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Road Trip to the Ray Brand Memorial Shows

The Ray of Light Benefit Shows Down in Alabama

by Michael Buffalo Smith
September 1, 2005

It seems like I have spent half of 2005 driving between Greenville, SC and Huntsville, Alabama. But this trip was a mighty special one. I was headed back to the Rocket City to take part in a memorial concert and benefit for my fallen brother Ray Brand on August 27-28, 2005.

Driving six and a half hours in by myself, I found myself listening to a lot o stuff on the iPod. Lately, I have downloaded a lot of these Podcasts from the iTunes Music Store. They are free broadcasts on an array of subjects that you can download to the iPod. My favorites ate the Siskel & Roper weekly film reviews, and Inside Mac Radio, a weekly program that discusses all things Macintosh, without crossing over into the “ultra geek” mode.

Arriving at the Space & Rocket Center Marriott, I only had a few minutes to check in and join Sonny Edwards of Railroad Bazaar and George McCorkle (founding member of The Marshall Tucker Band) on a short jaunt over to the music store. The kind folks at Railroad Bazaar had teamed up with the kind folks at Sammick guitars to sign George on as an endorser for their guitars, and were to present him with a beautiful Greg Bennett signature Sammick. I was there in the role of journalist, to take pictures.

Later that evening, a crowd began to gather at Otter’s, the bar inside the Marriott, where we would be performing a songwriters in the round as a prequel to Sunday’s show. Joining your’s truly and Sonny Edwards would be George McCorkle, Larry Byrom (Steppenwolf) and others, all friends of Ray’s. We took turns singing our original songs and jamming. It was great fun. The set ended up with McCorkle doing his most famous song, “Fire On The Mountain.”

After a break, it was time for a set from some of Ray’s old band mates from Buckeye and Slaughter Road. It was fabulous. Sonny Edwards joined back in for an awesome version of Little Feat’s “Willin.’” I made my way back up to the stage for a rousing version of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” and we closed it all out with “Can’t You See.”

Sunday at the 721 Club was nothing short of spiritual. I met so many of Ray’s friends and family that I had not met before, and the huge nightclub was wall to wall with people there to support Ray, everyone from Doctor’s to Saints Motorcycle Club members. It was awesome. Dick Cooper was acting stage manager, and Thad Usry of The Crawlers joined Ray Brand, Jr. to M.C. the event, which lasted from 2 pm until 2 am. Excellent performances were delivered by The Southern Boys with George McCorkle; Muscle Shoals Southern Rockers, Messenger; the always fabulous acoustic blues of amanda Quarles; Scott Boyer (Cowboy) and Larry Byrom and friends; Microwave Dave and the Nukes; Tommy Crain and The Crosstown Allstars; and many others. I was thrilled to perform my songs backed by Billy Teichmiller and Owen Brown from the Crawlers, Larry Perkins on keys, Sonny Edwards on guitar, Tommy Crain on guitar, JoJo Billingsley on vocals and Rodeo Jan Rocket on vocals. We closed our set with :Can’t You See,” bringing Lee Dunlap from Tommy’s band up to the mike for lead vocals. He dominated, sounding like MArshall Tucker meets James Brown! Lord have mercy!

Later in the evening, it was star time with Lee Roy Parnell jamming with Jack Pearson (Allman Brothers), Tommy Crain, and a mighty set from The Crawlers. The spirit of Ray Brand was all around, you could feel it!

In the end, several thousand dollars were raised to pay Ray’s medical bills and to help his family. It was a wonderful celebration of a wonderful human being. A guy I wrote songs with, a guy I was honored to perform with, a guy i was always proud to call my friend. We love you, brother Ray. We’ll keep the music going and your memory will never fade.

-Michael Buffalo Smith

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