For the October 24, 2011, Artist on Art show, I had the great pleasure to speak with long-time local author, musician, and Nickelodeon Theater Founder, Bill Raney about his art and newly released paperback edition of his memoir, Letters to Zerky: A Father’s Legacy to a Lost Son.. . and a Road Trip Around the World.  

Letters to Zerky is a touching story that is as captivating as it is heart-felt. During our interview, we talked about how Bill was moved to write the story both as an homage to his son as well as the rediscovered letters written during a  journey around the world nearly 50 years ago.

The book begins with Bill’s beatnik years in San Francisco, describes coming to Santa Cruz to start the Nickelodeon in 1968, and an amazing trip hrough Europe, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Thailand, Hong Kong, and a few countries that no longer exist with his first wife and son.

Zerky & Friends at Kaziranga, Assam

The book appeals to a wide audience, including those interested in travel, Middle Eastern history and simply a well-written story of adventure. It is a lovely tribute to a little boy who crossed cultural divides to bring people together. ‘Zerky was the common denominator that brought us together with the peoples and cultures of the world during this thirteen-month-long adventure between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans,’ Bill writes. The beautiful young boy was their passport to the world.

Photo taken by Dan Coryo for the SC Sentinel

Santa Cruz is a better place because of Bill Raney for many reasons. Recently, he created a memorial, Zerky’s Park at the entrance of   Santa Cruz High School’s Memorial Field where a newly planted coastal redwood stands sentry next to two park benches. It has been  over 40 years since the tragic accident that took the young Erik Xerxes Raney.  When asked why Bill chose the place of accident to memorialize Zerky’s life, he replied, “when there’s an accident, there’s a natural human tendency to want to memorialize the last place on Earth where the person was. I don’t want his memory to die. A memorial is the closest you can get to immortality in the minds of living people.”

At the end of the interview, you can hear Bill singing along to the Zerky’s Waltz. You can also hear Bill’s guitar music.

To hear our broadcast in its entirety, please click the gray ‘play’ button below: [haiku url=”″ title=”Bill Raney” graphical=”true”]


I'm a radioactive media making artivist working every day to make the world a better place.

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