Besides being as prolific song writer and studio musician, for over a span of 35 years Toby has played bass and sang support vocals with David LaFlamme former member of the Summer of Love psychedelic folk-rock band It's a Beautiful Day, co writing the instrumental Santa Cruz with David Laflamme as well as producing "Live In Seattle" and co-producing "Beyond Dreams" and "Misery Loves Company" CDs.
In the 70's Toby toured with Dick Clark Productions and was fortunate to perform with nationally known musicians such as jazz guitar legend Howard Roberts, Jamaica's Larry McDonald (Taj Mahal, Gil Scott-Heron, Skatalites), Bill Barnwell and the International Jazz Society, pianist Victor Borge, and an original material project called Gandharvas to name a few.
Toby is sought after by bands and other composers for his ability to
perform and record
diverse musical styles and create solid and creative parts for their projects.
Good Times Interview:
Toby Gray’s baritone speaking voice is coarse but warm; his measured tones would make for a perfect narration of a Cormac McCarthy audiobook or some classic Western. So it’s not surprising that Gray’s singing voice is well-suited to the Americana music he performs both solo and with his backing band, Highway Buddha.
“Through music, we get rid of the obstacles in our heart,” Gray says. “I’m not religious, but I believe in spirits within you.” The name Highway Buddha is a nod to the artist’s years spent wandering Middle America, and his lifelong interest in Eastern religion.
His unique strain of spiritual folk, which he describes as “hot tub music—esoteric, tabla, eastern stuff,” was inspired in part by his childhood years spent on a farm in Appalachian Ohio. Gray draws from these experiences during live sets, where he weaves stories of moonshine-laced drum circles and various hippie exploits between songs. His narration gives the stories an old-timey authenticity, but when asked if his tales are always truthful, Gray responded with a robust “Oh, hell no!”
In addition to the storytelling, Gray keeps things interesting by bringing in a different group of players for every show: “I’m not tied down to any one group of musicians—I have my A-list, but if they’re not available I’ll bring in someone else, and often that person works out even better.”
Despite the rotating lineup, Gray got over the angst of live performances long ago. He recalls with slight nostalgia the heyday of musician’s unions, back when he played upright bass for jazz clubs in the ’70s. “The union was a blessing—you could make really good money playing music, $50 an hour in the ’70s. It was a respectable living.”