|Murray Ayers remembers Ray Smith
It was a little past 1:00 am and I could hear them arrive at the house. I could here Ray's 1962 Caddy pull up on the lawn I had to mow every week and listen to a bunch of very wired adults charging for the doorbell. I knew in a few more minutes that Ray would be waking me up because once again the drummer decided to either go elsewhere or wasn't staying long. At 12 years old it is a real moment when you are removed from the comfort of your room to a nightclub environment only one level below in my fathers special private club. The ladies were beautiful, the band was top drawer and I got all the chips and dip I could want. The price was to play drums for my friends Ray Smith and Stanley Walker for the entire morning, hehe!
Oh ya, this story is about Ray Smith.. sorry! Ray was handsome, charismatic, charming, a great singer, flashy dresser and to top that all off he had a remarkable southern accent making him irresistible to the ladies. Ray could sing like anyone and if you study his music you will note he does sound just like Dean Martin, Elvis Presley or Jerry Lee when he wants to. As I grew up my drum lessons stopped and I had achieved success as a musician at an early age. Ray always encouraged me to play in local bands and would sometimes have our bands play and rehearse together when he was in the area. It was during those times that Ray Smith the entertainer became Ray Smith the talented song writer and music producer. Now and again he and Stanley would get into some real serious discussions over this verse or that. Stan would testify Ray usually won those arguments but, with that going on and maybe a few lifestyle differences those two men were closer then brothers.
I still have the recording of those sessions with me, Ray Smith, Stanley Walker, Freddie, Bobby, Billy Koluk and many names I cannot remember. A song "Lady in Black", written kind of on the spot for my mother by Ray and Stan and "Don't dim the footlights", stand out among the rest. They were great days and much fun. Once Ray had me do a drum solo for about 20 minutes to his version of "When the Saints go Marching in", Bill Koluk played bass and Stan on lead guitar and Bobby on the sax. After that my band made me do it every single time we played. They would leave the stage and sit in the front watching me sweat while they enjoyed there refreshments and applauded.. hehe! I then knew what it meant to be an entertainer.
One night I came home from a gig and there was a note that Rays drummer had left and he needed me to help him out on the road (I was about 17 then). Ray and the band were about 200 miles east of us in the middle of a winter storm but I loaded the car with my kit and change of clothes and headed off for rehearsal for that nights show. Ray was my friend, my mentor and a very special person to many people. He was a dedicated entertainer and a terrific showman and playing with him for the time we had was the happiest time I spent in my musical career. Rays life was up and down at the end and he may have had some regrets but you know what, he gave 110% to his fans, he put on a world class show every night. Most of all he was a true pioneer of rock and roll and deserves to be remembered for it.
So when you do listen to Ray and the band playing "Rockin' Robin" or Rockin Little Angel" or my favorite of all because it is so totally off the wall and features the duet of Stanley Walker and Ray "Sail Away" just give some thought to my friend Ray.. ok.
Yours very sincerely,
(c)2000 Murray Ayers