Timothy Gray: 1957-2021


Timothy Gray, July 16, 1957, to April 10, 2021.
  • Timothy Gray, July 16, 1957, to April 10, 2021.
Timothy Gray passed from this world on Aril 10, 2021. “Timmy” was an amazing musician, composer, sound designer, recording artist, photographer and friend. His life was full of great music, excellent adventures, and collaborations that lifted and brought together our community time and time again.

He was born on July 16, 1957 in Indianapolis, Indiana. He attended Catholic grade school in Indianapolis. By all accounts, he was terrified of the nuns. One day the head nun, called over the loudspeaker that “Timothy Gray was to report to the office immediately.” Fearing the worst he ran there only to find out that he had won the paper airplane contest sponsored by Scientific American for having the most aerodynamic paper plane. He then chose to go to public high school. There he met good friend Bob Bullens, and together they got to be the “AV guys” for the school, which allowed them both to take a deep dive into emerging technology and left plenty of time to get a little high between deliveries. When he was young his parents gave him a guitar for Christmas. He went into his room with it and didn’t come out until he could play it … well.

His friend Bob headed to California after high school. And Bob gave Timmy his drum set, which launched Timmy’s love of percussion. In Indy, Timmy played in his first band, Pinky Lavenders Jazz Orchestra. Then tired of the “ice and snow of Indy,” Timmy ripped out the back seat of his Dodge Valiant (to fit the drum set) and followed Bob to California. The gigs, and especially the money, were not forthcoming. Tim then joined the California Conservation Corps (CCC). Initially he was assigned to work in SoCal, but soon he managed to get transferred to the Klamath River CCC camp. He fell in love with the river and the Northcoast. He subsequently worked for the U.S. Forest Service before moving to Portland, Oregon, where he was a school bus driver by day and drummer by night for Johnny Limpo and the Lug Nuts.

Timmy moved back to Humboldt in 1982. He was a caretaker for several ranches and then became the drummer for the Boggies, a local bar cover band. He became good friends with Jeff Landen, also in the Boggies, who remembers meeting Tim when the original drummer was fired. Jeff and Tim formed a recording studio called Vinyl Taco. It should be noted that, according to Humboldt State University legendary teacher Charlie Moon, Timmy had a “golden ear.” Timmy had an uncanny ability in ear training, where he can hear pitches of music accurately. Due to this skill he was a phenomenal recording engineer and producer. His roster of recording clients is a "who's who" of Humboldt County musicians as well as national and international artists. He was especially known for his congenial, inspiring, and positive "board side manner." For many years he managed Big Bang Studios in Loleta before creating his own studio, Myrtletown Records, in 1995.

In 1995 Timmy started his relationship with Dell’Arte. From Journey of the Ten Moons to Mad Love to State of Jefferson to Wild Card to Paradise Lost and Casanova, and Blue Lake: The Opera. Timmy was Dell’Arte’s principal composer and sound designer. He composed a new work that played the national theatre in Sweden and was the first national recipient in sound design of the prestigious TCG/Pew Trust Fellowship. He was a finalist in the Prague Quadrennial Design Competition in which he had a piece of sound design accepted and exhibited. His visit there was an epic journey. He was the drummer and sound effects creator in the Dell’Arte house band for many years until he took over the post of sound engineer for the Summer show at the Mad River Festival .

Timmy founded Myrtletown Records and worked with Sound Chaser, one of the first companies to explore digital audio on the Northcoast. The bands that Timmy played with were legion, but among the notable bands and artists he collaborated were Barking Dogma, The Joyce Hough Band, Home Cookin, Bayou Swami’s and the Road Masters.

Timmy also worked with the Arcata Playhouse, composed an audio installation in the Creamery District, FOOTFALL (www.creameryfestival.org/foot-fall), created odd-metered complex music for Crawdaddy's Odditorium and like so many of us here in this community, he graced us with his presence as a singer, drummer, sound person and all round lovely man.

Tim was a computer geek and was always available to help others learn programs and become comfortable around the keyboard. He was a master at photoshop and could create scenarios that did not exist before the technology was developed. He was patient and kind.

Timmy was a true autodidact (gloriously self taught). And he said that his father was born in a barn in Scotland. Timmy passed of a rare brain disease. He was referred to the UCSF memory and aging center five years ago to be part of an ongoing study of rare brain diseases. He went down to the center three or four times and underwent extensive physiological and psychological/cognitive testing. On these occasions he was asked if he would donate his brain for further study. He did. An important thing in Timmy’s vision was that if his own demise was studied and better understood, it could benefit others. It was another example of Timmy’s “spreading the love.”

Timmy is survived by his sister Bonnie Odle, Marla Joy, his devoted partner and band mate, Margo Yon (his amazing care giver) and a bunch of us, so many folks, who knew Timmy as a dear friend and collaborator. His friend Jeff Landen wrote “And about death: I think you have lived a good life if you leave behind people who wish you were still here. We wish you were still here, Laddie (Timmy’s favorite greeting).” “Laddie,” we raise a glass of the good stuff and light up a Cuban cigar (they’re legal now, I think). You live on in our hearts and souls. “Flights of Angels”… dear friend.

Memorials are taking place 6 to 10 p.m., July 9, at the Arcata Playhouse, and July 17 at Dell'Arte where a marker for Timmy will be put in the Dell'Arte Memorial Garden.

Donations for the Timmy Gray Artist Fund can be made at https://arcataplayhouse.networkforgood.com/projects/134552-timmy-gray-artist-fund or by mail to Arcata Playhouse 1251 9th Street, Arcata, CA 95521 ATTN: Timmy Gray.

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