Brother Ray

Ray and Mike share a brew, Red Bank, 2002
Ray and Mike share a brew, Red Bank, 2002

On May 28, Ray Ashley passed away after a long battle with cancer. You can read his obituary and explore some of his music and writing by clicking his name above. I’ll remember him as a good friend, a masterful musician, and an inspirational influence on my own musicianship.

In early 1993, I worked in a record store with a fellow named Jan who played guitar. He invited me over one day to listen to him jam with some new friends, bassist Ray and drummer Joe.  I ran into Ray and Joe later that Spring at a Phish show, where I was shocked to learn that Joe worked with my Mom!

Over the next few years Ray and I forged a friendship from our common love of adventurous music. Ray introduced me to God Street Wine and his own creative compositions, while I in turn hooked him up with thE otheR waY and turned him on to my hero, J J Johnson. As was his way, Ray immersed himself in these new discoveries, playing bass with the former and transcribing a dozen songs by the latter.

I had the honor of collaborating with Ray and Joe on a project called the 9-Volt Smoke Detectors, an eerily prescient name as our first and only gig was nearly thwarted by an electrical fire. Ray and I would later play a few gigs as a duo – Ray on Warr Guitar and me on the congas he sold me, which I still play to this day. These were my first public performances since graduating college in 1992, and I credit Ray with rekindling my creative spark.

Ray is gone, but he will be remembered through his music, which bears his personality throughout. Technically proficient yet passionate, structured but open to improvisation, lyrically hopeful with a hint of sly wit. His songs painted pictures of a better world.

Mike and Ray at the Downtown Cafe, 1999
Mike and Ray at the Downtown Cafe, 1999

4 Replies to “Brother Ray”

  1. Hey Mike…thanks for the memories…stay in touch please?
    BTW: our ‘band’ was PDQ and some recordings survive; further, there was a reunion in ’06 from whence came numerous improvs and some pieces of mine recorded for posterity…

  2. I really enjoyed 9 and a Half Lives on Ray’s MySpace, and have just now discovered that there is more on his mp3 page at

    Thank you for filling in some details that I certainly did not intend to gloss over. I’m glad you guys got to come full circle and play together again.

    ***This post previously stated that the collaboration of Ray, Joe and Jan did not last very long, when in fact they continued to meet and record as recently as 2006. Please check out some of their work at

    1. Thank you Scott. He wanted to come out here for a visit and jam with us at Squidstock. I always thought Another River Bend would be a great tune to revive with a real accordion. You two would have gotten along very well.

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