The Early Days
Ray's interest in becoming a guitarist began when he was 16 years old, and he later studied the instrument and music at Miami-Dade College. "It was hard rock and heavy metal," said Ray. "I was into Van Halen, Journey, Judas Priest, KISS and Ozzy Osbourne. I had to find out what that was all about." Ray sites his early influences as Eddie Van Halen, Neil Giraldo and Neal Schon. He formed a band named Crystal Dagger when he was 18, they played a few parties before dissipating as many bands often do. Then came the band Sin City, which solidly played the South Florida circuit, beachfront bars, and such. They even traveled to New York for two months trying to land a record deal.
Shifts in the Wind
"At that time, music was in a flux and tastes changed from hard rock to grunge," said Ray. "So our window of opportunity closed and we eventually disbanded." Ray worked at several music stores before getting into the real estate world, where he found success, but the bottom eventually dropped out of the market. No matter his career change, rock-n-roll was in Ray's bones and he fulfilled a desire to stay involved with music.
A Painful Blow
"I have a friend who has a small independent guitar store in Coral Springs, and I followed his pattern and opened up my own guitar shop" said Ray. "I wanted to be able to be immersed in guitars and the local music scene." Ray reunited with Sin City vocalist to play lead guitar in the Jack Stevens band until Jack, the band leader, died suddenly on the eve of their biggest show, headlining Revolution Live, a 1300 person venue in downtown Ft Lauderdale. “I was devastated” said Ray, who took a hiatus from playing original music and concentrated on growing his guitar shop. He sponsored many live events in the store and throughout the neighborhood, growing a community while staying immersed in music.
A New Beginning
In walked multi talented artist Maria Ines Serritella. The two hit it off right away and formed the acoustic duo MaRaya and Midnight Angel, a Pat Benatar tribute band. Beyond performing covers of others’ music, Maria sparked Ray’s desire to create new music. It was after a dream Ray had of former frontman Jack Stevens pleading with him to not let the music they created together die, that Ray would enlist Maria to revive the songs of Sin City and the Jack Stevens Band, but with a twist, a powerful female lead vocalist. Out of the Ashes is the product of collaboration with past band members reinventing the hard edge rock.
Whether it be an acoustic duo covering decades of classic rock/pop songs, a tribute to one of rocks great voices in Pat Benatar or all original rock, Ray and Maria are keeping themselves busy!
Said Ray, "It's rock and roll forever."