Blues is the teacher. Punk is the preacher. It’s all about emotion and energy, experience and raw talent, spirit and intellect. Exciting things happen when these things collide. Bob and Lisa made the BellRays happen in 1991 but they weren’t really thinking about any of this then. They wanted to play music and they wanted it to feel good. They wanted people to WANT to get up, to NEED to get up and check out what was going on. Form an opinion. React. So they took everything they knew about; the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, the Who, the Ramones, Billie Holiday, Lou Rawls, Hank Williams, the DB’s, Jimmy Reed, Led Zeppelin, to name a very few and pressed it into service. It was never about coming up with a ‘sound’, or fitting in with a scene. It was about the energy that made all that music so irresistible. It was the history BEFORE Led Zeppelin that led them to that point. The Beatles thought they were playing R&B. It just came out like ‘Rubber Soul’. The Ramones were trying to be Del Shannon or Neil Sedaka and out came ‘Rocket to Russia’. With the BellRays there was no conscious effort to ‘combine’ rock and soul because they didn’t see them as divided in the first place. Blues was teaching. Punk was preaching. The BellRays were always listening.
The BellRays began in, and still hail from, Riverside, Ca., just east of Los Angeles. We started in 1991 and have been going ever since. The original line-up was Lisa Kekaula- vocals, Bob Vennum- guitar, Phil Phillips- bass, Brad Vaughn- drums, Jim Kerwin -keyboards. We started out with more of a pop/blues based sound and when Brad and Phil left we found Ray Chin and several bass players. Tony Bramel sat in occasionally, Ethan Halpern was there for a while and Mike Sullivan joined for a short period. After going for a while unable to find a bass player Bob switched to bass when Tony came aboard and we played around Southern California for a couple of years after putting out “Let It Blast” and “Grand Fury”. We did a U.S. tour with Nashville Pussy and then Ray left the band. With drummer Todd Westover we played the Transmusical festival in 1999 and began touring europe shortly after that. Todd left and we toured with Vince Meghrouni in europe. After that Tony left, Bob went back to guitar and we toured with bassist Jeff Porterfield and drummer Mike Sessa. Mike left and drummer Eric Herrmann came in for a while. Tony rejoined, Bob went to bass again and in came drummers Eric Allgood and Chris Markwood for a short stint apiece. After Chris left we found a bit of stability with drummer Craig Waters who stayed for almost 4 years, outlasting Tony who again left. Bob switched back to guitar and we found bassist Justin Andres who is still touring with us, now with drummer Stefan Litrownik. That’s the reader’s digest version. stay tuned.