Ricky David Tripp is the most seen and heard musical entertainer in Arkansas except for those with major label recording contracts. His first television appearance was in 1968 at the age of 14 on KATV Channel 7's 'The Vic Ames Show,' appearing with the legendary former member of the famed Ames Brothers and the Henry Shedd Trio, an artist who went on to considerable critical success.
With brother Mike Tripp, he burst onto the local music scene in Arkansas during the mid-1970s as one of The Tripp Brothers, and later as The Tripp Brothers Band, focusing on the acoustic stylings of artists like James Taylor, Dan Fogelberg and John Denver, performing in popular central Arkansas area night spots and restaurants for the remainder of the decade. In 1980, a major opportunity was brought to the Tripps when they were approached by Deborah Sage Rockefeller, who was heading up a television production company, Loverock, and made the Tripp Brothers a centerpiece of a regionally syndicated musical variety television series pilot, 'Illusions.'
The show also included performers Craig Morris (later of 4 Runner fame with the hit, 'Cain's Blood') and Doug Phelps, who would later join The Kentucky Headhunters, a multi-platinum selling band of the mid-to-late 90s.
The show, which broadcast over a five state area over NBC affiliates in 1980-81, put Ricky David Tripp into a regional limelight, and as Tripp likes to joke, his first and only time to be in TV Guide. After the completion of their Loverock contracts, Ricky turned his attention in 1987 to a new cable network devoted to country music. With the support of a local radio station and then-Storer Cable (now Comcast), Tripp emerged from a field of more than 30 local performers to win a spot on the legendary 'You Can Be A Star!' show on The Nashville Network (TNN) hosted by Grand Ole Opry member and fellow Arkansan Jim Ed Brown.
Tripp went on to compete through two weeks of finals, emerging as one of the final four in the national cable music program. Chosen to win by Capitol Records' celebrity panel, with the highest scores ever given to a finalist in the history of the show, a quirky reversal by two members of a five man audience panel shifted the win in the final seconds to a Salt Lake City male singer. Interest from Capitol Records executives continued until an unfortunate power shift in the label took out the top three officers for the label. All the same, popular with both viewers and producers, Tripp was invited back to perform on numerous other TNN shows, and logged more than 47 broadcast performances on The Nashville Network between 1987 and 1994.
Just five years after 'You Can Be A Star,' in 1992, Tripp got another shot, this time at the biggest country music competition in the world -- The True Value/GMC Truck Country Showdown. Describing his brand of country music as being closer to Glen Campbell than to George Jones, Tripp came out of a national field of more than 60,000 performers to take the stage with Kenny Rogers, Louise Mandrell and Doug Stone in Branson MO at the Grand Palace, the largest theatre in the entertainment district, winning $50,000 and an RCA recording contract. He was named 'Best New Artist in Country Music' with the national title of the 11th Annual Showdown, a program now in its 27th year sponsored by Colgate Palmolive.
Tripp later enjoyed opening act status with the likes of Vince Gill, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Kathy Mattea, Glen Campbell and Jerry Jeff Walker. Once again, label reorganizations forced Tripp out of the picture as RCA's BNA Entertainment label took an unfortunate but temporary fall from grace in the music industry, with all but one of their major artists leaving the label.
In early 2001, Tripp came back with a new patriotic song penned by Dr. George Simon, 'America, My Home,' which was met with lukewarm response until the attacks of September 11 -- after which his phone rang off the hook. Tripp was included with recording artist Tracy Lawrence (with whom he had once appeared on TNN's 'Crook and Chase') in a patriotic event staged by then-Governor Mike Huckabee at the Riverfront Ampitheatre, attended by 25,000 Arkansans who gave Tripp a standing ovation. The event was also reported on by ABC and CNN, and the song was played over the Armed Forces Radio Network.
After performing 'America, My Home' for thousands throughout the state, including many military groups and bases during 2002, a corporate sponsor then flew Tripp to Las Vegas to the Mirage Hotel in early 2003 to appear and perform the song in a program that also included former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Democratic advisor James Carville. Unfortunately, during this trip, the space shuttle Columbia crashed, and Tripp's performance for the packed Mirage crowd became a tribute to the fallen astronauts.
Since those days, Tripp has become friends with 60s folk and pop legend Jimmie Rodgers (of 'Honeycomb' fame) who has taken a mentor role in Tripp's musical life. Now in his 70s, Rodgers has recently completed work on an autobiography, and a related script is being presented for a movie release. Once a movie deal has been secured, Rodgers has approached Tripp about recording a CD of original songs by Rodgers that have never been released!
Tripp met his prospective producer, Pat McGrath, and showcased his talents for him in early 2007. Plans will advance for a national CD release once a movie deal for the Rodgers book has been finalized to maximize the project's visibility and interest.
Rodgers had more than three dozen chart singles during his exciting early career, including 'Kisses Sweeter Than Wine,' 'Child of Clay,' (one of Tripp's personal favorites) and the popular ballad, 'It's Over,' (penned by Rodgers) which was also recorded by Glen Campbell and Elvis Presley. (Learn more at www.jimmie-rodgers.com).
While waiting to begin the Rodgers project, Tripp continues to perform in the central Arkansas area and has entered his fifth year as a featured entertainer at The Wyndham Hotel of North Little Rock AR, inside their popular Riverfront Steakhouse. He appears there four nights each week, Wednesday through Saturday, performing music and magic.
Tripp is also an accomplished magician who went 'pro' back in 1999, doing appearances statewide for a major fundraising company in the elementary and middle schools. He has recently expanded his Magic Rick Enterprises to provide quality magical entertainment for adults, children, families and corporate events.
He was inducted in 2007 into Ring 29 of the International Brotherhood of Magicians (IBM), a by-invitation-only organization that includes many of the top magicians in the world today.
He resides in Benton, Arkansas with his wife Barbara in a home built by the widow of (and next to the former home of) the late Charlie Rich, a country music superstar of the 1970s ("Behind Closed Doors," "The Most Beautiful Girl.")