Recorded at Fame Recording Studios, Memphis, Tennessee and Ardent Studios, Memphis, Tennessee in June 1971 for A&M Records.
A hippie-fied, soul-rock, folk-rock, psych-rock gem lost in the vaults for four decades, A Fire Somewhere by Ray Stinnett (best known as a member of ‘60s outfit Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs) sounds as fresh as the day it was cut, and comes with extensive liner-notes detailing the fascinating life of a little-documented ‘60s rock voyager.
Born in Memphis in 1944, Ray Stinnett got his first guitar, aged 12, from Nathan Novak’s pawn shop, where Elvis got his first guitar. Heading back down Beale Street afterwards, the family stopped at a light and a huge pink Cadillac pulled up beside them. “And oh my god – it was Elvis!” recalls Ray, “So I held up my guitar and shouted, ‘Hey Elvis!’ and he looks over and says, “Hey cat.” Ray told his father he was going to work hard and make a gold record… just like Elvis.
Before long, he was putting the plan into action, first in teen group Johnny and the Electros, then as a duo with drummer Jerry Patterson, playing nightly at honkytonks, roadhouses, beer joints, nightclubs and the many Memphis recording studios. He achieved his promise with Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs – Wooly Bully was the number one selling record of 1965. At 21, Stinnett was living a life of world tours and screaming fans – the whole mania. The wheels fell off a year later, amid managerial disputes. The four Pharaohs (including Ray) parted ways with Sam, wrote two stinging rebukes (“The Hanging” and “You Sure Have Changed”) and released them as The Violations. Ray became more and more of a prolific writer.
By 1967, the summer of love, Ray left for Haight Ashbury in San Francisco with his wife and young son, taking up residence at the legendary Morning Star Ranch, where Ray focused on finding his true voice. Returning to Memphis a year later, Ray formed a working friendship with Booker T Jones, who produced Ray’s unreleased Sun Tree at Pepper West album. Eventually, when Jones moved to Malibu and took a contract with A&M, he lined up a deal for his old friend.
Still working in Memphis with (old) friends Jerry Paterson and Mike Plunk on bass, along with Booker T. and co-mixer/engineer Richard Rosebrough (Chris Bell, Big Star), Ray channelled his experiences in the pop machine, at Morningstar and beyond into the songs that would become A Fire Somewhere. It funnelled the vast experiences of this pop star, cosmic traveller and grounded, loving father.
The songs contained the fried country twang and boogie-woogie grooves of his hometown and of his youth, but were also threaded through with the new psychedelia – shreds of distorted guitar, looping experimental jams and acoustic renditions. “Art is a reflection of life,” says Ray of the making of A Fire Somewhere, “and my life was full of reflection at this time.” And it’s perhaps exactly that fact which kept this incredible record unreleased for all these years.
By summer, the album was ready for release. By winter, it remained on the shelf. A&M reassured Ray that they were going to make him a superstar. Ray had already done that; he just wanted the songs released. Soon, they hit an impasse. Ray took his tapes and songs and went on with his life. In the end, A&M’s loss – is our gain. Listen, and enjoy, this message from another time, and from an old head on young shoulders. “It’s a torch that’s been carried forty years through the desert, waiting for this moment to arrive,” says Ray…………. Singer, songwriter, rock guitarist; Ray Stinnett grew up in the shadow of the Memphis rock n roll music scene of the 50’s. By the early 60’s Memphis was under the influence of different musical cultures coming together in an amalgam of sound and rhythm. Ray was also becoming part of that scene, playing in clubs and studios around town and seeking his place as a professional musician and performer. In 1963 Ray married Sandra and thus began a lifelong relationship. Later in that same year, Ray became a founding member and original guitarist of Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs of “Wooly Bully” fame (Billboard #1 record of the year 1965). By mid 1966 Ray was writing more songs and doing his own thing in the combo, “1st Century” (Capitol records release in 1967). After returning to Memphis from the SF Bay area at the end of the summer of love (1967), inspired by the 60’s personal liberation and awareness movement, Ray & Sandra began writing songs that express life’s broader and deeper experiences. They soon became acquainted with new friends and players and formed a working relationship with Booker T. Jones, who produced two albums on Ray. The first, (never before but soon to be released legendary album) titled “Sun Tree at Pepper West” (1969) and the second, produced for A&M Records in 1971. The album was not released and all rights of ownership went to Ray. The record went unreleased until 2012 when “A Fire Somewhere” with original artwork, gate-fold LP’s and CD’s with new 40 pg. booklets were finally pressed and released world wide by Light in the Attic records. The album has received considerable acclaim in prominent newspaper and Record Collector Magazine reviews and best of 2012 reissue list, plus a Shindig Magazine feature article/interview and popular Internet & FM radio interviews. Available for the very first time, A Fire Somewhere is the previously unreleased 1971 solo album from this former member of Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs. The songs contained the fried country twang and boogie-woogie grooves of his hometown and of his youth, but were also threaded through with the new Psychedelia: shreds of distorted guitar, experimental jams and acoustic renditions. Art is a reflection of life,“ says Ray of the making of A Fire Somewhere, ’‘and my life was full of reflection at this time.” And it’s perhaps exactly that fact which kept this incredible record unreleased for all these years. LITA “I was always accused of being ahead of my time so I took some time off.” RS Ray’s AxeGrinder MusicZine www.axemanmusic.net is an interactive online magazine and journal of Ray’s music history and his current musical journey, including insightful articles, news and interesting stories plus links to videos, music, interviews and more. Ray and Sandra have been keeping the musical dream alive for decades, writing, recording and playing the music that has always been a major important factor in their lives. Ray’s performance ensemble is presented as “Time Warp”; the music (more to be released soon) spans a lifetime but has waited for this moment to be heard by audiences now! Ray Stinnett’s “Time Warp” brings the past, present and future together for a performance that will …”take you there”!……..
