Born W. Ray in Fort Bragg,CA March of '41'.
Legend has it;
After the Doc gave W.Ray a swat on his rear side instead of wailing the Doctor and his Mom heard him sing his first song.:o)
Now most of us don't believe that, however, Ol' W.Ray most definitely did make a lot of noise growing up.
W. Ray's family moved to Fortuna, California around 1944, living there for 5 years W.Ray now 8 years old wrote his first song, it was about a Robin Red Breast, (he shot the poor thing). Santa brought him a genuine 'Red Ryder' BB Rifle that Christmas, (it's a wonder he didn't shoot his eye out!) :o)
Well, Ray's Mom scolded him for shooting that innocent bird, so he planed a memorial service which all of the family attended, and composed a song to perform at the Robins funeral. WHEEE DAWGIES!!!
Television was very new to the world and the buzz was, TV was on its way to Fortuna!, this was around 1950 W. Ray was 9 years old then and in the 4th grade.
Fortuna Elementary had an assembly planned one afternoon; the guest speaker, a 'Television Specialist'! This was about as exciting as it was ever going to get for W. Ray, you see he just new they invented TV for him and he wanted a piece of the action! :o) He also wanted to know how in the heck a picture could appear in your living room without the aid of an 8mm projector?
The whole town had been watching TV from the sidewalk and through the window of the only Radio and Record shop in Fortuna for weeks, hoping there would be a way for their family to own one. (The cost in those days was extremely high compaired to the wages, and only a few could afford such a luxury).
W. Ray's Dad (Pete) would drive the Family to the bridge crossing the Eel River; the bridge was high above the town of Scotia,CA and from the bridge elevation while hesitating mid way across they could look down on the town and count the antennas on the roof tops, that way they could know how many folks living in Scotia actually had a TV of their own. (Most of the time it was the same 6 or 8 in the whole town!)
The day finally arrived for W. Ray to understand just how TV worked, the exceitment was building to a crescendo by the time the line of students filed into the auditorium. Ray marched into that auditorium with the entire school attendance, and everyone agreed, this was history in the making and they were all part of it!
The specialist did a wonderful job of demonstrating how TV works, and even though no one really understood what he said, it was a rousing success! W. Ray was more than pleased with the new found knowledge he had acquired and couldn't wait to share it with his family.
We have an intention to express gratitude the few sponsors:
At the end of the assembly it was announced:
"Tomorrow, there will be an audition for all students that want to participate to be on live Television". "A selection of 11 students will sing at Channel '3' in Eureka next week".
HOLY MOLY and WEEEE DAWGIES!!! Was the reaction of W. Ray and the next day after school let out W. Ray went to the auditorium to be part of the audition. However, Ol' Sure of himself W. Ray was set back a little by the turn out, it seemed that MOST of the school was there. Patiently he waited his turn (which seemed to be forever), but eventually, it was his turn, he was asked his name and given the stage to sing; "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again". Then out the door he went to have (undoubtedly) a sleepless night anticipating the outcome the next day.
Arriving at school the next morning from a brisk 1+ mile walk full of antcipation, W. Ray went to his desk and wated for the news. All of a sudden an anounsment came over the intercom, it was Mr. Hale the Principal of the school with the names of the students selected for the live Television broadcast. Anticipation was an understatement during those next few moments and after a few names were anounced, W. Ray was quiet, and for once speachless when he heard his name called loud and clear!! He was going to be part of History one more time.
An expierience that would last W. Ray's entire life was about to happen and shape many thing to come.......
From age 5 or 6 (1946/47) living in Fortuna, Ray became mesmerized with the weekly radio broadcast from the 'Grand Ole Opry" in Nashville, TN. This started a life long dream to be on the Grand Ole Opry.
His favorite time of week was to sit close to the radio and listen to all the Country Greats of that time, and imagine, it was him singing with Hank Williams, Eddy Arnold, Ernest Tubbs, Red Folly, Little Jimmy Dickens and playing Guitar alongside Chet Atkins.
But how in the world was this little kid to even play in a local band let alone the 'Grand Ole Opry'?
Ray's Mom recognized his desire to play music and bought him his first guitar, it was a Harmony arch top from Montgomery and Wards. It was way to big for him, however, it came with a metal adapter that would raise the strings above the fret board, and with the use of a steel bar that also came with the Guitar he played it as a steel Guitar on his lap. His Sister Colleen (Grasshopper) would play the Accordion and Ray would make those strings talk (certainly not in tune and maybe with a string or two missing to boot).
By the time he was 10 he had tried to learn to play the Guitar the "Cowboy Way" with the help of a 'Mel Bay' lesson book. This proved to be a very slow process. Then one day while walking to school he passed a house he had walked by many times before only this time he heard someone playing a guitar and singing a country tune inside. Without hesitation Ray walked up to the door and cautiously knocked, a man answered and asked, "Can I help you?"
More than a little nervous Ray told him why he had knocked. Then even to Ray's surprise he asked if the man would teach him to play the Guitar the way he did. Holy Moly! The look on that mans face was not only of surprise, but of compassion too. He thought a minute and then said, "I really don't play that much, but I guess I could show you a few things". Well, at that moment, that was one of the best days in Ray's life, and proved to be the start of playing music for the rest of his life also.
Ray has performed throughout many States, and in the State of Nevada was the Showroom Headliner in several Main Room Casinos.
He shared the bill board (marque) with several notables, like. "The Sons of the Pioneers", Jimmy Rogers, Jerry VanDyke, and entertained more then a million people during his rein on the famous Cruse Ship "The M.S. Dixie" on Lake Tahoe's Sky Blue Waters.
However, Ray never did set foot on the 'Grand Ole Opry" stage. Maybe next time around. :o)
As time permits, the rest of Ray's story will be added to this site.
To write to W. Ray:
Thanks for listening.