Blues musician shares his passion of music

Blues musician shares his passion of music

Lanny Ray stands outside of The Nile on Feb. 11 next door to Front Porch Music.

Breanna Fields, Reporter

Having experienced all of the highs and lows of rock ’n’ roll, Lanny Ray, a blues musician and guitar instructor at Front Porch Music, has embarked on a number adventures over the years playing and touring with legendary artists like Chuck Berry, John Mayall and George Thorogood.

Born in Dallas, TX, Ray picked up the guitar at the age of 12, and by 13 he had organized his first group with his brother who later became the drummer for the band Slaughter.

He grew up traveling on the road with both of his parents. His father was a comedian named Randy Costa and his mother, Betty Blue, was a rhythm and blues singer.They both performed on the well-known American TV variety program, “The Ed Sullivan Show,” and had a movie based on their life called, “For the Boys.”

His mother brought the news one day that they would be moving to California for his father’s career.

“That was when I got the blues permanently,” Ray said with a laugh.

Arriving in California meant the start of a new band, which ultimately led him to some of his first gigs in clubs and bars.

Ray also had the opportunity to play guitar for American blues musician Big Joe Turner who wrote the song, “Shake, Rattle and Roll” which was covered and popularized by Elvis Presley.

By his mid-20s Ray sold his belongings and headed to the east coast with a friend after being invited by Pat Carlin, the older brother of famed comedian George Carlin, whom he had known for many years.

“We gave away everything we had except our guitars, clothes and an amp,” said Ray, “We bought a van with 100 bucks and hit the road.”

The cross-country venture began in San Diego and consisted of dozens of pick-up gigs in each state along the way.

“We’d just pick a bar, go in and say, ‘Hey, we’re working our way to New York. Can we play for a hat?’ Sometimes we’d leave with 500 bucks; sometimes we’d leave with five bucks and a hamburger,” Ray said. Ray was impressed by the hospitality that many people showed along the way by offering them food and a place to stay.

By the time they got to Rhode Island, they were out of money, gas and food. Despite this setback, they headed to the Rhode Island Blues Festival with high hopes of catching a glimpse of legendary blues player Muddy Waters.

They quickly realized that they would not be able to get in the venue, but fate would have its way at that moment when Ray and his friend were recognized by a man from playing a previous gig.

“The guy said, ‘Go to Rutland, VA and ask for Henry at the Back Home Café,” said Ray.

They made their way to Vermont and found that they were able to book a gig and began playing immediately.

“We were just two road-worn guys,” he said.

Impressed with what he heard, an employee at the café called the owner and held the phone up to them while they were playing.

“He comes over and says, ‘You guys can have anything you want, but no steak and no lobster.’ So we play another song, he’s on the phone again and after the second song is over he said, ‘If you want steak and lobster, that’s fine too!’”

After refueling at the cafe, they started playing there on a regular basis, which led to a number of other bookings around town.

“It was like this scene. Everybody knew each other. People were sharing guitar strings…whatever you needed,” Ray said.

At that point they, began booking gigs all over the East Coast, although they were primarily based in Vermont.

After their first experience with the chilly winter weather, they decided to pack up and head back to the West Coast and go to Seattle, WA, for more gigs. Only three days after arriving in Seattle in the early 1980s, Ray was headed to Alberta, Canada where he was paid $300 a week to perform.

By the 1990s he made his way to Bakersfield and started playing regularly at a club called Suds that was at one point located on the Wallstreet Alley across the street from Guthrey’s Alley Cat.

“It was a full-on, even better than L.A., legitimate blues club,” said Ray.

One night when they faced technical difficulties, drummer and owner of Front Porch Music Artie Niesen stepped in and lent them a PA system.

A friendship resulted and they began playing and gigging together in Ray’s current band, The Reels.

In addition to playing festivals and other paid gigs (most recently the Padre Hotel), Ray works as a guitar instructor at Front Porch Music and is currently working on a solo album.

The Reels have released two full-length albums titled “The Reels” and “Bare-Bone” which both infuse a heavy dose of blues music and rock ‘n’ roll.

The Reel’s music is featured regularly on SiriusXM Radio channel 74 and can also be found online with additional information about the band at