Behind Ray are "The Rock 'n' Roll Boys" -
James Webb, Dean Perkins, Raymond Jones, and Henry Stevens on drums.
Editor for this HOF page: Steve Lester - LESTERSD@aol.com
Narvel Felts Reflects on Ray Smith
Carl Perkins on Ray Smith:
"Well, to say something about Ray Smith, you're talking about a man who had
as much to do with the foundation of rock-a-billy music as anybody I knew. I
knew Ray many, many years ago, back
in the fifties. I knew him to be a trooper, and when we called each other a
trooper back then, that's what you was. You were not a copy cat. Ray Smith
should have been, and was, in the hearts of people like me, and his fans, one
of the truly great rockin' talents who came out of the fifties years. He
will never be forgotten. When men go on and leave what Ray Smith left us to
love and cherish, it's a treasure that man cannot take away. It's something
you bury in your soul and you live on with it, and through our livin', Ray
Smith will never die."
Ray Smith on Sun Records and Sam Phillips
"It really was a little hole in the wall but it had the best damned sound!
It had the sound for that day and time. I remember I sung one song with a
bucket over my head so that they could get the sound they wanted. Another
time we did Sail Away with Stanley Walker singing tenor. We took five stacks
of records, in fact it was Bill Justis's record of Raunchy, and stood Stanley
up there on those so he could get even with me to sing in the mike. Hell,
they'd do anything to get a sound! Another time on So Young I remember
Charlie Rich was on piano. The intro and the ending was the same and I
remember we faded out on that damned thing. After we'd faded, Charlie was
still sitting there playing his lick. Everybody had done stopped and Sam
yelled, "Charlie, we're done. We're finished!" Charlie was feeling good.
He'd reach up, get a drink, never miss a lick.
I won $100 off Sam Phillips one time. This was 4 or 5 o'clock in the
morning. We were betting on the first song Hank Williams ever sung on the
Opry. I told him it was Lovesick Blues and Sam said, "Hell no, It was
Mansion on the Hill." I said, "Bullshit!" Sam said "I'll bet you $100 and I
said, "You're on." So Sam goes and phones Audrey Williams in Nashville. I
said, "I'm gonna get on the other extension", because I knew Audrey and had
backed her up. Sam said "Audrey, I'm sitting here with Ray Smith and we got
$100 bet on the first song Hank ever sung on the Opry." She said "It was
Lovesick Blues" and Sam said "Godamn it, Audrey, you just cost me $100 and he
told Sally to go write out a cheque for $100. I shoulda taken that
son-of-a-bitch and framed it. But I didn't - I spent it! But Sam is a hell
of a guy. Crazy! He'd go a week without shaving. Ha! Damned nice guy,
though. Started us all" --- Ray Smith talking to Dave "Daddy Cool" Booth,
Publicity photo from Ray's Las Vegas days.
An interview with Ray Smith - 1979
Q) Where is Melber, Kentucky - your birthplace?
A: Melber is not a town but is a 'burg where I was born a sharecropper's son.
It is three miles out in the country. Melber is thirteen miles west of
Paducah, KY and Graves County KY.
Q) What did your dad do for a living?
A: My dad was a sharecropper and a sheet metal worker. He also worked for
the atomic bomb plant in Paducah KY, which is one of the biggest in the USA.
Alben W. Barkley was responsible for having it placed there. He was the
Vice President of the United States under Roosevelt and harry S. Truman. I
used to carry Vice President Barkley's newspapers, the "Paducah Sun
Democrat." I also served him when I was a curb hop at Price's Barbecue on
34th and Broadway in Paducah KY.
Q) What was the influence of music on your early life?
A: A direct order from a Sergeant while in basic training at Sampson Air
Force Base in Syracuse, New York, to sing without a guitar or any kind of
instrument or music. I was standing in my shorts and shower clogs and the
song I sang was "lovesick Blues." This lead to me being entered in the base's
talent show. I won 1st prize. That is what influenced me into music, and I
have been doing it ever since.
Q) How do you recall your childhood days?
A: Happy, very sad, poor, and a will to rise above it.
Q) Did you have any favorite music at that time?
A: Eddy Arnold, Ernest Tubb and Gene Autry.
Q) Did your parents have any musical influence on you?
Q) Do you have any musical education?
Q) What instruments do you play?
A: Guitar, piano and harmonica.
Q) In 1950 you joined the Air Force ... were you still living in Melber at
that time or did you move between 1934 and 1950?
A: I joined the Air Force in 1952, July 22nd, serial #AFI5475566. I was born
in 1934, Halloween night - October. I was the seventh son of the seventh
son. My family and I moved from Melber to County Line Road (in the same
county of Graves). There we lived with at another sharecropper's farm.
