Ray McKelvey, better known as punk legend Stevie Ray Stiletto, loved the color black. The interior of his house was black. His bedding and clothing were black. His windows were blacked out. His toys and memorabilia were black. His sense of humor: black.
So when I wrote a cover story for Folio Weekly ["Stevie Stiletto is Dead," Aug. 2, 2005] featuring the punker and his battle with Hep C and cirrhosis, I decided to play up the idea that many in the local music community thought he had already died. Ray concurred, and we had a great laugh when the issue hit the street.
He did, in fact, succumb to his illnesses on March 24, 2013 — to his credit, many years after he should have kicked the bucket. In his honor, a tribute concert/fundraiser is scheduled for Friday, June 6 at Rain Dogs in 5 Points. Fellow punks Whiskey Dogs, Powerball, Ryan Gunwitch-Black, Grabbag and others are on the bill. Proceeds go to The Sweet Relief Musicians' Fund, which provides financial aid for musicians who are battling cancer.
And here I pay tribute to him with a list of Five Stupid Things I Did with Stevie Ray Stiletto.
• Pretend he was dead: For the aforementioned cover story, I thought it would be hilarious to run a photo of Ray on his back (à la John Lennon on the back cover of the Imagine album). The headline read, "Stevie Stiletto is Dead." The subhead, in much smaller type, clarified that he wasn't, and that rumors surrounding his death were exaggerated. Apparently, his sister thought he had actually died and was distraught until she confirmed he was still among the living. Mission: Accomplished.
• Pretend he was dead: While playing drums at the release party for his 2009 comeback album Pickled Liver, for which I played drums on two tracks, I decided to introduce the lead singer as an imposter hired to replace Ray because, you guessed it, he was dead. Of course, he wasn't. He was right there, listening to me pay tribute to him and thank our wonderful stand-in for the great job he was doing. Some people got it.
• Pretend he was dead: At that same concert, following the stand-in's introduction, I sang an a cappella version of Kansas' "Dust in the Wind" in tribute to the late Stevie Ray Stiletto, who was sitting on the edge of the stage laughing. I thought it was touching.
• Pretend he was dead: Following the release of Pickled Liver, a documentary titled My Life Is Great: The Stevie Stiletto Story was in the works. Many of Ray's former and current bandmates were interviewed. For my part, I coordinated with Ray to film me leaving a local jam night, feigning that I was caught unaware. In the clip, I slip into a slow rage over the fact that Ray, being alive, had brought in musicians to play for free on what we all believed to be a posthumous tribute album. My tirade ends with me flicking off the camera and cursing the name of Stevie Ray Stiletto. Cut to Ray cackling into the lens. Great stuff.
• Pretend he was dead: A year or so before he died, Ray crashed a show my band was doing at Monty's (aka West Inn Cantina) in Avondale. Being one of Ray's old haunts, Monty's often brings in a punk-friendly local crowd. And so in he came, storming our set and creating a small bit of chaos. He gave me a hug and began to take his leave as abruptly as he had entered. As he departed, I shouted, of course, "Let's hear it for the late Stevie Ray Stiletto!"
It was the last time I would see him alive.