Date of Interview: 06/04/2009
© 2009 Clayton Perry
The life of Ray Chew parallels that of characters depicted in Horatio Alger’s famous “rags to riches” stories. Although raised as a child in the Grant Houses of Harlem, Chew’s successful transition from Harlem to Hollywood has been the sheer product of luck and pluck in the competitive world of the music business.
Over the course of Ray Chew’s career, he has served as a member of the Saturday Night Live Band, music director of Showtime at the Apollo and bandleader of NBC’s The Singing Bee. His impressive resume was given a significant boost, however, when he was tapped to serve as the bandleader of the 2008 Democratic National Convention and President Barack Obama’s Neighborhood Ball. More recently, in June 2009, Chew coordinated the musical direction of the 9th Annual BET Awards, which paid tribute to the late Michael Jackson.
As the 75th Anniversary Gala for the Apollo Theater appeared on the horizon, Ray Chew managed to squeeze some time out of his busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry — reflecting on Quincy Jones, Showtime at the Apollo, and the necessity of mentorship.