Skip to content
January 11, 2012 / rockroots

Ray Elliott

Them 1967 (Ray Elliott in dark shirt)

Who? Well, if you’re already a fan of Irish rock then chances are you will have heard this multi-instrumentalist on albums by Them, Truth or Trader Horne. The praise given to his musical talents by all who shared a stage with him is matched only by the stories of his lifestyle of excess – the creative and destructive traits all too common in performers of his generation. Ray Elliott was born 23 January 1939 (or 23 January 1943, or 13 September 1943, or 23 January 1944, depending on your source) in Belfast, Northern Ireland – the son of Andrew Elliott and Lydia Stratton, according to one genealogy website.[25] As Van Morrison would later recount, “I grew up in a particular area of East Belfast where there was a lot of music going on. Down the street, on Lower Hyndford Street there was a brilliant saxophone player called George Cassidy… there was a guy who played the guitar and who knew every Hank Williams song, there was another guy who knew a lot about obscure Appalachian folk music, other people had great country records, another friend had Louis Prima stuff… on the next street along there was a great sax player called Ray Elliott. All these people, all into music, all with these 45s and 78s, all in this little pocket of this area of East Belfast. I didn’t think this was in any way unusual until later on when other people would say it hadn’t been like that where they were growing up.”[1] Though a student of jazz, Elliott first gained performing experience in the early 1960s as a member of The Broadway Showband,[2] and may also have been in The Golden Eagles.[3]

The Broadway Showband (Ray Elliott at right)

In August 1965, Belfast blues hit-makers Them fell apart, with guitarist Joe Baldi, keyboard player Peter Bardens and drummer Terry Noon all quitting. In the vacuum that followed, a number of London-based ex-members decided to form their own line-up, but more on that later. Meantime, returning to Belfast, singer Van Morrison and bass player Alan Henderson formed a new version of Them in September, recruiting Jim Armstrong from The Melotones on guitar, John Wilson from The Misfits on drums, and Morrison’s old neighbour Ray Elliott from The Broadways on an array of instruments including tenor saxophone, organ, piano, flute, clarinet, piccolo and vibraphone. Morrison knew Elliott was a skilled musician, and consciously wanted to move Them in a more jazz-oriented direction, while Elliott believed that the new line-up had just the right combination of jazz and pop to create a new art form. The new band made its live debut at the Top Hat club in Lisburn in September 1965, and the set would now include jazz pieces such as ‘The Train And The River’, which Ray and Van would perform as a saxophone duet.[4] After further shows in Northern Ireland, the band went to London to record a second Them LP. A tour of the United States, originally planned for August, was postponed again until the following year, though the band managed a one-night engagement at The Olympia, Paris, in October, for which the group used Terry Noon as a stand-in for seventeen-year-old John Wilson, who was too young to obtain a work permit. A new single was issued, pairing two older tracks from the band’s first album – ‘Mystic Eyes’ and ‘If You And I Could Be As Two’ – which reached the charts in America.[5] Live appearances in England were followed by a return to Paris and a date in Stockholm at the end of December, once again with Noon depping for John Wilson, while founder member Billy Harrison also briefly replaced guitarist Jim Armstrong, whose appendix had burst.[3] This line-up was filmed playing live in France with Elliott shining on a keyboard-heavy version of ‘Gloria’ (note: this is not the Olympia gig from October, where Jim Armstrong had played guitar).

Billy Harrison recently described Elliott as “a super saxophone player… Ray was a character, a spaceman. But a super musician.”[6] During the same trip, French TV also required the band to mime to their most famous record with liberal inter-cuts of a donkey, for reasons which presumably made sense at the time.

In January 1966, second album ‘Them Again’ was released in the UK. Exactly who played on the tracks is unclear, as the recording sessions may have stretched as far back as June ’65.[5] Morrison has suggested that session musicians were used extensively,[7] and producer Tommy Scott recalled that the haunting electric piano on ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’ was played by Peter Bardens rather than Ray Elliott,[3] but Jim Armstrong maintains, “There were a few tracks left over from before, but everything after I joined was played by the band. We’re on twelve of the sixteen tracks – no session men.”[8] Indeed the album bore some of the new jazz influences brought by both Elliott and Armstrong, notably Elliott’s flute playing on ‘Hey Girl’ and ‘Don’t You Know’, saxophone and vibraphone on ‘I Put A Spell On You’ and organ on ‘Turn On Your Love Light’. His understated organ work added subtle textures to most of the album, but the band were criticised for abandoning the biting R’n’B of their first album and accused of imitating their organ-led rivals The Animals. Them toured in support, but the album failed to reach the charts. In March, the rival version of Them, who had been playing gigs in England under that name, lost a court case to the Morrison-fronted band. Led by brothers and ex-Them members Pat and Jackie McAuley, they were thereafter only allowed to call themselves ‘Other Them’ or ‘Some Of Them’ when playing in the UK, and so concentrated on touring Europe where they could still be billed as ‘Them’.

