Hitman Blues Band
Hitman Blues Band
Ray received a lifetime achievement doctorate at Long Island’s Five Towns College, a music oriented accredited university. At the age of 13, Russell began working as a "band boy" (setting up the equipment) for Stuart White of Steven Scott Music, a large entertainment provider with several dozen bands. He started his professional musicianship at 15, when he began doing gigs with a rock n’ roll cover band, and started writing original music. His first major original group, Childhood’s End, was an original progressive rock band that played events such as Rock and Roll Conventions at The Hotel Diplomat in NYC, CBGB’s, numerous clubs and festivals.
The next band, Candy, was a new wave group which enjoyed local popularity, and played often at the famous “My Father’s Place” in Roslyn, NY, for owner Michael Epstein, opening up for famous national acts. They also appeared at the Electric Circus, CBGBs, and many other places in the New York and Long Island area. From this band the song “Bop de Bop” came out as a single, and was played locally on the airwaves. While all this was going on, he also began doing "club date gigs" (weddings, bar mitzvahs and corporate events) at 16, and by 18 was playing "High Society" dates, such as cotillions, quadrilles, debutante balls, and high end dinner dances at every major hotel in NY, private estates, and other places around the country that he would be flown to.
The big advantage of this was that Russell was able to play with top notch players, who themselves had played with luminaries such as Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Mel Torme, and other famous jazz and swing bands. This exposed him to music that, as a rocker, he would not have had the opportunity to perform. He got to play with large orchestras and small combos, noting that it was sometimes the same material, but arranged differently. As a young musician he was enjoying the experience of playing with many different seasoned musicians, and absorbing their musical styles into his own.
Russell took lessons from famed guitarist Joe Monk at the age of 13, who was a big influence on him. He then moved on to progressive guitarist Neil Vineberg, and later studied with producer/guitarist Johnny Gale. All of this enabled him to play gigs of many different musical genres such as jazz, rock, blues, funk, reggae, Hassidic, Greek, Italian, German, Salsa, plus some light classical (waltzes, etc) and, of course, pop. Proficient in guitar and bass guitar, and noted for his unique vocal ability, he composed songs of many different genres and released them under the names of The Hitman Blues Band, The Yaz Brothers, and The Songwriter, as well as some country tunes which were recorded and are still being performed by the Americana band, The Mary Lamont Band. Many of his songs are on the internet.
He has written more than 300 originals. The Hitman Blues Band recordings can be found on the internet on literally hundreds of sites such as CD Baby, Apple iTunes, Rhapsody, MusicMatch, Napster, MP3tunes, and other retailers. He also receives airplay on various Internet and radio stations such as Audiocandy, Ipod podcasts, American Bluesclub, Smokestack Lightning, and (of course) last.fm. Friends and fans have reported that they’ve heard his songs in supermarkets and other retail establishments.
He’s being played internationally on the air and on the internet, on streaming stations. The blues is his main love. The Hitman Blues Band was formed in 1989, and he’s recorded three original studio CDs and one live CD. The first CD, Blooztown, was recorded with Hitman, Bobby Forrester, Bernard Purdy, Johnny Gale, and special guest Ray Alexander (on two cuts). “Angel in the Shadows”, the second CD, was recorded with Hitman, Johnny Gale, Richard Crooks, Seth Glassman, Kevin Rymer, Murray Weinstock, Greg "Clutch" Reilly, and Michael Snyder.
The Live CD, “Live at Stonybrook University”, is comprised of songs from the first two CDs, plus more originals. The band, comprised of Hitman, Kevin Rymer, Mike Porter, and Jay Sharkey performed the act which Hitman developed during his three Hitman Blues Band tours in the UK, during 2004, 2005 and 2006, as well as his European tour in 2008. "Live" was in the running for a Grammy nomination in 2007. The fourth CD, "Pale Rider", has received worldwide airplay and sold out its first pressing. It was in the running for four Grammy nominations, as well as being nominated for the IBC "Best Self Produced CD" competition.
It features Hitman, Kevin Rymer, Mike Porter, Ed "The Hat" D'Alessio, with other guest artists lending a hand. Over 4000 CDs have been sold, and over 100,000 digital sales and downloads have been recorded from various internet sites. Russell has been a member of the musicians union, local 802, since 1974, and joined ASCAP in 1982. In the UK Hitman picked up exceptional local musicians from the north and the south, whom he used as his British band mates, touring all over England, Wales, and south Scotland. The official band website is www.hitmanbluesband.com, and has 90 second samples of the music, lyrics, videos, and downloads of the CD covers. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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