Richard King has spent about half a century as an East Bay attorney, telling his clients' stories while advocating on their behalf. For nearly as long, the Fremont man has performed as a singer of pop standards in venues as varied as Bay Area churches and Las Vegas lounges.
King, 74, will combine both talents Thursday evening at what has become an annual Christmas tradition: a free concert at the Oakland Mormon Temple.
"It's about 15 to 20 songs and he tells a story, the way he weaves them all together," said Steve Pietkiewicz, a pianist and fellow Fremont Symphony Orchestra board member who will accompany King onstage. "He does ballads that bring a tear to your eye and up-tempo tunes where he's going to swing like Sinatra did."
King said he once met Ol' Blue Eyes more than 40 years ago in Vegas. From the late 1960s through the early 1970s, King worked all week as an attorney and then flew from Oakland to the desert, where he performed weekends in smoky casino haunts like the Sands and the Desert Inn. He said Sin City's hype doctors introduced him to lounge audiences as the "Baritone Barrister" and the "Singing Suer," referring to his day job.
The temple concert this week, scheduled in a much different setting, will be free of charge. That falls in line with one of King's credos, which appears in Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." It's when the ghost of Jacob Marley, Scrooge's deceased business partner, laments his amoral life choices. "Business? Mankind was my business," a melancholy Marley tells the miserly Scrooge.
"He's implying that he was a terrible failure" and should have helped people rather than always joining Scrooge in chasing profits, King said. A married grandfather who long has performed philanthropic work, King has no such regrets.
"Mankind is the most important business any of us will ever have," he said.
King, whose Pleasanton-based law firm will celebrate its 50th anniversary next month, is a high-ranking member of Rotary International, an organization dedicated to humanitarian efforts across the globe. For decades, he and fellow Rotarians have spent time and money trying to improve the quality of life of poverty-stricken residents of developing nations.
"Every family, all over the world, wants the same things," he said. "They want safe haven for their children, peace, decent health and prosperity." King also gives closer to home, doing community work as a Niles Rotary member and serving on the Fremont Planning Commission from 2003 to 2010.
"He listens more than he talks, and when he does talk it's meaningful and effective," said Yogi Chugh, a planning commissioner who worked alongside King. "He's a leader among leaders."
King said the concert Thursday will be a cabaret featuring Christmas carols, Broadway show tunes and some classic Sinatra. It is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. at the temple auditorium, at 4780 Lincoln Ave. in the Oakland hills.
"On a clear night up there, you can see all the way to Chicago, or at least to San Francisco and downtown Oakland," he said, chuckling. "It's a nice way for people to celebrate Christmas without having to spend any money."
Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.
IF You go
WHAT: Christmas cabaret concert featuring Richard King
WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: Oakland Mormon Temple, ISC Auditorium, 4780 Lincoln Ave., Oakland
INFO: 510-531-1475 or www.templehillevents.com