Saturday, December 12, 2009


When I first began talking about the musical project that Billy Ray and Ricky Ray and I have had for nearly 20 years here THE LOST TAPES FEATURING BILLY RAY AND RICKY RAY, I mentioned that for much of the time we have all lived in different parts of the state.

I mentioned that, over the last 20 years, we periodically gathered all over the state to record and make music. Normally, that involved at least two of us doing some serious (i.e. more than 5 hours on the road or more than 300 miles) driving. While listening to the CD's from the various sessions over the past 20 years today, Billy Ray and I remembered some of the places that we gathered over the years.

These are just memories of great cabins and places that I've been, and that I'd love to visit again. Hopefully, even if you don't play music or an instrument, you'll visit some of these places for whatever you do like to do.

This is the story of El Fisho and Billy Ray and Ricky Ray and the band we've had for 20 years. The full band is on hiatus, as Ricky Ray lives on the east coast now. But Billy Ray and I move on with basically a guitar and drum duo with occasional bass augmentation.

Our initial get togethers were at the Billy Ray family place near Carthage. It was a wonderful large farm, with several ponds for fishing (whenever possible, locations are chosen that facilitate fishing as an alternate activity). It had a modernized home with three bedrooms and was nicely furnished and most importantly was in the big middle of 500 acres WAY outside of town.

As much a gathering of good friends as a musical endeavor, we had great fun. Shot guns, Fished. Went riding through pastures in farm trucks while having a beverage.

We jammed there for many years, from 1990 until the mid-90's, when Ricky Ray moved back onto his family's old home place outside of Greenville. Ricky Ray's place was as big as Billy Ray's, and had an older farmhouse that was very cool and had perhaps been modernized in the 1970's.

Ricky Ray soon built a real home adjacent to the old home place and there were other buildings, trailers and a small brick home on the property for jamming and sleeping, although during several freezing in the teens weather when we gathered at the farm near Celeste and due to heater failure, we were forced to seek shelter in nearby motels in Greenville with high performing heaters.

Ricky Ray also had an AWESOME pond or tank that was pretty big and was full of hungry bass. We caught lots and lots of fish there. It was a great place to fish. We held jams at Ricky Ray's until about 2001, when he and his family moved to McKinney for their urban pioneer phase in the historic district.

And so it was that in 2002 our band had no place to record. Ideally, we liked places isolated from neighbors, as we often played late into the night with a full band including drums and electric guitars. Our next jam place for the next several years was a guest apartment on a very nice ranch ON LAKE FORK to the northeast of Dallas.

The year 2002 turned out to be a banner year for this band. Our hosts at the Lake Fork ranch were generous, but we didn't want to wear out our welcome there. Still, it's a great place being right on the lake as well as the warehouse and guest apartment being far from the main house so the music doesn't bother them. Nice hosts, they are old friends of Ricky Ray's who let us use the place periodically in the early 2000's, until we began jamming other places for variety sake.

We had perhaps the best recording session ever in March of 2002 at Lake Fork, and followed that up with a June jam there that started great but soon lapsed into repetiveness.

I was weary of the 10 hour total drive from Houston to Lake Fork, and insisted on finding locales closer to me for a change. In August of 2002, we met at Music Lab in Austin and were recorded on Pro-Tools by Victor, a friend of ours that Billy Ray met in Lubbock. We had some great stuff come out of this jam, even though it was only about a four hour jam.

In November of 2002, we had applied for a position at South By Southwest Music Festival for 2003. We were ultimately denied a spot, but in November hopes were somewhat high that we might be getting to play the famous SXSW festival. We met at a cabin outside Flatonia, again on a very nice lake. It was a smaller cabin and our friend and fan #1 Smitty (Not necessarily a big fan of the music, but it is acceptable to him and he is the first friend to hear us play) came out to hear us play.

In 2003, we gathered several times at Lake Fork, joined at least one of those times by a friend of Ricky Ray's who played bass and by a great friend of all of ours, The Evil Dr. K, a drummer. Dr. K, as I have mentioned before, is not really Evil but we just refer to him as such in our social circle. Nice guy. We had some nice double drumming action going on with an expanded lineup.

Smitty has joined us on several occasions as has Stuntman Joe out of Austin and the aforementioned The Evil Dr. K. Two great bassists have also joined us. Woody Oakes, also a great drummer and guitarist and a fellow named Jim from Big D who plays a great sounding Spector. Woody either plays a red Musicmaster bass I sold him or a Fender Jazz or a Dan Armstrong Ampeg plexiglass bass.

We've also had a nice chap named Jeremy C. from the land down under who contributed a track via digital transmission. I sent him a CD of a song, he loaded it into pro-tools and added his part and then emailed the mp3 file to me. I "met" Jeremy by selling him a book on bassists on ebay, and one thing led to another and he contributed a bass track to one of our songs.

I'll note that this band has Billy Ray and Ricky Ray both on guitar, with me on drums. Occasionally I sing, but most of our songs are instrumentals. Sometimes Billy will play bass but that is rare. I've been working on the bass skills I had and lost in high school, and have recovered enough of them to do a blues tune or simple rock tunes. Of course, I can't play drums and bass at the same time, but I can do overdubs along with Billy Ray, who is a far better bassist than I, on Garageband.

After gathering at Lake Fork and Flatonia, we got together several times at a very nice cabin south of Blanco, Texas located on the side of what locals know as the Twin Sisters Mountains. A great cabin owned by a friend, it too was isolated enough to make music and was a deluxe yuppie cabin with nice beds and bathrooms and a great kitchen.

After Ricky Ray moved away for his professor job, Billy Ray and I have contined jamming and fishing at various locales. We've rented cabins on the Llano River in two different places, as well as numerous trips to rehearsal studios and sessions at my house. We need to take a south Texas fishing and music making trip to one of those places on the lower Laguna Madre, where we can rent a small house and a boat and make some music as well as do some great fishing.

In 2010, our goal is to plan to record the tracks from our past that we like on two channels on Garageband, and then play along with them on separate tracks on our respective instruments, guitar and drums. Add some percussion and bass to other tracks, or the occasional vocal and perhaps some more Billy Ray guitar. Then off to Ricky Ray for him to add whatever the muse directs him to do.

We want to do an independent CD release that we make ourselves. Give some to our freinds and send some to some college and public radio stations. We used to have a website, and still have all of the artwork from that site and from previous contributions by friends and from what we did. It'll be a small CD run in some sort of digipak type and we can do 70 minutes of music, which means culling the list of songs we selected today down to about 10, depending on the length of the songs selected.

But we've got some strong interesting songs. By using Garageband, we can travel a bit around Texas perhaps and get some freinds to add some vocals or bass work on some of the tunes. Just take the laptop to them and let them record as if in the studio.

I call these tapes we listened to today THE LOST TAPES because although they were not lost to me, having been somewhat protected and documented by me, but Billy Ray was amazed at some of the stuff he had forgotten we had played, but remembered it upon listening.

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