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In Memory of Ray Brand



GRITZ Archangel Benefit, May 7, 2005. (Dick Cooper Photo)


In my life, I have been blessed by God so many, many times. Blessed with a job that has allowed me to meet and sometimes befriend many of my life long musical heroes, and to make friends with previously unknown (to me) stars. Of all the stars I have been fortunate enough to know, none shown more brightly that Ray Brand. As a guitarist, as a singer and songwriter, he couldn’t be beat. As a human spirit, he was one of a kind.

I find it hard to believe that I only met Ray in 2000. When I started GRITZ online in 1999, New Jersey writer Mitch Lopate came in as a staff writer, and when he decided to visit Alabama and meet Johnny Wyker, Bobby Whitlock and others, he came back to me raving about Ray Brand, how he owned a Coricidin bottle once owned Duane Allman. He said that Ray had the studio ideas much like Duane's- the same creativity. Mitch told me I needed to play music with Ray. He was right.

When Thad Usry put together a Huntsville Christmas Charities show, he invited me to perform. The night before the big outdoor gig, we played together at Otter’s inside the Marriott, but the night before, on Thursday, I arrived with my friend Tim Shook and went straight to a club where The Crawlers were playing. Man they were rocking. Before I had even gotten a chance to speak to the band members, I found myself onstage with them doing “Stormy Monday” and “Can’t You See.” When it was all over, we sat around for a long time talking and I took up with Ray Brand right off the bat.

Ray always had the greatest, detailed stories. He had been all over the country playing music, and had worked with some great musicians. We talked many times about his tenure with David Allan Coe, and his days hanging out in Macon at Capricorn Records while the Marshall Tucker Band was recording. He had been in a group called Buckeye with Tommy and Billy Crain that played the first Volunteer Jam, and another band called Slaughter Road that had toured with Kansas. Oh, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Ray was easy to love. I immediately considered him a close friend, a feeling which only grew as time went on. We played several shows together, and in 2002 he and the rest of the Crawlers performed on my album Southern Lights. Ray was an endless fount of ideas and suggestions, and they were usually excellent. He also played his mighty, mighty guitar all over the album. We finished the project with the promise that we would do it again, which we did recently with Something Heavy, an album co-produced by Ray, on which he co-wrote a number of songs with me. His guitar work was even more amazing on this album, and he and I spoke recently about how proud he was of the album, along with the latest Crawlers joint, Leather and Steel. (an awesome record.)

When we heard, less than two weeks ago, that Ray had terminal cancer, my heart sunk. I had lost another dear friend, Jakson Spires, just a few months ago. I refused to believe Ray was crossing over. But as reports from Billy, Thad and Owen trickled in, it looked worse and worse. I jumped in the car and headed for Huntsville. Unfortunately, Ray just wasn't up to visiting. On the up side, I can always remember him the way I last saw him. Smiling, winking, and wearing out that slide guitar.

Someone asked me today if I was “over the death of my friend.” What? I will never be “over” his death. I will carry a part of Ray with me as long as I live and breathe, and I will thank God every day for having been blessed to know such a humble, sweet, talented man that I will forever remember as my spiritual brother.

-Michael Buffalo Smith
July 30, 2005

Ray, John D. Wyker, Owen Brown. ArchAngel Show.


Ray with Bonnie Bramlett during the recording of Michael Buffalo's Southern Lights.

Meeting Ray Brand for the first time was like finding an old friend who had been waiting there patiently for you to arrive in his life. I had just come off the plane in Huntsville in May 2000, enroute to meeting Johnny Wyker and his ideas for the Mighty Field of Vision, and eventually, interviewing Bobby Whitlock. John recommended I look up his friend at the studio: Ray Brand.
Over beers, Ray and I shared stories, and he was as warm as the Alabama sun—he just radiated goodness. It was a great way to hear about his special Coricidin bottle slide (it was one of Duane Allman’s), his plans for his band, the Crawlers, and all about playing with great people, including Jimi Hendrix. One of the happiest things I can reflect upon regarding Ray’s music was how truly happy he was to be connected to Gritz and Michael (Buffalo Smith)—it was an alternative primary reward of that trip.

I also had a present for Ray: being that I had come from New Jersey, he had special-requested some corned beef and dill pickles. I smuggled three pounds and a 3-quart jar into the walk-on compartment of the plane—but when I had to transfer to a smaller craft, the pickle jar sprang a leak. The plane reeked—but Ray was delighted with his deli feast.
God bless your spirit, Brother Ray. Thanks for being in my life and that great Southern welcome.

- Mitch Lopate

Ray with Danny Hall.

Ray Brand

Legendary guitarist Ray Brand passed away from sudden illness, July 29, 2005.
His playing career spanned more than four decades and reached every corner of the country. From his early days with The Maritweens to his current band The Crawlers.

