November 1, 2018
Welcome to JJ-365 Salutes. Over 2018, we pay tribute daily to one of “The Good Ones”. Today we are shining the light on Ray Raymond Ramsay.
Here’s a fella who has never had a shortage of things to say! He is always fun and makes you think about things whether you want to or not. He has a point of view on many things and not hesitant to get those on the table. When I first rolled in as FOX’s Program Director in late ’88 he was one of the first of the Record dudes to come on by. He’s known for his sketch’s and created one of me arriving at the FOX (can’t find the damn thing!), which was very funny, made me feel welcome and right off the bat let me know what this Ray-cat was all about! We had tons of fun and did great co-promotions and concert presentations over the years.
What does Jann Arden, Michael Buble and Ray have in common beyond music? When young they all worked on the commercial Salmon boats (Ray’s family had 3) and was a way of clearing his head. This is something he’s done since he was two years old.
Skip ahead to Apr 1st of 1968 when he says he started as a nineteen-year old at distributor TPC/Quality as a warehouse ‘hump’, making him the April Fools boy. He thinks they hired him to stop him from phoning them. In 1970 he quickly rose to Promo/Sales Rep and eventually just Promotions for British Columbia.
On Aug 16 of ’77 he was hired by the late, great John Ford for RCA Records Vancouver/BC and later added Alberta for a short stint. That same day Elvis died, and he says he doesn’t believe there was a connection to his arrival.
Shortly after, by dint of being in the same time zone, he was made Product Manager for Ariola in LA, owned by Bertelsmann Music Group Germany who would later buy RCA outright “proving that the tail COULD wag the dog, uh huh.” Ray started as Promo Rep then later Promotions/Media Mgr and still later added Branch Manager-in-residence prior to his ‘Raytirement’ in June 2004, he feels due in part to burn out.
Ray had come off a successful bout with Cancer in the late 90’s: “That required an ummmm…editing of my insides…you can call me gutless and be partly right! And my imminent survival (I could hear people tearing up their betting slips behind me for days) BMG gave me an assistant (Mike Moreau) to allow me more time to be less intensive at work, but instead of sitting around on my spotty behind waiting for the Angel of Death to come knocking…(*Knock, Knock* Angel of Death here! Me: Sorry, out of luck, I just re-upped my subscription to ‘Life’ Ha! Ha! So on your way!! Bloody Reapers!). I used the time to further develop our secondary markets and especially the Asian Media in YVR, no small task. This effort took some time and patience as the Asian community and the Media especially is quite instinctively inclusive to themselves. SO, I had to earn their respect & trust, even learning a few words of their language respectfully and I persevered and got there.”
This incursion into the Asian Media was a BIG help also when he hooked up with Wigs for Kids in 2006, benefiting the BC Children’s Hospital. It supplied assistance to families and Wigs for kids with Cancer and generally tried to put a smile on a child. This by promoting various W4K events in BC as well as the annual Silent auction for which he would beat the bushes with Record, Music and Entertainment Nabobs for donations that could be auctioned off to continue their good work. He thanks them for their contributions which certainly compounded the impact to get the message out to the great unwashed public after all he says, “kids are kids no matter their nationality.”
There are no shortages of stories from this genuine character: “A few of the landmark projects I worked included my Monty Python cage-on-truck promo that baited the media to coming to their arrival at YVR where they got into the cage for pics, then tore it to matchwood before boarding a double decker bus that cruised at a head spinning 10 miles an hour to downtown Vancouver all of which, as a result of Media exposure, set a box office record for tix sales at that time, June 1973. I then spent the better part of the week with these loons.”
Then there was the Crash Test Dummies project: “From the ground straight up, all belief, no bullshit, which included the ‘Worms Life’ release where I dressed up as a rather starved chicken in headgear made by my long suffering wife Lynne and went around at the wee small hours of the Morning shows to deliver the single within containers of Dew Worms, not everyone rose to the bait but it got the job done.”
The David Gray ‘White Ladder’ project ended up selling 100,000 copies in Canada, 80,000 of those right there in Vancouver because says Ray: “100.3TheQ Victoria could hear what everyone else couldn’t and they got the concert ‘Presents’ status to the sold-out Commodore show and a LOT of presence.”
How about ‘Nestor Pistor for Prime Minister’: “Nester was a Ukrainian put-on who I picked up at YVR in a bannered dump truck and drove him to autograph signings and a Press conference for the local media covering politics. It was HOWL-arious, and I still laugh thinking about staging the World Heavyweight Perogy Eating Championship where grown men sat at a table scarfing down perogies and Kielbasa (supplied by Hunky Bill Konyk) until they were blue, or red in the face in front of an amazed public.”
