Stevie Stiletto R.I.P.


June 18th, 2013 by

Alberto Rivera was kind enough to send this obituary for the late Florida punk legend Stevie Stiletto.

Ray McKelvey, a.k.a. Stevie Stiletto (photo by Julie Beasley)

Ray McKelvey, a.k.a. Stevie Stiletto (photo by Julie Beasley)

Stevie Stiletto, the better known and public face of Ray McKelvey, passed away at home, on March 24, 2013 in Jacksonville, Florida. He had been sick with cancer.

On the surface of it, Stevie’s story is a rock and roll cliché of bad habits, bad luck, and poor timing conspiring against him, but the greater truth is this: Ray and/or Stevie, never quit.

Widely acknowledged as Jacksonville, Florida’s first punk rock band, Ray formed Stevie Stiletto and the Switchblades out of frustration. Tired of listening to records from New York or the UK and reading about his favorite bands performing elsewhere, Ray went DIY before it even had a name, and started his own movement out of the stubborn swamp grass better known as North Florida.

With various incarnations of bands he toured the US And Europe, playing with pretty much everyone. The Ramones, The Dead Kennedys, Iggy Pop, Black Flag — the list goes on and on.

In the mid 1990’s he was scooped up in the frenzy created by punk breakout acts Green Day and The Offspring. But Green Day and The Offspring were anomalies; the only ones from that time to have any notable mainstream commercial success. And Stiletto, along with all the other acts eagerly signed a year or two before, were unceremoniously dumped.

It was at this time that I personally met and played with Ray. About a dozen shows in all. Warm, funny and engaging, his stories seemed almost mythical. Yeah, I slept on East Bay Ray’s couch for a week or two, I think it was in ’84…” or “Dee Dee (Ramone) an’ me were looking for someplace that was open to get a new tattoo…”

In 2009, a documentary called My Life is Great: The Stevie Ray Stilletto Story was released. Filmed by former Jacksonville area resident and longtime fan Kevin Dunn. Dunn is presently working as a college professor in upstate New York. Dunn presents an honest and unflinching look at Ray’s immense talent and oftentimes his deeply flawed shortcomings.

Bands would fall apart, and he would start another one immediately. One band bailed on him, and with shows scheduled, he picked another exisiting band and they backed him so he wouldn’t have to cancel.

Ray was an unflappable and headstrong entertainer. And in the punk community, one of those guys that everyone has seen at some point. Somewhere, Ray’s laughing as he smashes cans of shaving cream with his celestial hammer.

-RIP-

4 responses to “Stevie Stiletto R.I.P.”

18 06 2013
art (14:43:28) :

I still have “Food for Flies” The Stilettos first LP and it is a great slab of snotty Punk Rock and a cover of “Feelings” that rivals the old Bill Murray lounge version on SNL

R.I.P. Stevie/Ray

18 06 2013
Thommy Berlin (19:08:35) :

It sucks watching your brothers die.

22 06 2013
Mitch G. (PowerBall) (16:28:13) :

Ray was a great guy. Took my band PowerBall on its first tours and encouraged me many many times over the last twenty years. He got us our first gigs at some of Floridas most revered punk clubs The Milk Bar, Outer Limits and Churchills. Thommy Berlin (Guitarist on Food For Flys, Bogus Life and Special Club Mix) has played for PowerBall since 2001 and Neal Karrer our new drummer played with Ray for many years (including their big label release and Europian tour). So, even in terms of my brothers in the band I owe Ray a great deal. We did a memorial show for him recently and it was outstanding. So much love… Whatever he didnt make on the money side he certainly got in terms of love and respect. He was a lifer, a born punk, and a hell of a good friend. (When he wasn’t blowing shit up or driving you crazy of course). He IS and will be both missed and remembered.

13 06 2014
Sam Sloan (18:34:29) :

I met Ray when he and the swithblades opened the 7:30 club.I have nothing but good memories of this great man.

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