Thursday, July 23, 2009
A to Z : Ray Agee (1930-1990)
Ray Agee - Tin Pan Alley (buy) (Sahara, 1963)
Ray Agee - From Now On (buy) (Hi-Fi, 1958)
Ray Agee (see his All Music Guide Biography), born in Alabama, was stricken by polio at age 4. On one of the rare pictures of him I could find, he's leaning on two crutches. When his family emigrated to California, he and his brothers formed a gospel group. Then he switched to doo-wop and R&B and recorded his first 45, "Deep Troubled" for L.A label Aladdin.
I really love his 1963 cover of "Tin Pan Alley", his most acclaimed song, with a great guitar work by Johnny Heartsman. Agee was both a versatile and prolific composer. He tried doo-wop, soul, smooth Charles Brown-like West Coast blues, acoustic blues, socially conscious songs and pop-corn soul and recorded for myriads of small, local labels, never earning a nationwide fame.
Please don't forget to check out 2 posts about Agee in The MPM blog, with a 1972 song and most of all, a great radio interview of Frank Zappa, Ray Agee and Shuggie Otis from 1970 followed by an accoustic jam session with Agee singing. You'll learn that the first record Zappa ever stole was a Ray Agee 45 !