Like many players associated with the New York jazz scene during various periods, Ben Richardson wandered in from someplace else, the hills of Kentucky in this case. He had recorded and performed in the '30s with several legendary early territory bands as well as with vocalist and bandleader Blanche Calloway, covering the range of several saxophone sizes as well as playing clarinet. Richardson's career eventually straddled both classic jazz and R&B; in the former genre, he was particularly liked by leaders with a soulful style. These included tenor saxophonist Buddy Tate, with whom he had a longstanding relationship, as well as Ray Bryant, an extremely funky pianist who had played alongside Richardson in the Tate combo.
Prior to finding his most personal, expressive outlet in these types of settings, Richardson fit snugly into the reed sections of larger groups fronted by pianist Claude Hopkins and the great Louis Armstrong. During the World War II, Richardson was part of a National Guard band. While it is common for players to go out on a limb when improvising jazz, so to speak, it is much less common for one of them to actually lose a limb. Richardson is part of this short list: he had a leg amputated in 1966, apparently only causing a short respite in his performing career. He was quickly back at work in the Tate outfit going on a European tour in 1968. He should not be confused with other performers with the same name, such as the blues bassist or the recording engineer.