Gil Ray, Drummer for Game Theory and The Loud Family

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Omnivore Game Theory Lolita Nation trailer–Watch on YouTube

Gil Ray (September 17, 1956-January 24, 2017) was a drummer  for Game Theory and The Loud Family. He joined California-guitarist Scott Miller, who founded both bands. Game Theory’s magnus opus is Lolita Nation, a 1987 album. Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone called it “a head-spinning classic” and Stuart Batsford of Bucketful of Brains dubbed it “A work that ranks with the best music of the ’80s. Period.” Game Theory is often compared to Big Star, the band led by Alex Chilton. Like Big Star, Game Theory achieved much critical, but little, commercial success.

The Loud Family

The Loud Family emerged after Game Theory disbanded. It took its name from the family made famous on the PBS series An American Family. Although Ray did not join the band at its origin, he participated in the recording of its two final albums, Days for Days (1998) and Attractive Nuisance (2000). In a review of  a concert in support of the latter album, The Washington Post wrote “drummer Gil Ray’s inventiveness was a revelation.”

“We Love You, Carol and Alison” on Spotify

Larry Steinbachek, Keyboardist for Bronski Beat

“Smalltown Boy”–Watch on YouTube

It doesn’t seem that long ago (although I guess it’s been about 30 years!), but when the video for Bronski Beat’s “Smalltown Boy” came out, it was still unfamiliar to see honest depictions of gay life in popular entertainment. This video, purportedly based on experiences from lead singer Jimmy Somerville’s life, was brave enough to show men admiring other men and the homophobia and family strife that came along with it.

Larry Steinbachek joined Somerville and Steve Bronski in forming Bronski Beat in 1983. Their career got a boost when they opened for Tina Turner and were signed by the London label. Their debut album, Age of Consent, which included “Smalltown Boy,” featured a pink triangle on its cover. The inner sleeve of the album listed the age of consent for gay men in various European countries.

Somerville left the band for the Communards and another incarnation of Bronski Beat with John Jon as singer lasted only a few years before disbanding. They did manage to get an album in the UK Top 20 with 1986’s Truthdare Doubledare.

Since the mid-90s, Steinbachek lived in Amsterdam, where he continued to pursue music and contributed to various stage acts.

“Hit That Perfect Beat” on Spotify

Tommy Allsup, Guitarist for Buddy Holly and Other Hitmakers

“It’s So Easy” LIVE–Watch on YouTube

I’ve been to the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, IA, the club where Buddy Holly performed his last concert before his tragic death in an airplane crash. As a member of Holly’s band The Crickets, Tommy Allsup was at that performance, too, and would have perished as well had he not “lost” a coin toss with Richie Valens to see who would get the last seat on the plane.

surf-ballroom

(Friend Brian outside the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, IA.)

Allsup joined The Crickets after a few original members decided they weren’t up to moving to New York with Holly, opting to stay home in Texas. Allsup shows up in time to make it on a few key tracks, “It’s So Easy” being a notable one.

“It’s So Easy” on Spotify

Allsup’s a big of a “Zelig”-type figure, showing up on a number of classic tracks by artists in pop and country.

The Everly Brothers “Cathy’s Clown” on Spotify

Charlie Rich “Behind Closed Doors” on Spotify

Kenny Rogers “The Gambler” on Spotify

Zagar & Evans “In The Year 2525” on Spotify

Allsup (November 24, 1931-January 11, 2017) played in the rockabilly and western swing styles. Out of high school, he was recruited by Jimmie Lee Wills, Bob Wills’ brother, to play at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa. It was kind of a training ground for Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.

Buddy Greco, “The Ultimate Lounge Singer”

“The Lady Is A Tramp”–Watch on YouTube

Buddy Greco (August 14, 1926-January 10, 2017) was a jazz singer and pianist, long associated with Las Vegas, lounge acts and a Rat Pack-sensibility. Although he never achieved the fame of Rat Pack stalwarts Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, it wasn’t for a lack of trying. He recorded over 70 albums and performed relentlessly. “The Lady Is A Tramp” was the closest he had to a hit, and even that did not crack the Top 40.

Reviewers were generally not kind:

“…a strangely empty, unfocused act…” -New York Times critic John S. Wilson (1977)

“Frank Sinatra  Jr. Is Worth Six Buddy Grecos” -GQ (1994)

“…the epitome of a certain kind of saloon performer.” -Chicago Tribune critic Larry Cart (1985)

Greco’s first love was jazz and piano. He played with the Benny Goodman Orchestra for four years beginning in 1948 and can be heard soloing on Goodman’s album Undercurrent Blues, a brief detour for Goodman from swing into bebop.

Greco was inducted into the Las Vegas Entertainers Hall of Fame in November.

“Like Young” on Spotify

Sources: The Washington Post, Billboard, JazzWax