Ray Goodman & Dick Wagner
Long recognized as a member of the elite group of musicians emerging from the Detroit, Michigan area in the late 1960s Ray Goodman has worn many hats. A member of such seminal rock bands as SRC and The Detroit Wheels, Ray has also served as a studio musician, touring guitarist for hire, and as a studio owner, sound engineer and record producer. Referred to by Mitch Ryder as "One of America’s best guitarists," Ray was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule in order to grant an interview for “It’s Psychedelic Baby” readers.
When and where were you born? Was music a big part of growing up in the Goodman household?
I was born in Detroit on December 31 in 1950. Television was a new thing and was only broadcast for 3 or 4 hours a day, we didn’t even have one until I was 4 or 5. Radio was a big deal at our house and it was usually tuned to WEXL AM, a country station, or other stations that featured music. I grew up listening to Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Bob Willis and other early Country stars as well as Patti Page, Perry Como, Pat Boone, etc.
And then the first wave of Rock and Roll hit the airwaves…
When did you begin playing music and what was the first instrument you learned to play?
Guitar circa 61 or 62.
How old were you when you took up guitar and what was the first guitar you owned?
I think I was ten or eleven, my first guitar was an acoustic “parlor” style with hand painted palm trees and hula dancers. Several luthiers who have seen it identified it as a relic from the Hawiian music craze of the early 20th century, possibly built by Martin or Gibson. I still have it. I took my first guitar lessons from Ed Wygle who also taught Jack Scott to play.
In 1965 you and your group 'The Invictas' won the Michigan State Fair’s Battle Of The Bands. Who were the other members of the band and what kind of music did you play? Do you recall the songs that you played in order to win the contest?
The members of the Invictas were Ken Hutchison, Randy Bazzel, Gary Sandor and Scotty Bray. We played the usual top 40 covers of the day, Beatles, Stones, Louie Louie, etc. We closed the set with “Miserlou” by Dick Dale and some say that’s the song that got us over.
What was the lifespan of The Invictas? Did the band do any recording? What sorts of gigs did the band perform and who were some of the bands you shared bills with?
We lasted from 64 until 66 with some spillover into 67, only about 3 years but that’s an eternity when you’re a teenager. We played sock hops for all of the AM rock stations of the day, CKLW, KEENER 13, WXYZ, etc. Major stars would travel from one sock hop to another and lip sync their latest record. We shared the bill with the Temptations, The Supremes and Dionne Warwick, to name a few.
In 1969 you became a member of the legendary psychedelic rock band SRC. Were you a member of any band in between the two?
Yes, I met a young, gifted musician named Bobby Franklin at the State Fair and began playing with him at the legendary 20 Grand Night Club for Ernie Durham’s teen shows and various other gigs. Bobby had a large revue called The Famous Brothers which had some great players and singers including an amazing bass player named Hubie Crawford. Needless to say, it was an unforgettable musical experience and education for which this white kid from the suburbs is eternally grateful. The black community in Detroit and elsewhere was still dealing with apartheid like conditions but I was welcomed and accepted. I’m sad to say that it mostly came to and end after the civil disturbance of 1967. The band eventually morphed into “Bobby Franklin’s Insanity” and got a deal with Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom label. Although I continued to play with them occasionally I did not perform on their album or single.
In 67 I had a short lived band called Soul’s Image that specialized in Soul/R&B covers. During that time I met Johnny Bee Badanjek at a music store. Bee had been struggling to keep the Wheels going after Mitch went solo but they’d finally thrown in the towel.
After hearing me play he invited me to join his new band Blueberry Jam. I played with them all through 68 into 1969.
Soul’s Image 1967
How were you chosen to replace the two former guitarists in SRC and how long did you remain with the band?
Steve Lyman had already left and Gary Quackenbush was in a serious motorcycle crash. I had seen the band a few times and liked them. I read somewhere that they needed a guitarist so I called Alan Sussman at Pioneer Records and he arranged an audition for me through John Rhys, the band’s producer. I was with SRC for less that a year.
In late 1969 you recorded SRC’s third and final album "A Traveler’s Tale". What can you tell us about the writing of the songs for the album?