Nevertheless, the official band began to argue with their management and among themselves as the UK hits dried up and the pressure increased. Wilson remembers, “Looking back, mostly the band didn’t work well live because there was too much drink and whatever else. It had the potential to be good, but it was never nurtured. No one cared.” And according to Armstrong, “Ray Elliott and Alan Henderson were great looners. They would lose all their money gambling and drinking and hanging out with The Pretty Things… I was a clean-cut kid fresh from Sunday School.”[8] “The thing was falling apart. There was so much infighting and the band were failing. Ray Elliott used to get his money on Monday, get blocked [drunk] and pawn his saxophone. We had to get the saxophone out of the pawn shop for the next gig and things like this. They just drank themselves stupid to get away from all the fighting.”[3] John Wilson soon left and was replaced by English drummer Dave Harvey (born David Tufrey), who made his live debut with the band in May 1966.[4]

Henderson, Armstrong, Elliott and Harvey would remain together for almost two years, bringing some unprecedented stability to the turbulent group. A single taken from the second album – ‘Call My Name’ / ‘Bring ’em On In’ – was released, and the new line-up was filmed by American TV show ‘Where The Action Is’ at Hungerford Bridge in London miming to ‘Call My Name’ and ‘Mystic Eyes’.[5]

In April, it was reported that the band had been denied work visas by the US immigration authorities, who felt that, “Them are not artists of distinguished merit and ability.” According to KRLA Beat magazine, this was despite being shown favourable statements from two US Senators and several recording companies, and booking commitments totalling more than $100,000. Manager Philip Solomon and ‘American managers’ Buddy Resnick and Larry Goldblatt appealed to American music fans to make it clear they wanted Them to visit. ‘Them Again’ was released in the USA in April 1966 on Parrot Records and charted at #138, while a cover of ‘Gloria’ by The Shadows Of Knight reached the US Top 10. In what would prove to be Morrison’s final studio session with Them, they recorded two versions of ‘Richard Cory’, but the resulting single was not a hit. Also recorded at the session, but unreleased at the time, was ‘Mighty Like A Rose’. Visas were eventually issued and in late May, Them began a lengthy debut US tour. They were given an extended residency at the legendary Whisky-A-Go-Go in Los Angeles between 30 May and 18 June, with Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band opening for them on their first night. Them became the first act to avoid the Musician’s Union rule preventing foreign groups from appearing in US clubs which allowed dancing and served food or drinks. They set attendance records at the Whiskey, and there were plans to cut a live LP during their stay there.[4] On the last night of their residency, Jim Morrison and The Doors joined Van Morrison and Them on stage for a twenty-minute version of ‘Gloria’ and a twenty-five-minute version of ‘In the Midnight Hour’. They also played alongside other up-and-coming local groups, including Love, Buffalo Springfield, The Association, The Leaves and The Grass Roots.[5][4] Frank Zappa became good friends with the band, as Armstrong remembers: “Ray being a typical looner woke up in bed with this girl. Frank walked in with his ponytail and Mexican bandit moustache and the girl said, ‘That’s my old man’. Ray near shit, but yer man just says, ‘Come on out and hear this album I’ve just recorded’. Ray came back stoned out of his lid and thought it was great. That was his introduction to Frank. And then Frank came down and played with us a few times. He got on-stage and played blues and we swapped choruses on the likes of ‘Stormy Monday’. It was great fun. And we talked guitar and influences and stuff we liked.”[8] Elliott apparently stayed at Zappa’s house for the remainder of his time in LA.[3]

Second album ‘Them Again’, 1966 (Ray Elliott at front)

The band played all around California, including San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium (with The New Tweedy Brothers), Oakland (with The Association) and Santa Monica (with The New Generation).[4] They performed in Hawaii in July, where Armstrong recalls Elliott honouring their Northern Protestant heritage on ‘The 12th’ by climbing a palm tree and playing the Loyalist anthem ‘The Sash’ on his flute.[3] This was followed by a return to the West Coast and dates in Santa Barbara (with The Doors and The Count Five – led by exiled Dubliner John Byrne), the Fillmore (with The Sons Of Champlin), San Luis Obispo, San Jose and Los Angeles. During the US tour, the band discovered that under their deal with manager Phil Solomon, they had received considerably less money than they should have, and their lawyers began to contest the contracts with Solomon and producer Tommy Scott. The lawyers also stopped the US release under the name ‘Them’ of the (excellent) single ‘Secret Police’ / ‘Gloria’s Dream’ by the McAuley brothers in June 1966, which was instead credited to ‘The Belfast Gipsies’ (even after the break-up of this band at the end of 1966, some of their recordings would continue to be released in France and Sweden under the name ‘Them’). At the end of the tour, Parrot Records released ‘I Can Only Give You Everything’ – a pounding album track written by Phil Coulter & Tommy Scott, with an organ solo by Elliott – as a US single without the band’s approval. It was soon adopted as a garage-punk anthem by bands like The Troggs and The MC5. The group’s work visas expired on 31 August, and Morrison and Henderson went to London to renegotiate terms with Solomon while the others stayed on in Los Angeles. A few weeks later, Armstrong, Elliott and Harvey returned to Belfast. Before leaving they told reporters how much they had enjoyed the tour and expressed sincere regret at leaving California, which had become like another home to them. They promised to go home, get organised and be back in 1967.[4]

Them at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go, 1966 (Ray Elliott at right)

