Our Favorite Brand
Alabama Guitar Slinger Ray Brand is Still Rockin'
In Memory of Ray Brand, who Passed Over in August, 2005, We have established a Memorial Page HERE.
This is a tag-team effort. New Jersey writer Mitch Lopate began an interview with The Crawlers' red hot axe man Ray Brand long ago, in a galaxy far, far away. Yours truly, the "Buffalo," rolled tape during a conversation in the hotel with Ray the night before the Christmas Charities Concert in Huntsville. Since there was no seamless way to connect the two, we present it in two sections. Mitch speaks with Ray about the Crawlers' cd, and I chat him up about all the musicians he has worked with and befriended throughout the years, from David Allan Coe to Tom Petty. Oh, there are plenty more tales to tell, and just like Johnny Wyker and Pete Carr, and all them other 'Bama guys, we will be presenting further stories in future articles b. As for now, this is a pretty good introduction to Mr. Brand and his excellent band. Watch this space for further details.
PART ONE: THE CRAWLERS ALBUM
by Mitch Lopate
I'd like to get the lowdown on your self-titled album, The Crawlers. Your songs are full of hooks that reach out and grab your attention with sounds that seem to be creatively adapted from others. If you've been borrowing, it's done really well! The lead guitar playing reminds me of Joe Perry (from Aerosmith). The one that immediately caught my attention and stands out to me has a killer opening riff: "Seein' is Believin."
That was inspired by a UFO sighting I had in the mountains near Bull Run, Virginia. Something triangle-shaped went overhead and people were pulling their cars off to the side of the roadÚthere was a sequence of lights; it looked like concert spotlights were going offÚwhen one would dim down, another would go up.
Another great song that starts with a punch: "Good Time Music." It has a .38-Special feeling to it.
You like that one! That's an old song, one I wrote back in the early '70s. I actually wrote that on harmonica, and it's one of Johnny's (John Huber, lead rhythm guitar and bass) favorite songs. Our engineer, Dean Lusk, was trying to create a "live" sound, which was supported by Billy Teichmiller's keyboards standing in for a horn section. There's a gospel-rock band that uses that style, "King's X," I think is their name, and that's where we got the idea for that kind of mixing. They moved to Houston, Texas from Missouri and were very heavily influenced by ZZ Top.
Your song, "Nothing but the Blues" has their early sound, something from the time frame of the Tejas album. The Crawlers really come across on the speakers as larger than three guys. Like Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Hendrix? I think the man was from another planet. When I heard his records for the first time, I tried my best to play along, but I could not find even one chord to fit the songs, that sounded right. So weeks or maybe months went by, and then one day I got it -AH HA! He is tuned to E-flat! So now maybe I can learn some of his songs, and cop some of those alien hot guitar licks. Yeah sure! So more weeks and months went by and then -AH HA! The guitar is recorded and played backwards, on some of the songs, and even stranger than that, so are the drums! So now weeks, months, years and decades have gone by, and I still have no idea!
PART TWO: CONVERSATIONS IN HUNTSVILLE
by Michael Buffalo Smith
How did you first meet David Allan Coe?
A friend of mine opened a club in Nashville called the Red Dog Saloon. On writers night, all these guys would show up, like Waylon Jennings, John Hartford, people like that. Jimmy come down and he said, hey, I want you guys to come up and play this house job, put a little band together. So we went up there, and we were playing one night and Jimmy came up to the stage and said, I've got somebody i want you to meet. he's a real talented writer. I walked in the room back there and it was David Allan Coe. I'd never seen anybody with that look before. You know, ear rings and all. He sat down with his guitar and started playing. It was absolutely amazing. So I ended up playing with him
Was Warren Haynes playing at the time?
Warren played with him after I did. They were playing at Giley's- I was living in Houston then- matter of fact, I met my wife Audrey in Dallas. Me and Billy, who plays drums with me, dropped in, and David was out in a trailer truck selling his own product, you know. His tapes and anything that had Coe on it. I walked up and he said, "Ray, why don't you come back in the band. I've got a great slide player with me, and y'all need to get together. He told me it was Warren Haynes. That's the first time I'd heard his name. Well, I didn't take him up on it. I should have jumped back in there but I didn't. It would have probably been fun. Then I moved to Nashville and lived on the corner of 16th and Roy Acuff. The back window, if you looked out, you could see the back of Warner Brothers and RCA. Audrey and I would be drinking coffee and watching Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton coming in the back of the record company. Well, David came in one night late. I heard this bus going down the road and it woke me up. Oil was leaking so bad on that bus that it stayed on that alley for three or four months. Warren was over there, and I went over there and talked a little.
One of our interviews this month is with Leon Russell. Is it true you did some work with Leon.
I worked for Leon for a short while in Tulsa. I was offered a session job there through a friend of mine from Muscle Shoals that did Johnny Wyker's first album "Motorcycle Mama." His name was Tom Russell. No relation to Leon Russell, but he was Leon's studio engineer for a long time. Well, the first session I did out there, this little skinny blonde headed guy come in. I had never heard of him or anything, but I sat in there for two days doing demos on this guy. This was about 1976. Then three years later in 1979, I was riding down the road with a friend and "Refugee" by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers came on the radio. I said, I really like that! He said, you ought to! You worked with him three years ago. Don't you remember that little skinny guy? (Laughs)
You know Steppenwolf guitarist Larry Byrom too.
I met Larry Byrom when he was 14-years old. He was the first guy I had seen that, at 14, could play "Dixie" and "Yankee Doodle" at the same time. He's been a friend every since!
Tell us how you ended up owning Duane Allman's bottleneck slide.
Johnny Sandlin knows that I've got the slide, 'cause he offered to buy it from me. It was given to me by a friend. He got it from Twiggs. Twiggs had an old Mercury kind of like the car James Dean drove in "Rebel Without a Cause" a that he traded to Gregg for this guitar after Duane died. The slide was in the case. There were two of 'em. So Twiggs handed Joe one of the bottles, and Joe kept it on his piano when he came back from Macon. And Lee Roy Parnell, he's an old friend of mine, Lee Roy was over there one night and put it on his finger, and said "I can't get it off." Joe said, "Here, I'll get it off." (Laughs) One night we were playing in Decatur and Joe handed me that slide and said here, you play slide. Nobody knows what happened to that other bottle that came out of the case. This one I've got may have been played on "Layla," I don't know. I was going to play it tonight, but I have to be careful, 'cause it's got a crack in it. But you can actually see where Duane's finger was up in there. It's got vibes to it. Lee Roy Parnell said that too. The old guitar, Twiggs had the frets taken out. It may be hearsay, but I hear they were used to spell out Duane's name on the back of the guitar, and that's the one that's sitting up at the Alabama Hall of Fame. But there's no slide bottle next to it whatsoever. The greatest slide player who ever lived, and there's no slide beside it. It's at my house! (Laughs)
In closing, we asked Ray Brand to tell us just why music means so much to his life. We believe he summed it up very well.
When music is played from the heart, It can move souls, country, rock, blues, jazz, big band, small band, one man, or folk etc, It don't take a hit record to be the best, Some of the greatest music makers in life have died unknown, and didn't make one record ever. Just like the great Texas guitar man Bugs Henderson, once said, there is more talent out in front of the stage watching the show, Than the talent on the stage, Everyone has a talent for something, and the best of talent's comes from the heart, whatever they do for a livin'.