One of his fondest memories involved the lavish Prog Rock band YES who had a penchant for taking other well-meaning people to the cleaners by going out with an unsuspecting host and each one trying to one-up the other by ordering the MOST expensive wine in the house, having a sip then sending it back, ALL on the hosts tab. Ray: “What bastards. So, they come in to town to do a show and I’d gone out and found the cheapest, most grotty bottle of wine I could, had it gift wrapped along with 4 straws and had it presented it to them to enjoy after the show, when I’d be long gone…bon appetite!”
Pure determination was an asset once called upon by long time and legendary manager of The Commodore Drew Burns/ about NOT wanting to give local band The Odds a date, but did, and dared Ray to show him why he should. So he did, turning the Vancouver media upside down, the result being the night of the show, the band and Ray staring up to the top of the stairs and seeing a sign…SOLD OUT/SRO! “So….that’s why Drew!”
For Ray it was all about breaking new artists/projects on the Radio but some of those were daunting like the 5 yrs it took to get TOOL in regular rotation as well as the Dave Matthews Band in Vancouver although he says 100.3 knew it all along. DMB and sales reflected that, but in the end, it was satisfying.
There are MANY more examples and Ray advises to get the books ‘Promo Monkey: My Life as a BellHop in the Waldorf Hysteria’ being the first, and the now being edited ‘Promo Monkey: Monkey See, Monkey TWO’ both of which cover his career/careen thru the Record/Music ‘bidnesses’. He’s presently looking for a Publisher.
There is more doggerel (as he calls it) on his website though not the music stuff, it’s a matter of space, so only a few of his over 300+ pics and sketches are there. www.aladinladner.simplesite.com.
Ray loved Radio and would listen to as many stations as possible while he was driving, as well as the specialty shows on weekends, especially the Morning shows.
For Ray these days he feels radio’s edge is not as sharp: “It was so ALIVE then. But that’s just me, at my great advanced age, I doubt anyone would care what I thought. Granted, I don’t drive as much and only occasionally tune in at home.
Ray is pretty sure he’s always erred on the side of Passion, rather than caution. If he believed in an artist, song/record he’d sure get tenacious about it. Many of his artists/bands, especially the Canadians would refer to him as ‘Uncle Ray’ a term of respect/endearment as they knew it was his gig to move them as forward as he could in his market. It was rarely just him he says, as there was a whole team of them coast to coast.
About today? “I have no f***ing idea what people in, what was the Record biz, now just Music biz, actually do any more. Not saying they do nothing, that can’t be, they just do it a new way I don’t know. Having said that I will say that in spite of technological changes, there must remain some of the industry basics that don’t change. For example, I’ve always found it to be a relationship-based interaction between the Music, Radio and Media and if that ever goes away…Hello Big Brother I guess.”
Creatively speaking today, a long time songwriter, Ray still writes songs although he’s only written one this year: “That’s good enough. Presently I have a second chance with a song I co-wrote with ‘Down Home Jerome’, a tribute to the Black community and all they’ve had to overcome. It’s called ‘Too Little, Too Late’ sung by one Yogi Rose, who, like Rosa Parks, comes from Tuskegee, Alabama.”
Ray sums up: “I would reco to any young people that want to get into the Music/Radio biz, that if an opportunity doesn’t at first appear, then…CREATE one! That doesn’t just apply to getting a gig, it mainly applies to how to advance the projects, yeah. I would advise any young band that has any integrity, that a producer is necessary when recording to help bring out the best of the artist/song, but unless the Producer hires YOU, remember the Producer works for YOU; input/consensus is always good but don’t become a Meat Puppet.
Today, the most important people to me are my wife Lynne and my family including our two grandchildren, and my close friends.
I never cared if people LIKED me as much as they respect me for what I’ve done, that’s enough for me; mission accomplished. One of my proudest post-Raytirement moments was being inducted into the BC Country Music Hall of Fame, that was sweet.”
The irascible Uncle Ray Ramsay is still involved in the Music biz to this day, although working for himself. One of the all-time record biz promo greats. It is never a dull moment dealing with this passionate and genuine character, and always in thought provoking fun. Ray still never has a problem voicing his opinion, even if he is always wrong (hahaha). Thanks for making a strong difference and making it fun!
Thank you, Ray Ramsay, for being one of “The Good Ones”. Feel free to like and share Ray’s positive story. Who is the subject of tomorrow’s JJ-365 Salutes? As they say, stay tuned.
Jim JJ Johnston is the CEO, President and Chief Talent/Content Coach for JJIMS INC. and works with talent in many different industries.