A lot of the songs were sketched out in California when the band played at Fillmore West and other venues. I was traveling with them but had not yet joined them on stage. There was a lot of collaboration between Scott, Glenn and myself on that tour later when we got back to Ann Arbor
Where did the recording sessions take place and how long did they last? Can you share any stories about the sessions.
The album was recorded at SRC studio located in a dilapidated rental house on Broadway St. in A2. We were fairly well rehearsed by then so the sessions went smoothly and quickly. It was old school recording with minimal microphones. We used to capture performances back then as opposed to creating them in a computer. However, there are many overdubs on that record because we had an 8 track recorder and that was quite a luxury at the time… (Hah)!
SRC performed regularly at the Grande Ballroom with groups such as the MC5, Ted Nugent, Dick Wagner and The Frost and Iggy and The Stooges. What was it like to share bills with such well known acts? Would you share some recollections of gigs from this time period?
I have more accurate recollections of being in the audience at the Grande than I do on stage with SRC. I know I performed there with them on several occasions. I’m not one to air dirty laundry in public but one of my memories of SRC and the Grande is the time the band set me up for a confrontation with Russ Gibb. My mother was on the guest list and they were embarrassed by it, not cool when you’re an important rock star I guess. It was a petty act, one I had forgotten about until Tony Danunnzio proudly introduced his mother on stage at the world premiere of “Louder Than Love”, his documentary about the Grande. I’m sad to say that mom wasn’t around to be there that night.
I knew most of the bands and many of the regulars there. Ted Nugent, Wayne Kramer, Iggy and Dick Wagner were always friendly and complimentary. Dick, Cub Koda and Jem Targal became dear friends. I’m still in touch with MC Dave Miller and photographer Thomas Weschler among others.
I believe you left SRC and joined Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels. Is that correct? What were the circumstances surrounding this change?
Suffice to say that there were significant personal and artistic differences. Bee called and let me know that Mitch had moved back from NYC to reform the Detroit Wheels. He invited me to come down and jam at the Cream Magazine building on Cass Ave. and the rest is a minor event in Rock and Roll history. The band consisted of most of my old friends from Blueberry Jam with Larry Hamilton aka Boot Hill added on keys. It felt like a homecoming.
Would you tell us a bit about your time with Mitch Ryder? Did you record with the band? Do any venues or gigs that you played stick out in your mind?
My first stint with Mitch involved seemingly endless touring all over the US and Canada. I believe that I saw more of North America through the window of a car in 1970 than at any other time in my life since. It was an exhausting pace and the pay was atrocious. We recorded most rehearsals. I still have some of those reels but the only true session that I remember is re-recording Jenny Take a Ride for the sound track of C.C. Riders, a movie that starred Joe Namath and Ann Margaret.
The gig that most stands out in my mind was the Goose Lake Festival, it was a magical event and we tore it up!
At some point during the 1970s you became the guitarist and musical director for the famous songwriting team Holland, Dozier and Holland’s Invictus label after they left Motown? How did your involvement come about? Who were some of the artists that you played sessions for? Which artists did you tour with?
Let met set the record straight, I was never “the” guitarist and musical director at Invictus, staff guitarist would be a better descriptor and I was one of many. I don’t remember how I got that gig but my R&B roots didn’t hurt. I played a few sessions there but none of them were hits. I mainly toured with the Chairmen of The Board, 100 Proof Aged in Soul and Ruth Copeland.
What did your duties as musical director consist of? How long did your relationship with Invictus last? Share, if you would, some recollections of your time at the label. Do you have any idea of how many records were sold that you were involved with at Invictus? What were some of the biggest sellers? How many gold and platinum records were you involved with?
A musical director needs the ability to show up on time, know everyone’s parts as well as your own, be a nice guy and never pay attention to things that aren’t your business, particularly if it involves the stars of the show.
Any sessions I did there were album cuts at best… I had zero involvement with the hits other than playing them live. I think that the producers mostly used Ray Monette, Eddie Hazel, Bruce Nazarian and other session guitarists that already had a working relationship with them before I got there. I’m not 100% sure of some of those names…
When and why did you leave Invictus? Please share a few of your more vivid memories of your time at the label.
I left after a year or so. There was a lot of infighting and jockeying for position and that just isn’t my scene. Without naming names, there was also a lot of heroin abuse and addiction. If you’ve seen Standing in The Shadows of Motown you have an idea of how low on the food chain and how poorly paid those great players were. Ditto for HDH, I left and began touring with Bob Hodge and Catfish, Detroit featuring Rusty Day and others. I recorded an album with Luther Allison for a Motown subsidiary around 1972. That was the first time I worked with various members of the Funk Brothers, they were up there with the Beatles in my eyes. It was an honor to be part of that record.
By the early 1980s you were involved with MCA recording artists 'The Automatics'- Who were the other members of the band and why was the album you recorded with them never released?
The other members of the Automatics were Bruce Nazarian, Nolan Mendenhall, Jerry Jones and Jim Noel (later replaced by Mark Nilan). Their first release got little or no support, I signed on for the second album and we had it in the can when Irving Azoff became head of the label. His first act as president of MCA was to get rid of most of the roster, we didn’t make the cut.
You also recorded with artists like David Ruffin of The Temptations and Philipe Wynne of The Spinners. What was it like recording with these musical icons?
These projects were both an offshoot of the Automatics and my long friendship with guitarist and producer Bruce Nazarian. Although I was present at pre-production meetings, neither project ever happened. David was picked up by Hall and Oates and Phillipe died from a heart attack. A tragedy as well as one of my life’s little ironies…
About this time you purchased Reel Time Audio and relocated to Savannah, Georgia. You spent much of your time producing award winning television and radio spots. Why the move and would you name some of these productions that our readers would be familiar with?
The move to Savannah was for love, both for the city and a woman who lived there. There was a thriving music scene and a legendary club called the Night Flight that gave a leg up to many acts including 10,000 Maniacs and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Savannah was and is still part of the Old South. Reel Time studio specialized in “regionalizing” national ads for the Southern market. We would take nationally produced spots commonly known as a “donuts” and use our own voice actors, etc. to make them more suitable for southern tastes. Clients included Chevy, other automotive accounts, McDonalds and a small southern based donut chain known as Krispy Kreme.
In the 1990s you returned to Detroit and split your time recording and doing live performances with Mitch Ryder among other artists. Who else did you record and tour with? Why did you return to Michigan? Would you describe some of the recording sessions and some live performances from this period?
Forgive me for getting autobiographical on you, this is going to take some time…
After about five years in Savannah my love affair with the city and the woman had ended. Developers bought up the warehouse district, the music clubs closed and I was having business problems with my partner at Reel Time. I returned to Detroit in 1988 and was introduced to a blues guitar player from Saginaw named Larry McCray. I spent the next two years with Larry helping him develop his formidable talents. We recorded the first album and in 1990 we toured as opening act for Gary Moore on his “Still Got The Blues” tour in Europe. We were there for nearly 3 months, sometimes billed as “The Greatest Guitar Duo since the Allman Brothers”. In another one of life’s little ironies, Larry resented that and put an end to the band as soon as we got back to the states. To come that far only to have it taken away was quite a blow. It took me a while to get my bearings afterwards.
Later in 1990 when I got the opportunity to rejoin The Mitch Ryder Band I welcomed it. I hadn’t worked with him since 1979. He was still playing about 250 dates a year in the United States and Europe so there was a lot of travel, this time under better circumstances than in the 70’s. I got play on a few of his German recordings. Mitch is truly one of the all time greats and one of the few singers whom I consider to be a musician. I was happy to spend a large part of the 90’s as his guitarist. We’re still friends and I’ve worked with him as recently as 2010.
As far as sessions, I played on television ads for Pontiac, Blue Care Network and others. There’s not as much of that kind of production going on in Detroit any more. I miss it, especially the royalty checks…
Remaining in demand as a recording engineer and producer as well as session guitarist you opened a new recording facility, Rancho Rayo Studios. Who are some of the artists you have recorded, produced and played sessions for? Howon earth have you found the time and energy for all these projects?
Your description sounds a lot better than the reality! I’m an old analog guy but I embraced the digital age early on in the mid 90’s. I opened my own home studio in 2003 when digital first became affordable. I’ve recorded and produced some interesting projects here including the Michigan Finger Style Guitar Society, a local Bluegrass group called Company of Strangers, The Shades of Blue and various others, some of which has gotten airplay. I produced several songs for Jem Targal from Third Power who is one of my personal favorites. I quickly out grew the space and repurposed the room for analog tape archiving and restoration. It’s become virtually a tape recorder museum, I now produce most projects at other studios and do overdubs and mixing at home.
