Ray returns to Dunstable for Christmas Cali-R with New Drifters

Ray Lewis and the New Drifters
Ray Lewis and the New Drifters

Ray Lewis, legendary singer with The Drifters, came off the Dunstable Leisure Centre stage, dripping with sweat and buoyed by the shouts, claps and cheers of a wildly enthusiastic audience.

He gasped to Cali-R promoter Sid Hudson: “Let’s do this again as soon as possible -- the audience were AMAZING!!”

Little did either of them know that it would be years before they could do it again – FIFTEEN to be precise because of many different circumstances.

But now Ray and his New Drifters are back to re-create the enthusiasm of that 2003 night when they take to the Dunstable Conference Centre stage on Saturday, December 1, for the Christmas Cali-R and a dip into the amazing back catalogue of hits from a group that was formed originally in 1953!

Ray, who was lead singer with The Drifters from 1978 to 1983 and then again from 1986 onwards, was like so many soul and R&B artistes – learning to sing in church. He honed his gift while training as an engineer in the US Navy, singing for shipmates wherever they found themselves.

After military service and a number of jobs, Ray came to the attention of the Treadwell family who owned and managed The Drifters, and he was asked to audition – successfully – for the role of lead singer, which was being vacated by Johnny Moore. Later the two would sing in tandem when Johnny returned to the fold.

The first job for Ray, who had become the youngest ever lead singer of The Drifters, was to re-record so many of the old hits in order that his voice would be recognised as the sound of the group. He enjoyed his years performing alongside Johnny, Bill Fredericks, Ben E. King and many others on hits such as Saturday Night At The Movies, Kissing In The Back Row and Up On The Roof, before leaving to pursue a solo career and as leader of the New Drifters.

As always, Christmas Cali-R will be full of festive surprises, not least the appearance of former World Champion Father Christmas Ron Horniblew, from Luton.

Tickets for the night are £20, available from Big Stuff (4 Queensway, Dunstable: 01582 666678), Vinyl Revelations (59 Cheapside, Luton: 01582 876391) or via www.cali-r.com.

Because of family commitments, there won’t be a New Year’s Eve Cali-R this year but the ever-popular soul nights will be expanding in the new year to take in Houghton Regis (St Vincent’s Social Centre) on Saturday, February 9; Harpenden, featuring RDG (Harpenden Public Halls) on Saturday, March 9; and Dunstable (United Services Club) on Friday, April 13.

Tickets for these events (£10, £12 and £10) respectively will be available six weeks beforehand from the usual outlets.

On May 11, a soul night takes place at Venue 360, Luton, and on June 29, Dunstablians Rugby Club will host the Cali-R Festival in its marquee, with two additional DJ rooms. On the bill are Boogie Wonderband, Godfrey Gale (as Stevie Wonder), Leanora Soul, Cobie Singer, The Dunstable Soul Family and All Things Soulful. More details for all these events nearer the time.