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Turn the Music Up: Richard Fulton, 1944–2000

Photo by Robert Hale

In the end, Richard Fulton got back exactly what he put out. As the proprietor of the seminal jazz coffeehouse Fifth Street Dick’s lay dying in a hospice in a nondescript South Bay town, his legions of friends, fans and admirers — many cultivated over the seven years the coffeehouse has been open — came to keep vigil. They kept the same steady, round-the-clock watch Richard kept on the edge of Leimert Park for years with his sidewalk tables, his patrons who played chess deep into the night, and, most of all, with his jazz. Richard’s was never a watch of apprehension (even when his place faced the flames of the ’92 civil unrest), but of joy and discovery; a Vietnam vet and former Skid Row alcoholic, he had already been to hell and back. He was overdue for some harmony, and he played it nonstop, live and recorded.

Leimert Park, which owes much of its renewed sense of community to Richard, is hoping to keep the Fifth Street Dick’s jazz dream alive. The establishment is closed at the moment, but Fulton’s mother, Helen, has said she is determined to reopen it and continue on. Immediately after his death from cancer on March 18, at the age of 56, a banner went up over Fifth Street Dick’s storefront quoting Richard’s final directive: “Turn the Music Up.” The music there was always too loud, as prodigious as Richard’s love of it.

 

A public memorial service will be held on Saturday, April 1, at 11 a.m., at 4337 Degnan Boulevard.


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