Wray Powell 1948-2015

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Monday 19th January 2015

Seminal Out Of Darkness musician Wray Powell dies aged 66

A KEY figure in the development of early British Christian music, Wrayando McKenzie Powell, better known as Wray Powell, died in Jamaica on 14th January 2015. Powell, 66, was best known as the lead guitarist and vocalist for the '70s Hendrix-influenced gospel blues band Out Of Darkness. He had previously been a member of Jesus music pioneers The Soul Seekers. In 1970 Out Of Darkness released their seminal self-titled album (subsequently re-issued on CD) while in 1993 Plankton Records issued the group's 'The Celebration Club Session', live recordings rescued from a previously unreleased tape.

Wray was born at Alligator Pond, not far from Treasure Beach, the Jamaican tourist haven. Out Of Darkness toured the UK including performances at Kelvin Arena and the Edinburgh Festival where they played alongside such well known figures as British rock 'n' roller Terry Dene and Fleetwood Mac's blues guitarist Peter Green. Wray moved to Switzerland in the 1980s and worked with the show band Casino Royal and as a solo entertainer with his guitar and steel pan drums. He later formed his own rock band Red Eyes who regularly played sold out concerts in continental Europe.

After some time in Canada, he retired from music in the 1990s and returned to Jamaica to join his sister Merva and brother-in-law, Carl Grant, the bass player in Out Of Darkness. With Merva and Carl's support Wray became a farmer and raised his family. His last years were happily spent on his farm with his daughter Therese and granddaughter Asia. More about Wray can be read in British Black Gospel: The Foundations Of This Vibrant UK Sound (2010) by Steve Alexander Smith. CR

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