southern California musicians. His father, Richard, was also a bassist with the L.A. Philharmonic, joining in 1930, also at age 19, and playing with the orchestra for close to five decades. His brother, Ray, was a cellist with the orchestra from 1963 to ’68.


Outside of music, Kelley was a devout Jehovah’s Witness and had a passion for deep-sea fishing and tennis, according to the orchestra.

The L.A. Philharmonic said that Kelley was known for his sense of humor during rehearsals, sometimes making outlandish comments and spontaneous outbursts.

Before the L.A. Philharmonic, he joined the Dallas Symphony at age 18 and played there for one season.

Kelley is survived by his wife of 57 years, Marge; three siblings; four children; seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.


Critic’s Notebook: Music that’s all over the map

Music review: A howl for Allen Ginsberg — or his mom?

Review: Susanna Malkki conducts a knockout program at L.A. Phil


INTERACTIVE: Christopher Hawthorne’s On the Boulevards

CHEAT SHEET: Spring Arts Preview

PHOTOS: Arts and culture in pictures