“Donde hay voluntad, hay manera!” translates to “Where there’s a will, there’s a way!” and that’s the best way to sum up Rockabilly Ray’s tattoo career. Growing up in Mexico City, Rockabilly Ray was attracted to the skater/punk rock scene of the ’90s. It was in that scene that he would unknowingly begin his tattoo career with a homemade machine, as he tattooed everyone from that scene.
Rockabilly Ray began dabbling in tattooing with a homemade tattoo gun. It wasn’t until one of his skater friends showed him an ad for a professional tattoo machine in the back of Thrasher magazine that he then decided to take it more seriously. His mother supported him in his endeavor and ordered the tattoo machine with her credit card.
At that time, Rockabilly Ray was the only one with a professional tattoo gun in Mexico City. With his new tool, he wasted no time in setting up shop in the back of his parent’s house. “We didn’t really know what we were doing back then. The only bit of information that we used to get came from the handful of tattoo magazines that made their way into Mexico and a book that came with the tattoo machine.” They did their best to decode the book and magazines, as none of them knew how to read English.
The few people from Mexico City that tried tattooing would all meet up and share information and exchange tattoo ideas. Luckily for him, he had the ability to travel freely to the states and back and would purchase many tattoo magazines during his voyages.
Rockabilly Ray and his friend El Marcian decided to open up the first tattoo shop in the city. “The location was small in a local swap meet but a lot of people came to us.” He did that for half a decade before deciding to move to Los Angeles and leaving the shop to his friend. “I left because I just felt that we weren’t advancing down there, we had no one to show us and I wanted to keep learning more.”
It wasn’t until he moved to San Jose, California, and started working at New Skool Tattoo with Excel from AWR that he started to learn what the tattoo life was really about. “He showed me how to paint and different tattoo techniques and there was art being produced daily.”
When he felt ready to move back down to Los Angeles, he began by working with a friend at a shop in Huntington Park. “I wanted to keep advancing, so I would always go to Venice Beach to look for work but back then we were stereotyped as a race that wasn’t skilled in the art of tattooing,” explains Rockabilly Ray. “After many failed attempts we finally caught a break and landed a job in Venice Beach.”
Currently he has partnered up with some friends that have a clothing line to open up a shop on Hollywood Boulevard. “Their clothing line is Rockabilly-inspired so it was a perfect fit for us and we have been there for almost a decade now.” It is safe to say, Rockabilly Ray has come a long way!
If you would like to check out more of his work or setup an appointment, make sure to hit him up at Facebook.com/RockaBillyray13, Instagram @RockabillyRayMerlin or stop by Tinta Rebelde at 6538 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA (323) 819-0491.