Tony Drake, Las Vegas, NV (R.I.P.)

A 2024 Birthday Wish from Tony’s Wife, Lisa Gay

To the Sweetest Man I have ever known, “Happy Heavenly Birthday to my Tony Drake”! Yes!! Not to mention one of thee most respected Session and Touring Guitarists in our Music Business for 54 years!! Tony was the driving force for me to return to my singing and record our debut CD “Watch What Happens” with Mark Cargill and Greg Cook that took us on a journey that has me “Smilin” and so Grateful to this Day! Whether you knew him as Family, Acquaintance, Friend, “Fishing Buddy”, Brother, fellow “Musician Cat”, or simply enjoyed listening to his Special Style of playing Classic R&B, Jazz, Blues, Pop n’ Rock on recordings or Live, you can be assured that “Mr. Big Stuff” is watching from above while eating his “Popcorn” and cheering us all on with the Best that is yet to come:-)
I Love you and everyday is just “Sunshine” thinking of you:-)

Tony Drake’s Original 2012 Conti Guitar Commentary

“In my 40+ years as a professional studio recording and touring musician, I finally found an instrument that meets all of my needs as a guitarist. The Conti Guitar is well thought out, made out of top quality material and beautifully designed. It has the appearance of an instrument costing well over 3 or 4 times the price, yet Mr. Conti makes this excellent instrument affordable for the working class musician. Out of the box, the Conti Guitar delivers the feel and sound of an “old friend” that I have been playing for years. The only thing that I changed was the 3rd string G from a 20 wound to an 18 plain, because I do a lot of string bending in my style of playing which is Rhythm, Blues and Jazz. Any guitarist who is into fine instruments and takes his playing seriously, should give this guitar great consideration, and for “Hollow Body” players, it is “The New Bentley of Guitars!”. Thank you Robert Conti for your vision, insight and friendship.”

Tony Drake Bio

One of soul music’s most respected session and touring guitarists, Tony Drake has worked with some of the genre’s top artists. Mr. Drake started playing professionally at the age of 14, at clubs and parties in the Los Angeles area along with a “permission slip” from his mother. While growing up in Compton, California, at the age of 16, he was accepted into the Dawkins Conservatory of Music where he studied classical guitar for two years, and later studied privately with the well known guitarist, John Blaylock in the South Bay area.

After studying with Mr. Blaylock, Tony traveled with ”Little” Johnny Taylor, Mr. Johnny Taylor, Ronnie Dyson, T-Bone Walker and many other professional groups in the 60s even alongside then unknown guitarist, Jimi Hendrix on the same bill. In the 70s, Mr. Drake became a staff musician for 20th Century Fox Studios doing numerous T.V. shows such as “Julia” starring Diahann Carroll, “The Lucille Ball Show” and the “Leslie Neilson Show”. In the later part of the 70s, Mr. Drake was signed with A&M Records as a staff musician and recorded and toured with most of the artists on the label including, Herb Alpert, Merry Clayton, Cheech and Chong, and many others. He was also a member of the Count Basie Orchestra, H.B. Barnum’s Big Band, and performed on various television specials, award shows and movies such as the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethons, Lou Rawls Parade of Stars, American Music Awards, The Grammy Awards, “American Hot Wax” and “Mother, Juggs and Speed” with Bill Cosby.

It was also during this time that Mr. Drake became the lead guitarist for the Checkmates and traveled extensively with them for four years. When the Checkmates disbanded, he began to tour with such groups as The Fifth Dimension, Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. (when they left the group to do their own act), James Brown, Gloria Lynn, Little Esther Phillips, Aretha Franklin, Marla Gibbs, The Crusaders, Jimmy Witherspoon, Cher, Tina Turner, Marvin Gaye, Barry White, The Sylvers, Connie Stevens, Ray Charles, Joe Williams, Nancy Wilson, Etta James and others.

Tony Drake was also a one of the “LA Motown Funk Brothers” (when Motown moved their studio from Detroit) and recorded countless hit tracks with James Jamerson, Earl Palmer, David T. Walker, Ray Parker Jr., Wah Wah Watson, Bill Upchurch, Ron Brown, James Gadson, Nate Neblett and Paul Humphrey for many artists at the time. some of the greatest entertainers of all time. This experience benefitted Tony and gained him even more recognition going forward. Later in the early 80's Tony toured with groups such as The Supremes, En Vogue, The Temptations, The Sylvers, The Four Tops and others.

Through the mid 80's, Mr. Drake became the cherished personal guitarist of the renown singer and actress Della Reese for many years and joined back up touring with Barry White on 2 world tours in Europe, Africa, and Australia. throughout the 90's followed by touring exclusively with the great Lou Rawls.

Tony’s exquisite style and signature sound can be heard around the globe on such hit recordings as Carl Carlton’s “Bad Mamma Jamma”, Little Johnny Taylor’s “Part Time Love”, Jean Knight’s “Mr. Big Stuff”, and Marvin Gaye’s “Here My Dear”and Cher’s “Half Breed”, Joe Williams “Here’s To Life”, Ray Charles’s “A Song For You” along with many other notable recordings still going strong to date and currently head lines with Wife and Singer Lisa Gay at The Foundation Room, with their Classic Soul, R&B, Jazz Band, “Lisa Gay, Tony Drake and The Gentlemen of Thrill Band”. Upcoming performances include, The Senior Spotlight Spectacular, “Georgia On My Mind” Musical Tribute to Ray Charles with Clint Holmes, Take 6, Neenna Freelon, and Kurt Whalum at The Venetian Theatre, “The Clinton Club” with Kelly Clinton, Celebrity Open Mic with Kelly Clinton at The Bootlegger, and The Foundation Room, and The Smith Center with featuring his Singer/Songwriter Wife, Lisa Gay in the ‘Classic Soul n’ Jazz Group, “Lisa Gay, Tony Drake and The Gentlemen of Thrill Band”. Tony Drake is also currently shown in Las Vegas “Springs Preserve Commercial” and in Oscar Academy Award Winner Documentary Film, “20 Feet From Stardom” with Merry Clayton on the hit song “Gimmie Shelter” from Legendary Rock Band, “The Rolling Stones” collection.

Other Artists Tony Drake has recorded, performed and toured with include:

  • Eddie Harris
  • Les McCann
  • Percy Sledge
  • Nina Simone
  • Sam Cooke
  • Leon Blue
  • Leon Ware
  • James Ingram
  • Richard and Karen Carpenter
  • Jackie Wilson
  • O C Smith
  • Jimmy Otis
  • BB King (Created/ recorded the original demo with opening famed Guitar lick for “Thrill Is Gone” )
  • Arthur Adams
  • Joe Williams
  • Quincy Jones
  • Phil Spector (The Ronnetts/Darlene Love)
  • Bobby Womak
  • Captain and Tennille
  • Jaco Pastoris
  • Frankie Lymon

Tony Drake Gear

Tony Drake plays and is endorsed by “Robert Conti Guitars” and uses only Carvin Amps Series 100 & 200x.

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