RIP Bandleader Ray Davies


The Reprobate is sorry to learn of the passing of Ray Davies, one of Britain’s greatest musicians and bandleaders of the 1960s and 1970s, at the age of 89. Perhaps best known for his always eye and ear-catching work under the monikers of Ray Davies and His Funky Trumpet and Ray Davies and the Button Down Brass, he was equally at home featuring on the Boosey & Hawkes library LPs of film and TV music released by The Cavendish Orchestra, a handful of delightfully kitsch releases under the name of The Manzanilla Sound, as well as appearing with or writing/arranging for names as varied as Vince Hill, Shirley Bassey, Burt Bacharach and The Rolling Stones (their first album).


Although sometimes covering similar ground to James Last and Geoff Love, his arrangements of TV and film themes such as Hawaii Five-O, Columbo, The Exorcist and The French Connection were significantly more contemporary, filled with thrillingly honking brass ( Davies was not only a trumpeter but also an expert flugelhorn player) and throaty fuzz guitar, they were heavy on jazz and funk influences, combing the sounds of new America with traditional British oomph.


Though selling well in Britain, America and Japan at the time, not least due to the increasingly absurd LP covers (peaking with 1976s Funk in Hell), he also conducted The BBC Radio Orchestra and performed with his own, orchestra, The Serendipity Strings, an only slightly less raucous version of Button Down Brass. His career saw a resurgence in the 1990s as the lounge revival saw albums such as The Karminksy Experience’s In-Flight Entertainment featuring Ray’s work, though Ray himself was giving something back to the industry, receiving the Gold Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors, for whom he was chairman, as well as eventually becoming chairman of the PRS Benevolent Fund.


He leaves behind a wife, Diane, and children, one of whom, Rhett Davies, has also made his name in the industry, working in production and engineering albums such as Genesis’ Selling England By the Pound and Brian Eno’s Another Green World.