December 24, 2016 – Rick Richard John Parfitt (Status Quo) was born in Woking, Surrey on 12 October 1948. His father was an insurance salesman “who was a drinker and a gambler” and his mother worked in cake shops. He described his upbringing as “wonderful”, and has described his childhood self as a “typical naughty boy”.
Parfitt first started to learn to play the guitar at the age of 11. He began playing a guitar when he was 11. In 1963 Parfitt was playing guitar and singing in The Feathers, a pub on Goodge Street in Camden, London, when his father was approached by an agent from Sunshine Holiday Camp on Hayling Island, who gave Parfitt a performing job. At the camp Parfitt joined Jean and Gloria Harrison, performing at the time as the double act The Harrison Twins, to form a cabaret trio called The Highlights.
Following the season, the Harrison Twins’ manager Joe Cohen—who had been one of the Keystone Cops—arranged for The Highlights to perform at Butlins in Minehead. It was at Butlins that Parfitt met future Status Quo partner Francis Rossi, who was playing with Alan Lancaster and John Coghlan in a band called The Spectres (soon to be renamed Traffic Jam) — a forerunner to Status Quo. After Parfitt became friends with the band, their manager Pat Barlow invited him to join the group as they needed another singer and, on leaving school at 15, got a job performing at Sunshine Holiday Camp in Hayling Island, Hampshire, earning £5 a week. Much of his new income went to his father however, who was a committed drinker and gambler.
“He was forever getting in trouble and coming to me crying,” Parfitt later recalled. “I probably ended up giving him a couple of thousand quid in total. Back then, that was a lot of money.”
His partnership with Francis Rossi became the core of Status Quo, one of Britain’s most enduring bands.
Their brand of boogie-woogie rock survived changes in musical fashion and made them one of the best-loved live acts of their generation.
In 1967, Traffic Jam changed their name to The Status Quo (they soon dropped the definite article and later still would often be known simply as ‘Quo’), beginning Parfitt’s almost 50-year career in the band. Early successes came with the Rossi-penned hit “Pictures of Matchstick Men“, which embraced the psychedelic movement of the time and went to number seven in the UK charts.
Their follow up, Black Veils of Melancholy, failed to chart but they did get to number eight with Ice in the Sun, written by Marty Wilde. The single became the group’s only Top 40 hit in the United States, peaking at number twelve on the Billboard Hot 100.
But the band became disillusioned with the direction they were taking and abandoned their flowery clothes, embraced denim and T-shirts and settled down to a more traditional style of rock.
Parfitt co-wrote two of the tracks on their breakthrough album, Piledriver, released on the Vertigo label in 1972.
In an interview in 2014, Parfitt said of the record. “You know what? I love every track on that album! I think All The Reasons is just such a beautiful song. I wrote that about my wife at the time.” Piledriver reached number 5 and spent a total of 37 weeks on the UK Albums Chart.
The album became the template for subsequent releases, with Parfitt receiving a number of writing credits.
Whatever You Want, co-written by Parfitt and Andy Bown, became one of the band’s biggest hits and a staple of their increasingly popular live shows.
The band’s more popular songs during the early 70s include “Paper Plane” (1972), “Caroline” (1973), “Down Down” (1975), “Rain” (1976), “Rockin’ All Over the World” (1977) and “Whatever You Want” (1979). “Down Down” topped the UK Singles Chart in January 1975, becoming their only UK number one single. In 1976, they signed a pioneering sponsorship deal with Levi’s.
The 1976 hit “Mystery Song“, co-written with Bob Young, was composed after Rossi had laced Parfitt’s tea with amphetamine sulphate during the sessions for the Blue for You album. Rossi later said: “He was playing the riff when we left the studio, and he was still playing it when we came back the next day!”
By the late seventies the rock musical landscape was changing, from prog to punk, and into the ’80s with the New Romantics. Inside the tent, Status Quo continued to play their 12-bar blues style maintaining an ever loyal fan base.
The band set off on a farewell tour in 1984 but decided to carry on after Bob Geldof persuaded them to open the Live Aid concert the following year. “God, I’m so pleased we did it now. Quo opening Live Aid, it was meant to be.”
Quo continued to be highly successful in Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand throughout the 1980s and 90s, and were the opening act for 1985’s Live Aid, and they continue to be successful in the present day. By February 2015 they had sold over 118 million records worldwide. With his flowing blonde locks, denim gear and Fender Telecaster, Rick Parfitt was one of rock’s most recognizable guitarists. As well as driving the Quo sound on stage, Parfitt penned and co-wrote many of the band’s biggest hits.
