Remember when I said I don’t have all the details on Brandon Bray? That statement continues to remain true, but the article I published (thanks to musician Chuck Davis) helped bassist Eddie Tsuru find his way to Aloha Got Soul.
Eddie emailed me in June this year to see if I had a copy of Brandon’s first single, “Glad You’re In My Life”. Unfortunately, I don’t. I’ve never heard the song, either. (Anyone out there have this 45? Please send me an mp3!)
Eddie’s currently a member of the Dave Walker Band and is living in Big Sky Country—Montana. In our interview, Eddie recalls an impressive number of bands he performed with, from fusion group Merlin to wedding entertainers Kaleidescope.
Mahalo Eddie for the memories!
Aloha Got Soul: I heard that Brandon [Bray]’s first 45 single, “Glad You’re In My Life” was produced almost entirely by Brandon. Is that true?
Eddie Tsuru: I’ll tell you what I remember about those recordings. We first went to Jim Linkner at Audissey Recording Studio, it was my first time in the studio and Jim got a killer sound for the rhythm section. We had a violinist come up with some string parts, it sounded great but we ran out of tracks. Brandon then went to Sounds of Hawaii to redo the tracks, I’m pretty sure it was Audy Kimura that ran the sessions there. Audy might have had a hand in some of the production.
How did you meet Brandon?
I was in a band at that time called Merlin, we did music from Jeff Beck, Deodato, George Benson, Tom Scott, Chick Corea, and originals. The members were Kevin Hirasa on guitars, Dwight Okamura on keys, Mike Kam on drums, and myself on bass. We later added vocals and became “Easy Life” (the first vocalist were Dennis Oshiro and Joanne Villanueva, later replaced by Ricky Oshiro and Joy Nishimura, Steve Sakaue replaced Dwight).
Kevin found an ad at the University of Hawaii seeking players to record on a project. We auditioned for Brandon at the Washington Intermediate School choir room.
Did you remain friends through the years?
His family took us to dinner at a showroom to see Carol Kai (I think it was her) and after that I just ran into him one more time at a music fest.
Can you recall what “Glad You’re in My Life” sounded like? (I’ve never heard it before).
From what I remember it was a kind of 70’s pop/rock sounding tune, catchy lyrics.
What led you to email me about the 45?
Since it was the first recording that I ever played on, I would search for it every few years. Your blog was the first mention on it that I’ve come across.
What other musical ventures did you have in Hawaii during the 1970s and 80s, and what eventually brought you to Bozeman, Montana?
Some of the bands that I played in in the 70’s were Faucet (power trio), Highway (top 40), Mirage (top 40), Merlin (fusion), Easy Life (house band at Escapades), Kaleidoscope (wedding band), Julius Obregon, Jimmy Dykes Band, Ken Morimoto (house band Chaco’s), and Island Society (winner of 1980 battle of the bands and house band at Sir Johns). One of my favorite gigs was with Rick Hayman Band, we had a house gig at O’Tooles. Rick sang, Rainbow on piano, Roscoe Wright on drums, Doug MacDonald on guitar, and Bob Braye on drums later. Musicians like Kit Ebersbach, Woodchuck McPowell, Peter Factora, Renalto Gascone, and Eileen Uchima would fill in for the band members.
A memorable project was recording the theme song for “Whateva”, a play writen by James Benton, Benny Rietveld wrote the song and we recorded it with Phil Bennett, Robert Shinoda, Alan Leong, and myself.
I quit playing in the 80’s lived in LaJolla, San Fran, Irvine (CA), Toronto and ended up in Montana. It is beautiful here and property is affordable but I do miss the Pacific Ocean.
I haven’t heard of many of the bands you mentioned: Merlin, Easy Life, Faucet, Highway, Island Society… Did you record any other 45s/LPs with any of those bands?
The members of Merlin played on Brandon’s 45, we played some outdoor music fests and a few parties there was not many venues to play our style of music. We added vocalists and became Easy Life and played in clubs, weddings, parties and other events.
Faucet was a hard rock band that just did parties.
Highway played at dances some of the members crossed over to I think Greenwood, Kaleidoscope, and a few other bands.
Island Society was a band led by Ken Morimoto. They did a 45, Which was the prize for winning the Battle of the Bands 1980 at the HIC during the Jerry Lewis Telethon.
I left for the mainland before that recording, I believe it was a Christmas song. We played at some nightclubs and some of the members were Billy Halem (Phase Seven), Gordon Tokishi (I think he played with Olomana), Lasinga Koloamatangi (currently performs in Germany), Alex Ancheta, and I don’t remember the rest of the members.
I don’t know if you read the entire article, but I learned that Brandon was gay. Was that apparent to you at the time? What was your general impression of Brandon after working with him on “Glad You’re In My Life”?
I didn’t know that Brandon was gay, he was pretty young at that time. He was easy to work with, he wrote good songs, and was still trying to find his voice when we did the project.
Could you tell me your thoughts on the music scene during the time? From what I know, Hawaii was so much different than it is today, so much has changed. Back then, jazz-fusion, disco, funk, soul and pop music was being played almost everywhere. Plus, there was tons of great innovators to learn from at the time: Chick Corea, Deodato, George Benson… What made that era of local music so special?
There were a lot of places to play at, especially if you did dance music (top 40, R&B, Funk), or backed up singers. There weren’t as many places to play Rock (hard rock, blues rock, prog rock), or Blues. A few years into the disco era clubs started to use DJ’s and drop live bands.