Privately, however, the band were disillusioned, with Armstrong remembering, “We did four months knocking our bollocks in – and we finished the tour with nothing. I even had to borrow money for my ticket home.”[8] Phil Solomon washed his hands of the troublesome group, and after Van Morrison performed a few gigs around Ireland with ad-hoc new Them line-ups, he quit and left for New York to launch a solo career.[4] Armstrong and Elliott spent time in The Federals showband in Belfast, replacing guitarist Eddie Campbell (who would himself later cross paths with Elliott). Band leader Geordie Sproule said of Elliott, “He was a great musician… I’d get wee gigs for me, Jim and Ray. He would play flute and sax. Me and him were drinking really hard.”[3] In December 1966, Henderson, Armstrong, Elliott and Harvey regrouped and decided to carry on with ex-Mad Lads vocalist Kenny McDowell. They asked for help from Californian journalist Carol Deck, who referred them to Texan record producer Ray Ruff, who then sent tickets and contracts to Belfast and became their manager. They relocated to Ruff’s headquarters and private rehearsal studio in Amarillo, Texas, during 1967, where McDowell first played with the band. In August 1967, Them released the US-only single, ‘Dirty Old Man (At The Age Of Sixteen)’, backed with the thoroughly psychedelic group composition ‘Square Room’, on the Sully Records label. In November, a second single – ‘Walking In The Queens Garden’ / ‘I Happen To Love You’ – was issued on their manager’s own Ruff Records label. Both ‘A’ sides demonstrated increasingly garage rock organ, while both ‘B’ sides had more fluid and strident flute. By December, Ruff had completed a deal with Capital Records’ subsidiary Tower, which saw a nation-wide release of a re-recorded version of the Sully single and a reissue the Ruff Records single.[4]

Them return to the USA

At some point, the group had to contend with a completely unrelated band billing themselves as ‘Sandy Jagger (“cousin of Mick”) & More Of Them’ and touring Texas trying to cash-in on their fame.[9] The real Them spent late 1967 on a second US tour, playing 65 days straight, taking one day off, then playing a further 38 days. As Kenny McDowell explained, “We started off on the Mexican border and worked the whole way up into Canada, then across Canada and down to LA. Some of the hops between gigs were 700 miles so you were literally driving through the night to get to the next one. It was fairly gruelling.”[10] Jim Armstrong recalled a gig in Perryton, Texas, where the audience grew angry after frequent power outages, and the band had to endure “rednecks flicking cigarettes at us on-stage. After the gig they drove after us and rammed our car, then put in the windows. We got out of town and there were 12 cars blocking our way. We went into a garage to call the police and the man says, ‘Get the hell out of here!’ and pulls a gun. We went into the police station and all the rednecks came in. They knew the police – it was all ‘Hey Jethro, how’s your dad?’ And everybody’s sitting picking glass out of themselves. Wonderful place!”[10] McDowell added, “Probably the ultimate was playing three nights with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention at the Electric Theater in Chicago – that was probably the highlight of my career. The guys had met them before so there was a good bit of craic going on. Frank was a great guy and he and Ray Elliott got on really, really well because Ray was a quite off-the-wall guy.”[8] The tour broke 32 attendance records across 61 venues,[11] and in Los Angeles, Them made a triumphant return to the Whisky-A-Go-Go for December dates with Love and Blue Cheer.[4]

Them in Amarillo, Texas, 1967

The band hung out in LA for a time and cut a new album in the Hollywood Sounds studio at the end of 1967.[12] Of his time with Elliott, McDowell said, “Ray liked drink and liked drugs! He loved to party and was a brilliant musician. He was just crazy – one of a kind! He would do things like wear his clothes and lay about in them until they were ruined and then walk into a shop on Sunset Boulevard and ditch them for new ones – and he would always pick combinations that were always totally different, like loud, bright striped shirts and chequered trousers or a union jack shirt with a yellow and blue polka-dot tie. He would then put on the new clothes he’d chosen and hand the assistant his old soiled ones. ‘Burn these’, he would always say. Then he’d walk out of the shop with the price tickets still attached and the label, such as ‘Chelsea Mod’, hanging out of the back of his shirt and head off down the road! He was a lovable crazy guy, let’s put it that way!”[13] Armstrong remembers an incident when the band were unable to re-enter the USA after a gig in Winnipeg, Canada, due to stolen passports. “Everybody thought it would be a jolly good idea to sneak over the border. ‘Boys’ Own’! ‘Five go Tramping Over the Border’! We drove 200 miles along the border through the night. At dawn we picked this lonely crossing… We were sneaking through the wheat fields. Ray Elliott was heavy on the drink the night before. He started to feel it. ‘Oh Jesus, the heat, slow down, fellas’. We cut back into America… the Cadillac draws up… into the car… drive on. Next thing we heard this siren. It was the border patrol, guns and all. They thought we were drug smugglers and brought us back to the customs post, where Ray threw up all over the floor. They gave him a bucket and mop: ‘Hey! Long-haired bastard. Wipe it up’. We got the fingerprints bit. Then they realised we were harmless and said, ‘You’ll have to go back to Winnipeg’. Here we go again – we’d just driven 200 miles away from Winnipeg!”[8]

