NEW DURHAM - The seacoast music community lost a truly unique musician on Saturday, November 4, 2017. Ray Brunelle of Old Bay Road, New Durham, long-time drummer with the Ben Baldwin & the Big Note band, passed away from complications due to cancer. He was 64, born in Laconia, N.H., on March 19, 1953.
He was predeceased by his parents, Henry and Eva Brunelle, and brother, Joseph Brunelle.
In addition to drumming with Ben & the Big Note, Ray performed with such luminaries as swing/pop master Dan Hicks, jazz guitarist Lenny Breau, legendary trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, and jazz singer/pianist Mose Allison. Ray also played for several years in a jazz trio with pianist Chuck Chaplin and bassist Rick Strong, both also Big Note alumni.
In the recording studio, often at his own Rumblestiltskin Sound FX Design, Ray contributed to albums by many seacoast musicians, including guitarists Ed Gerhard and T.J. Wheeler, sax and guitar duo Lex and Joe, jazz pianists Paul Broadnax, Larry Garland, and Tommy Gallant, jazz flutist Barbara London, and singer-songwriters Cosy Sheridan and Susie Burke.
Well-known among musicians but less so among the public, Ray was a sound effects wizard, documented in his two-part article written for Experimental Instruments Magazine on the history of sound effects, "The Art of Sound Effects", and was an author of the book "Funny Noises for the Connoisseur," all of which can be found on the internet. Ray's sound effects have been used in such films as "Terminator II", "The Abyss," and "Seven", and T.V. cartoons such as "Ren & Stimpy" and "The Simpsons."
Ray also composed music. His composition, "Escape Velocity" was written for the Hayles & Co. Dancers, who performed the piece in Concord in 1985. Ray also wrote a piece with sound effects for Ha-Penny Theater's "Whose Future Is This Anyway?" Many have laughed through Ray's recordings with his studio group, The Jethros, including his satirical productions "The Dark Side of the Christmas Tree," "The Fall of the House of Ipanema," and "Strike On Any Surface."
For many years in the 1970s and 1980s, Ray worked at Daddy's Junky Music when it was in downtown Portsmouth. Then manager Lew DiTommaso always spoke highly of Ray's innovative repairs of drums and other instruments for musicians of the seacoast and beyond. Later, Ray was a technician at the Music Hall.
Survivors include a sister, Ruth McDonald of Sanbornton, N.H., a cousin, Louis Brunelle and wife Suzanne of Sandwich, N.H., and several nieces, nephews and cousins.
Contributions in Ray's memory can be made to the local chapter of the SPCA, the Shriners Hospital, the Strafford County Animal Protective Society, and the Broadview Animal Hospital in Rochester. The latter two organizations often cared for Ray's beloved cats, Kippie, Lolita, and Mirabelle. There will not be a funeral or burial, but look for a memorial jam session at the Press Room in Portsmouth when it re-opens early this coming year.
Published in Seacoastonline.com from Nov. 15 to Nov. 18, 2017.