They also embraced the hedonistic rock lifestyle with gusto. Parfitt admitted spending £1,000 a week on cocaine and another £500 on vodka. His addictions, coupled with the tragic drowning of their two-year-old daughter, Heidi, led to the breakdown of his first marriage to Marietta Broker.
“It’s not buying the drugs that is the most expensive thing,” he later said. “It’s the divorce which taking drugs eventually leads to.”
He later married Patty Beedon, who had been his childhood sweetheart. The couple divorced and reunited again, before finally going their separate ways. It was an acrimonious separation, with Patty later describing him as “a selfish child who never grew up”.
Parfitt’s experience of paying millions in divorce settlements made him vow never to marry again, but he tied the knot again in 2006 with Lyndsay Whitburn, a fitness instructor.
Other band members came and went over the years but Parfitt remained, with Rossi, the definitive face of Status Quo. While Rossi officially remained the band’s frontman, the musical partners were hard to separate on stage. In contrast to the rows that are part of many rock bands, the two remained good friends throughout the decades. When Status Quo had embarked on what they hinted would be their final tour, Parfitt offered an explanation for the longevity of veteran rock bands.
“Why do you think all these bands like the Stones and Deep Purple stay on the road? We’re having fun and I love being up there on stage. Once the lights go down and the crowds roar, something magical happens. All your aches and pains go.”
He added: “It would be weird to just stop because I would have nothing to do.”
He had a throat cancer scare in December 2005. He suffered a second heart attack in December 2011 and underwent surgery on the following day.
In 2010, Parfitt and Ross were awarded the OBE ( Officers of the Order of the British Empire) for services to music, posing together with their gongs after the investiture ceremony.
By this time Parfitt had suffered a number of health problems including undergoing quadruple heart by-pass surgery in 1997. He made a full recovery and was performing with the band within a matter of months.
Doctors warned the musician that he would have to leave behind his rock lifestyle, although he admitted at the time that he still enjoyed “the odd pint”.
In 2013 and 2014, Parfitt and Rossi reunited temporarily with original Quo bandmates Lancaster and Coghlan for a series of reunion concerts on what would be called the “Frantic Four” tour. On 1 August 2014, while on the European tour leg, Parfitt was hospitalized in Pula, Croatia, forcing the cancellation of six shows on the tour. He had suffered another heart attack while on his tour bus after performing a concert in Austria, and had a stent inserted. He later told the Daily Mail he was pleased to have suffered another heart attack as it had forced him to stop smoking and drinking after 50 years.
By 2014 he was living a relaxed life in Spain. “I haven’t smoked a joint for 27 years and I haven’t done any cocaine for 10 years. I just do normal stuff – the kids keep me busy and I go shopping with the missus.”
In April 2015, along with his wife Lyndsay and Julian Hall, Parfitt set up “Status Homes”, a real estate company based in Marbella, Spain.
On June 14, 2016, however, after playing with the band in Antalya, Turkey, he had another heart attack and was hospitalized. His management described his condition as serious. Parfitt was clinically dead for several minutes, resulting in mild cognitive impairments. The band announced that their ongoing tour would continue with Freddie Edwards, son of bassist John “Rhino” Edwards, as a temporary replacement. On 22 June it was announced that Parfitt had been flown home to the UK and was described as “comfortable” in hospital in London, where he was undergoing more tests. He had a defibrillator fitted into his chest.In September it was announced that he would not be well enough to tour in the autumn and he did not intend to tour with the band in future.
Parfitt died on December 24, 2016 in Marbella, Spain from septicaemia, after being admitted the previous day, following complications to a shoulder injury. He was 64.
In 1973, Parfitt married his first wife, Marietta Boeker, and in 1974 they had their first son, Richard, better known as sports car racer and musician Rick Parfitt Jnr. The couple also had a daughter, Heidi, who drowned in the family pool at the age of 2.
This tragedy, combined with Parfitt’s cocaine habit, led to the couple divorcing, and Parfitt going on to marry his second wife and former girlfriend, Patty Beedon, in 1988. They had a son, Harry, in 1989. They divorced when Parfitt had an affair with Boeker, before reuniting in 2000.
Parfitt and Beedon split up again when he secretly became engaged to fitness instructor Lyndsay Whitburn, whom he married in 2006. The couple remained married for the remainder of Parfitt’s life, and had twins Tommy and Lily in 2008, although by the time of Parfitt’s death, the couple were separated.