In January 1968, the third Them album – ‘Now And Them’ – was released through Tower. As with the previous album, a few of the pop cover versions could justifiably be described as ‘filler’, but the centrepiece was a ten-minute extended cut of their Doors-influenced psych opus ‘Square Room’, with a lengthy flute solo. And Elliott’s fingerprints are all over a jazzy ‘Nobody Loves You When You’re Down And Out’, featuring saxophone, vibes and piano. In the LP liner notes, Carol Deck alluded to Elliott’s thick Irish brogue, and explained that, “Ray Elliott plays sax, organ, flute, etc., and is the world’s largest living leprechaun, not necessarily in captivity. He’s easy to love but impossible to understand. He calls his sax a typewriter and is capable of talking for hours without making sense to anyone other than himself, but that’s Ray. And you’ll just have to take him as he is, ’cause there’s no way he’s ever going to change. But why should he; he’s enjoying himself. Ray doesn’t trust people, but maybe he has a reason. We’ll probably never know.”[14] The leprechaun comparison was repeatedly used in American media profiles of the band around this time, and we can only wonder whether he was offended by it. Either way, Elliott quit at some point soon after the album was completed. The band recorded their next single ‘But It’s Alright’ during a tour stop in New York which, backed with an edited version of ‘Square Room’, was released in April 1968, but the track doesn’t seem to include Elliott, featuring instead a wall of heavy psych guitar. According to McDowell, “Ray was a bread head. He liked money! When we were out on the road working our arses off, the pay was channelled back to various managers whilst we were budgeted very tightly. Ray just got fed up with it and that’s why he left. He’d had enough. We travelled constantly and I think he just got exhausted. He loved being on the road, but it got to him. We drove in the Cadillac for miles – which was a nice car, but not a tour bus – and being with just the same five guys day-in, day-out, could drive you mad.”[13] “It really is difficult on the road and he’d just had enough. We were in New York and he just flipped and decided he was going home to Belfast and that was it.”[8] The remaining quartet soon began work on their next album, ‘Time Out! Time In For Them’, released in November 1968, before falling out with Ray Ruff and splitting up, at which point Henderson and Harvey both settled down in the USA, with Armstrong and McDowell returning to Belfast.[4]

Third album ‘Now And Them’

Ray Elliott apparently spent time in the Leeds-based Shannon Showband alongside guitarist Eric Bell – soon to find fame with Thin Lizzy[4][15] – and was credited with contributing alto flute and bass clarinet to the March 1970 album ‘Morning Way’ by folky duo Trader Horne, which featured one of his Them keyboard predecessors, Jackie McAuley. His playing here was in a more classical vein, and he also arranged an acoustic version of ‘Down And Out Blues’ – a re-titled song he had contributed heavily to on ‘Now And Them’.[16] Meanwhile, in mid-1969, entrepreneur Scott Doneen contacted Jim Armstrong and Kenny McDowell in Belfast and persuaded them to return to the States yet again by providing plane tickets and a place to rehearse. They moved to Chicago on tourist visas and formed the group Truth with bassist Curtis Bachman and drummer Reno Smith. The quartet rehearsed for a couple of months, then played around the Chicago area and recorded soundtrack music for an independent film. Elliott tried and failed once to enter the USA and join the band, but eventually made it for some final gigs and a few recordings made at a small Chicago studio. On ‘Ride The Wind’ and ‘October ’68’, Elliott added plenty of breezy jazz flute and piano, but best of all is his truly unhinged Rahsaan Roland Kirk-style flute playing on the heavy rock ‘Castles In The Sand’. Truth manager Aaron Russo made a deal to record an album in London for Epic Records, and the group arrived in Belfast for a pre-session holiday in February 1971. However, the Epic deal was put on hold at the last minute, and Truth collapsed during the months they waited for the green light from the label.[17] Elliott spent part of 1971 playing with an Irish group named Gumm.[18] During 1972, McDowell and Armstrong tried unsuccessfully to re-launch Truth with Wills McKinney and Ronnie Parks from local showband The College Boys,[19] while Reno Smith was briefly with Irish pop group Chips in 1973.[20]

Brown & O’Brien, 1972 (at front, Ray Elliott, Mike O’Brien & Billy Brown)

In October 1971, Elliott was reported to be part of a group being assembled by singer / keyboardist / saxophonist Billy Brown (ex-The Freshmen), along with Tiger Taylor (guitar, ex-Eire Apparent), Jimmy Greeley (drums, ex-Orange Machine) and Billy Boyd (bass, ex-The Gentry). Ultimately, super-group Brown & O’Brien was unveiled in November 1971, featuring Billy Brown, Mike O’Brien (vocals, ex-The Real McCoy), Tiger Taylor (guitar), Ray Elliott (keyboards/saxophone), Eddie Creighton (guitar, ex-The Chessmen), Gerry Anderson (bass, ex-The Chessmen, ex-The Real McCoy), Paddy Freeney (drums, ex-The Others) and Pat McCarthy (trombone, ex-Dreams). In early 1972, the single ‘One More River To Cross’ was released on the Hit Records label, credited to ‘Billy Brown of Brown & O’Brien’.[18] It’s unclear how many of the band might have played on the Neil Sedaka/Howard Greenfield song, but it seems likely some of them did. In March, Brown said the band was planning an entire album tentatively titled ‘Questions’, with songs to be composed by Brown with various local lyric writers.[21] Freeney was replaced by drummer Pat Nash (ex-Granny’s Intentions, ex-Woods Band) in July 1972 and the entire band emigrated to Canada to find their fortune. However, by 1973 the super-group had come to an end, with both Brown and O’Brien returning to their former bands back in Ireland.[18]

