Sun City Center, Florida
Ray Burney of RB and the Gang: Born to Play Music
Ray Burney of RB and the Gang was destined to be a musician. He was born and raised in Memphis. His father was a professional guitar player, working with many celebrities. While Ray started on drums at an early age he later went on to become a singer.
Ray started to play professionally in the early 60’s and 70’s with smaller groups he had formed, but it wasn’t enough. “I got really bored, really fast,” Ray says. “I wanted to produce bigger and better shows. I was too limited with a 4 or 5 piece group.”
1978: RB and The Gang Is Formed
In 1978 Ray went big and formed RB and the Gang, adding horns and several singers to the mix, expanding his 5-piece group to 13. It’s also when the group began to get noticed.
RB and The Gang was booked nearly every weekend, but when they got a gig playing at a Memphis hotel 5 nights a week in the early 80’s, things really took off.
“It just so happened an agent from Nashville saw our show,” Ray says. “The guy told us we needed to be on tour.”
Almost immediately, after negotiating a contract, RB and the Gang began touring the U.S. “I probably saw home in Memphis twice over the next few years,” Ray says.
Life on the Road
When Ray mentioned ‘being on the road’ my imagination immediately went to small bands, living out of the back of their vans and eating meals from gas station vending machines. That’s NOT how RB and the Gang lived.
They got to live a bit larger. “The road was great,” Ray says. “We played 2-3 times a week and we’d be in one location for at least a week. We played in Key West for 6 weeks one time,” he adds. “And, we weren’t in dive hotels.”
RB and the Gang traveled with their own bus and equipment truck. They also had sound and light guys and people to help with equipment.
RB and the Gang were big time!
In fact, they became accustomed to playing to crowds of 40,000 and more.
“We just had fun,” Ray says.
In particular, RB and the Gang got the opportunity to play with some biggies, including the time The Drifters showed up to watch their show and ended up on stage performing with Ray and the band. They’ve also shared the stage with Chubby Checker, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Coasters, The Platters and Peter Noonan of Herman’s Hermits, to name a few.
Retirement… Never Lasts
After years performing on the road it was time to stop. Ray retired RB and the Gang in 2007 so he could move to Florida and be closer to his two sons, both of whom followed their dad into the music business. One son plays drums and performed on RB and the Gang’s second album, while the other is the production manager for the Naples Philharmonic. They both live in Naples.
Until about two years ago… when Ray got the bug again.
“I retired in 2007 and almost lost my mind,” Ray says. “We used to get all sorts of applause and ovations when we played. I knew we could do it again and I knew I could pull it off.”
So, after a short 6 year retirement, Ray decided to revive RB and the Gang in Florida.
RB and the Gang Makes A Comeback
Once Ray set his mind to bringing RB and the Gang back, it took him the better part of a year to assemble the group.
How does one form a group?
“First thing you need is talent,” Rays says, “Then you need dedication and people who believe in the music and the concept I am producing. Lastly, you need a great music line up.”
Ray did it.
Today, RB and the Gang are alive, well and performing again. The group has 13 members, complete with a rhythm section, horns and six singers.
“I have a bass player who’s a genius,” Ray says. “He [Larry] can even chart music for every musician in the band. He writes it out note for note.”
Flo, who manages the group’s website, also sings. “She can hit the high note like no other,” Rays says – mentioning he found Flo singing karaoke at Little Harbor.
“The whole group is just talented,” he adds.
Today, RB and the Gang focuses on baby boomers, playing music from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s as well as their own original songs.
They’re BIG TIME. Again.
The 6 year mini-retirement didn’t set RB and the Gang back at all. After re-assembling the group they got to work immediately. Today, the band comes together about once a week. They found a good rehearsal space in their sound guy’s house in rural Ruskin. “There are donkeys across the street so we’re not disturbing anyone,” Ray laughs.
RB and the Gang are playing regular shows now, too, selling out and packing the venues like the old days. They have a show coming up on July 21 at Sun City Center United Methodist church, but the best place to check for all of their upcoming shows is on their website: https://www.rbandthegang.com/shows
Current show reviews tell the same story. RB and the Gang are back better than ever. You can read them for yourself here: https://www.rbandthegang.com/reviews
Ray can’t say he’s surprised they’ve found a new audience. “I knew from experience people liked our show,” Rays says, “and I knew they would again.”
Someone recently asked Ray how long he’ll continue to produce and play with RB and the Gang. He doesn’t know. He takes it day by day and when he burns out he’ll stop… which doesn’t seem to be happening anytime soon.
When Ray is not singing and working with RB and the Gang he’s riding and training cutting horses that he keeps in Wimauma.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/RBandtheGang/
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