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The Columbia Journal
P.O. Box 2633 MPO,
Vancouver, British Columbia,
Canada V6B 3W8
Phone: 604-266-6552
Fax: 604-267-3342

Web: www.columbiajournal.ca



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Columbia Journal logoVolume Nine, Number Three    May 2004    www.columbiajournal.ca

    A FITTING TRIBUTE TO THE KING OF ROCKABILLY SWING: RAY CONDO!

    Mark Bignell

    Sometimes I have to wonder how many truely great performers in this town
    have to pass away or move before we really start to seriously value what we have here.
    Unless you've been living under a rock, you know by now, the Vancouver indie
    music scene and the world, lost one truely rare and authentic singer, performer and human
    being: RAY CONDO.

    Ray CondoThe  huge amount of  cheerful, reckless abandon, and relentless goodwill he brought to whichever room he played in, be it in the downtown eastside, New York and anywhere in Europe to name but a few locales, will never be forgotten by those who knew him or those who had the huge privelege of seeing him perform live.

    When you saw him perform, he approached his love of the music with so much passion and good hearted fun, even those who didn't like the music couldn't help but have a deep respect of this man's full throttle, no nonsense approach.

    He got his start in a Vancouver New wave group called The Secret V's in the late 70's, and had a big admiration for the raw energy of such Punk bands as The Sex Pistols and The Buzzcocks, but his true calling was the Country-tinged swing, rockabilly and all twangy shades in between, be it with his Hard Rock Goners in the 80's to his Ricochets of the 90's to the present.

    He knew the music backwards and forwards and put on a clinic whenever he performed.

    It was only fitting a proper send-off to the man was put together by long-time friend and most recent drummer, Ian Tiles and many of his honored friends at the Ironworks in Gastown.

    You could feel intermittently the great loss and the great joy of Ray flooding the place. A feeling not many perormers can leave behind. Ray was one of a kind.

    Almost everyone from the scene that could be there was there, either on-stage or in the close-knit family that is the Roots scene in Vancouver:

    Nicole steen and Marcus Rodgers of Coal, Butch Murphy and The Bughouse 5, Ana Bon Bon, Chris Houston, Mistress Jen, Doug Andrew, The Golden Wedding Band, Ronnie Hayward, Herald Nix, members of Swank, Elbore James, Randy Carpenter (Modernettes and producer of the last session Ray Condo recorded: a song for the Alejandro Escovedo project that should be out if not now, soon), Samanta Parton of The Be Good Tanyas, Lazy Susan, Grant and Vicky from Zulu records, producer Marc L'esperance, Andrew and Amy from Red Cat Records...even Lilyfrost (Lindsay Davis) flew in from Toronto with a new song she wrote just for Ray.

    Each band put on a valiant performance and the overall atmosphere which was at one point
    sombre, was joyous to the point of tears with everyone having a crack at the dance floor, letting the spirits flow (without the rowdism) and remembering what Ray would have wanted us to remember most. When you realize your own mortality and the time you have to leave your mark with people, make it a
    positive one in some way shape or form, and remember to love each other and for God's sake have fun!

    This was evident not only with all involved ,but, also in the last recording in existence of Ray:
    in rehearsal at longtime guitarist's Stephen Nikleva's apartment just days before one of Ray's last scheduled shows in Vancouver.

    Ray's band took the stage, holding their instruments in tribute, as the last Ray Condo recordings
    filled the room.

    Ray Condo was and always will be remembered as a greatly valued friend and performer from our enviable music scene.

    After hearing of Ray's passing, I almost put my radio show aside because of it.

    I didn't... I came in and played pretty much all Ray Condo, as a sort of wake / tribute to him. The band I had scheduled did play (Mingoose), and they even dedicated a song to Ray....

    Ray Condo was one of the first acts I played on Radio Bandcouver when it was a mere one hour show on Co-op radio in 1997.

    I went to as many Ray Condo shows as I could. Be it at The Railway,one of his weekly residences at the Marine Club, or a special outdoor show at The Kitsilano Showboat. I always marveled at the man's
    unrivaled on-stage presence, quick-wit, and vigor, leading his band of  Ricochets careening throw
    number after number, tossing aside all inhibitions and just letting it happen. The motto was: "To hell with cool, have fun!"

    I, as many in the local scene and the world, will dearly miss his charisma, his playful, acrobatic vocals, and endless dedication and pure love of his craft.

    His unique, energetic music is a pleasure to listen to anytime just for the sheer joy and light-heartedness it brings to a room.

    The rest is ours to honor, and to be proud to have witnessed and supported...

    We Love You, Ray

    Mark Bignell
    Radio Bandcouver
    CFRO 102.7FM
    Fridays 10pm




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