- RIP Ukulele Ray, inventor of the lunchbox uke · April 24, 2018
- "The easiest instrument in the world to play" · March 15, 2018
Influences: Roy Smeck, Jake Shimabukuro, Eddie Kamae, James Hill, George Formby, Daniel Ho, George Harrison, Arthur Godfrey, Edie Vedder
Ray Masters, aka Ukulele Ray, was a comedian and singer/songwriter with over a dozen album releases. Covering everything from rock to reggae and country, he headlined a Las Vegas musical/comedy/burlesque revue known as Ukapalooza. Its success resulted in him becoming Fender's first sponsored ukulele artist.
“Ukulele is the easiest musical instrument in the world to learn and play,” he told the Reader. “With a single finger on a single string, one can create a chord, with many of the chords needing only one or two fingers. It’s the perfect instrument for children because of its small size, making it easier than a guitar, and it’s truly the gateway to guitar, as it shares the same chord shapes.”
His music has been heard in commercials for Campbell's Soup, Rock Star Energy Drink, Captain Morgan, Chevrolet, Thomas & Friends, Hershey's, Jack Flavored Rums, Fender, American Pinup Girls, Saddle Ranch Chop House, Folgers Coffee, and more.
As a ukulele builder, Ray created the Lunchbox-A-Lele (combo ukulele and lunchbox) and the Warhol Soup-A-Lele (uke made from a Campbell's Soup can), which have been displayed in art gallery and museum exhibits around the world.
After arriving in San Diego in 2010, Ray began teaching ukulele seminars and workshops and donating ukuleles to school programs and children's hospitals through his Ukulele Ray Foundation. "San Diego, being a coastal city, with influences and elements of tropical culture all around, is a ukulele hub, with large, local ukulele clubs all over the county, boasting memberships into the 1,000s, collectively."
He admitted the uke life has been very good to him. "I've performed on stage with my friend, the great Jake Shimabukuro, I befriended and jammed ukuleles with George Harrison, talked ukuleles with friends Johnny Winter, Dick Dale, and Stevie Wonder, and I was backed on drums by legendary George Harrison 33 1/3 drummer Alvin Taylor. I've also shared the stage with Riki Hendrix, Jimi's first cousin), Fou Fou [Ryan Gosling's drummer from LA LA LAND], Don Teschner [Rod Stewart mandolin/violist], and Rick Bozzo [Meatloaf bassist], and I've made ukuleles for Paul McCartney, Gene Simmons, and Cheech & Chong."
Ray passed away unexpectedly in April 2018, at the age of 58.