Danny Ray, James Brown's longtime emcee and cape man, dies at 85

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Jozsef Papp, Augusta Chronicle
·4 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Danny Ray, the well-known emcee and cape man for James Brown, died Tuesday night.

Richmond County Coroner Mark Bowen confirmed Ray died of natural causes. He was 85.

Ray was introduced to musical legend Brown in 1960 and joined the James Brown Revue as his personal valet. Ray worked for 46 years for Brown. Brown died on Christmas Day in 2006.

Longtime friend Tony Howard said Ray was a good friend and considered him a mentor. He last saw him about a year ago but they called each other often and talked.

Danny Ray, the former capeman for music legend James Brown, at his home in Augusta. Ray died of natural cause on Tuesday night.
Danny Ray, the former capeman for music legend James Brown, at his home in Augusta. Ray died of natural cause on Tuesday night.

“I would call him once a month, just to kind of check with him. He called me, I called him back and forth, so we kind of stayed in contact," he said.

Howard said Ray would tell him things Brown used to do and give him career advice. He said he was saddened by Ray's passing.

“Just knowing that he was getting older, elderly, I could just hear it in his voice that he was weak, a lot of times. I always asked him how he was doing and he always said, ‘just doing fine, hanging in there’," Howard said. “I didn’t know anything was wrong physically, as far as, his body, but I just know he was getting old."

Howard held an annual show, Tony Howard’s Motown Revue, at the Imperial Theater. He hired Ray to be his emcee and remembers how loved he was by fans.

"The people would love it. They go crazy just seeing him walk out on stage," he said. “A lot of people didn’t know him personally, but they see him on stage, they’d say ‘that’s James Brown’s cape man.'”

James Brown's lead guitarist and musical director Ronald "Rock" Laster said he got a call about Ray's passing shortly after it happened.

“It definitely came as a shock," Laster said. “We went through a lot of adventures together. Tears came out of my eyes when they first told me.”

Laster said they had known each other for more than 40 years and were best friends. Similarly to Howard, they talked often about old stories from their touring days. The last time they spoke was last week.

“I just spoke to him last week. He sounded pretty strong and everything then," he said. “We were just laughing about some of the stuff we did on the road, some of our good stories and some of our bad stories. We laughed and joked.”

Danny Ray puts the cape on James Brown one last time December 30, 2006 at James Brown Arena during Brown's funeral. Ray died Tuesday.
Danny Ray puts the cape on James Brown one last time December 30, 2006 at James Brown Arena during Brown's funeral. Ray died Tuesday.

Laster said they usually tried to get together a few times a year, but couldn't this past year due to COVID, so he had not seen him in a while. He said Ray took his job very seriously and was good at it.

“He was very instrumental in keeping the machine rolling. Danny was in charge of everything," he said. “He was very defensive, he was very close to James.”

All over social media, celebrities and fans remembered Ray for his work with Brown.

"Saddened to get the call that Danny Ray, famed MC and cape man for James Brown, died at 85 years old. He was like an Uncle to me as I traveled the world years ago w/ The Godfather of Soul. Danny will never be forgotten. Rest In Peace and Power, family," Rev. Al Sharpton tweeted Wednesday morning.

This article originally appeared on Augusta Chronicle: Danny Ray dead: James Brown emcee and cape man was 85