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COUNTRY ROUNDUP

A Very Visible Performer : Despite his quirky name, Raywood is a highly popular dance player who has developed a faithful following.

March 31, 1994|ROBYN LOEWENTHAL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

If your only exposure to country music and dancing has been a visit to new, glitzy urban cowboy spandex clubs, you might want to check out Camarillo's Crazy Bull Steakhouse & Saloon this weekend.

Since going country three years ago, the Bull has become a comfortable neighborhood club where newcomers feel welcome and regulars come to dance and even bring their kids. The attraction is a low-key atmosphere, nightly dance lessons and great weekend bands. But the common denominator is a guy named Raywood, who will be the featured talent this weekend, celebrating his third anniversary at the club.

He may call himself "Raywood and the Unseen," but this popular "solo performer" is very visible. He presides over line dance night on Mondays, a country mix on Tuesdays and couples dancing Wednesdays and Thursdays. He also plays for the Crazy Bull's popular early Sunday evening family format. Raywood's sense of humor, versatile musical talents and attention to dancers' requests have made him a fixture at the Bull and on the local country entertainment scene. All of this with a single name--his middle one, Raywood.

The "Unseen" part refers to the fact that he plays and prerecords all his own instrument tracks. "What I do is the equivalent of all the band members learning their individual parts and putting them together. But since I can't simultaneously play all the instruments, I capture that performance on tape." Then he plays lead guitar and sings live to his own backup tape. Raywood performs five to seven original songs nightly. But he rarely announces that they are his own compositions. "That way they can take or leave the song on its own merits," he said. From his vantage point behind a guitar and synthesizers, Raywood nightly observes the human comedy and responds accordingly. "Careful, Cheryl," he shouts during a vigorous Tush Push, "you're gonna break that thing."

He also knows how to call and count down the dances; he keeps aficionados of Spanish and cowboy reggae from colliding on the same floor, and he is every guy's buddy and a protective presence for every woman. But who is this guy, really?

Raywood arrived in Ventura County in 1972 from Richmond, Va., by way of Houston. As for age, he admits to remembering when the Beatles broke up.

"I started performing at age 3 when my mom found me outside naked, strumming a pitchfork and singing, 'You Ain't Nushin' but a Hound Dog.' Since then I've given up the pitchfork for a guitar, moved my act indoors, and even learned to dress myself. But I don't do 'Hound Dog' anymore. It's just not the same with clothes on," he said.

"I've been a professional entertainer since 1979. Since I started performing solo in '86, I've been successful enough not to have to have a real job." Before going solo, Raymond had been in a few local bands, and though they were successful, the group thing just wasn't for him. "I'm a business kind of guy. I don't have gigs. I have jobs," he said. "And I think a lot of people in bands assume they have a blank check to be idiots as far as their craft goes. That attitude is what keeps me out of bands.

"There were so many nights that I'd show up for work and the drummer was out because he had a fight with his girlfriend. Or the guitar player was too drunk to play. Personally, I have to take care of business before I have fun. But it's my business to ensure the audience has fun."

The secret of his success? "When I go to work, I put my ego in the glove compartment. I play for the audience because I am an audience member--not a star. And there's a real difference between country music and country dance music. I don't play a song unless I think it's good and will make people dance."

Details

* WHAT: Solo entertainer "Raywood and the Unseen."

* WHERE: Crazy Bull Steakhouse & Saloon, 4426 Central Ave., Camarillo.

* WHEN: 8:30 tonight through April 7.

* FYI: Dance lessons start at 6:30 p.m. Sundays; 7 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

* ETC.: Raywood plays an hour after lessons, normally Sundays through Thursdays. Call 988-4209.

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