That photo was shot at a joint called Widow Brumm’s in Pomona California way back when — circa 1980 — when Ray (who called himself H.Ray Crawford at that time) was living at the YMCA (yes, he’s the guy on OUT OF THE COOL ) (and on a million Jimmy Smith records) I first heard rumors he was playing this dive Bells Barbecue down at 5 Points in Pomona (not recommended for white folks) and caught him there a couple times and then caught him at Jimmy Smith’s Supper Club. Just a great great guitarist.
I got to be friends with him and we hung out a lot, because he just lived in the next town over from me, he had a converted ice cream truck that he tooled around in, and in the back was a huge wire basket full of tennis balls, he was a tennis player. He started out as a reed player, but got TB in the 40s and switched to guitar, but I got to see him play a lot of flute and some sax, when the dude in Smith’s band loaned him a sax for awhile. When he was still a reed man, living in Pittsburgh, he started a group with Art Blakey, and then Fletcher Henderson took the entire group and formed a big band around it.
In the mid- 90s Bobby Bradford would see Ray walking around Pasadena. And then I heard he was in San Diego. Then he died Dec. 30, 1997 in Pittsburgh, according to the news.
The story of how this record was made is part of the feature interview I did with him for CODA magazine around that time (1980). He made a couple great great Lps for the Los Angeles label Dobre which are only available in Japan. I should play them on my radio show tomorrow. Sure glad to see this record is available, again.
Alan Bates promised me some dough for that photo but it never came through. I understand that that is typical of his business dealings. He had somehow tracked me down to my flunky job on the 8th floor of Standard Oil, in the mailroom, in Cleveland! — my stupervisor comes and says there’s a phone call for me, and I go to the phone, and it’s Alan Bates asking if I have any photos of Ray for this release. So, I says, Yes, I do. But theyre all back in California. BUT, I knew the Toronto office of CODA would have a file of my photos so me & Janet made that an excuse to visit Toronto and I went and scored one of my photos for Alan. And the rest is history.
I still don’t have a clue how he tracked me down to that mailroom? It was 1986. And I was on the lam from California.
Mark Weber 30 January 2008
selected Ray Crawford appeareances: