Sunday, March 8, 2015

Black Duck (With The Baby Blue Eyes)

Ray Whitaker
Whitaker, Whirl Music, inc.

Ray Note S-3   
6331 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood 28

Ray Whitaker
wrote his first concerto at 17, which won him a musical scholarship.  Following 3 years in the Air Force with the Special Services Division, he headed various orchestras and appeared in clubs in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. 

In 1957, he failed to impress the Billboard reviewer of his Tropicana album (Rock and Roll Your Bones, Ray Whitaker at the Hammond) :
A mediocre attempt to capitalize on the rock and roll craze via the heavy beat of a Hammond organ on tunes like "Tuxedo Junction," "St. James Infirmary," "Darktown Strutters Ball," etc. 
After few sessions at Surf Records, where his orchestra backed Del Erickson and Jeff James, he started his own Ray Note Records.

Some ten singles and several albums were issued in 1959-1960, including three singles by Darla Hood and the very last recordings of  Western String veteran Spade Cooley ("Fidoodlin", Ray Note LP 5007).

After the label folded, Ray had labored for three long years upon one truly bizarre musical instrument called the Musicade.  It consisted of a Hammond organ, a Lowrey organ, a baby grand piano, xylophone, vibraharp, drums and more than 30 other percussion instruments--all. combined into a gigantic device which was to be played by Whitaker while seated before four keyboards.   The Musicade was first played at the Mardi Gras, an entertainment lounge, located on Chapman Avenue in Orange one night of December 1965 :

He later moved to Tucson, Arizona where he lived with his mother, Stacia, who helped him to wire another Musicade.  According to the Tucson Daily Citizen (June 6, 1970) :
Ray says he owes most of the wiring of the musicade to his mother. "At the age of. 64, I quit show business," she says laughingly, "and became an electrician. I got so I was wiring that thing in my sleep and at times it seemed like a nightmare. I can't believe I really did it."   Some of the plugs between the various units, she explains, contain more than 100 wires. "Friends used to drop around and watch us during the three and a half years it took us to build it. 
According to the same newspaper, the Musicade was unfortunately destroyed by a fire which destroyed the bar where it was. (June 1971).

Ray Whitaker died in 2003 in San Diego, Calif.

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