Even before Sleepy Ray dedicated his music exclusively to the Lord, he was aware that God had a special purpose for his talent. "When I was playing in the clubs," remembers Sleepy fondly, "people used to call me the Reverend Sleepy Ray. I took that as a compliment because if a man can say spiritual things with his guitar, then that's what I want to do."

Early Influences

Sleepy, who released two solo albums, "Under the Mighty Blood" and "Where the Highway Turns," was raised in Houston, Texas, which is a region of the country with a rich blues tradition. He was brought up listening to roots music (Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, and the Motown sound). But it wasn't until hearing the traditional blues music in the soundtrack to the film "Brubaker," that Ray, then 19, made the decision to march down to his local record store and start what would become his life-long investigation and love of the blues. "You know," recounts Ray, "I didn't know any blues names at all. So I went down and looked for the oldest and bluesiest looking guy on the cover, and it was (legendary blues guitarist) Lightning Hopkins. And you know, I hit it rich. He's had the most tremendous influence on me."

More importantly than these early musical influences, though, has been the awareness of God's hand on Ray's life. Like many other talented musicians, Ray went through about a 10 year period beginning in the early 80's where he nearly abandoned his Christian faith in the search for secular success. He dropped out of Texas A&M University, where he was studying civil engineering, and headed for the music business capital of Hollywood.

It didn't take Ray long to realize that he wasn't in Texas anymore. "I remember my first years in Hollywood," says the humble Texan, "it was like a dream just meeting those people. When I crossed the street once, Little Richard let me go across the road first. He let me through and I said to myself, "Hey, that's Little Richard!"

As exciting as the Hollywood lifestyle can be, it was no place for this so called "Reverend." Like Jonah, God had other plans for him. And much like the Israelites while they were enslaved in Babylon, Ray felt like an exile from God.

Return to the Lord

When Ray returned to serving the Lord in the early 90's, as the guitar player for Chris Lizotte and Soul Motion, he brought with him a special empathy for those still trapped in their wandering ways. "I just have a heart for people who have walked away from the Lord," he says sincerely. "Maybe they were never really formally saved or anything, but they may have heard the gospel and walked away from it. They then went into the world, because they felt they could never satisfy God. These are the people I want to reach. I want to bring them home. I want to say: No, you can satisfy God."

"I dedicate what I play to the Lord. I don't want to play anything that isn't for Him. I've done enough of that. I walked away from Him for 10 years," states Sleepy regretfully, "and He never left me. He was always trying to draw me back. My conscience always burned. I tried to get like the world, but I couldn't do it. He loved me too much to let me go. That is priceless to me."

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