Wrote songs for the Tom Hanks film That Thing You Do
Singer/guitarist/keyboardist Rick Elias attended Azusa Pacific University, a local Christian college, and first earned local notice with Harlequin, a keyboard-heavy mid-1970s progressive rock band in the same vein as Yes, Genesis, Starcastle, and local Andy Robinson's group Horsefeathers. The group was seen regularly at local venues like Straita Head Sound and the Adams Avenue Theater.
Elias made several solo records with the Rick Elias Band, which included drummer Bobby Sale and guitarist Marc Intravaia. They released one 45, “I Break Down” b/w “Man Alone” and reportedly also did a popular version of “Walk Away Renee” which never made it to vinyl. In addition, Elias briefly played with local one-hit wonders the Monroes (“What Do All the People Know”), fronted by Bob Davis aka Bob Monroe.
Monroe and Elias (as "Rick Hilton") also played together in Clairemont-based Vision, a 1970s art rock band featuring Craig Bartock and drummer Mark Spriggs, who was later replaced by Bobby Sale. In 1978, Vision signed a contract with one of Lawrence Welk's publishing companies, Vogue Music, but they ended up splitting.
Elias moved to L.A. in 1984 and within a few years was recording with producer Niko Bolas (Neil Young). In 1990, Elias signed to Alarma Records, which released his Christian rock album as Rick Elias and the Confessions, a band which also included Intravaia and Sale. Their single “Confession of Love” peaked at number four on the national Christian Top 40 chart as published in Contemporary Christian Music magazine.
Elias later wrote songs for the Tom Hanks film That Thing You Do (in which he appeared as a player in the Playtone Orchestra), as well as for Dawson's Creek and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. He released several contemporary Christian CDs on his own and as a founding member of the Ragamuffins band, formed by the late Rich Mullins in the early '90s and extant from 1993 to 2002.
In the studio, Elias also produced records by artists such as Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, and Aaron Neville, as well as writing two songs for Bob Carlisle’s chart topping album Butterfly Kisses (Shades of Grace). After relocating to Nashville, he became an adjunct instructor at the Contemporary Music Center in Brentwood TN, teaching music business classes, as well as becoming a real estate agent.
In summer 2018, when it was discovered that Elias was battling brain cancer, a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for medical expenses was organized by Marc Intravaia. Elias, recently suffering pneumonia, passed away Tuesday, April 2, in a hospital ICU surrounded by his family.