Few guitar pickers can out-slide, out-bend or out-torture a Telecaster the way Will Ray can. As a member of the pyrotechnical twang trio The Hellecasters, Will has created a place for himself among some of the world’s guitar greats.
A native of Richmond, Virginia, Will began his musical journey at an early age when his older siblings would play records of Peter Paul & Mary, Leadbelly and Elvis. In high school Will discovered the Beatles, the Blues Project, Cream, the Grateful Dead and Paul Butterfield Blues Band while learning the guitar at age sixteen. After graduating from college he started playing in a string of local Richmond rock bands including Dry Ice, Mace, King Cotton and The Cold Harbor Band. In 1983 his new bride, Gayle, talked him into moving out west to California where he could play music full time and she could pursue her art.
In Los Angeles Will began finding work in nightclubs and eventually in the studios. He was a member of several ground breaking 80’s cow punk bands including Tin Star , Candye Kane & the Armadillo Stampede and Wylie & The Wild West Show. Utilizing his experience in studios, he began producing country oriented artists in the LA area including three compilation albums, Hollywood Roundup, Detour West and Far West. It was on Hollywood Roundup that Will first recorded with soon-to-be Hellecaster henchmen Jerry Donahue and John Jorgenson. Pretty soon Will was part of the edgy West Coast country sound while also working with artists such as Carlene Carter , Steve Earle, Tom Jones, Solomon Burke, Joe Walsh and Michael Nesmith.
In 1990 Will and Jerry Donahue had an idea; why not put together a band that played nothing but guitar music with three way guitar harmonies? Jorgenson’s name came up and a few weeks later the three did a show for Ronnie Mack’s Barndance at the world famous Palomino Club as The Hellecasters. A year later Michael Nesmith caught the band and offered them a record deal on Pacific Arts Records.
The Hellecasters’ critically acclaimed first album, The Return of the Hellecasters, became a hit with guitarists and was awarded “Best Album” and “Best Country Album” by Guitar Player Magazine in 1993. In 1995 the Hellecasters’s recorded and released their second CD, Escape From Hollywood, which again took guitar playing to a new dimension. That same year Hipshot products began marketing an invention of Will’s called the Stealth Slide, allowing guitarists to switch quickly between slide and fingers on a guitar. Hipshot also began manufacturing the Will Ray Model B-Bender for guitar. In addition, Will released two guitar instructional videos, B-Bender Mania and Stealth Slide Technique for Rambo Videos.
New Axes to Grind, the Hellecasters’ third album, was released in 1998 on their own label Pharaoh Records. The following year Will released his first solo CD called Invisible Birds on Pharaoh Records to an enthusiastic audience of Hellecaster fans. On it Will sings and plays his way through an eclectic mix of songs ranging from “farm jazz” and “range rock” to “prairie metal” and “cow thrash”.
In 2000 the Hellecasters released their first live video, Live...Raw...in Germany to their anxious fans. It was recorded in Baden-Baden when they played on the live music German TV show Ohne Filter. In early 2002 Will released his second solo album Mojo Blues for Pharaoh Records. The all blues album features guest appearances from musical icons such as Ted Greene, Juke Logan, John Jorgenson, Jerry Donahue and Emmet Ray Jr among others. The songs are catchy and the vibe is intense, with Will’s usual sense of humor injected throughout.
Currently Will continues producing blues and country artists in his studio and giving guitar clinics when he’s not “Hellecasting”. In the new Millennium Will promises to keep doing what he enjoys doing best - having fun on guitar while pushing the edge of the envelope!