Beachcomber Profiles* — Ray Hitchell

Ray’s the one wearing the tux.

HOMETOWN: Bayonne, New Jersey, Exit 14A.


AGE: 64.


PROFESSION: Musician and pianist.


HOBBIES: Cooking, grocery shopping, Jeopardy!


RECENT ACCOMPLISHMENTS: This is my 20th year performing at the Hilton Sandestin, and this June, I’ll celebrate 25 years with my girlfriend Andrea.


PROFILE: I spent four years in the Air Force band in Germany. I met two guys who were contestants in a talent show there. I was originally scheduled to go back to my suck-ass job as a shipping clerk, but they invited me to play with their band Kitchen Sync in Florida. This was Fort Walton Beach, 1975. The band only lasted a year—we had no business sense and no idea of what people wanted to hear.


I moved to Panama City for 14 years and returned here to play at the Seagull in 1990, which lasted until the hurricane knocked it down. I went to Seagar’s, and I’ve been there ever since.


All I’ve ever done is music—I played for 14 years with Don Gumpert’s Dixieland Saints and lots of other groups. I’m a fourth-generation musician. I started playing piano at age 3.


My number one influence was my dad, a professional piano player. Very busy man. Worked eight hours a day and four hours a night. He died at 47—worked himself to death.


In Germany, I got turned on to Chick Corea. That was a turning point in my life. It was like the transition from black and white to color in The Wizard of Oz—a light went off. I’ve gotten to meet Chick a couple times. He’s my idol—his musicianship and his approach to life.


QUOTE: “Music is my mistress. She has no rival.” – Duke Ellington




* Inspired by the late great Creem Magazine.

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