Richard Palmer-James, also often referred to simply as Richard Palmer, has probably been most visible as a musician for co-founding Supertramp in 1969. He also achieved somewhat unusual recognition in the field of progressive rock as a writer in the mid-'70s, when he became the resident lyricist for the band King Crimson, from 1972 through 1974. He was born Richard Jeffrey Charles Palmer-James in Bournemouth, Dorset in 1947, and got interested in music early on in life and, in addition to the work of the Beatles, was drawn to American soul and blues. He also became a proficient guitarist (and also was able to play the balalaika), and a good friend of a slightly younger bassist/singer named John Wetton. The two played in various local bands across the '60s, including the Corvettes, the Palmer-James Group, and Tetrad -- which, according to a 2000 interview with Palmer-James by George Khouroshvili -- covered the music of Vanilla Fudge, Traffic, the Graham Bond Organisation, etc. Finally, in 1969, following the breakup of that band, he answered an ad in Melody Maker and ended up playing guitar in Supertramp. He lasted with them for 18 months, long enough to play on their debut album and write the lyrics for their songs, a role that he fell into by default, owing to the fact that none of the other members wanted to deal with words.
He left as a result of growing creative differences, and it was then that his longtime friendship with John Wetton suddenly paid big dividends, when the latter was chosen by Robert Fripp as the new bassist/singer for King Crimson, which had been re-formed in 1972. On Wetton's recommendation, Palmer-James ended up being chosen as the group's new lyricist, a role he fulfilled on their next three studio albums, Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Starless and Bible Black, and Red -- some of his most well-received material was identified by Palmer-James, in his interview with Khouroshvili, as remnants from a planned solo album of his own. The three Crimson album on which he worked were some of the group's most critically acclaimed records, and endured for years as some of the most eminently listenable of progressive rock's artifacts. He had no direct contact with the band, apart from sending in his lyrics by mail. Following the breakup of that lineup in 1974, Palmer-James worked with Wetton and King Crimson violinist David Cross. He subsequently moved to Germany, where he has lived ever since and, in 1978, recorded an album with the ex-members of Tetrad and drummer Curt Cress, entitled Jack-Knife. He and Wetton also later released a CD under the latter's name called Monkey Business (1997), which included several King Crimson-era compositions that had never been recorded officially by the latter band. ~ Bruce Eder