We were very sad to hear of the passing away of WRAY POWELL who was the lead guitarist, vocalist and songwriter in the ground-breaking 1970s UK Christian blues rock band OUT OF DARKNESS. Tim Anderson, who was Wray’s friend and fellow band member in Out Of Darkness (Tim was the drummer in the band) sent us this fitting tribute:
Wray Powell, Wrayando McKenzie Powell, was best known in the UK as the lead guitarist, vocalist and songwriter for the 1970s Gospel Blues Band ‘Out of Darkness’. Sadly, Wray passed away aged 66, after a sudden short illness, back home in Jamaica on Wednesday 14th January 2015.
Wray was already well known across Europe, in the 1960s, as a member of the Soul Seekers, a popular British Black Gospel group. With ‘Out of Darkness’ Wray toured the U.K. playing large theatres in major cities as well as rock clubs and universities. Wray was a gifted musician who impressed and influenced many fellow artists. ‘Wet Wet Wet’ guitarist and producer Graeme Duffin recalls “ He was a major influence for me ‘back in the day’ ”.
Wray was a very unusual person. He was born at Alligator Pond, not far from Treasure Beach, the Jamaican tourist haven. He was a green-eyed Jamaican; said to be a descendant of a Scottish sea captain who settled in Jamaica after his ship was wrecked. Ironically, Wray was popular in Scotland as ‘Out of Darkness’ toured the country including performances at Kelvin Arena and the Edinburgh Festival. Wray also played with many well know musicians including rock n’ roller Terry Dene and blues guitarist Peter Green, from Fleetwood Mac.
In spite of his big stage presence Wray was only 5ft 4in tall, yet he could play guitar like Jimi Hendrix, was a writer, artist and poet, an alternative thinker often ahead of his time. A close friend, learning of his death, said, “ He was a Dylan Thomas sort of person – such a keen observer of people. He was a remarkable man, intelligent and a very talented musician.”
Wray moved to Switzerland in the 1980s and worked with the show band ‘Casino Royal’ and as a solo entertainer with his guitar and steel pan drums. He later formed his own rock band ‘Red Eyes’ who regularly played sold out concerts in continental Europe.
After some time in Canada, he retired from music in the 1990s. With the encouragement of his sister Merva and support of her husband Carl Grant, the ‘Out of Darkness’ bass player, he returned home to Jamaica and became a farmer.
Wray raised his family on his farm. His last years were happily spent with his daughter Therese and granddaughter Asia. He will be greatly missed by his family, friends and those who know his music.
Tim Anderson drummer for ‘Out of Darkness’ (1969 – 1974)
More about Wray can be read in ‘British Black Gospel: The Foundations of This Vibrant UK Sound’ (2010) by Steve Alexander Smith
We (Plankton Records) were fortunate enough to work with the band when in the early 1990s Tim unearthed some previously unreleased live in session recordings. In 1993 we released “The Celebration Club Session” CD which is still available from our website store via this link https://planktonrecord.wpengine.com/discography/celebration-club-session/ and the album is also available on all major music download and streaming sites Worldwide.
We’ve also created a tribute video to Wray using the opening track of that album, called ‘Walk on the Water’. You can watch the video via this link http://youtu.be/3WnENDFkJ0w
Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of Wray’s family and friends