Joe’s first live performance was playing guitar with Saint
& The Swing Kings (“Crazy Vince Conners aka Jim Smithson). Their
first gig was between DJ record spins at Pershing Auditorium
in downtown Lincoln. Joe was 14 years old at the time.
Joe played along side and was friends with many early
including Bobby Lowell, Pat Glenn, Jim Akin, Jim Cidlik, Charley
Bonds, and Omaha’s “Bugsy” Maugh and “Tiny” Lewis.
Joe’s next band was The Rebounds. They recorded
“Diary of Life”
& “Graveyard Pistol” recorded at Wolz Music Store in Lincoln and
released on ELCO Records, from New Orleans, LA.
Joe later played in some of Lincoln’s first club bands-The
Invaders with Jim Akin and The Thunderbirds. These bands
played at many of the great rock bars along Cornhusker Highway,
including the original Royal Grove and Robbie’s Happy Corner.
IN the mid-60’s Joe joined a group, originally formed
Orchard, NE (The Del Rays) by guitar wizard, Rick Cowling. Changing
their name to The Knights of Day---they became a fixture as a
house band at Robbie’s Happy Corner as well as touring
the country till the early 1970’s. Gray has switched to bass
years before, and became well known for his soaring tenor
vocals in soulful versions of “Angel Baby” and “Mr. Pitiful”.
The Knights of Day released a version of Otis Reddings “Mr. Pitiful”
on Target Records with Gray singing lead vocals.
This band was known for it’s soaring hair-“Big Hair” was
the thing in eastern Nebraska then. The Knights of Day, along
with Lincoln’s “Eccentrics”, Kansas City’s “Dani & The Roulette’s”
(The By-Gones), and Norfolk’s Don Sohl & The Roadrunners
-had ratted “high hair” that sometimes soared to 12-16”
over their foreheads. This made it easy when “Beatle-hair”
came in around 1964. All they had to do was comb
the hair down-not up-to be cool.
Joe later played in “Satin” & The Black Magic Band
(aka Hercules & The Black Magic Band) and his favorite group-
The Garden Party. Joe has recorded with Bobby Lowell in the
mid-1980’s and with Larry Hall “The Ghost of Billy the Kid”.
Now retired form active playing, Joe Gray is considered on of the
most influential, talented and hard working “good guys”
in Nebraska pop music history.