fiddle, guitar, vocals


Born in Vancouver, B.C., Ray grew up in San Diego, CA, where he continued to live until he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1972. His musical education began with violin lessons in Vancouver and continued when he took up the guitar as a senior in high school.

Ray Bierl

Through the sixties Ray became a 'folkie' and a regular in the coffeehouse and festival scene of Southern California, with a repertoire that ranged from old-time southern songs to civil rights and anti-war songs, cowboy songs, Woody Guthrie songs, and more.

Ray was an off and on student during these years, and ended up with a master's degree in sociology. It's never earned him any money, but it's provided a vocabulary to use when yelling back at the TV set.

In the late sixties Ray developed an interest in commercial country music, which led indirectly to bluegrass, and during the seventies he participated in several bluegrass, country, and old-time music ensembles in San Diego and the SF Bay Area. He also made himself useful by providing back-up guitar for singers such as Rosalie Sorrels, Kate Wolf, and Malvina Reynolds.


Along the way Ray decided to be a fiddler. Figured that the early years of violin lessons, plus having played in bands off and on with some really good fiddlers (Paul Shelasky, Tony Marcus, Laurie Lewis, Mike Drayton), might help him through those awful first months of it.

Ray started taking his fiddle to his civil service job every day, playing during morning and afternoon breaks, during lunch, and after work on a park bench in Golden Gate Park. To learn something as difficult as the fiddle, it helps to be young, touched by genius, or a little bit crazy. (One out of three -- coulda been worse.)

For a number of years, Ray made himself a fixture at the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend each summer. It was there that he started taking part in dance music sessions and concert sets with Daniel Steinberg, Kevin Carr and Paul Kotapish. The three of them had started playing at Bay Area contra dances as the Hillbillies from Mars. Ray soon became a regular member of the band.

Ray also play contra dances as a member of Swing Farm, with Charlie Hancock (piano) and Steven Strauss (bass).

In 1991, Ray recorded "Cowboy Dancing", a collection of western-flavored songs along with fiddle tunes from a variety of traditions. A long-awaited second album, "Any Place I Hang My Hat" is due in the fall of 2007.

Somewhere along the way Ray learned to be a middling caller of square and contra dances. He does this once in a blue moon.

Contact: RBierl@aol.com (510) 834-4756
Visit Ray's website: www.raybierl.com

Musical Influences:

Gene Autry, Sons of the Pioneers, Everly Brothers, Elvis, Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Fats Domino, Kingston Trio, Weavers, Pete Seeger, Sam Hinton, Limelighters, Woody Guthrie, New Lost City Ramblers, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Stu Jameson, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell, Buck Owens, George Jones, Jimmie Rodgers, Rosalie Sorrels, Mayne Smith, Utah Phillips, Larry Hanks

Album Credits:

Hillbillies from Mars (HFM CD1301)
Ray Bierl: Cowboy Dancing

Band Credits:

Hillbillies from Mars
The Earls
Swing Farm

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