2020 - Current
A new decade begins
In summer 2019, before the new decade began, Ray and friend Paul Brett were filmed for the BBC Antiques Roadshow. As one of the world’s most famous guitarists, George Harrison, had gifted an unusual Fretless Guitar in 1985 to Ray whilst recording sessions for the Harrison film, Water. A year later 2020, Ray Russell made international headline news after promotion for the programme revealed a big appraisal. As part of the promotion for BBC's Antique Roadshow the BBC invited Ray to the One Show. Desperately trying not to spill the beans whilst being interviewed by Matt Baker and Alex Jones, Ray demonstrated his skill using the Bartell fretless. The show also featured Antiques Roadshow host Fiona Bruce who talked about the shock in the BBC when Ray and Paul revealed they had this guitar, as well as Bon Jovi who was promoting his latest music. During the show Matt asks Bon Jovi if he will play the guitar, Jovi declined stating 'No, I'm afraid of it.' - Ray replying 'That makes two of us!'- George did dub it his 'Mad Guitar' after all.
March 1, 2020 the Antiques Roadshow series containing the guitar is broadcast on Prime-time Sunday night BBC. Antiques Roadshow expert Jon Baddeley, valued the guitar at between £300,000 and £400,000, he said: "I think in 25 years it's by far the most expensive thing I've ever seen." Following the broadcast Ray was the talk of Guitar Town, globally, for months as news spread across the mainstream and social media. TV and Radio interviews followed. Despite all the popularity around the guitar, Ray and Paul were more keen on spreading the news about the people behind the existence of the Bartell Fretless, so Paul continued his research. Though Ray had appreciated the generous gift from his friend George, with the world knowing you have something of great value, Ray decided it was time to sell the guitar and so the auction date was set for later that year.
In between Ray had a great deal to organise as he had completed part of his PhD, which included a new album.
In September 2020 he released 'Fluid Architecture' by Ray Russell. Ray’s description of Fluid Architecture is the process of musical performance: "The musicians that helped interpret the many 'moments' and helped the music 'become' are as important as the composition ... for what they play is fluid architecture." Ray Russell : guitars, Eric Baldwin: found sounds, sequential creativity (1) George Baldwin: bass, Chapman Stick (2/5/8) Chris Biscoe: tenor clarinet & soprano saxophone (2/8/9) Mo Foster: bass (9) Nic France: drums (5) Simon Phillips: drums (2/4/8) Ralph Salmins: drums (9) Jim Watson: keyboards (2/5/8) Composed by Ray Russell except “Endure,” composed by George Baldwin and Ray Russell.
In October 13, 2020, it was finally the big day! - Ray Russell took his now famous Bartell fretless guitar to auction at Bonhams of Knightsbridge, London. The BBC and regional news are there to record Ray’s reaction when the hammer finally falls at £237,562.50 inc. premium.
The BBC followed up the story in the Christmas 2020 edition of Antiques Roadshow, ‘What Happened Next?’. Fiona Bruce interviewed Paul Brett at Pinewood Studios. View more by clicking the link.
February of 2021 Bonnie Tyler released her 18th album 'The Best Is Yet To Come' Ray played on tracks 'Somebody's Hero' and 'You're the one'.
Though no longer the owner of Georges Mad Guitar Ray's connection to it continues as he encourages his friend Paul Brett to publish his groundbreaking research as a book. Thus in 2021 Paul Published -Finding Fretless, The story of George Harrison’s ‘Mad” guitar. A true story of history, mystery and intrigue. Frying Pans, fist fights, Beatles, Zappa’s, Warm Guns, Helter Skelters, murder cults and detectives! The publication describes the incredible history of the rare, unique guitar, that was christened the ‘Secret’, ‘Mad’ guitar by the Beatles themselves. Incredibly it also links the guitar directly to the very creation of the world’s first ever electric guitar, the Rickenbacker ‘Frying Pan’, via its designer, creator, Paul Barth, who with his buddy George Beauchamp created the electric ‘horseshoe’ pickup that created possibly the world’s most popular Instrument! The story was a main feature in Guitar Player Magazine, (the worlds oldest guitar publication) in June 2022, it got a mention in Record Collector Magazine as part of their feature on the 101 most expensive memorabilia ever. The publication of course includes the great guitarists that also played the guitars featured including The Beatles, Mark Knopfler, Frank Zappa , Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry and, of course, Ray Russell.