He was respected for his fine studio work, and his electrifying live performances.
Ray is survived by his loving wife, Audrey; his beloved mother, Essie; two brothers Charles and Jack; three sons Ray Jr., Jamie and Jeffery; and one daughter, Rachel. Ray leaves behind countless friends, bands and fellow musicians.

Visitation will be Wednesday at noon until 2 p.m. at Valhalla Funeral Home. Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. at the funeral home chapel.
In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to Hospice of the Valley, P.O. Box 2745, Decatur, Al 35602.

Published in the Decatur Daily on 8/2/2005.

"Well, he (Ray) is a great guitar player, dedicated and serious and he practiced a lot. Like all my guitar players. Warren (Haynes), Ray, they all were different and had their own style. They pretty much had their on thing going. Ray never made it sound like a bar band."

- David Allan Coe, GRITZ Magazine, Summer 2004

Ray rocks Daidsville. (Michael Buffalo Smith Photo)

I am sure you will get all kinds of replys as to the soulful manner in which Ray played. I met Ray in '96 after moving to Huntsville. I am mostly a writer and had been out of the performance scene for a long while just writing. When I began recording in Nov of 1999 with Ray and the Crawlers, I was very unsure of myself and very intimidated having to play in front of musicians like Ray, Billy and John. Ray nurtured me along assuring me I had what it took to play and be good at it. For years we worked in the studio and were "very good at producing together"--his words. He used to tell me, "Larry, we can be doing this when we're 75." I have now some 20 songs in the can that he played on and we shared ideas back and forth as late as May of this year.

I learned from Ray the musician every time we played but what stands out most is what I learned from Ray my friend--- and that is that sometimes other people have to have confidence in you before you can have confidence in yourself. That is the legacy that Ray Brand bought to me personally---a lesson of life itself.

-Larry Perkins

Rocking with Thad and The Crawlers.


Billy Teichmiller, George McCorkle, Buffalo and Ray in the stdio recording Buffalo's Something Heavy.

From GRITZ, 2000....

The Crawlers
(Blue Planet)

Power trios have a tough legacy to fulfill in my way of categorization. As I see it, there are three who attained Olympian status as primary gods upon Creation: the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, and Rush. The yardsticks are virtuosity, performance potential, and sheer ass-kicking drive. I hasten to add that there are some readers and music fans who would demand that ZZ Top be added in here, but that’s the point: as much as I love them, in my mind, that li’l ol’ band from Texas just went too commercial near the end (“Sharp Dressed Man”), whereas the Big Three could overwhelm an audience in the studio or on stage at any given moment. In mythology, even Hercules, strongest of humans, was only half-immortal at birth—and even if you toss out Noel Redding from that divine gathering, the other players in that assorted three-of-a-kind package could beat your best hand.

With that in mind, I want to acknowledge another band who has that same bigger-than-life persona and musical muscle that ZZ Top embodied in the days of Tejas. Sounding a lot like a much larger ensemble, the Crawlers (Ray Brand - guitar/harp/vocals; Billy Teichmiller - drums, keyboards, bass; and John Huber – rhythm guitar, vocals, bass) make their statement on this disc as a group who has the heart, power, and musical savvy to be reckoned with by the industry and fans. Pumping out a ferocious attack that compels you to look at the liner notes, it’s just incredible to imagine that these three men have found that same vitality and dynamic roar that sets them in the same camp as Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, and Frank Beard. If ZZ Top was Butch Cassidy, then the Crawlers are the perfect Sundance Kid, and the South(west) and other territories have to be warned.

A trio’s success lies in the capacity to spread the talent around to cover the (missing) man who would play another instrument, and the Crawlers have enough versatility to play several positions at once—and still put up a serious offense that can score. Talk about a triple play threat!—Ray Brand’s grit-and-gravel vocals are the perfect match for his multi-volume knowledge of killer lead guitar riffs, and when it’s time to honk, give that man a chromatic harmonica and let him wail. Sure-and-steady, Teichmiller’s percussion bangs away like a demolition team bringing down a building (and also layering the air like a fire hose in action with synthesized horns that hold the songs together like a separate brass/woodwind section), and John H. puts his pipes through a sandpaper crust that is nearly as stone-ground as Ray’s, as well as penning some hell-raising good tunes. The secret lies in the soundboard: Dean Rusk captures the Crawlers’ power with the same stadium-sized wallop that made groups like .38 Special a great success. Credit also has to go again to Ray for knowing what to play and why it works: punching bag-bruising lead licks, sumo-sized stomps, and when he lets loose on “6:09,” slide outbursts like a Roman candle.

It’s just great to hear these guys work it on through: there’s pure quality beef on 14 superb cuts and it’s grade-A prime. A wonderful thing just happened as I sat here: the disc ended and my head snapped around to see if there was another song coming up in the selection. The tunes meshed so completely in sequence that I didn’t even realize the time had flown by me. So, let the archives hold this notation: the Crawlers are haulers—big time freight, too, with cuts like this, and deserve a unanimous ballot for immortality.

-Mitch Lopate

Read Our Interview with Ray Brand.

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