Elliott and Nash both became part of The Newcomers in the 1970s – a showband originally formed in Belfast by Ian Hillis and Noel McAtasney, but who were by then based in Canada. Other band members at the time were Robyn Hillis (vocals), Eddie/Ned Campbell (guitar, ex-The Federals, ex-The Real McCoy) and Paul Novotny (bass), and later Willie O’Hagen (bass, keyboards, ex-John Farrell & The Groundhogs, ex-Jessie), Mick Firth (lead guitar) and Mick Dunne (keyboards from 1975, ex-John Farrell & The Groundhogs).[22] The Newcomers toured throughout Canada and the United States, and while the band issued occasional singles, such as ‘Banner Man’ (on the Yorkville label around 1973), it’s again not clear whether Elliott recorded with them.[23] Another Irish musician, Albert O’Sullivan, also reports working with both Brown & O’Brien and Ray Elliott during a long professional career in Canada.[24]

It seems Ray Elliott stayed on in Canada permanently but the years after this have not been so well documented; according to John Berg’s revised liner notes for a 2008 LP of Truth archive recordings, “Elliott was rumoured to have played in bar bands in the Toronto area; alas by the late 1990s word was received from his Irish kin of his passing. In belated tribute, none other than Van Morrison commented in one interview that Ray was among the best musicians he played with during the early years of his career.”[17] In 1997, Beck‘s single ‘Jack-Ass’ was built around a sample of the intro to Them’s version of ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’ from the ‘Them Again’ album, and while – as mentioned above – it may not be Ray Elliott playing the haunting, electronically-treated, electric piano, the chance that it might be is a good enough reason to include it here.

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

Post Script

Billy Harrison seems to confirm that Ray Elliott did not in fact play on the last named track during an excellent two-part interview with Ugly Things magazine in 2011. As part of the in-depth piece (during which he speaks positively about the idea of some sort of Them reunion), Billy states that it was his idea for Peter Bardens to play his piano through a vibrato unit on the track ‘Don’t Look Back’, and that Bardens repeated the trick on ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’, though that was recorded after Billy had left the group.

A number of people have been kind enough to make contact since this article was first posted and to give an insight into Ray’s later years. Rainer Wiechmann “had the (dubious?) pleasure of playing with Ray for several months in the early 1980s with a Toronto-based showband. I heard many stories of his days on the road with Zappa, Morisson, etc. I don’t believe he was ever sober, or that he took in any nourishment that couldn’t first be diluted with alcohol & drunk… He was the strangest person I never got to know in any band I have ever played with, but one thing was undeniable, he was one MOTHER^%$er of a musician! He could rival Ian Anderson or Moe Koffman on flute; sax and piano were no challenge, in fact I would say he was so good that the only way he could tolerate being delegated to playing the popular ‘cover tunes’ of the day was to dumb himself down with alcohol so that his abilities were at the same level as the rest of the band. That would explain a lot. RIP Ray.” Heather Muir writes, “I knew Raymond, yes Raymond… I am probably one of or maybe the only person that called him Raymond. I met him in a little bar called ‘The Irish House’ in Jackson’s Point near Sutton, Ontario in ’78. The owner of the bar, Johnny Watson, was Irish, he was connected somehow to Raymond through family in Ireland. Raymond had just returned to Canada from Belfast (he said they were all daft… couldn’t stay there with ‘the troubles’). He was staying at the Irish House and just sitting in with all the different bands that played at the Irish House every Thursday, Friday, Saturday (and totally blowing them away with his sax, flute playing, um… and his Raymondisims).”

The last band Ray played with was called One More Time (“the name originated from Raymond saying that he was going to try this thing ‘one more time’”), with a repertoire covering music from the ’20s through to the ’60s including swing, Latin and jazz classics. A promotional blurb for the group stated that, aside from his time with Them, Ray had “also toured with guitar legend Duane Eddy, playing such venues as the Royal Albert Hall. After years in the rock world, Ray decided to pursue his musical roots in the interpretation of jazz standards. Ray plays his instruments with vibrant and warm tones, deciphering new ways to communicate his experience.” Alongside Ray (on tenor saxophone & flute) were Alfred Gertler (electric fretless bass & contra bass, who had studied music at Berklee College in Boston and the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles) and Alan Kingstone (guitar, a self taught musician with a deep passion for jazz music – everything from Louis Armstrong of the ’20s to Miles Davis of the ’90s). Alan Kingstone himself adds, “I played with Ray in this band doing jazz standards and playing some gigs, clubs, corporate in 1992 and 1993. I may have been the last musician to play with Ray as we tried busking for a weekend in the summer of ’93, made $14 and went to ‘Paupers’ to drink beer. For the busking Ray played flute which he could still really play despite his heavy smoking. He loved James Galway and Stan Getz, and he loved Heather. Our busking repertoire was classical and swing. Ray never felt degraded to play on the street. I remember him enthusiastically asking if I thought we could make money. It was a formative musical time for me and I was very lucky to play with Ray and hear some stories about the road. When Ray became sick and was bed ridden at Toronto’s Western Hospital he laughed about the thought of Benny Goodman’s song ‘Slipped Disc’!” Alan has been a freelance jazz guitarist since his time with Ray and has studied with Barry Harris and Howard Rees since 1987; they published a book in 2005, ‘The Barry Harris Harmonic Method For Guitar’. Heather continues, “I have many memories. I spent 8 years of my life with Raymond, he died in 1993 of brain cancer. I wrote his obituary. There was a celebration of his life held at a pub in Toronto, they closed it for the day as a tribute to Raymond, he had been playing the odd gig there – ‘Paupers’ pub, Yonge and Bloor area.” “I laughed and cried when I read [on the above article] about band members having to haul Raymond’s sax out of the pawn shop fairly frequently – some things never changed in Raymond’s life, that is one of the things. On his death bed Raymond said to me ‘get m’sax out of the pawn shop for me Plunketbottom’, and with great difficulty and calling upon others for help, we managed to do that.”

