Remembering Ray Manzarek | Tribute This Thursday

We first came across keyboardist Chad Dinzes thanks to his work with Brooklyn-based jam band Licorice. He’s currently a member of Phish tribute act Strange Design and house keyboardist at legendary venue Madison Square Garden, where earlier this year he tipped his hat towards our scene by delivering a cover of It’s Ice by Phish during a Rangers game. Chad has never hid his love for the music of The Doors and later this week will be participating in a tribute to the late Ray Manzarek. We asked Chad to pen a few words about Ray’s inspiration on his playing.

Raymond Daniel Manczarek Jr. was a true virtuoso, not only in the craft of musicianship but also in art, film, literature and production. Let’s talk music. When most people think of The Doors, Jim Morrison immediately comes to mind. Understandably so, with his magnetic charisma and poetic lyrics; however Jim would not have been the icon that he was without Ray’s melodies to push him there.


[Ray Manzarek 2009 -CC 3.0/TriviaKing at Wikipedia]

The success of The Doors came from a place of simple melody. Ray’s tunes in particular such as “Riders on The Storm,” “Love Street” and “Soul Kitchen” are not complex tunes, but you’ll never forget their melodies. Always using a single melody as the springboard for his songs is what made his music memorable. He was a choice keyboardist, a colorful organist. He didn’t have chops like a Keith Emerson or a Bernie Worrell, but his genius was found in the parts that he wrote. I find myself singing his parts in my head as I would a lyric. If you’re a Doors fan or have listened to classic rock radio over the last 20 years, you can probably hum the organ intro to “Light My Fire.” Even The New York Rangers have taken a melodic page from the “Alabama Song” book to lead their fans in cheer. Go Blueshirts.

As a musician, I find that the hardest pieces to write are the simple songs. The catchy tunes that people want to hear and keep coming back for. It’s easy to speed demon your fingers up and down the keyboard without substance. It always gets a cheer from the audience, but they’ll forget that “wow” minute once the next tune begins. To write an eight bar melody that sticks will keep you up at night. Ray did it with ease.

Aside from the melody, Mr. Manczarek always threw a curve ball into his songs. I never noticed these intricacies until I started learning some of his tunes. In a simple progression, you might find one chord that goes from major to minor or one phrase that has an extra bar or a second chorus of a song having the same melody floating over a completely different chord progression. When reading a Doors songbook, you may think these are editor mistakes, but they exist with purpose. For example, in “Alabama Song,” after the chorus and lyric “and must have whiskey, oh you know why,” Ray and Robbie hit a single A major chord that then leads directly back to A minor. I thought it was an error in the book, but when listening back to the record it is certainly there. It makes the song for me. Every verse is played in a minor key, with Ray layering a carnival organ over the top; except for this ONE major chord. For a second, you experience bliss and then fall right back down the whiskey bottle. A bit ironic considering the rollercoaster ride that The Doors were constantly on line for.

Your music is timeless Ray and your style and sound is unique. It took some education to realize the depth of your music. The Doors was not just Jim Morrison and his poetry. The music is really good and will be remembered. You’ve given me some great vision on how to keep it simple, but always throw in your own style. You took the blues and marinated it in rock n’ roll, for a quick sear on the psychedelic barbecue. Now let’s eat.

I am honored to share the stage with four amazing musicians, this Thursday, August 22 at Santos Party House in NYC, to celebrate the music of The Doors and Mr. Raymond Daniel Manczarek Jr. “Feast of Friends” has been together for six years running now. We perform once or twice a year either in New York City or Los Angeles. We have had the pleasure of paying Tribute at venues such as Crash Mansion NYC, The Lion’s Den NYC, Sullivan Hall NYC, The Key Club LA, The Viper Room LA, Molly Malone’s LA and coming up soon this week Santos Party House NYC. The “kicker” for this project is that we have Ty Dennis, the drummer who has been touring with Robbie Kreiger and Ray Manczarek since Jim’s passing, sitting on the throne for every show. His playing is seamless and it is a treat to play this music to a perfect beat, every time. The band has been a revolving door for many musicians, and our current lineup is comprised of a talented bunch of dudes from different walks of life.

Feast of Friends lineup:

Matt Katz-Boen -guitarist and member of Blondie
Leo Kremer -bassist from Third Eye Blind
Chad Dinzes -keyboards from Madison Square Garden
Bradford Rand -Lead Vocalist
Ty Dennis -drummer from the REAL Doors

“Is everybody in? Is everybody…in? The ceremony is about to begin…”

Written By: Chad Dinzes