This is the third installment of an ongoing series about my years as a white rocker dude who became a player in the Northwest hip-hop game during the eighties and nineties. Previous articles in this series can be found here.
Ray Watson was a British (or was that Irish?) eccentric I got to know over the years kicking around Seattle's retail record store industry. He was, if nothing else, a loud and obnoxious sort of character who was also a rather lovable sort of rogue in his own odd sort of way. Ray was also a real character and a fixture in the local music scene.
A silver-tongued devil if ever there was one, Ray also had a prematurely grey head of hair to match, along with a colorful pocketful of catch phrases he would bark out in his Brit's accent to anyone who would listen. They included "you couldn't get laid in a French whorehouse with a fistful of fifties," and my personal favorite, "this ain't your mother you're talking to." It should also be noted most of these were punctuated by the ever-present "babe."
To Ray, everyone was his "babe."
Although Ray had his hand in several different pies at any given time — such as managing both Seattle's Moore Theater as well as the short-lived Seattle rock band, Perennial — Ray was best known for his Seattle-based record-store chain, Music Menu. As a kid, I can remember going to see Ted Nugent at an in-store at the Music Menu superstore on lower Queen Anne Hill (it later became a Tower Records) and later applying for a job at the downtown store on Third and Pike.
But by the mid-eighties, there was only one Music Menu location left in Seattle, on 23rd and Rainier in Seattle's mostly-black Rainier Valley neighborhood. I often used to run into Ray at our local one-stop (industry lingo for record distributor) and, to hear Ray tell it, even that store was in deep trouble.
Ray of course knew how well Penny Lane — the store I managed in Tacoma — was doing, frequently picking my brain about what rap records he should be bringing in. Then one day, Ray surprised me with the news he was going to close his store. What I didn't realize at the time was that he had no actual intention of doing this. Rather, this was the silver-tongued devil's way of planting the seeds of a job offer for me to come work for him.