With sincere thanks to all who added to this article – and most especially to Heather Muir – for generously permitting me to share their personal memories of Ray, here is the obituary Heather wrote in tribute to Raymond.

Raymond Elliott, professional musician, died on Thursday, July 1st, 1993, Toronto, Canada after a brief illness. During his illness his closest friends and family kept a beside vigil, giving him every comfort they could. Beautiful people, not afraid to show their sorrow and express their love to him. Fellow musicians and friends who came at all hours through the long nights to play his favourite music for him, to lovingly hold his hand and stroke his brow….. An overwhelming experience of mysticism, a permanent spiritual bonding with Raymond the creator for all of us. He was a remarkable multi-instrumental musician, renowned for his gifted talent with the tenor sax and flute. He travelled extensively worldwide from the time he was a young man until, road-weary and wanting to put down roots, he made Toronto, Canada his home in 1980. He experienced having his first day job and established strong friendships with people from all walks of life. One of his favourite places, full of some of his favourite people was ‘Paupers’, where he played ‘One More Time’ the music that he loved most passionately and had concentrated on the last several years – jazz and classical. He found pleasure in his garden, reading, history, food and friends. He was an intelligent man; he was intense, yet mellow; predictably unpredictable; eccentric, yet ordinary. He was a humble man; a kind, compassionate man; a loving and romantic man; a man that once you dared to let into your heart, would live there forever. He is…..UNFORGETTABLE. At the end of this rainbow of life, on to another, this beautiful Irish man has surely earned his wings and found the pot of gold. I am honoured and privileged that he gave me his most valuable possession, his precious love, and that I was able to be by his side ‘One More Time’.

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

RAY ELLIOTT DISCOGRAPHY

THEM – Them Again (UK release January 1966. Exact credits unknown but Elliott plays on most tracks; some saxophone parts may be played by Van Morrison)

  • Could You Would You (features organ)
  • Something You Got (features saxophone solo and organ)
  • Call My Name (features organ)
  • Turn On Your Love Light (features organ solo)
  • I Put A Spell On You (features saxophone solo and vibraphone)
  • I Can Only give You Everything (features organ solo)
  • My Lonely Sad Eyes (features organ solo)
  • I Got A Woman (features saxophone solo and piano)
  • Out Of Sight (features saxophone solo and organ)
  • It’s All Over Now Baby Blue (features electric piano solo and organ – possibly by Peter Bardens)
  • Bad Or Good (features piano solo and organ)
  • How Long Baby? (previously released as a ‘B’-side before Elliott joined)
  • Hello Josephine (features piano solo and saxophone)
  • Don’t You Know (features flute solo and piano)
  • Hey Girl (features piano and flute)
  • Bring ’em On In (UK album & single version, features saxophone solo and piano)
  • Bring ’em On In (US album & single version, features saxophone solo and piano)
  • Call My Name (alternate version, unreleased until 1976, features organ)

 

THEM

  • Richard Cory (single released May 1966, features organ)
  • Richard Cory (alternate version, unreleased until 1997, features organ)
  • Mighty Like A Rose (unreleased until 1976, features organ)
  • Dirty Old Man (first single version, released August 1967, features organ solo)
  • Square Room (first single version, released August 1967, features flute solo; co-written by Elliott)
  • Walking In The Queen’s Garden (single version, released November 1967, features organ; co-written by Elliott)
  • I Happen To Love You (single version, released November 1967, features piano and flute)
  • Dirty Old Man (second single version, released December 1967, features piano)
  • Square Room (second single version, released December 1967, features flute; co-written by Elliott)

 

THEM – Now And Them (US release January 1968)

  • I’m Your Witch Doctor (features organ)
  • What’s The Matter Baby (features organ)
  • Truth Machine (co-written by Elliott)
  • Square Room (features flute; co-written by Elliott)
  • You’re Just What I Was Looking For Today (features flute and organ)
  • Dirty Old Man (At The Age Of Sixteen) (features piano)
  • Nobody Loves You When You’re Down And Out (features saxophone solo, vibraphone and piano)
  • Walking In The Queen’s Garden (features organ; co-written by Elliott)
  • I Happen To Love You (features flute solo and piano)
  • Come To Me (features flute and organ; co-written by Elliott)
  • But It’s Alright (single version, released April 1968; may not feature Elliott)
  • Square Room (single edit remix of album track, features flute solo; co-written by Elliott)

 

TRADER HORNE – Morning Way (UK release March 1970. Elliott credited with alto flute and bass clarinet; some flute parts are played by Jackie McAuley)

  • Children Of Oare (features two flute solos)
  • Three Rings For Elven Kings (features two flute solos)
  • Down And Out Blues (features flute solo; arrangement by Elliott)
  • Better Than Today (features flute solo)
  • In My Loneliness (features clarinet solo)
  • The Mutant (features flute solo)

 

TRUTH – Of Them And Other Tales (recorded 1970; unreleased until 1995)

  • Ride The Wind (features piano solo and flute solo; co-written by Elliott)
  • Castles In The Sand (features manic flute solo and piano; co-written by Elliott)
  • October ’68 (The Tears That You Cry) (features piano and flute; co-written by Elliott)

 

BROWN & O’BRIEN

  • One More River To Cross (single ‘A’ side, released early 1972; may feature Elliott)
  • Yesterday Song (single ‘B’ side, released early 1972; may feature Elliott)

 

REFERENCES

[1] (can’t remember!)

