Ray at the drum kit, left arm raised suggesting he is about to hit the drums very loudI believe music is so good for everyone, whether listening or playing, and when life has put you through all kinds of difficulties, music has such an amazing healing effect. The joy and support to be found at PMZ is truly amazing, and I can’t speak highly enough of the work it does, and that’s only the small part I know about! I look forward to continuing to enjoy listening to music and playing music for many years to come, and with PMZ I know there will be a warm and friendly environment to do so.

Hi, I’m Ray. I was born at a very early age in the early 1960’s, when the pop music explosion was about to happen. I can always remember the radio being on at home, or my parents listening to albums (LP’s as they called them back then), and I was aware of a variety of singers and styles. Early on I was aware of Ray Charles, Mantovani and his Orchestra, Frankie Vaughan, and so on. My mother often recalled me being about the age of 3 and having a toy guitar and singing and playing along in particular to ‘Searching’ by Del Shannon. I remember being up early to get ready for school on the morning of September 30th, 1967 when Tony Blackburn opened the first breakfast show on the new Radio 1 with the Move song ‘Flowers in the Rain’. Other musical influences came from films, with the iconic sounds from Sound of Music, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Jungle Book being early favourites.

By the start of the 1970s I was already hooked to listening to Radio 1 and watching Top of the Pops. It was all the talk at school each Friday morning after watching who was on TOTP the night before, and then waiting for the Chart show on a Sunday afternoon. Like many youngsters of the time, I was always poised with cassette recorder and microphone to record my favourite songs, trying to miss the DJ’s voice talking over the start and end of the songs.

As much as I enjoyed listening to music, very much all pop, I wasn’t really a musician as far as playing anything was concerned. Like all children, I learned to play the recorder in school, which is also where I learned about the notes, staves, beats and so on. I wanted to learn piano at around age 9, and my parents bought an old piano from the local scouts. It was delivered to my home and I spent many happy hours playing around on the keyboard, making some tunes that I knew, and also playing a short piece that my grandmother taught me, but I never got to have lessons – the middle C key was broken, and my mother said I could have it repaired if I started lessons. I said I needed it repaired first, so lessons never happened, to my lifelong regret.

Other favourites during the 1970s were Marc Bolan/T.Rex, Sweet, Slade, Wizzard and Sparks, to name but a few. My tastes moved away from run of the mill pop as the 1970s progressed, and as the world darkened with the advent of punk ‘music’, I turned more to rock music, and getting the double live Status Quo album for my 15th birthday was a significant moment. I became a Quo-maniac, collecting all their albums and playing them endlessly (and loudly!), often using items at home as pretend guitars so I could ‘perform live’ in my room as I listened!

My musical tastes also broadened out again when I began to take notice of music from shows, particular the Lloyd-Webber shows such as Joseph, Cats and Phantom of the Opera, and I began to listen to more classical music, lots of Mozart, Beethoven and others. This was partly inspired by a girl in my class at school who was brilliant at music and used to practice piano and clarinet in the music rooms. I used to hang around and listen, and it gave me an excuse to chat to her! When I went to university in 1979, I took up classical guitar lessons – partly to improve my musical ability and also to hide from the really hard mathematics I was supposed to be doing! Sadly, my reading of music was very poor, and because I spent more time on my first passion – football – I never practiced enough and the lessons faded.

Through the 1980s I enjoyed broader choices of music, and my Quo fanaticism relented, a great relief to my family, as I discovered Dire Straits, amongst many others. Rock remained my dominant choice and I remember being particularly taken with the rhythms of different songs and what the drummers were doing. In 1991 I went to my first gigs – Paul Simon (in Adelaide) and Dire Straits twice (in Melbourne). The first time I saw Dire Straits, I had a seat right on the corner of the stage and watched with awe at the amazing guitar playing of Mark Knopfler. This inspired me to take up guitar again, and I had an acoustic guitar and began to self-teach. This wasn’t a great success, but after getting married, my wife bought me a set of lessons from a local tutor whose daughter I had taught at the local school, and after the ‘free’ lessons ran out, I continued to pay to go each Saturday morning.

During this time I also bought an electric guitar, a white Fender Stratocaster, and made some good progress for a while. Reading the music continued to hamper my progress. At the same time I was listening to Christian and Gospel music and found that contemporary Christian music was often quite ‘rocky’. After moving house in 2004 from Essex to Herefordshire, I made some friends at the local Baptist church who were musically inclined, and we started getting together to jam.. me on guitar to start with, but then I spotted drum lessons at the local adult education centre (in my daughter’s school), so I took up drum lessons and never looked back! I made good progress, was really enjoying it and then started drumming firstly with my mates’ band (we named ourselves ‘Midlife’, related a bit to ‘crisis’!), and then a vacancy appeared as a drummer with the church worship group, and I played most weeks in the morning or evening services, as well as at special events including a wedding.

After becoming single again in 2013, a group of friends from the church invited me along with them to see some great bands at gigs in London and Birmingham. We saw Deep Purple, Status Quo, Iron Maiden (twice), Ritchie Blackmore and a band from Finland called Nightwish, who quickly became my favourite band. In 2019 I went to Bristol to watch Muse and have tickets to see them in Plymouth in 2023.

Also in 2019, I discovered PMZ, and I started by joining Rob’s ‘Baton Beats’ session on Monday evening, until Covid interrupted. Then early in 2022 I got in touch with PMZ again and was able to join the ‘Musical Misfits’. In the months that have followed, I have had such fun attending the sessions, and met such a wonderful group of people.

Ray Huntley