Everyone wants to know who the real Harold Ray is. “I don’t understand it,” says Dennis Cabuco, who plays bass for the soul band revue Harold Ray Live in Concert. “We dropped an album in September, and almost every review mentions that there isn’t really a person in the band named Harold Ray. So what?” As Cabuco adds, Ringo Starr isn’t Richard Starkey’s real name, nor is the moniker Sting written on Gordon Sumner’s birth certificate. But for some reason, no music journalist is satisfied with the real derivation of the band’s name, which combines the middle names of frontman Jason Harold Morgan and his dad.
Yup, there’s a better story here. Harold Ray is a soul singer who had his heyday in the early ’60s, when dances like the Shing-a-Ling, the boogaloo, and the Peppermint Twist were in vogue. While you’ll never hear Harold Ray’s songs on Top 40 radio, you might find them in the milk crate of an avid digger, or gathering dust in the rare funk and soul collections at your favorite local record hub. By some weird alchemy, Harold Ray got trapped in the body of Jason Morgan, a Miami-reared vinyl geek who works at Amoeba by day and moonlights in the indie club circuit, where he sings and bangs on a tambourine with the eponymous six-piece electric boogaloo band.
In resurrecting Harold Ray, the band is also reviving an early-’60s dance craze that has its roots in zydeco and Delta blues — anticipating the tidal wave of funk and soul a few years later. Always recorded live, Harold Ray’s songs are mostly titled for the dances that inspired them, such as Robert Parker’s “Barefootin’,” Barry White’s “Doin’ the Banana Split” (which was originally performed by the stuffed-animal rock group, the Banana Splits), and Don Gardner’s “My Baby Likes to Boogaloo.” On New Year’s Eve they’ll share the stage with the all-girl outfit the Husbands, whose lead vocalist Sarah Reed can wail like a soulful Joan Jett. Southern-fried sludge kings Drunk Horse will headline, and local DJ Joe Quixx might cut up some Black Sabbath and AC/DC on the turntables. So just pretend we’re doing the shake in Waycross, Georgia and be ready t’party like it’s 1962. The Stork Club, 380 12th St., Oakland, 510-444-6174. $10, 21-and-up only.— Rachel Swan
William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin never could have imagined that beyond cut-ups lay the Nova Studio’s Altered Books class. Diane Bouchard, appropriately, messes with the concept of deconstruction, pulling “nicest,” “decor,” and a whole bunch of other surprising words from its folds. What does it all mean, you ask? It means that you can take any book, except for a blank one — an IT textbook, The Pokey Little Puppy, vintage bodice-rippers — and transform it into a gift, keepsake, or hidey-hole. For $36 (plus $12 materials fee), she can show you how to use paint, paper, yarn, and other implements to crimp, tuck, tear, type over, and otherwise personalize your objet d’art. 1-5 p.m., 24 W. Richmond Ave., Point Richmond. Call 510-710-0914 to register. — Stefanie Kalem 12/31-1/24
The Pros from Oakland
For the Pro Arts Juried Annual 2003-04 , some two hundred artists submitted more than 1,460 works to juror Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson (she is MATRIX curator at the Berkeley Art Museum). Forty pieces by fifteen local artists were chosen for the show — everything from threaded-wax polyester sculptures to video projections on photographs. And now they’re on display at Pro Arts Gallery, at 461 9th St. in downtown Oakland. The Pro Arts Juried Annual is one of the Bay Area’s most anticipated art exhibitions. It runs through January 24, and there’s an afternoon of artists’ talk scheduled for January 10. Want to know more? ProArtsGallery.org or 510-763-4361. — Kelly Vance
Livermore’s got the blues. Specifically, music lovers in the area can boogie in the New Year tonight at a special Tri-Valley New Year’s Eve Bash at the Courtyard by Marriott (2929 Constitution Dr., Livermore), featuring the Caravan of All-Stars — Wylie Trass, Teddy “Blues Master” Watson, and one or two surprise guests. Couples who pony up $150 can crash in the hotel; otherwise it’s $100 per couple (or $65 per person) for an evening of blues, R&B, Motown hits, and doo-wop. The show is a presentation of Ronnie Stewart’s Bay Area Blues Society, so you know it’s gon’ be funky. For more information, call 510-836-2227. — Kelly Vance