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Western Swing Personalities-Wade Ray

By Leocthasme

Historical Western Swing

Historical Western Swing

In the next several issues of Pencilstubs, I will try to continue my several articles on the history of Western Swing. Many, many, comments have been received directly by me and many more have appeared below the several articles I have written since the October Issue of 2000. There are still comments being made on the original article because it is referenced any time someone just looks for Western Swing by typing just those two words into a search engine. Well, let’s face It, I love the referrals, and now just thinking of that, I feel I should continue to add all the information I can find on an interesting subject, from all sources beside all the information I have accumulated over the years from clippings and the backs of old record covers.

Here is another article on a very interesting person and his band

who did so much for

Western Swing

Keep Posted to This Site!


Wade Ray, Child Prodigy, Fiddler

Born in Evansville , IN 1913.

Died November 11, 1998 Sparta IL

Fiddler, Wade Ray, made his name playing Traditional Country and Western Swing from a very young age but made very few recordings of his own over his lengthy career.

Born Lyman Wade Ray, he grew up in Boynton , AR , and at age four began playing a homemade fiddle his father had fashioned from a cigar box. Within a year, he was touring the vaudeville circuit as the World's Youngest Violin Player; he also learned to play tenor banjo and remained vaudeville regular until his 18th birthday in 1931.

He then moved to St. Louis and spent the next 12 years as the fiddler, singer, and musical director for Pappy Cheshire's Western Swing group, the National Champion Hillbillies, until he was called to serve in the Army in 1943.

Pappy Cheshire ’s group had a morning spot during the ‘30s on KMOX, a St Louis CBS station. Upon his return, he joined Patsy Montana and The Prairie Ramblers for several years and also recording with the Ozark Mountaineers. Here is an early picture of the Ozark Mountaineers, from the collection of Skeets Yaney’s family. Skeets also played with them at KMOX.

He moved to Los Angeles in 1949, where he became a regular on The Rex Allen Show and appeared in films. He signed with RCA and released a total of 23 singles from 1951 to 1957 none of which charted. "Idaho Red" is perhaps the best known.

However, he made a good living performing residencies in Los Angeles and played frequent gigs in various Nevada resort towns. He also appeared regularly on The Roy Rogers Show and The Ernest Tubb Show. Later he moved to Nashville and did session work in the mid-'60s and also recorded his first solo album, ‘A Ray of Country Sun’ for ABC-Paramount in 1966. RCA Camden released ‘Walk Softly (And Other Country Songs)’ later that year, and in 1967, Ray collaborated with the likes of Homer & Jethro, Sonny Osborne and Hargus "Pig" Robbins on Down Yonder.

Ray's popularity on the West Coast came to haunt him when he decided to move to Nashville , the center of country western. Although he enjoyed gigs on the Grand Ole Opry and performing with musicians such as Ferlin Huskey and Hank Cochran, he did not come up through the Nashville system and had no love loss for the music produced from that city.

It was probably no coincidence that Wade hooked up for a time with Willie Nelson traveling the southwest and other areas willing to listen to their brand of music. Nelson and Wade had a number of similarities. Nelson also broke into music while still a youngster and Nashville also took to knocking him down after his early success. Wade and Floyd Tillman are said to be Nelson's primary influences and Nelson still remembered his old friend. In 1996 Willie sent an audio tape played at the Wade Ray Fiddle Contest and Bluegrass Show, an annual event held in Sparta , Ill. , wishing Wade good luck and suggesting that one day he might attend the event. Soon after the 1996 show, Willie sent a limo to Wade's Sparta home and took Ray and his wife Gracie to St. Louis where Wade joined Willie's band on stage for a couple of numbers. Wade lamented the fact that he was not at his best and the only member of Willie's band familiar with Ray's old songs was Willie himself.

Wade Ray enjoyed a bit of a comeback and in addition to the annual show in Sparta , TRG Studios in Europe , released a CD of his old songs. For all his pride in the musicianship of western swing, Wade Ray remained an entertainer first. "When I'm playing, I try to pick out someone who is really into the music, tapping his feet and all," Wade once said. "But if I see him searching his pocket for a cigarette and looking bored, I know it's time to change gears."


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