Saturday, April 24, 2010

Beatle People: Brian Ray

Brian Thomas Ray (born January 4, 1955) is an American session musician, musical director, rock guitarist and singer-songwriter.

Early life

Brian Ray grew up in southern California.

His first musical performances were in front of his peers - at show and tell - setting his own lyrics to the tune of old folk songs.

By the age 9, he began playing the guitar. His elder sister Jean (of folk duo Jim and Jean) spurred his interest in rock music through her record collection. Jean invited Ray to play at the LA Troubadour when he was 15 years old. She was "probably the most important and influential person" in Ray's early life.


In 1973, shortly after graduating high school, Ray began his musical career as part of Bobby Pickett and the Crypt Kicker Five, playing the "Monster Mash" at a fund-raising benefit hosted by and for Phil Kaufman. Kaufman took Brian in and would later introduce him to singer Etta James at a rehearsal for the world famous Troubadour, just as James was on the brink of a career come-back. That brief introduction would eventually lead to Brian's l4 year career as Etta James' musical director and guitarist.

While working for Etta James, Ray also shared stages with musicians such as Keith Richards, Santana, Joe Cocker, Bonnie Raitt, John Lee Hooker and Bo Diddley. At this time he also began focusing more on songwriting. Ray spent the late 1980's collaborating with musicians such as Peter Frampton, Rita Coolidge, Michael Steele (of The Bangles) and Steve LeGassick, who became a songwriting partner for 13 years. It was this somgwriting partnership with LeGassick that would create the 1987 Smokey Robinson award-winning hit "One Heartbeat," which has received over 2,000,000 air plays.

Previous to working with Sir Paul McCartney in 2002, Ray was working on tour in France with two different French artists, Mylene Farmer and Johnny Hallyday. Abe Laboriel Jr., a drummer who had worked with Brian Ray, mentioned that Paul McCartney was in search of a guitarist who could easily switch between bass guitar and guitar. After meeting with McCartney's producer for Driving Rain, David Kahne, Ray joined Paul McCartney for the pre-game ceremonies at the NFL's Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002.

Ray joined the rest of Paul McCartney's band for the Driving Rain tour in promotion of the album. As of then, he has appeared on McCartney's solo albums, such as Back in the World, Back in the U.S. and Memory Almost Full, as well as two concert DVDs: Paul McCartney in Red Square and The Space Within US.

In addition to being a session musician, Brian Ray has also contributed to film scores such as the soundtrack to the film Heartbreakers in 1985. In 2002, Ray and Abe Laboriel Jr. composed the score for the independent film The Failures.

Solo Career

After decades of performing, writing and recording with musical artists, Brian Ray released his first solo album, Mondo Magneto on October 16, 2006 through his record label Whooray Records.

"People have always asked me when I was going to do my own thing," Ray said, "I guess I was just busy."

Musicians on Mondo Magneto include Scott Shriner from Weezer, Davey Faragher from Elvis Costello's band, as well as Abe Laboriel, Jr., Wix Wickens and Rusty Anderson from Paul McCartney's band. When Ray asked the blues singer and former boss Etta James if she would sing with him on the album her answer was simple, and immediate - "I'll do anything for Brian."

Mondo Magneto's record release party was held at The Mint in Los Angeles, California on January 21, 2006. Ray's live band, Black Unicorn, includes musicians Peter Thorn on guitar, John Button on bass, and Matt Laug on drums. The band perform their music in Los Angeles clubs, such as The Viper Room and The Mint.


Year Album Artist Notes
1976 Etta is Betta than Evvah Etta James
1977 Crackin' The Reggie Knighton Band
1978 Deep in the Night Etta James
1981 Hot Spot Steve Goodman
1987 One Heartbeat Smokey Robinson Co-writer, arranger, programming and guitars on recording with Smokey Robinson
1989 Joy Crystal Lewis
1992 Backstreets of Desire Willy DeVille

Love Lessons Rita Coolidge Writer, arranger and producer
1994 Live From San Francisco Etta James Live album; co- producer and music director, guitars
1995 Loup Garou Willy DeVille
1996 Greatest Hits Brenda Russell Writer, producer and guitars
2002 Back in the U.S. Paul McCartney Live Album; guitars, bass guitar
2003 Back in the World Paul McCartney Live Album; guitars, bass guitar
2004 Blues to the Bone Etta James
2005 Chaos and Creation in the Backyard Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney in Red Square Paul McCartney Live DVD; Guitars, bass guitar

Mondo Magneto Brian Ray Debut solo album

Undressing Underwater Rusty Anderson
2007 The Space Within US Paul McCartney Live DVD; guitars, bass guitar

Memory Almost Full Paul McCartney
2008 Pistola Willy DeVille


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