2012-05-31 / Neighbors

Rog and Ray plan special concert

By David Arenstam
Contributing Writer


Ray Boissonneault and Roger Gagnon performing at Pirate’s Patio in Old Orchard Beach. (David Arenstam photo) Ray Boissonneault and Roger Gagnon performing at Pirate’s Patio in Old Orchard Beach. (David Arenstam photo) This June, Roger Gagnon and Ray Boissonneault, both from Biddeford, will celebrate their 20th anniversary as performers and band mates.

The two graduates of St. Louis High School first met and started playing together as students, but as sometimes happens, they drifted away from music and the two men did not start playing together for almost two decades.

“When we graduated we were more interested in jobs and full-time work,” Gagnon said.

“We traveled around, did different things and then Ray told me about jobs on boats in the gulf,” said Gagnon, referring to work in the Gulf of Mexico.

Gagnon liked the idea of working on the boats and the pay was better than anything he could find locally, so he packed up and moved to Louisiana.

Within a few weeks, he was hired as a deckhand on a boat that brought supplies to the oil rigs that dotted the Gulf of Mexico.

“We were sort of like a small trucking company,” he said. “We hauled all sorts of supplies and people.”

Eventually, Gagnon became captain on one of the company boats and Boissonneault was his engineer. The two worked side by side for the first time and found an instant compatibility.

“After a few years, we missed home and decided to move back,” Gagnon said.

The two started working locally as carpenters, contractors and performed many other odd jobs. As years passed, they kept revisiting the days when they played music together in high school and at the age of 40, they decided to form a band.

“Not many people start at that age,” Gagnon said. “But we loved it and we started to find places to play.”

Like many bands in the area, they booked a show at Kerrymen Pub and they were hooked.

“It was great,” Boissonneault said. “The crowds, the music, the whole thing.”

The two men had full-time jobs and families, but they knew this was something they were meant to do.

“We sort of worked out a process,” said Gagnon, referring to their business arrangement. Gagnon is business manager for the group and does all of the booking, as well as the financial management. Ray sings and plays.

“He’s the voice,” said Gagnon with a smile. “When you have a voice like his, you let him sing.”

From their first few shows together, Gagnon knew the key to success would be keeping busy. He and Boissonneault play in at least three different groups and it is not unusual for them to play two shows, at two different venues, on a weekend day.

“The Patio Cowboys and the Corona Brothers are full bands, but it sometimes is harder to book them,” Gagnon said. “With us (Ray & Rog) it’s sometimes easier to find a place.”

Gagnon said that at the height of their business, the two men often played 250 shows or more per year.

“The economy was better and people liked to listen to live music,” Gagnon said.

In the past few years, the economy has not supported them and it was easy for a bar owner to cut their act.

“Sometimes, they decided to keep the staff and simply turn on the radio,” Gagnon said.

Even with the downturn in the economy, the duo has kept busy and now at the age of 60, both men see this a full-time part of their working life.

At a recent show, it was clear that the two men have a following of fans who’ve seen them throughout the years and now are bringing their children to see the duo.

In one short set, while playing on the beach in Old Orchard Beach, the singers asked both a 7-year-old boy and an elderly woman to come to the stage and join them.

The audience cheered, sang along, and even took out their own percussion instruments to accompany the group.

“We put plastic Easter eggs on the tables and fill them with corn kernels,” Gagnon said. “They have our name on it and the audience can use them as we play.”

The group plans to celebrate their anniversary on June 10 at Pirate’s Patio in Old Orchard Beach.

“Its like home to us. The sun, the beach and our music,” Gagnon said.

The two men have no plans to retire or stop playing. In fact, they feel it helps them stay young and connected to the community.

“We’ll keep doing this as long as they let us. If they keep coming, we’ll keep playing,” Gagnon said.

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