Ray Dempsey – Jazz Guitarist
Five Foot Films met Ray Dempsey as part of their research on Ken Sykora. He was living in London and in very good form. They spent the evening chatting with him about his recollections of Ken, Guitar Club and of course Django (Ray’s another huge fan).
Ray sat in the Guitar chair for Edmundo Ros, Vic Lewis,
Bill Russo – London Jazz Orchestra c1962
The personnel: Ron Simmonds, Leon Calvert, Gordon Rose, Kenny Wheeler or Tony Mabbett (trumpets)
Johnny Edwards, Don Lusher, Bobby Lamb, Keith Christie or Tony Russell, Jack Thirlwall (trombones)
Johnny Scott, Al Newman, Duncan Lamont, Art Ellefson, Ronnie Ross (saxes)
Ray Dempsey (guitar), Arthur Watts (bass), Kenny Clare (drums)
Raymond Clark, Derek Simpson, Hilary Robinson, Jack Holmes (‘cellos) Richard Morgan (oboe)
Kenny Grahams Afro Cubists
Kenny Graham – tenor
Victor Feldman – vibes, piano, drums, conga
Phil Seamen – vibes, drums, timbales
Ray Dempsey – guitar
Eric Peter – bass
Dizzy Reece – conga
Barry Morgan – maracas, timbales
Ray Dempsey was contracted along with Rupert Nurse (Doublebass) and Tony Kinsey (drums) by Mary Lou Williams, the pianist to play with her London Quartet, in 1953 they made a number of recordings with Carlo Krahmer (Esquire Records) including tunes sponsored by Melody Maker and the New Musical Express. First issued on 78rpm’s. I believe several were later issued on a series of EP’s – a couple of which are in my vinyl collection. Ray stayed with Mary Lou for all of her British residencies. She was also an early player in the US Civil Rights movement and was encouraged by many British Jazzmen and notably Beryl Bryden who had assisted her with finance.
Ray was in great demand as a session man and appeared on dozens of recordings, usually un-credited. He played with Tony Crombie’s short lived ‘Sweet Beat‘ orchestra… One 1957 LP – ‘Sweet Beat’ (Parlophone 33s 1117) The basement of Carlo’s Bedford Court Mansions served as a makeshift ‘Studio’ and we have to observe that without Carlo’s ‘make do and mend’ studio many of the 50’s jazzmen would not have been recorded.
Info from archives and research completed on Esquire Records, late 90’s by Alex B
Ray gave me Guitar lessons in 1952, when he lived in Milborough Crescent SE6, after one lesson, he took me to Ken Sykora’s flat (in Gower Street) when they played some marvellous duets. Ken also had one of those disc recording machines. After about a years lessons, Ray went on tour with a dance troupe, the name of which I cant remember, and he recommended Roland Harker (Segovia’s Understudy) as a very good teacher, so I had some more tuition from Roland. In November 1949 Ray’s photo appeared on the front page of the BMG Magazine, and again in mid 50s with Peter Sensior. May I ask if Ray is still with us?, he would be 88, I am sure Ray wouldn’t remember me, but if you have contact with him, could you pass on my best wishes, and thanks for being such a patient teacher. I would always welcome any info about Ray’s career after 1952. Hoping you can find something of interest in this Email, thanks, – Dennis T
http://www.bebops.co.uk – for back copies of BMG Magazine Phil Jones
The Ken Sykora Six. It was described as a ‘novel line-up’ and featured Jimmy Macmillan, vibes, Denny Purssord, guitar, Ray Dempsey on guitar, George Jennings, bass, Pete Harris, drums, and Bruce Turner, alto. It became the only resident band at The Bandbox, based on the premises of the Café Anglais in Leicester Square, London. They performed in most of the leading jazz clubs in and around London, although unfortunately their style of music was going out of fashion. Skiffle was increasing in popularity and jazz music was also taking a different route. The band continued to play throughout 1954, the highlight an appearance on BBC radio in 1954 with Stephane Grapelli. Their last work together as a band was for the film The Passing Stranger, scored by Ken Sykora
3 Guitarists here are all acoustic Dempsey possibly in the Tuxedo right of Purssord and ? with guitar behind the drummer playing rhythm and perhaps a pianist or just the piano – Ken Sykora appears to be well in the background
If anyone has a Clearer Image of Ray Dempsey as a Guitarist or can add any information please advise.