In 2011 you were instrumental in putting together reunion gigs with SRC. Who else has been involved in these reunions and how has it been to perform with band mates of 40 plus years ago?
It was kind of like making sausage, the fans loved it but they wouldn’t want to know what went into it. They acceptance and love from our fans for our first gig in over 40 years was one of the most gratifying experiences of my life, absolutely unforgettable! It was also a one time event.
Earlier this year you were involved in the extremely well received tour of The Maestro of Rock, Mr. Dick Wagner, who I had the pleasure of interviewing a few months ago just before the tour began. What was it like to share the stage with the main man from The Frost who you had appeared with at The Grande Ballroom several decades ago? Would you be kind enough to share a few stories about this tour?
The Maestro of Rock tour was another deeply gratifying event in my life. It was a lot of hard work, much of Dick’s writing can be harmonically complex and isn’t easy to play. We chose some very strong players who were willing to do the work and the rest is history. We were more like a family than a band and it showed. I want more of that!
The other players were: Skeeto Valdez, drums; Phil Whitfield, keys; Grant West, bass and Dennis Burr, guitar. We used Dick’s son Robert on vocals for the first part of the tour and replaced him with Al Jacquez from Savage Grace when he had to return to Austin for gigs with his own band. They’re both consummate singers.
Dick is a long time friend, I’ve known him since the 60’s. When I consider what he has achieved in his long career I’m totally in awe! In my opinion, he’s the best and brightest of any of us who came up out of that twisted social experiment known as the Grande Ballroom. We both have a high regard for each other’s skills and work together in a way that is complimentary rather than competitive. I played with him for years after he moved back to Saginaw in the 90’s. It was tough going, I’m happy to see him finally get a bit of what’s due him for all the contributions he’s made to music. I’m thrilled to play a part in it.
Ray & Dick rehearsing
© Dane Gussin
It’s well known that he suffered a near fatal heart attack a few years after retiring to Arizona in 2005, It’s lesser known that his left arm was paralyzed leaving him unable to play guitar at all. It took him 5 years to get it back through sheer determination, willpower and a stubborn refusal to give up. I am proud of him and proud to call him a friend. Please don’t tell him I said that…
Guitar clinic for Blackstar amps
Ray, how do you explain the longevity and success of your musical career? Are there any words of wisdom or trade secrets you would like to share to explain your ability to maintain a pace people half your age would find difficult to maintain?
I’ve had far more longevity than success. Down time is one of the hardest things for me to deal with and I’ve had years of it. It’s important to keep yourself healthy, to exercise and stay away from hard drugs! Keep a sense of humility and humor, get over yourself, marry well or nor at all. Chet Atkins said “be a nice guy and steal from the best”. I haven’t always lived up to that but it seems to be working late in life…
I should also say, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!
The music industry is a business the preys on and cannibalizes it’s own youth. It has always been so…the industry as I knew it shot itself in the head over digital downloads. Musicians today have a golden opportunity to establish themselves as independent artists on the web and in other ways that were unheard of under the old studio system. This will not last forever, MBA’s, Lawyers and Bean Counters will find a way to take over this and any other social phenomenon that smells of money. It’s only a matter of time, be strong and follow your dreams…
What is a typical day, in the year 2012, like for Mr. Ray Goodman, guitarist, sound engineer, record producer, studio owner, and musician for hire?
On a best typical day I’m involved in a music project or other creative venture that challenges my skills, my wife is happy and I’m getting paid well.
On a worst typical day I’m watching endless Ninja Warrior repeats and deeply involved in bird feeder maintenance. Also, I’m broke…
One last question Ray, is there anything we have failed to discuss that you would like "It’s Psychedelic Baby" readers to know about you and your incredible musical journey that is quickly approaching half a century by my count?
I’ve spent a large part of my career as a musical rodeo clown, I’m just happy that I can still outrun the bull…
Thank you so much for so graciously agreeing to this interview and for taking our readers through the incredible career of, as Mitch Ryder says "One of America’s best guitarists" and I would like to add a true musician’s musician and great gentleman.
Interview made by Kevin Rathert / 2012
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