Will Ray has secured a place from himself among the world’s greatest guitarists for his unique style, ability and iconic use of the Fender Telecaster. As an integral member of The Hellecasters, he employs extensive use of techniques such as slides and bends alongside the revolutionary set up of three guitars in the band.
Will grew up in Richmond, Virginia and embarked on his musical journey after discovering artists such as Peter Paul & Mary, Leadbelly and Elvis after hearing his older siblings play the records. This interest intensified at high school as he discovered; The Beatles, The Blues Project, Cream, The Grateful Dead and Paul Butterfield whilst simultaneously learning the guitar. Upon completion of college he started playing in a sucession of local acts including Dry Ice, Mace, King Cotton and The Cold Harbour Band, but it was only after persuasion from his newly wedded wife Gayle, that he moved out to California to play music full time.
Will first began to find work in Los Angeles, generally in nightclubs and eventually in the studio. He was on the scene playing with several ground baking cow punk bands. Among these were Tin Star, Candye Kane & the Armadillo Stampede and Wylie & The Wild West Show. Developing his experience in the studio he began to produce for country artists with the likes of; Hollywood Roundup, Detour West and Far West as well as artists such as; Carlene Carter, Steve Earle, Tom Jones, Solomon Burke, Joe Walsh and Michael Nesmith. It was here that Will met future Hellecaster player, Jerry Donahue.
The game-changing “The Return of The Hellecasters” dropped soon after, and went on to be named Best Album and Best Country Album by Guitar Player Magazine, not to mention the success the album achieved in the guitar playing community. In 1995 “Escape from Hollywood” changed the sound stylistically after Will designed the “Stealth Slide” (see video links) which enabled the player to make a quick transition between slide guitar and fingers. The same company producing this design also began to manufacture the Will Ray Model B-Bender (see video links), a device which replaces your strap button with a sliding joint, allowing you to bend the B string of your guitar by lifting your shoulder.
1997 saw Fender release Will’s signature guitar “The Will Ray Jazz-A-Caster”. In the years that followed, the custom shop released the “Will Ray Mojo-Tele” signature model. Both guitars made a significant contribution to advances in guitar design and technology, especially the new noise cancelling pickups.
New Axes to Grind was the name of the 3rd Hellecasters’ first album, and was released in 1998 on their own label; Pharaoh Records. 1999 saw Will pushing his solo career with the release of “Invisible Birds” also on Pharaoh Records, on the album will takes both guitar and singing duties playing across a range of genres ranging from farm jazz and range rock to prairie metal and cow thrash
In 2002 Will began to endorse G&L Guitars, he released another signature model, incorporating ideas such as Z coil technology for the pickups, a 7 way selector, a B-Bender. He spent a proportion of the following year promoting his guitar, doing clinics for G&L alongside touring alongside acts like; The Yardbirds, Albert Lee and Eric Johnson.
Essential Listening is the Hellecasters’ fourth album, released to eager fans in 2003 on Hightone Records. The 13 song disc contains even more twisted string wrangling from the boys and promises to spread their appeal among musicians worldwide.
In July of 2005 Will moved to North Carolina where he constructed a new state of the art recording studio for production projects. It’s located up in the mountains of Asheville and is designed for inspiration as well as solitude for his clients. He continues to stay quite busy traveling the globe these days performing, teaching and conducting guitar clinics. Over the next few years Will has suggested that he will keep doing what he enjoys doing best – having fun in music while pushing the edge of the envelope.