[2] Irish Showband & Beat Group Archive: The Broadway Showband

[3] Van Morrison: No Surrender (Johnny Rogan, 2006)

[4] Garage Hangover: Them

[5] Van Morrison: The Early Days Chronology (David Chance, Wavelength #24, 2000)

[6] Them: Billy Harrison Interview (Richie Unterberger, Ugly Things #32, 2011)

[7] Them: Band History (Richie Unterberger)

[8] Irish Folk, Trad & Blues: A Secret History (Colin Harper & Trevor Hodgett, 2004)

[9] Them: Open Session Interview (John Carpenter, KRLA Radio Los Angeles, late 1967/early 1968)

[10] Buried Treasure: Time Out! Time In For Them (Trevor Hodgett, Mojo, late 1990s)

[11] Them Is Back (Time Out! Time In For Them CD liner notes)

[12] Shindig! Magazine (Jon ‘Mojo’ Mills, 2003, Now And Them CD liner notes)

[13] Shindig! Magazine (Jon ‘Mojo’ Mills, 2003, Time Out! Time In For Them CD liner notes)

[14] Now And Them LP liner notes (Carol Deck, 1968)

[15] Eric Bell official website biography

[16] Trader Horne: Morning Way album credits

[17] Truth: Of Them And Other Tales liner notes (John Berg, 1995, 2008)

[18] Irish Showbands.com: Billy Brown / Brown And O’Brien

[19] Irish Showbands.com: The College Boys

[20] Irish Showbands.com: Chips

[21] Billboard vol. 84 (1972)

[22] Robyn Hillis / The Newcomers biography

[23] The Newcomers: Banner Man / It’s Gonna Be A Very Good Year For Lovers

[24] Albert O’Sullivan / The Irish Rogues biography

[25] Genealogy.com: Raymond Elliott

 

Advertisements

24 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. ghjhgjhgj / Apr 20 2012 15:51

    Excellent piece of work!

  2. Rainer Wiechmann / Dec 17 2012 06:48

    yup…that’s pretty much it… I had the (dubious ?) pleasure of playing with Ray for several months in the early 1980’s with a Toronto-based showband. I heard many stories of his days on the road with Zappa, Morisson etc. I don’t believe he was ever sober, or that he took in any nourishment that couldn’t first be diluted with alcohol & drunk. I belive he was born in ’39, he used to say he was “40 years old..” when I knew him. he was the strangest person i never got to know in any band i have ever played with…but one thing was undeniable…he was one MOTHER^%$er of a musician! he could rival Ian Anderson or Moe Koffman on flute, sax and piano were no challenge, in fact , i would say he was so good, that the only way he could tolerate beind delegated to playing the popular “cover tunes” of the day was to dumb himself down with alcohol so that his abilities were at the same level as the rest of the band. That would explain a lot….
    RIP Ray.

    • rockroots / May 20 2013 01:33

      Thanks Rainer, great to hear from someone who knew Ray and can tell us first-hand what he was like as a person. If anyone can fill in any details at all on Ray’s undocumented last decades I’d be very grateful. Also great would be photos or recordings (demos, concert tapes, etc.).

      • Heather Muir / Sep 29 2013 14:24

        I can fill in ,,,absolutely…heather

  3. GeorgeJF / May 4 2013 21:01

    Nice work!

    I’m runnin’ a THEM fan page (them.hupont.hu), so if I foud somethin’ ’bout THEm, that always makes me feel good. The confusion ’round his death (we don’t know the date, do we? I just know 3 dates) makes me feel angry (guys like Hendrix, members of the Rolling Stones, who had littel talent but made big career, we know everything ’bout them, and we know almost nothin ’bout talentfull guys like Ray Elliott and the members of THEM).

    Is there anybody who can help me, doin’ this THEM fan site? I need everybody who knows somethin’ interestin’ ’bout THEM, Know the living THEM memebers e-mail adress or can write down THEM lyrics. If anybody can help me please write to me: nntb[at]freemail.hu (or leave me a comment here). Please help!

    • rockroots / May 20 2013 01:37

      That’s a great site George – I’ve added a link and will contact you directly.

    • tim elliott / Aug 29 2014 12:23

      my name is timothy raymond elliott and ray elliott was my father. ray was born on the 23 january 1939 at the royal maternity hospital belfast .his parents name where andrew elliott, lydia (lillian) elliott formerly stratton.he lived as a child at 5 glenbrook avenue in east belfast.for a few years and then at 68 wesrbourne street newtonards road belfast bt5. he passed away on the 1 july 1993 in toronto western hospital,toronto canada.

