RAY STARTS DREAMING
By Jennifer Salvato Doktorski
By night, Ray Anderson is one half of the pop/rock duo Blue
Van Gogh, a
member of Meatloaf's band and a consummate rocker with a resume
By day, he's Mr. Ray. And among young music fans who aren't even
as tall as his sticker- laden acoustic guitar, the alter-ego of
Ray Anderson has become somewhat legendary. Playing to pint-sized
audiences that range from eight months to more than 10 years old,
Mr. Ray is bringing rock and roll to kids throughout Central Jersey
and like the title of his collection of original children's music,
he is getting them to Start Dreaming.
Q. When did "Mr. Ray" come into being?
A. Almost seven years ago, Patti (my wife), and I were right in
the midst of blue van gogh (our pop/rock project) when she was
part-timing at a local pre-school and asked me to come in and
sing some tunes for the kids that were getting a tad "outta-hand."
I went there, took out my guitar, started singing "Yellow Submarine,"
and the Director poked her head in, and asked me if I'd like to
come and sing on a regular basis. I remember thinking, "I could
get PAID for this??? This is too fun." That's how it all started...
When did you start composing original music for children? When
did the CD come out? How many have you sold and where can parents
and kids buy the CD?
A. I've always written songs that weren't just R&R. When me and
my sisters were really young, they were budding ballerinas, and
I would write songs for them to dance to, but not classically-orientated
songs -- just zany, off-the-wall tunes. My kids' album, Start
Dreaming, is all-original -- so many kids' albums I've heard have
re-written traditional songs -- like Barney singing his I Love
You song, which is really This Ol' Man, but at a quaaludian dirge...The
album came out in April of 2000, and I've sold close to 3,000,
but I just landed a national distribution deal with Sugarbeats
Entertainment. One of the co-owners is Carole King's Daughter,
Sherry Goffin-Kindor. So while my album, Start Dreaming, has been
kind of a Central New Jersey phenom, the bigger picture doesn't
even know it exists, so I'm really psyched. This deal includes
management too, and the gal who will be managing me, Bonnie Gallanter,
manages the Sugarbeats and the Broadway Kids, who are two groups
often on Rosie, and other morning shows. Bonnie was one of the
founders of the CMJ Music Marathon, and ran it for nine years.
She's got a great indie spirit, which I love. She's turned down
offers from the majors to buy her acts out -- good for her.
Q. You seem to have quite a following...where and how often
do you perform?
A. I perform at pre-schools all week...I'm not really a teacher,
I just perform original music for kids and I turn them onto all
types of instruments, styles of music. I do kids' events all the
time, too. From upscale NYC parties for show biz parents, to school
shows and house parties in good ol' New Jersey.
Q. You said that performing for children feels like going to
church sometimes, what are some of the more rewarding aspects
of working with kids?
A. I swear these kids are adding years to my life. For the most
part, I'm the first live entertainer their eyes and ears have
ever heard. When I lay a new tune on them, I can always tell they
love it if they say, "Play it again, Mr. RAY!!!" And I know when
they don't like it...they just don't react! But yeah, they're
such an utter purity there in their eyes...by the time we reach
our late teens-20's, we've already soaked up so much information,
that many of us lose that purity of thought, fun...and love for
each other. Kids love being around each other. The other day I
realized that I'm around kids more than adults! It was startling
in a way, but I'm not complaining.
Q. Do you hope some kids will pick up the guitar and become
a rocker in the making because of you?
A. Parents have to buy guitars all the time for their kids because
of me, they tell me, AND put stickers on it...My goal is to turn
kids onto playing instruments and forming bands...too many boy/girl
singers that don't play instruments.
Q. Can you talk about being approached by PBS and how that
A. A few months ago, a well-known TV producer approached me about
having my own show for kids. She was executive producer for the
Montel Williams Show, and the View, etc...She wrote a wonderful
script for a typical episode, called it, The Mr. Ray Show, and
is actively pitching a show for me. I'm Number One on her list
right now...it's really exciting. PBS, Warner Bros. and others
are extremely interested. It'll be mostly live action with some
groovy, funky animation, designed for pre-schoolers, but enjoyable
for parents, as well, like my music. I've been in this business
long enough -- all I can say is, we shall see.
Q. Did you ever imagine when you first got into music that
you'd make a niche for yourself in the children's market?
A Well, I gotta say, that no matter what I get involved in, I
never do it half-way. I'm over-ambitious to a fault, and I will
give a project my "all," see it through. The great unknown is
having someone or something in a position to take you to the top
-- be on the same page as you. But that is what I thrive on. At
the risk of sounding not too humble, as soon as I saw the reactions
of those kids in the early years, AND the reactions from parents
I get, kind of welcoming me for saving them from Barney, et al,
I knew I had something special here.
Q. I think you're doing a service to people our age who were
raised with rock and can't stand Barney's songs.? The response
from parents must be pretty positive, no?
A. All those parents raised on rock, instantly hear those Pop/Rock
sensibilities in my kid songs -- I wear some of them on my sleeve.
The parents are too much...they constantly tell me they listen
to my album even when the kids aren't around.
Q. Kids have such a short attention span but you seem to be
great at holding their interest.? Talk about some of the techniques
you use (like having them come up and sing a "solo") to get kids
involved and keep them in the moment?
A. Humor is a big part of that -- more like zaniness. Beside worshipping
the all things R&R, I've always loved entertainers that transcended
age, like Jerry Lewis, Danny Kaye, Dick Van Dyke, etc (all in
their early prime, of course). These dudes killed me, still do.
It's that keeping one foot in childland, and one foot in the grown-up
world. It's a balance -- you either have it ....or ya don't.
Q. Does it warm your heart when kids like the little boy at
one of you recent shows raise their hands and tell you they want
to sing A Hard Days Night?
A. How cool was that? Being the Beatle fanatic that I am, that
absolutely floored me...these days, when I call a kid to come
up and sing a solo on the mic, it's generally ABC's, and sometimes,
disappointingly, Who Let the Dogs Out! But to hear that little
boy singing a Fab 4 tune....I thought, ya know, there IS hope!
article was originally published on NBUnderground.com in February