After the book was published, Ray and Paul devised a plan to meet, celebrate and reunite with all those involved with the development of the Bartell Fretless and whilst planning the event they received an Invite from Jon Gold of G&L Guitars to join him at the NAMM festival (North American Music Merchants) at the Anaheim Convention Centre. They flew to LA in 2022. Here is what they got up to whilst they were there : -
June 5, 2022 ORANGE COUNTY VINTAGE GUITAR FAIR - COSTA MESA : Ray and Paul were invited by local guitar/luthier/historian Steve Soest, (clients include The Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton….) and Surf guitar hero, Bob Spickard made a surprise visit to meet with Ray and Paul. Bob played his original Barth guitar on the Chantays iconic ‘Pipeline’ surf hit from 1963. Ray’s interview for KVCR Arts Channel in California by David Fleming speaks with Ray Russell, about the world of jazz fusion, being a part of England's Wrecking Crew, with numerous film and TV scoring credits, and playing on numerous James Bond themes. He explores the local links with the guitar GIVEN by George Harrison, built in Riverside, and the planned reunion, celebration of Bartell Guitars – and The House of Note in Riverside.
June 7, 2022 THE FAMILY HOME OF BARTELL : Ted Peckels was such a popular business man and musician running the highly successful House of Note and later Coopers Action Music in Riverside California. When he formed the Bartell Company with college Paul Barth to make their own brand of guitars, little did they imagine that 50 years later a book about their exploits would be published. Ray - “We were invited to meet the Peckels family in their beautiful home in Riverside, we had a blast, saw some great Bartell family heirlooms and had a genuinely fantastic time.”
June 8, 2022 THE FAMILY HOME OF PAUL BARTH : Another spectacular day, this time in the stunning location of Laguna Beach at the beautiful family home of the lovely Sharon Sagar the daughter, and Kristen Purll, the granddaughter of Paul Barth, the legend who co invented, with his buddy George Beauchamp, the very first electric pickup (on the kitchen table, at grandma Barth’s home) that gave the world the Rickenbacker ‘Frying Pan’, the very first electric guitar!!!! Imagine, if you can, the feeling of holding in your hands the vintage artefacts and personal guitars of the great man himself….. priceless museum treasures. Beyond words. We were joined by distinguished music historian/author/musician Robb Lawrence, our friend Steve Soest and NAMM's resident Music Historian Dan Del Fiorentino is there to record the proceedings as part of NAMM's Oral History program.
June 8, 2022 G&L FACTORY VISIT : A personal invitation from Jon Gold of G&L Guitars, to the historic factory on Fender Avenue in Fullerton, California where Leo Fender began the final chapter of his legendary career when he launched the G&L brand and instruments in 1980. Ray remembers “We’re having some surreal experiences at G&L music, and I’m sitting on Leo’s chair where he invented his guitars, and I got to hold the last guitar he ever worked on!” In the evening Ray visited his bandmate, friend, drummer, Simon Phillips. “I’m at Mr Simon Phillips' house in the mountains a boulders throw from LaLa Land. A beautiful environment, mountain covered in spring flowers and eagles nesting. A heaven that you might not know so close to the Century City.” - Ray Russell
June 10, 2022 BARTELL/BARTH/HOUSE OF NOTE - REUNION EVENT : What a privilege to gather together the families, former employees and friends of three great music companies from Riverside, California, again after more that 50 years. The event was full of respected guitarists, and historian’s joining us in the celebrations at Norco in California. What a privilege to meet Deke Dickerson, singer, songwriter, guitarist, film composer, author, journalist, and “guitarchaeologist”. Equally nice to meet former Vintage Guitar writer Dave Kyle who had an incredible connection to George Harrison and his rosewood Telecaster! The house band joined Ray for some epic music: Henry Ross (piano) Terry Wade (drums) Jimbo Barela (bass guitar) Mel Campbell (guitar), Rob Lawrence (guitar). Here are some great images or our trip down memory lane.
A year later in 2022 it was graduation day at Leeds Beckett University. Dr Ray Russell officially becomes a Dr of Philosophy. The thesis was creativity and flow in recording, based on two albums, one in 1985 and the other in 2010. A very knowledgeable articulation of ‘fluid expressivity’, if you ever fancy a read!
In addition to his own career Ray also sponsores the British Film Editors Awards which aims to celebrate the talents of others in British Film.
A regular to the UK's jazz scene Ray Russell and his band formed of George Baldwin, Ian Palmer and Jim Watson, play in the top UK Jazz clubs including, Pizza Express Lounge, The 606 Club and Verdict Jazz, to name a few. He can also be found playing with his band at festivals and events in the UK.