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Rayr Image brings jams as headliner or opening act

Gray Areas

Assorted ramblings in the world of entertainment:

• When you need an opening act for an old-school R&B or funk act, who ya gonna call?

In northeast Ohio, the answer is Rayr Image.

Last summer the Akron band opened for Kool & the Gang at the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre, and over the years it’s shared stages with The O’Jays, Gladys Knight, Jodeci, Jeffrey Osbourne, The Family Stone, The Bar Kays Mary Jane Girls, Zapp, Con Funk Shun, Levert, Michael Cooper, Lakeside, Slave, The Stylistics, Leela James, The Manhattans, Lalah Hathaway and others.

Rayr Image will be the headliner Saturday for a Valentine’s Celebration at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Collingwood Center, 633 Porter Ave., Campbell.

Ron Shuler said Rayr Image has been together for about 15 years, but most of the musicians in the band are in their 60s and have been making music for decades.

“We’re old school,” Shuler said. “We don’t do (pre-recorded) tracks and all of that stuff. We still rehearse like we did 50 years ago.”

He credited the band’s success playing with national acts to, “being relevant, staying out there, meeting a lot of people. We’re a pretty good band, very well known, and we’ve built a lot of relationships over the years.”

The eight-member band, including four vocalists, has some original songs that it includes in its live shows, but Shuler said the band knows audiences like to hear the music they’re already familiar with, and that’s what Rayr Image plays.

“That’s how you win the crowd,” Shuler said. “The originals are best, but some of the renditions we do are what really got us on the map … We’re gonna do a little of everything (on Saturday) – Cameo, Bruno Mars, Earth Wind & Fire, Lakeside, a lot of different genres.”

Many of the acts that Rayr Image has played with and many of the acts in its repertoire have roots in Ohio.

“Ohio has been blessed with a lot of talent,” Shuler said. “Ohio is just a hotbed for R&B and funk music.”

Tickets for Saturday’s event are $25 in advance and $30 at the door and are available through Eventbrite.

• Kool & the Gang, started by Youngstown natives Robert “Kool” and Ronald Bell, were among the 15 acts announced Saturday that are being considered for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

The band is joined by Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Cher, Dave Matthews Band, Eric B. & Rakim, Foreigner, Peter Frampton, Jane’s Addiction, Lenny Kravitz, Oasis, Sinead O’Connor, Ozzy Osbourne, Sade and A Tribe Called Quest on the ballot

Trying to predict what Rock Hall voters will do is a fool’s errand, especially since all of the nominees have been eligible for years … or decades in the case of Kool and a few others.

Despite being nominated for the first time, I think Kool & the Gang has decent odds of making the cut.

The band had plenty of commercial success – 25 R&B hits, several of which also crossed over to the top 40 charts. Its impact as influence also has gotten increased attention with the focus in the last year on the 50th anniversary of hip hop.

Kool & the Gang is ranked 10th all-time on the list of the most-sampled artists, according to the website whosampled.com.

Five of the acts ahead of the Gang — James Brown, Public Enemy, Run-DMC, The Notorious B.I.G. and Michael Jackson — already are inducted. One of the other slots in the top 10 is occupied by a genre (traditional folk) and the other three (The Winstons, Lyn Collins and Beside) can’t match Kool in terms of commercial success and longevity.

I won’t be shocked if the band doesn’t make it, but it would be “Kool” if it did, especially with the ceremony expected to return to Cleveland in 2024.

Andy Gray is the entertainment editor of Ticket. Write to him at agray@tribtoday.com.

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