At 86 years old, Ray Ellison has made an impact on the senior community in Tukwila by picking up a guitar and bringing everyone together with music and dancing.
Ray said he has been playing music for about 40 years now, but he wasn’t a natural born guitar player from the start.
“I went to an auction one time and I bought a guitar and I didn’t know how to play it, so I thought, ‘Well if I got a guitar, I got to learn how to play it,” he said. “I took some lessons and some other fellas where I went to church suggested I join the Fiddlers, which I did. I’ve been playing guitar and singing ever since.”
The Fiddlers is a band Ray plays with at the Tukwila Community Center every Tuesday during the lunch program there.
According to Sheri McConnaughey, Tukwila Recreation Coordinator, Ray has made an impact on the senior community during the lunch program.
“The impact is the fact that they have live music to dance with and they all love to dance. So every Tuesday it’s a free place to come during the day to dance,” McConnaughey said.
She said he has been performing at the lunch program with the Fiddlers for about 22 years.
Ray said he and the band play old country western music, since that’s what he said he grew up listening to.
McConnaughey said sometimes he and the band mix it up to make some of the other seniors happy.
“They (the band) take suggestions and if there’s people that think they know how to sing, they’ll let them get up and sing,” she said. “You know they say food and music bring food together — I truly believe that.”
She also said there are about 55 Latino elders that come to the lunch program, too. Upon request, The Fiddlers will play music that also gets them up and dancing.
“Even though maybe they couldn’t communicate language wise, they were communicating through music and the band started playing La Bamba and stuff that they thought the Latino elders would like. So it’s been a real good partnership,” McConnaughey said.
When asked why he performs, Ray said, “It’s what we do.”
Simple as that.
His wife, Lillian Ellison, said she likes when he performs because “it keeps him going. Keeps him out of mischief.”
According to Lillian, she and Ray met dancing and have been married for more than 50 years.
“We’ve been dancing ever since,” she said.