Happy Birthday to Brian Thomas Ray – born January 4, 1955

Happy Birthday to – born January 4, 1955

Brian Thomas Ray is an American session musician, guitarist, bassist, singer–songwriter and musical director. He is best known for his work as lead, rhythm, and bass guitarist with Sir Paul McCartney, though he has worked with an extensive list of artists in addition to his own solo career.

Early life

Brian Ray grew up in Southern California. His first musical performances were in front of his peers – at show and tell – setting his own lyrics to the tune of old folk songs.

By the age of nine, he began playing the guitar. His elder sister Jean (of folk duo Jim and Jean) spurred his interest in rock music through her record collection. Jean invited Brian to play at the LA Troubadour when he was 15 years old. She was “probably the most important and influential person” in Ray’s early life.


In 1973, shortly after graduating from high school, Ray began his musical career as part of Bobby Pickett and the Crypt Kicker Five, playing the “Monster Mash” at a fundraising benefit hosted by and for Phil Kaufman. Kaufman took Ray in and would later introduce him to singer Etta James at a rehearsal for the world-famous Troubadour, just as James was on the brink of a career comeback. That brief introduction would eventually lead to Ray’s 14-year career as Etta James’ musical director and guitarist.

While working for Etta James, Ray also shared stages with musicians such as Keith Richards, Santana, Joe Cocker, Bonnie Raitt, John Lee Hooker and Bo Diddley. At this time he also began focusing more on songwriting. Ray spent the late 1980s collaborating with musicians such as Peter Frampton, Rita Coolidge, Michael Steele (of The Bangles) and Steve LeGassick, who became a songwriting partner for 13 years. It was this songwriting partnership with LeGassick that would create the 1987 Smokey Robinson award-winning hit “One Heartbeat”, which has received over 2,000,000 airplays.

Prior to working with Paul McCartney in 2002, Ray was working on tour in France with two different French artists, Mylène Farmer and Johnny Hallyday. Abe Laboriel Jr., a drummer who had worked with Brian Ray, mentioned that Paul McCartney was in search of a guitarist who could easily switch between guitar and bass guitar. After meeting with McCartney’s producer for Driving Rain, David Kahne, Ray joined Paul McCartney for the pre-game performance of “Freedom” at the NFL’s Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002.

Ray joined the rest of Paul McCartney’s band for the Driving Rain tour in promotion of the album. As of then, he has appeared on McCartney’s solo albums, such as Back in the World, Back in the U.S. and Memory Almost Full, as well as three concert DVDs: Paul McCartney in Red Square, The Space Within US and Good Evening New York City.

In addition to being a session musician, Brian Ray has also contributed to film scores such as the soundtrack to the film Heartbreakers in 1984. In 2002, Ray and Abe Laboriel Jr. composed the score for the independent film The Failures. In 2011, Ray joined with Oliver Leiber to form The Bayonets.

Solo career

After decades of performing, writing and recording with musical artists, Brian Ray released his first solo album, Mondo Magneto, on October 16, 2006 through his record label Whooray Records.

“People have always asked me when I was going to do my own thing”, Ray said, “I guess I was just busy.”[3]

Musicians on Mondo Magneto include Scott Shriner from Weezer, Davey Faragher from Elvis Costello’s band, as well as Abe Laboriel, Jr., Wix Wickens and Rusty Anderson from Paul McCartney’s band.

When Ray asked the blues singer and his former boss Etta James if she would sing with him on the album her answer was simple, and immediate – “I’ll do anything for Brian.”

Mondo Magneto’s record release party was held at The Mint in Los Angeles, California on January 21, 2006. Ray’s live band, Black Unicorn, includes musicians Peter Thorn on guitar, John Button on bass, and Matt Laug on drums. The band performs their music in Los Angeles clubs, such as The Viper Room and The Mint.

In 2008, Larry Graves and Brian Ray made a video for Ray’s song “Coming Up Roses”.

In April 2009, Ray revealed that he was working on a second album, entitled This Way Up.


Year Album Artist Notes
1976 Etta Is Betta Than Evvah Etta James
1977 Crackin’ Crackin’
1978 The Reggie Knighton Band The Reggie Knighton Band
1978 Deep in the Night Etta James
1981 Hot Spot Steve Goodman
1987 One Heartbeat Smokey Robinson Co-writer, arranger, programming and guitars on recording with Smokey Robinson
1989 Joy Crystal Lewis
1992 Backstreets of Desire Willy DeVille
Love Lessons Rita Coolidge Writer, arranger and producer
1994 Live from San Francisco Etta James Live album; co- producer and music director, guitars
1995 Loup Garou Willy DeVille
1996 Greatest Hits Brenda Russell Writer, producer and guitars
1998 Johnny allume le feu au Stade de France Johnny Hallyday Live Album; guitars
2000 100% Johnny Live à la Tour Eiffel Johnny Hallyday Live Album; guitars
2001 Laundry Service Shakira Guitars (Mis-Credited as Bryan Ray on Liner Notes)
2002 Back in the U.S. Paul McCartney Live album and DVD; bass, electric guitars, acoustic guitar
2003 Back in the World Paul McCartney Live Album; bass, electric guitars, acoustic guitar
2004 Blues to the Bone Etta James
2005 Paul McCartney in Red Square Paul McCartney Live DVD; bass, electric guitars, acoustic guitar
Chaos and Creation in the Backyard Paul McCartney
Mondo Magneto Brian Ray Debut solo album
Undressing Underwater Rusty Anderson
2006 The Space Within US Paul McCartney Live DVD; electric guitars, bass, acoustic guitar
Le coeur d’un homme Johnny Hallyday Guitars
2007 Memory Almost Full Paul McCartney
2008 Pistola Willy DeVille
Ca ne finira jamais Johnny Hallyday
2009 Good Evening New York City Paul McCartney Live DVD; bass guitar, electric guitars, acoustic guitar
All I Ever Wanted Kelly Clarkson guitar
2010 “This Way Up” Brian Ray Solo album

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