I was born on September 7, 1927, in small place a few miles outside of Tupelo, MS, Shiloh Community. As an only child, I was sick a lot with asthma and tonsillitis. It was during the depression when there were no jobs, so we lived off the land. There were no color barriers when it came to share-cropping. My family (on both sides) played music. Everyone got together on Saturday nights and played for dances. At the age of seventeen, I volunteered for the Air Force and was stationed at Amarillo, Texas where I was a drill sergeant.
I moved to Memphis thinking it was a city with a lot of job opportunities. By this time I had a wife and two daughters. Many times, some friends and I would go down to the river and play guitars and sing. I enjoyed seeing the barges go by.
While working at Firestone Tire, I met Bill Black. We ate lunches together and I got to know his style of music. One day at lunch I asked Bill where he was playing. He told me at a club on the Mississippi State line, and was also trying to cut a record at Sun Records with a young man from Tupelo that I might know. He said his name was Presley. He asked me to come to one of the sessions. I waited for Bill outside the studio and we went in together. That's when I met Scotty Moore, Elvis and Sam Phillips. I also met Wayne Powers (Winston Cogswill). During this time I also had a band with Bill Bowen. We played country music at a radio station outside of Memphis.
During one session at Sun, I was sitting in the control booth with Sam. I believe they were sitting "Good Rockin' Tonight." Playing country music at the time, I was into Hank Williams and didn'y know what to think about this young man's style. But before the night was over, I really liked Elvis and his wild style.
That's when I got hooked on rock 'n' roll. After that Wayne Powers and I formed a new band and wrote a song called "Come On Little Mama." We auditioned the song at Fernwood Studio, Meteor Studio and finally at Sun Recording Studio, but I don't remember why we did it in that order.
"Greenback Dollar" ... to be perfectly honest, we were drinking the night we cut it. The more we drank, the better the song sounded. And that's the way it happened.
Other songs ... all I can remember about those songs is "Come On Little Mama," "Where'd You Stay Last Night" and Foolish Heart" were all recorded for me as an artist. As for "Love Dumb Baby," "Lonely Wolf," and "I'm Living Now" - they were cut as demos for other artists. When I split with Sam Phillips, simply said, Sam and I did not agree on my material.
I have produced other artists on Hi Records ... Bill Black, Ace Cannon, Willie Mitchell, Gene Simmons, Jerry Jaye, Maury Kellum and Charlie Rich were all on the Hi label. Many others I cut, such as Chuck Berry, Ike and Tina Turner, Bobby "Blue" Bland and Slim Harpo were all rental sessions.
My new CD "Raw-n-Rockin" CD is a mixture of songs. "Greenback Dollar" has been re-done. So has "Come On Little Mama." in the country-blues-rock sound I got on Hi. What I am most proud of is that there is something for everyone on this CD. See below how to order it.
As for philosophy - Live everyday doing the best you can. I'm always excited when I'm doing something with music. I'm still here and still rockin' and rollin'.
Seated, Ray Harris inspects the recording sound board at Burns tation Sound in Burns, TN, home of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame offices. Standing is Steven Scott, one of Ray's close music associates. (March 2003)
Hey, Ray was in the movies! That's him in the car!
March, 2003 - Ray tells the Rockabilly Hall of Fame: "The new Raw-N-Rockin" CD is a mixture of songs. "Greenback Dollar" has been re-done. So has "Come On Little Mama" ... in the country, blues, rock, sound I got at Hi Records. What I am most proud of is that there is something for everyone on this CD."
Ray, who hasn't done a gig since the early '60s, is very excited about this project. It was a long time in the making, and the result is pure Ray Harris! It's good to see Ray back behind the microphone after all the time he spent creating and running the famous Hi record label in the 1960s. Bill Black's "Smokey Part II" was Hi's "big one" and put Ray's record company on the map ... a company Ray started for about $3.00 when he parted from Sam Phillips.
Bob Timmers, RHOF curator shared a story with Ray during his recent visit to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame office in Burns, TN. When Bob was in high school in Wisconsin in 1958, his band was invited to do a performace on a Green Bay TV station. It was sort of a poor man's American Bandstand. Bob's group selected Ray's "Come On Little Mama" as one their two songs. When the station manager heard it, he exclaimed "You can play a song like that on television!" But it was too late, it was live TV and the damage was done.
Adriaan's interview with Ray back in 1971 when he had a recording studio in Tupelo, Mississippi and talked with him about "Green Back Dollar, Watch and Chain" and also his involvement in The Bill Black Combo sound.
Page Posted March, 2003
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