Wade Ray

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 in Evansville, IN, in 1913, he grew up in Boynton, AR, and at age four began playing a homemade fiddle his father fashioned from a cigar box. Just a year later, he was touring the vaudeville circuit as the World's Youngest Violin Player; he also learned to play tenor banjo and remained a 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. Upon his return, he joined Patsy Montana's group the Prairie Ramblers for several years, also recording with the Ozark Mountain Boys. He moved to Los Angeles in 1949, where he became a regular on The Rex Allen Show and appeared in the film Hollywood. 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. 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: The Country Fiddlers. He continued his session work until 1979, when he retired to Sparta, IL, and performed with a local radio station's road show until health problems made it impossible. He passed away on November 11, 1998. ~ Steve Huey

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