Ray Condo was a country-swing, rockabilly legend, and one of the more colourful characters of Toronto's Queen Street (80's and 90's) scene. I'm Gayle Hurmuses, a documentary photographer, and for 19 years, I had the great pleasure to co-manage, book and publicize his band The Hardrock Goners. I also photographed, filmed and video-taped the band for nearly two decades. With Ray's passing in 2004, I assembled an exhibition of 20 images: “I wish that it had been a dream” as a tribute. To mark the 10th anniversary of his passing, I will be using those photographs as the foundation of Ray Condo’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Party! a memoir about Ray and his bands, The Hardrock Goners and The Ricochets.
This 40 page book would include 50 – 70 images, personal recollections, and shared stories about Ray and the community around him. To make this happen, I need your help.
Publishing the Memoir will require $15,000 to cover the cost of producing and distributing the book. Ray was an important part of Rockabilly history and I want to produce a book that paints a picture of who he was, from the inside. As a fan of Ray Condo, or rockabilly, you can help make that happen and get some cool stuff for yourself…most importantly, the book!
I’m also offering some photographic prints from the memorial exhibition "I wish that it had been a dream", animation cels from "Barroom Crazy", a limited edition t-shirt, a "Zelig Edition" of the book, and more. Perk packages include mailing costs within North America and Europe, other locations may require additional postage.
Your contribution will help selecting, scanning, and preparing images for print, writing, editing, book design and layout, distribution, promotion, developing the website, and it will help ensure that there is an archive of Ray Condo history in print for future fans of the music.
Although it won’t be possible to thank you enough for your contribution, I’m going to try. Within 14 days of your contribution and confirmation of your address, you will be sent a limited edition postcard hand signed by me thanking you. There will be pages on both the book and the website thanking contributors to the project by name, (unless you wish to be ‘anonymous’) and with your book you will receive a frameable, hand-signed Certificate of Appreciation.
Meanwhile, thanks just for reading this!
Regarding the budget, contribution levels
were set to cover postage costs throughout Canada, the US, and Europe.
The campaign budget was set to allow for the books to be produced regardless of the amount that is collected by the campaign.
If I get the full amount, it will allow me to budget for two months of research and development (scanning new images, writing, and design), in addition to the time spent mailing out the books...and I'll be able to print a quantity of books (2500) that will allow me eventually to be fully compensated for my time.
If the goal is not met, then the books will be printed on demand, at a much higher rate, and I'll end up needing to donate my time to the project....and won't have the ability to recover my labour costs down the line.
I won't be collecting compensation for my time until the hard costs of printing & mailing are covered.
I'm often asked why I am doing this, so a longer note on my motivations follows the section on Ray.
Ray Condo (Tremblay) died on April 15, 2004, just a month short of his 54th birthday on May 16, almost 19 years to the day after we met. From our first meeting to his death, Ray was a mentor, friend and an inspiration to me and to countless others. It’s time that he was honoured with a book about his life and art.
Ray lived life without compromise, never doing anything that didn't have meaning to him on a personal level. Sometimes he'd do things that drove his friends nuts, and would neglect to do things that would lead to the success his talent merited.
In performance he was always electrifying, and every show was amazing no matter how sick he might be... in 1986, I was in Vancouver for The Hardrock Goners entire 6 week engagement at Expo 86. The band played shows every day and night but one. At the end, Ray's voice was tired and showing the strain... but he was still a wild man on stage, tapping into the very core of rock and roll.
As his childhood friend Andy Tait commented, "Ray always seemed so frail and weak... but you would go on tour with him and see what his life on the road was like and be shocked at just how strong he had to be to live like that...it's strange to think he's gone."
Ray may be gone, but his spirit lives on. The campaign to create the book began on August 10, 2013 and has already gained 410 active fans. The Indiegogo campaign launched 5pm on the Saturday of the Labour Day long weekend, to coincide with a Rockabilly festival in Montreal and in 5 days, collected $1020 in contributions from around the world. This happened with an advertising spend to date of $25.
Pictures that will be used in the book were shot in Toronto at The Cameron House, The Horseshoe, and Sneaky Dee's, as well as at my home; others were shot in Montreal, Vancouver, England, Wales, and Las Vegas, and span the period from 1986 -1999.
His death left an empty space in the world of country swing, and a hole in the hearts of his many friends, but his legend lives on and will be made tangible with the publication of this book.
My reasons for doing this project are varied and deep, but the story below is a powerful driver.
As mentioned above, Ray and I were friends for 19 years, and I used to co-manage The Hardrock Goners in the late 80s and early 90s. I partly did this because I was a huge fan and wanted to see them perform more often, and partly to learn the skills needed for my own work as a documentary photographer/videographer.
Consequently, I photographed them extensively. Ray and I spoke of this work in one of our last conversations. After the European/Australian tour, he and the Goners planned to do a 3 city mini tour to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the band. I was going to organize an exhibition of photographs of the band to coincide.
At that point, I had pretty much given up actively doing anything photography related. Ray was on me to do more new work and to exhibit again...and to put some of the work in book form. I was excited about getting back to it by putting that show on.
We had also spoken of his desire for fame and his frustration at its elusiveness…and then he brought up his heart problems. He’d had two heart attacks in the previous few months and was struggling to live the kind of whole-grain, ascetic lifestyle that would have helped him avoid further issues.
There is a lot more to that conversation that is worth telling a story about, but that will likely end up in the book and it’s probably better to write it at leisure than simply to dash it off...although this letter may serve as the basis of my personal statement, which is really missing from the indiegogo page...what is there is more of a project pitch.
In the end though, I made a gallows joke that cracked him up, and promised him that if he died before he became famous, I’d do my part to help make it still happen. So, that’s two promises in one conversation that I still owe him.
It’s nearly 10 years later, and one promise is partially fulfilled. I did have the show, although being rushed by Ray’s death, it was not exactly what I had wanted. Completing the second half of the first promise is part of keeping the second promise.