Gary O’Bray, Pioneer Rock’n’Roll Drummer

I noticed in the newspaper that Gary O’Bray passed away. Gary was the drummer with one of Vancouver’s original rock’n’roll bands, the Stripes, back in 1955. He and his brothers were all involved. I went to King Edward High with his late brother Garth. His other brother Blaine played bass. They recorded a few discs on the Aragon label backing up Jimmy Morrison (Vancouver’s Elvis at the time, but more like Rick Nelson).

The band backed up Ritchie Valens (La Bamba) when I brought him here for appearances. Ritchie hated flying and he was forced to stay in town a few extra days in December 1958 due to heavy snow. He stayed with the O’Brays and their mother Laura did Ritchie’s laundry and fed him. When the movie La Bamba came out the boys took Laura to the movie and she cried at the end. The memories of this fine young man overcame her.

Gary and his first wife Karen formed a duet and played clubs and concerts after the band broke up. A celebration of life for Gary will be held Friday September 11 at Canadian Memorial United Church at 1806 West 15th Avenue from 2 to 4 pm. Gary O’Bray made his mark, becoming one of the premier drummers in the historic first days of rock’n’roll. His legacy will live on.