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George Ray

1956 - 2017 Obituary Condolences Gallery
George Gilbert "Gil" Ray

Sep 17, 1956 - Jan 24, 2017

Gil Ray was a Bay Area rock drummer, guitarist, and vocalist, best known for his recordings in the 1980s and 1990s as a member of the bands Game Theory and The Loud Family. A master at the drum kit, Gil had a melodic style and a whip-crack sound that was distinctly his own. His use of complex ornamentation earned the nickname "Gil's fills" among his fans. Even after retiring from drumming Gil stayed in demand as a percussionist on local studio recordings and was especially noted for his tasteful tambourine and triangle arrangements.

Gil was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina and, even after living in the Bay Area for over 35 years, never lost his Southern accent. His parents, George Irving and Katherine Hallett Ray, encouraged his musical interest and gave him his 1966 Slingerland Blue Sparkle drum set that he used for the rest of his life. Gil played his first paying gig at the age of 10 for a classmate's birthday; the band called themselves The Rodentz and they earned a whopping $5.00. Gil performed with many bands in Charlotte and learned to play a variety of musical styles. In the 1970s he even earned a living playing disco in the hotel lounge circuit. Perhaps best known at the time was a band called The Happy Eggs, a punk/new-wave outfit formed with his closest friends.

Gil Ray moved to the Bay Area in the early 1980s with his first wife, who's family had already relocated here. Though they would later divorce, both families remained close. In 1983 Gil began working at City Hall Records in San Rafael, an independent wholesale music distributor; he attained the positions of receiving and customer service manager and remained there for 33 years.

Gil played his way through the Bay Area music scene, including punk band Juvenile Justice and goth rockers Fade To Black, and finally landed in alternative-rock territory with Game Theory in 1985 during the golden age of college radio. The leader of Game Theory, and later The Loud Family, was Scott Miller and he and Gil would become fast friends and musical partners over three decades. Though Game Theory and The Loud Family never attained mainstream success they released several albums to critical acclaim and gained a devoted fanbase. Through those two bands Gil made lifelong friends, toured the country many times, and even met his soulmate who became his second wife in 1991.

Gil Ray's first and only solo album was released on the local 125 Records label in 2006. Besides music, Gil was obsessed with vintage horror and science-fiction movies, and "I Am Atomic Man!" was his homage to those genres. In 2012 Gil joined the reunited Rain Parade, a neo-psychedelic band originally from Los Angeles, and performed with them until his health forced him to retire in 2014. Gil was honored to end his career with Rain Parade, stating that he achieved the most organic and intuitive playing of his life.

Diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2009, Gil used his recovery time after surgery and radiation to blog online about his life in music. His humor and openness attracted a large number of internet fans. When he discovered that the cancer had metastasized in 2013 he posted a series of honest videos about his treatment. Throughout his life Gil remained passionate about music and was just as thrilled to meet his favorite artists as his fans were to meet him. Gil treated his fans as friends, always making time to talk, entertain and encourage them. He was never more at home than when he was in front of an audience, even if that audience was just one person.

Gil Ray died peacefully at home surrounded by family and friends while his favorite Nino Rota score, "Amarcord", played. He will be remembered as a sensitive and compassionate soul, a Southern gentleman, a talented musician, a loyal friend, a clown and the life of the party. He is survived by his wife, Stacey A. Malone, his ex-wife, Wynn Richards; a sister and brother-in-law, Lindsay & Bill Lambe; a brother and sister-in-law, Dick & Betsy Ray; four nephews, Will & Wes Lambe, Richard & Scott Ray; five grand nephews and two grand nieces.

A memorial and celebration will be held on March 25 from 10:00am to 3:00pm, with services beginning at 11:00am, at the Finnish Hall in Berkeley, CA. The Finnish hall is located at 1970 Chestnut St. and is within walking distance of the North Berkeley BART station. All adults are also welcome to gather after 4:30pm at the Albatross Pub located at 1822 San Pablo Ave. in Berkeley for continuing celebration.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle from Mar. 17 to Mar. 22, 2017
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