Once in a while, I'll get a call or read on Facebook about an old friend who died. Now and then, I'll find out through a casual conversation between another third party acquaintance and me, and other times, I'll find out as a result of my investigation after thinking about older and simpler times when I had more to do with many people, and their name or an experience crosses my mind.
The other day, I read about an old friend and schoolmate’s passing. We went to high school and college together. His name was Ray Dahrouge and he was very cool.
I knew Ray from our days at Asbury Park High School. We weren't very friendly in those days, but we knew each other. Somewhere along the line, Ray dropped out of our school and graduated from Neptune High School. Neptune was a neighboring town, and Ray lived on the borderline, so I guess he had the option of which school he could attend. It seems that during our senior year, I lost contact with Ray.
When I arrived at Murray State College, I once again found Ray. Not only was he a student, but he was my close friend Mike Corcione’s roommate. Mike and Ray had known each other coming from the same Italian neighborhood in Asbury Park for many years. As a result of his relationship with Mike, Ray and I became friendly. Three guys from the other side of the tracks became a natural fit from the Jersey Shore to the quiet country surroundings of Southwest Kentucky. Talk about a change in the neighborhood.
While in college, Ray became very dedicated to singing and writing songs. His favorite music in those days was known as Doo Wop — Rock and Roll. His specialty was music sung mostly by black groups from the large cities around America. I loved that music, and when we were in high school, it was exceptionally popular and was the favorite of our football team. After practice, we would all sit around the locker room, especially the gang shower, and belt out the music. It was unique, and Ray knew his stuff.
Many of us would gather in Ray’s dorm room and sing Doo-Wop music several times in college. I was always the base. It was all done in the archipelago since we had no accompanying music. Lots of people described it as street corner music. We were pretty good at it, and it was fun. Reminded us of home and kept some of us out of the pool halls and bars.
I left college early, and my family left Asbury Park behind us. It was like a void in time. I lost touch with many of my old pals. Life went on, and slowly I resurrected old relationships through visits and eventually social media. As I always say, old friends are best friends.
Through social media, I became reacquainted with Ray. We communicated several times over the years. I found that he had become a reasonably famous singer and songwriter. He had created an outstanding local singing group composed of some of the guys from high school days called Ray and the Darcheas. Along the way, Ray had become friendly with some of the music industry greats, such as Lenny Welch, who sang the smash hit Since I Fell for You.
In later years Ray became known as the God Father of the Sound of Asbury Park (SOAP). A group of musical performers from the Asbury Park area (Jersey Shore), including Bruce Springsteen, Lenny Welch, Nicky Addeo, Bon Jovi, Johnny Lyons (Southside Johnny), and Paul Whistler.
Ray was known for his kindness and amiability amongst everybody he came in contact with. Surprisingly, with all of his talent and popularity, Ray never made the big time through wealth. Money was never his issue. He was merely a talented family man who appreciated his God-given gifts and merely enjoyed life.
One thing I will never forget about Ray Dahrouge is that at the end of every message or email, he would always say to me, "My old friend Warren — love and respect always."
How could you not miss this guy?
For the good times Ray.