James Callahan

VIDEO PREMIERE: Dupont bluesman StingRay Delpriore still rides ‘One Hoss Shay’

VIDEO PREMIERE: Dupont bluesman StingRay Delpriore still rides ‘One Hoss Shay’
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This project is different for me in so many ways.

I first heard of StingRay from my mother who, in her younger years, was a fan and regular patron of all live music. She had begun taking me to live concerts as far back as July of 1969, which is another story all together.

I had heard, in hushed tones, from my mom and some of the cool kids that played guitar in grade and high school that Ray “StingRay” Delpriore was the “baddest” man in the land.

I heard that he had taught this guy and that lass, that he hosted a residency on Monday nights, underground, in a basement in Plains by the horse track, under a diner called Lispi’s and the weekly party was known as “Blue Mondays.” I immediately tested out that Times Square “fake ID” and descended into my first taste of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s invite-only, independent open jam and storytelling premier environment. I had gotten myself in front of the notorious StingRay. It was 1986. I was 17.

Since that time, my acquaintance with Ray became a fast and dear friendship. He was a mainstay in any room and stage that I managed, booked, or owned for 30 years. To dive into the shared chapters that lie between the early ’90s and 2023, well… I guess one must wait on that stuff. My wife Kristin and I are producing a wonderful short documentary on Ray and his never-ending quest for legitimacy, honesty, fair play, and freedom, slated to wrap sometime next year. Until then, I will share this more recent tale that, although ultimately terrifying, exhibits the level of perseverance, strength, and determination that one man contains with strict regard to performing his music, his way.

Last summer, late in August, I had a yard party for my wife’s birthday. It was a big one, so my family and I wanted to do something a bit special. We invited some family and a few friends and arranged for StingRay to show up around dusk to perform an intimate backyard birthday set. Kristin was surprised and thrilled when Ray’s smiling face came up the driveway, but something was different about by buddy that afternoon. He seemed pale, a bit winded. We grabbed him a stool and some water. Ray explained that he had just come from an early gig and that he loved pulling double duty and that he was going to get started and do some music. Our guests all sat in the grass quietly around the bench from which he performed a full set of acoustic beauties, unamplified – just out of the throat and off the fingers, as raw and real as an artist can present themselves.

The Dupont-based bluesman bid us goodnight and I walked him out to his ride. He still didn’t seem himself. I urged him to get some rest and take care of himself, which he did.

He drove himself to a nearby hospital, to which he was immediately admitted into cardiac care and informed that he had been in actual cardiac arrest for hours. Doing some quick math, we had deduced that this man, my friend Ray, performed not one, but two sets while in partial heart failure. Remember that part that I mentioned about strength? Perseverance? Ray is an artist who, by his very nature, is uncompromising and artistically educated and profound. His ethic would not allow him to “call in sick” for these gigs. I felt wildly guilty for a while until I realized that I couldn’t have kept him away from our place that day any more than some newbie rube club owner is going to get Ray to belt out the new Jason Aldean radio hit. He has always operated beyond the bounds of conventional entertainment and industry norms. He was outlaw before outlaw was cool and featured on reality television.

I am going to pull this boat ashore by saying this – today, StingRay Delpriore is healthy, strong, and returning to the live performance circuit again. You may see him tonight at Grotto Pizza (36 Gateway Shopping Center, Edwardsville) starting at 8 p.m. Get there early for a table, folks. Grab the kids, call your sweetie, order up a pizza, and check out NEPA’s Americana/blues guitar legend and just the best kind of man.

Also, please check out “One Hoss Shay,” the latest song to be featured in Camp Rattler’s “Storied” series of stripped-down black and white videos. Nak and I hosted the release of his record, also titled “One Hoss Shay,” 10 years ago on Penn Avenue to a capacity crowd. My wife and I thought this classic piece of American blues from the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s coal country would be the perfect place to start, brandishing an olde timey treatment to this live performance video with Ray. Yep, live. The notion of syncing Ray with his own pre-recorded track had the same appeal as an icepick in the ear. We went with a nice clean mic setup and StingRay, as he is best – a stool, a story, and a guitar.

Delpriore can be booked via Facebook or by calling 570-674-1995. He also gives guitar lessons at Wayne’s World (2611 Memorial Hwy., Dallas).