  4. Heather Muir / Sep 29 2013 13:39

    I am totally overwhelmed! I knew Raymond, yes Raymond…I am probably one of or maybe the only person that called him Raymond. I met him in a little bar called The Irish House in Jackson’s Point near Sutton Ontario in 78. The owner of the bar Johnny Watson was Irish…he was connected somehow to Raymond through family in Ireland. Raymond had just returned to Canada from Belfast (he said they were all daft …couldn’t stay there with ‘the troubles’. He was staying at the Irish House (no place to call home) and just sitting in with all the different bands that played at the Irish House every Thur,Fri,Sat. (and totally blowing them away with his sax, flute playing…um and his Raymondisims) I am so emotional right now I cannot continue…but I will (soon).. there is soooo much I can say…I have many memories… I spent 8 years of my life with Raymond…he died in 1993 of brain cancer. I wrote his obituary …I have a copy…I will scan and post it…..There was a celebration of his life held at a pub in Toronto…they closed it for the day as a tribute to Raymond..he had been playing the odd gig there. “Paupers Pub” Yonge and Bloor area
    … Oh, give me a while…I have tears as big as horse turds running down my face.
    Miss Plunketbottom
    Heather Muir

    • rockroots / Sep 29 2013 15:43

      Thank you for your comment Heather – I hope those are the good kind of tears I’ve caused! It would be fantastic to learn more about Ray from someone who knew him so well, please do write some more. If you’d rather get in touch privately you can contact me at irishrockrevival@gmail.com

      • Heather Muir / Sep 30 2013 22:22

        I sent you an email with attachments from my work email address.. i hope you received. More to come later…

    • jack / Apr 9 2014 19:36

      Thank you for those words Heather. Ray was such fun to be around.

    • tim elliott / Aug 30 2014 12:18

      my name is timothy raymond elliott and my father was ray elliott. i was born in belfast on 10 february 1969 and my mothers name was rita johnson they where together for about 3 years and split when i was very young.i have no memmories of my father only what was told to me by my mother which where all lies.i have read that you where together for 8 years up until he died.i would like to find out about my father and wonder if you could tell me about him.my mother told me that he walked out on her and me but i found out by my grandmother my mothers mother and by my granny elliott that was all lies.

      • Heather Muir / Sep 1 2014 17:35

        Hi Timothy! I’ve thought about you a million times over the years and hoped with all my heart you would somehow find this tribute to your father…know that your father loved you and thought of you often through all the years of his life. He always referred to you as ‘Timothy’… I saw one photo (only) of you and your father. You were about 3 years old…he was holding you in his arms. He cherished that picture. You were beautiful handsome wee lad…blonde hair.. I’ve often wondered if you inherited your father’s musical talent… I wondered to myself does Timothy play any musical instruments…flute, sax, piano, oboe, clarinet, penny whistle, pica lo, harmonica..your father played many instruments and all superbly. I looked for Timothy Elliott on facebook thinking that if I saw a picture just maybe I would see a resemblance…there were hundreds of Timothy Elliotts and I struck out. For the moment I just want to acknowledge to you that I have received your message and again I am totally thrilled that you have found his tribute on The Irish Rock Music Archive to your father. Your father would be beaming…he deserved this wonderful tribute. Raymond I know would be overjoyed that you found something of him in your life. Please email me at woofter44@gmail.com …I will be in touch with you and let you know more about your father. Where do you live? What do you do? Do you look like your father? Has life been good to you? Although it may be impossible I would so love to meet you… I have a few of his instruments,,, I vowed I would never part with, however, I would so love to gift you his flute …he would love me to do that. Heather

  5. Lorraine Price / Jun 1 2014 22:49

    My name is Lorraine Price (formerly,Lorraine Elliott) I am Ray,s daughter and now reside in South Africa with my husband and three children.I was born in Balham, London on April 21st 1962 while my father was playing there.

    • rockroots / Jun 2 2014 00:13

      Great to hear from you Lorraine. Feel free to add any information you’d like to share about your father.

  6. tim elliott / Aug 28 2014 21:57

    my name is timothy raymond elliott .i was born on the tenth of february 1969 and ray elliott was my father. i was born in the city hospital in Belfast.my mother rita johnson and my father ray elliott had a relationship lasting about 3 years they where not married. they split when i was very young i have no memories of him only what i was told by other people

    • rockroots / Aug 28 2014 23:55

      Thank you Tim. I hope you liked the page, and you’ve probably noticed the comments here from a few other people who were close to Ray.

      • tim elliott / Aug 29 2014 12:30

        thanks for this web page its great to read about my father, unfortunetly i didnt know him.he split with my mother when i was very young. its nice to hear people saying so many nice things about him.

  7. David Tiger Taylor / Jan 16 2017 21:39

    Hi My name is Tiger Taylor i played with Ray Elliott in The Brown and O’Brien band i also knew him for years in Belfast him and me were great friends when he lived in Dublin ive often wondered what happened to him your obituary on Ray and the article on him was excellent … Tiger Taylor

    • rockroots / Jan 19 2017 14:36

      Thank you Tiger – that’s very kind of you to say.

Trackbacks

  1. Chips – Chips « Rock Roots
  2. Even More Updates | Rock Roots: The Irish Rock Music Archive
  3. The Real McCoy – This Is The Real McCoy | Rock Roots: The Irish Rock Music Archive
  4. Tina & The Real McCoy – I Don’t Know How To Love Him | Rock Roots: The Irish Rock Music Archive

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: