Little Ray, along with Little Willie G., was the biggest star in the East L.A. firmament in the 1960s. His forte was rhythm and blues and he sang, danced and performed with energy, excitement and professionalism that was beyond his teenage years.Little Ray was born and grew up in Delano, California, where some of his relatives were farm workers. His older brother was friends with the legendary Cesar Chavez before Cesar became famous for his work as a labor leader for the farm workers. As a small boy he demonstrated a talent for singing and when he was about eleven years old, Ray was approached by Ed Cobb of the famous Four Preps to cut a record. His first record was “There’s Something On Your Mind,” a song originally recorded by Big Jay McNeely.
When Little Ray was about 15 years old, he moved to Los Angeles and was soon singing with Thee Midniters alongside Little Willie G. Ray went on to form his own group called Little Ray & the Progressions and recorded a version of the Ben E. King classic recording “I Who Have Nothing.” Little Ray & the Progressions evolved into the Little Ray Revue, which included two four-man vocal groups, the Epics and the 4 Clefs, and female back up singers called the Rayettes. In the late sixties, Ray got an opportunity to write and produce for Seymour Stein, who later discovered such artists as Madonna, The Pretenders and Talking Heads. Later, Ray moved to New York, where he worked on projects as a writer and producer for Stein and did gigs with Cannibal & the Headhunters, when they were based out of New York, and produced some recordings by them. After two years, he returned to L.A. where he had a wife and kids by then. In the early 70s, Ray teamed up with his old friend Willie G. to form a group called God’s Children, which included three female singers. It was a secular group who recorded a single for Uni Records, which became the theme song for the television series “Matt Lincoln.”
Since the 60s, Ray has continued to perform in various groups. Little Ray has always made his living as a singer and performer, since the eighties with Ray & the Idols and Ramon & the L.A. Band. He’s played mostly night clubs and the country club circuit. There are very few recordings available by Little Ray today. You can find one of his recordings from 1964 entitled “Karen” on the Chicano Alliance CD, which is featured on this website. “Karen” and “Come On and Swim” are featured on the Varese Sarabande volume two of the four CD collection called “Eastside Sound, Vol. 1,2,3 and 4 (Varese Sarabande VSD-6018).
Check out Mark’s interview with Little Ray on the Chicano Radio Network every night in January at 7PM. And at all other times, you can listen to the best of Chicano music at the Chicano Radio Network.
This article was edited from a longer piece authored by Mark Guerrero.