How it all started
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. When I was 3, my older sister Jean would play 45s of various artists such as Elvis, Little Richard and the Everly Brothers. I used to listen to Wolfman Jack broadcasting rock’n’roll and R&B from radio station XERB in Tijuana, Mexico under the covers late at night on my transistor radio. The music touched my soul and lit a fire inside of me.
When the Beatles first appeared on Ed Sullivan, I was there in front of the TV… That’s when I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up. I slept with my 1968 Goldtop Les Paul and would wake up gazing at it like I would my girlfriend. Every night I dreamt of doing what I get to do now.
I began playing the guitar at age 9.
Native Californian Brian Ray’s exceptional career began with a transistor radio, an ice cream bucket and a vivid imagination. Co-writer of Smokey Robinson’s “One Heartbeat” and admired for his energetic stage presence and unparalleled guitar playing as a key member of Paul McCartney’s current band, Brian is irrefutably ranked among today’s top musicians. His latest project, his first solo album entitled Mondo Magneto is here. He will release it through his own label Whooray Records. This record underscores his talents as an award-winning songwriter, singer, producer and renowned guitarist.
How it all began
Brian’s first performances were in front of his peers - at show and tell - setting his own lyrics to the tune of old folk songs. By age 9, he retired his makeshift ice cream bucket drum kit and picked up a guitar. He channeled the influences of legends such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and all the other greats and by age 13, was a serious songwriter. Before Brian graduated high school his music career was well under way.
It began in the most unlikely and serendipitous way. As one fifth of Bobby Pickett and the Crypt Kicker Five, Brian found himself playing the “Monster Mash” at a fundraising benefit hosted by and for the notorious Phil Kaufman to offset the burdensome “Grand Theft Parson’s fines. Phil, missing his departed friend Gram, took Brian in and would soon introduce him to Etta James at the world famous Troubadour. Etta was on the brink of a come-back, “so full of fire and intensity” Brian says. That brief introduction would, only a few months later, lead to Brian’s l4 year career as Etta’s Musical Director and guitarist.
As Brian honed his guitar prowess on the road with Etta, sharing stages with legendary musicians such as Keith Richards, Santana, Joe Cocker, Bonnie Raitt, John Lee Hooker and Bo Diddley, he also began focusing more intensely on his songwriting. He would spend the late 80’s collaborating with Peter Frampton, Rita Coolidge, Michael Steele (Bangles) and friend and songwriting partner for 13 years Steve LeGassick.
Award winning songwriting for Smokey Robinson
It was his partnership with Steve that would catapult Brian’s songwriting to the world stage in 1987 with the Smokey Robinson award-winning mega hit “One Heartbeat.”
Brian and Steve were so confident about the song they wrote and recorded for Smokey, they sent it in even after the producers said they already had enough material. Brian recalls “We knew we had something good…, well, Motown also decided to title the album One Heartbeat. We are now nearing 3 million airplays for that song.”
On the road with Paul McCartney
Underscoring his talent, Brian cemented his position as one of the top contemporary guitarists in the world today when he began touring with Paul McCartney in 2002. Hailed as “Paul’s best band since the Beatles” playing with McCartney is literally a dream come true for Brian. He has appeared on several DVD’s and TV Specials including two Super Bowl appearances, and participated in such meaningful collaborations as the Nelson Mandela’s 46664 project.
As Brian continues to tour with Paul McCartney, he manages to squeeze in other projects such as scoring the award winning 2003 independent film “The Failures.” This was Brian’s first venture into film, although he has scored for television in the past. It is his contributions to other artists albums, including Etta James, Shakira, The Bangles, Adam Cohen, and Paul McCartney’s most recent projects that spawned his own creative endeavor: writing, producing and releasing his first solo album entitled Mondo Magneto through his own label Whooray Records. When asked “what took you so long?” he says “I guess I was just busy.” Indeed.
Brian united with friends, collaborators and bandmates Abe Laboriel, Jr., Wix Wickens and Rusty Anderson, as well as Scott Shriner (Weezer), Davey Faragher (Elvis Costello) and others for Mondo Magneto. Etta James makes a rare special guest appearance singing with Brian on the haunting song “Soft Machine” as a symbol of their continued respect and affection for one another.
He’s come a long way from show and tell, rewriting lyrics to old folk songs, and playing drums on empty ice cream buckets, but Brian still draws on those early childhood impressions of a world of music coming over his first transistor radio as well as his life experiences and observations for an inspired first album.