Rayzilla remembered: Tampa Bay reacts to the death of music scene legend Ray Villadonga

He died on Saturday after a year-long battle with pancreatic cancer.

Ray Villadonga, who died on June 10, 2017. - c/o Katrina Villadonga
c/o Katrina Villadonga
Ray Villadonga, who died on June 10, 2017.

Our remembrance of Tampa scene staple and bass player giant Ray Villadonga clocks in at about 1000 words long.

Read: A force of love and nature — remembering Ray Villadonga, a linchpin of the Tampa Bay music scene

Anyone who knew Villadonga — who passed away at the age of 62 on Saturday — or listened to his music knows that his impact on the Bay area could not possibly be contained. The Internet has been trying to capture what Villadonga meant to this area and its music-loving citizens, and we’ve pulled some reactions together.

You can read them below. Details on a memorial for Villadonga are still uncertain, but we’ll update you as more information becomes available. If you see a tribute you think we should include, then please tag @CL_music on Twitter or  Ray Roa on Facebook.

Leilani Polk, former music editor of Creative Loafing Tampa

Fran Snyder, WMNF

Sean O'Brien, promoter and longtime friend

Ray was a lively soul to say the least. I can't pinpoint the day I first met him, some people just seem to always be there, which makes losing them so much sadder. I feel like whenever I was at WMNF, there was a good chance I'd run into him. He was very passionate about music in general, but especially the local scene and the bands he was in. It didn't matter if I was booking a metal act, a rap act, or a rock act, Ray was pretty sure his band would be a good fit to open! He'd always say, "You know we bring the party baby!"

As you know, I've stepped back from the business in the last few years, so I haven't been around as much. Thanks to Facebook I've been able to keep up with a lot of people that I used to see on a weekly basis, Ray being one of them. As I noticed through pictures that things were getting worse for him, I decided I needed to drop him a line, so I sent him a message just under a month ago. I just wanted to let him know I'd been thinking of him and told him I was available during the days if he ever needed rides anywhere, or help with anything.

In true Ray fashion, he ends up writing me a note back telling me what a great guy I've been, not just as a promoter but a friend. I was trying to reach out to do what I can for him and he makes me feel better about myself. He called me a dear bro and told me it meant a lot to hear from me, then he called me twice in a row and I hit him back and he said, "Butt dial, sorry." I'm glad his butt did that because it was the last chance I got to actually speak with him. Last correspondence I had was just under two weeks ago to wish him a happy birthday. Rayzilla will be missed, they don't make many like him anymore

Donna Allen, former bandmate

Philip Booth, jazz musician and correspondent for Relix magazine

Got your message when I was on the way to a gig; ironically, drummer was Michael Washington, who did the final recordings with Ray, with the WAHH band. By the way that band is playing three dates in NYC next month. They're using a NY bassist -- Ray would have played those shows if he'd been able to. Ray and I weren't tight but we were acquainted for a long while. I considered him a friend, although we really didn't hang out together. I was the bassist in the original lineup of Irritable Tribe of Poets; he was in a later version. We both played on Rhonda Nelson's Frida CD. Our bands shared bills, including a Friday Extra concert.

And we had some of the same musicians (including LaRue Nickelson and Jeremy Powell)  play in our various projects. We played some of the same venues, including Ella's and The Independent. I felt a kinship with Ray as a bass brother; we both worshipped Jaco, of course (his dog is named Jaco) and shared an interest in jazz fusion. Always admired his creativity, passion and wide-ranging interests — jazz, funk, experimental, avant-garde, Latin. I thought his recent under appreciated CD was one of the most eclectic, intriguing and Tampa-centric releases I've ever heard. When I think about the Tampa creative music scene, I'll always think of Ray. He was an institution. Can't believe we're talking about him in the past tense.

Brenda Delgado Ordetx

Shankh Lahiri, WAHH

George Harris (record producer, likely last person to record Villadonga) / Ronny Elliott, Tampa songwriter

Scott Elliott, WMNF

Bridge Burke, photographer

About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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