About this site
I first heard of the Raybeats during the summer of 1981. I was reading the record reviews in an issue of Rolling Stone magazine when I caught a glimpse of a review of the Raybeats’ full-length debut, Guitar Beat. An all-instrumental band in the early 1980s? It sounded ambitious. Even so, it would be a few years before I would purchase any of their records.
I believe it was during the winter of 1983-84 that I saw their video for “Jack the Ripper,” a cover of the Link Wray classic. Again, my curiosity was piqued. Again, I didn’t pursue it.
In April 1985, I finally sprang for a copy of Guitar Beat. Preferring the more traditional surf-pop instrumentals, I immediately fell in love with “The Calhoun Surf,” penned by Danny Amis. It took a while for the rest of the album to grow on me, but grow on me it did, eventually becoming one of my all-time favorites. It would take me an additional four years to track down a copy of their second (and final) album, It’s Only A Movie! Ironically, I ended up getting two copies of it less than three months apart.
I first connected with a Raybeat in the spring of 1989. I was living in Iowa at the time, and I happened to see an episode of Nashville Now where the members of the crew gave various performances. One of the performers was an audio engineer named Danny Amis. He did a song called “The Cruel Sea.” I found his address in a phone book at the local library and wrote him a letter. He wrote me back, detailing his days in the Raybeats. He also mentioned that he had just pieced together a band (the first one in five years) called the Straightjackets. He said they would be making a single soon and that he’d send me one. That was the last contact I had with him until meeting him at a Los Straitjackets gig in Kansas City in June 1997.
In January 1990, the B-52’s were touring to support Cosmic Thing. Pat Irwin was in their touring band. They played in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where I resided. I wrote a letter to Pat and tossed it onto the stage just before the B-52’s took it over (Love Tractor had opened). One of the stagehands picked it up and placed it on Pat’s keyboard. In between the first and second numbers, Pat slipped it into his inside jacket pocket. About ten days later, I received a response from him.
Fast forward about fourteen years. A little thing called the Internet had happened along and everybody everywhere was doing a tribute page for anything that had ever existed. Well, all but for the Raybeats. Even though the Raybeats, as a band, didn’t hit the big time, Danny Amis’ Los Straitjackets were doing well, Pat Irwin had been with the B-52’s for well over a decade, Don Christensen had worked with Philip Glass for several years, and Jody Harris had played with too many people to keep track. Then there was George Scott, the band’s original bass player. In less than three years on the New York scene (1977-80), he had recorded with the Contortions, James White & the Blacks, John Cale and Eight-Eyed Spy.
The easiest Raybeat to get ahold of was Danny Amis, so I sent him an e-mail. He said he was more than willing to help out, but since he wasn’t an original member of the group, he didn’t want to climb aboard unless at least one of the others was willing to do it. So, I e-mailed Chris Stamey (of the dB’s) and asked him if he could help me get in touch with Pat or Don or Jody. He passed the buck to Will Rigby, who got me an e-mail address for Don Christensen. I wrote him. He wrote me back. I wrote him again. And again. And again. With the exception of my initial e-mail, he didn’t respond. In fact, I didn’t hear anything for almost a year. So, I contacted Will Rigby once again. This time around, he got me an e-mail address for Pat Irwin. And that changed everything.