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Raymond Daniel Manzarek, Jr., better known as Ray Manzarek (born February 12, 1939), is an American musician, singer, producer, film director, writer, co-founder and keyboardist of The Doors from 1965 to 1973, and The Doors of the 21st Century (renamed Manzarek-Krieger) since 2001. He is the oldest former member of the Doors.
Early life and career
Ray Manzarek is of Polish descent, born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois, as were his parents. Growing up, he took private piano lessons from Bruno Michelotti and others. He originally wanted to play basketball, but he only wanted to play power forward or center. When he was sixteen his coach insisted either he play guard, or not at all, and he quit the team. Manzarek said later if it was not for that ultimatum, he might never have been in The Doors. He went to Everett Elementary School on S. Bell St. and attended St. Rita High School in Chicago.
In 1962–1965, he studied in the Department of Cinematography at UCLA, where he met a film student named Jim Morrison. Forty days after finishing film school, thinking they had gone their separate ways, they met by chance on Venice Beach in California. Morrison said he had written some songs, and Manzarek expressed an interest in hearing them, whereupon Morrison sang a rough version of "Moonlight Drive." Manzarek liked the songs and co-founded the Doors with Morrison right there and then.
In January 1966, The Doors became the house band at a club on the Sunset Strip called The London Fog. According to Manzarek, "Nobody ever came in the place… an occasional sailor or two on leave, a few drunks. All in all it was a very depressing experience, but it gave us time to really get the music together." The same day The Doors were fired from The London Fog, they were hired to be the house band of the Whisky a Go Go. Their first performance at the Whisky was with the group Them.
The Doors' first recording contract was with Columbia Records. After a few months of inactivity, they learned they were on Columbia's drop list. At that point, they asked to be released from their contract. After a few months of live gigs, Jac Holzman "rediscovered" the Doors and signed them to Elektra Records.
The Doors lacked a bassist, so Manzarek usually played the bass parts on a Fender Rhodes piano Bass. His signature sound is that of the Vox Continental organ, an instrument used by many other psychedelic rock bands of the era. He later used a Gibson G-101 Kalamazoo (which looks like a Farfisa) because the Italian Continental keys "sticked" and remained "down" without pushing it.
Manzarek occasionally sang for The Doors, with a voice more bluesy than rock, including the live recordings of "Close To You." He also sang on the last two Doors albums, recorded after Morrison's death, Other Voices and Full Circle.
Later career and influence
Manzarek has been in several groups since the Doors, including Nite City. He recorded a rock adaptation of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana with Philip Glass, produced and backed Echo & the Bunnymen and Los Angeles band X, played with Iggy Pop, backed San Francisco poet Michael McClure's poetry readings and he has done improvisational composition with poet Michael C. Ford. Ray also worked extensively with "Hearts of Fire" screenwriter and former SRC front man Scott Richardson on a series of spoken word and blues recordings entitled "Tornado Souvenirs".
His memoir, Light My Fire: My Life with The Doors, was published in 1998. The Poet in Exile (2001) is a novel exploring the urban legend that Jim Morrison may have faked his death. Manzarek's second novel, Snake Moon, released in April 2006, is a Civil War ghost story.
In 2000, a collaboration poetry album titled: Freshly Dug was released with British singer, poet/actor and pioneer Punk rocker Darryl Read. Read had previously worked with Ray on the Beat Existentialist album in 1994, and their latest poetical/musical collaboration was in 2007 with the album: Bleeding Paradise.
On August 4, 2007, Manzarek hosted a program on BBC Radio 2 about the 40th anniversary of the recording of "Light My Fire" and the group's musical and spiritual influences.
In April 2009, Manzarek and Robby Krieger appeared as special guests for Daryl Hall's monthly concert webcast Live From Daryl's House. They performed several Doors tunes ("People Are Strange", "The Crystal Ship", "Roadhouse Blues" and "Break on Through (To the Other Side)") with Hall providing lead vocals.
After living many years in Hollywood, Manzarek now resides in Napa County, California in a house he remodeled extensively. He also plays with local bands in the Napa area.
In 2009, Manzarek collaborated with "Weird Al" Yankovic, playing keyboards on the single "Craigslist" which is a style parody of the Doors.
Manzarek was a co-producer on a few tracks for Universal Recording artist, Michael Barber. A track recently hit the internet titled, "Be Ok", on Michael's Universal Records Debut.
In May 2010, Manzarek was recording with slide guitarist Roy Rogers in Studio D in Sausalito. The release was scheduled for the fall.