On the sleeve of A Fire Somewhere, Ray Stinnett looks like a blurred photofit of Skip Spence, half-remembered by a starving eyewitness. This isn’t altogether inapt: Stinnett’s album sounds like Oar had Skippy been fully in charge of his faculties and his muse. Admittedly, Oar derives its allure from its frazzled sense of abandonment – but A Fire Somewhere deserves belated recognition as its more orderly bedfellow. Did we say belated? Stinnett has been waiting since 1971 for this album to be issued. Formerly the guitarist with Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs, the Memphis-born Stinnett was a convert to root-and-branch hippiedom in 1967, subsequently becoming an A&M signatory. The label was set to release A Fire Somewhere as a double-album, but woundingly cooled on the deal. In its unassuming and personable way, the album is worth the 41-year wait. Parallels can be drawn with Moby Grape on You Make Me Feel – good-timey blues-rock with the faintest tinge of country hurt – while the earnest spirituality of Naturally High and the acoustic frailty of You And I call to mind fellow Ardent Studio habitué Chris Bell. Stinnett’s soulful, slow-drag tenor is heard to its best advantage on Stop, with its tinkling, loose-wheel rhythm bed, and Silky Path….Record Collector magazine…….
Best known for his work with a band that bridged the gap between R&B and garage rock, Ray Stinnett was also an unsung hero of the Memphis music scene whose most personal music would wait over 40 years to find an audience. Stinnett was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1944, and like so many kids growing up in Memphis, he developed a love for music early on, getting his first guitar when he was 12 years old. Stinnett claims he bought the instrument at the same pawn shop where Elvis Presley was said to have gotten his first guitar, and as Stinnett was walking home, he spotted Presley driving by in a Cadillac, who called out to the youngster, “Hey, cat.” Suitably encouraged, Stinnett set about learning the guitar, and by his mid-teens, he was playing around town in a duo act with drummer Jerry Patterson, as well as working with a teen rock band called Johnny and the Electros and doing occasional session work. In mid-1963, a Texas-based group called the Nightriders, led by keyboard man Domingo “Sam” Samudio, were booked into a standing gig at a Memphis nightspot called the Diplomat Club when their guitar player and drummer both quit; Stinnett and Patterson signed on to replace them, and when the Nightriders’ engagement ended, the Memphis boys hit the road with the band. A few months later, the Nightriders changed their name to Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, and after they cut a single for a small Memphis label, MGM Records picked up the disc for national distribution. “Wooly Bully” became the top-selling single of 1965, spending 14 weeks in Billboard’s Top 40, and a pair of minor hits followed (“Ju Ju Hand” and “Ring Dang Do”), but Stinnett’s tenure with the group was short-lived; within a year of “Wooly Bully” hitting the charts, the Pharaohs had a falling out with Samudio over business matters, and they found themselves replaced with a new set of Pharaohs, who scored a hit of their own with “Li'l Red Riding Hood.” Stinnett, Patterson, and their fellow ex-Pharaohs cut a single for Dot Records as the Violations, “The Hanging” b/w “You Sure Have Changed,” which dealt metaphorically with their anger and disappointment, but the record went nowhere commercially and the group split up. In 1967, as Americans became aware of the growing counterculture, Stinnett headed to Northern California and embraced the hippie lifestyle while living at a celebrated commune, the Morning Star Ranch; a year later, back in Memphis, he formed a psychedelic band called 1st Century, who lasted long enough to release one single for Capitol Records, “Looking Down” b/w “Dancing Girl.” While 1st Century quickly dissolved, Stinnett struck up a friendship with legendary producer and instrumentalist Booker T. Jones, and as Stinnett began putting a greater focus on his songwriting, Jones encouraged him and gave him occasional gigs. When Jones produced an album for his then-wife Priscilla Coolidge-Jones, 1970’s Gypsy Queen, Stinnett played guitar on the sessions and wrote two songs that appeared on the LP. In 1971, Booker T. Jones signed a recording contract with A&M Records, and at his urging, the label signed Stinnett as well. Stinnett began work on an album, with Jones producing and Patterson playing drums, and the music reflected Stinnett’s roots in country and blues music as well as his love of straight-ahead rock & roll and his hippie-informed philosophy. However, while Stinnett completed the album, A&M were uncertain of how to market it; eventually, Stinnett grew tired of waiting for the label to make up its mind and walked away from his contract, taking the master tapes with him. Little was heard from him after that, but in 2012, his long-unreleased album finally surfaced, issued by Light in the Attic Records under the title A Fire Somewhere. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi………
Personnel: Ray Stinnett — guitar, piano, vocals, harp, producer, songwriter Mike Plunk — bass, baritone saxophone, backing vocals Phil Stevens — trumpet Jerry Patterson — drums, percussion
Tracklist 1 Salty Haze 2:43 2 You Make Me - Feel 3:53 3 Silky Path 5:03 4 Wheel Of Time 2:36 5 Stop 3:32 6 Long Rivers Flow 2:48 7 America 4:21 8 You & I 4:18 9 Honey Suckle Song 3:00 10 Liberty Train 3:40 11 Naturally High 3:11 12 Loves In The Answer 2:46 13 A Fire Somewhere 5:30 14 The Rain 5:27