What can be said about a Pensacola icon? Its difficult at times as a writer to come up with the proper thing to say when someone so very special like Ray Vear, AKA THE ANONYMOUS DUCK passes from planet earth.
Anyone who's ever been to most any open mic night around Pensacola knows at the end of the night, many times when just a few folks were left hanging around, one solo act took the stage, floor, deck or where ever the entertainment was performing. The Anonymous Duck was usually the last to play his original eclectic blend of folkish rock, country. To this day I still don't know what to call his genre!
I first met Anonymous Duck on a Tuesday night at The Islander beach bar on Pensacola beach. I was playing drums for the open mic that occurred every Tuesday, rain or shine. We were downstairs on ground level. The only place to put any musicians was in front of the 2 dance poles located near the men's and ladies' restrooms. Many nights, the bass or lead player had to move to let folks in to use the facilities. Yeah, we had no stage, but we all had heart and a desire to play regardless of who showed up.
One particular night, near the eleven o'clock hour when we normally ended, a rather country looking gentleman in a floppy beach hat, blue jean shorts, white striped knee socks, and sandals made his way to our meager and humble area we lovingly called "the stage". He sported a beard that needed a trim, yellowed around the chin where smoking stains had made their mark on this 70 plus year old local troubadour. After a brief set up, Anonymous began his original set of music he became known for.
My initial impression of his tunes was that it wasn't quite my thing, however over time, I would come to play with him many times at several venues in Pensacola. The few left at night's end seemed to enjoy Duck's musical stylings, one even bought him a drink!
At the end of the evening, Duck could be seen sitting on the bench outside The Islander smoking a cigarette while waiting for a ride, or sometimes waiting on me to take him home. Before his untimely demise, Anonymous spent most of his musical time playing the open mic on Thursdays at Goatlips Chew and Brew. As usual, Duck was usually at the end of the list.
There are a lot of musicians who can claim time playing with Anonymous over many years. His iconic "QUACK QUACK" moniker could be heard all over the bar. When The Duck had the opportunity to play for a crowd, everyone joined with him on many of his songs. Everyone quacked in unison when called upon.
I met with Amara, Ray's daughter shortly after the memorial. She shared stories from a family album created by Grandma Vear, the family matriarch. I took a few shots of some of the pages of the Vear family album to share with those that never knew that part of his life before he moved to Pensacola some years ago. Ray's history as a business owner gave him some family prominence. He owned a construction company and kept quite busy building structures of all sorts, especially a home he custom built for his Mom and Dad.
These pages revealed a part of Ray Vear few were aware of. His large family tree extends into the hundreds. All in the Vear family have a number assigned to them when born. Ray, was number 14 and his daughter, Amara, owns the 82 slot.
Ray lived a modest life at his rented home on Airport near I10. Construction materials from pallets of cinder blocks to large Styrofoam forms Ray designed as a lifelong home building project could be seen. His living room was essentially a studio with amps, keyboards, and a sweet set of vintage congas I loved playing when I went to visit.
Ray "ANONYMOUS DUCK" Vear certainly lived life on his terms no matter what. He always had a smile on his face and love in his heart for everyone. Builder, artist, musician and father, Anonymous never failed to please an audience weather it was 2, or 20. His philosophy was simple. He will be sorely missed by all who encountered this Pensacola music icon.