Mr. Dowell was his name. From there we moved out in the country close to
Mayfield KY. From there we moved to St. John's KY, on Highway 45 west of
Paducah KY. From there we moved to another farm on Highway 45 half way
between Paducah and Mayfield, KY. At that time I was nine years old. From
there we moved to Lone Oak, KY, which is three miles west of Paducah where I
attended school for the 4th through 8th grade. My father then bought a farm
(called Pepper's Farm) seven miles north of Lone Oak. I never resided there
as I left home at that time at the age of twelve. After that, my father sold
the farm and moved to Paducah. I visited there frequently while working as a
helper on a Coca-Cola truck. I also rode my bicycle to work at Kirchoff's
Bread plant in Paducah, where I operated an oven. From there I went to the
International Shoe Company working as a sole back tacker and tack machine
operator. One day a friend of mine came to me at lunch time and said "Let's
go swimming." We did, and this brought about my resignation (or otherwise be
fired.) This lead to my enlistment in the U. S. Air Force in 1952. I took
my basic training at Sampson Air Force Base and then transferred to Fort
Knox, KY. I was later transferred to George Air Force Base, Victorville,
California. While there, I had my first paying job as an entertainer at
Nora's Desert Inn, Barstow, California at the rate of $12.50 a night, Friday
and Saturday only. From there I was transferred to Metz, France at Chambley
Air Force Base, 21st Fighter Bomber Wing, my position - Medic. After
nineteen months in Metz, France I was returned to the USA - New York City -
where I was discharged with honors and medals for service beyond the call of
duty, accepting my original discharge June 22nd, 1960 which is eight years of
service to my country...which I am proud of.
In this picture Stanley Walker takes center stage. Stanley provided the
unique guitar stylings on Ray's Sun recordings (and vocal harmonies on "Sail
Away" - SUN 319) and played with Ray extensively during the late fifties and
early sixties. Before joining Ray, he played with the gospel act the
"Singing Ramboes". After his tenure with Ray Smith, Stanley became Jeanie
Sheppard's guitarist. With Jeanie, Stanley played the opry numerous times
and also "Hee Haw." Stanley recorded some outstanding country tunes of his
own in the early eighties. Stanley plays to this very day doing weekend gigs
around his beloved Western KY, and remains the nicest guy you will ever meet
and one of the finest guitarists you will ever hear.
Q) Where and when did the "Rock and Roll Boys" come about, and who were they?
A: In 1956 I started "Ray Smith and the Rock and Roll Boys"; bass and rhythm
guitar - James Webb from Bardwell, KY, guitar - Raymond Jones, Bardwell, KY,
steel guitar - Dean Perkins, Mayfield, KY, drums - Henry Stevens,
Q) What kinds of gigs did you play?
A: We did mostly one-nighters, concerts and night clubs in Kentucky,
Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma,
California, as many states as there are in the USA ... we worked them all. I
also had my own TV show for two and one half years on WPSD, channel six, in
Paducah, KY. It was called "The Ray Smith Show." My announcer was Bill
Green. My sponsor was Beardsley Chevrolet, Bardwell, KY. After six months
Beardsley canceled my show to sponsor another country show. Two days later
I was called by the producer at WPSD, who asked if I would like to keep my
show with no sponsor, they would produce it themselves. I accepted and we
aired every Monday night from 7:00-7:30 pm and later on Wednesday from
8:00-8:30; "A" time.
After that I made my first record in 1958 on Sun Records owned by Sam
Phillips. It was called "So Young" and it put me on the Dick Clark Show at
the Little Theatre in New York City, which lead to other TV shows such as
American Bandstand and other shows all over the nation. I was contracted to
do my own show on Channel seven in Evansville, Indiana on Saturday afternoons
for one month.
Q) Did you do any radio or tv with The Rock and Roll Boys?
A: Yes, my first radio show was on WMOK, Metropolis, IL. Ed Hills was the
announcer and it was the original "Ray Smith and the Rock and Roll Boys."
Then I had a radio show in Benton, KY and guest appearances on radio
stations all over the country including Mayfield, Paducah, Newport Arkansas,
and Louisville KY; and TV shows all over the USA and Canada (Channel 9,
Toronto, Channel 11 Hamilton, Ottawa, Peterborough, CHEX Channel 12 - all in
Ray at the drum kit.
Q) Who is Charlie Terrell and how did you meet him? What influence did he
have on your career?
A: Charlie Terrell is the owner of a lime and fertilizer company in Sikeston,
Missouri. He was formerly the manager of Onie Wheeler, who had a hit record
which he wrote himself, and whom I very highly respect and admire as he is
now a member of the Roy Acuff Band. Charlie Terrell saw my TV show and gave
me a call at the TV station after my show was over, asking me if I had a
manager. He also asked me if I was a recording artist. I replied "No" to
both questions and he asked me if I would like to have one. I replied "I
don't know... I am working seven nights a week and doing a TV show as it is."
His reply: "When can I meet you for discussion regarding management and a
recording contract." At the time I said "Yes, but I don't know when." He
came to my home three times, and on the third time I drove into my driveway
and there was a car sitting in front of my home. The man got out of the car
with an attache case in his hand, walked up to me and said "Are you Ray
Smith?" I said "Yes" and he said "I am Charlie Terrell from Sikeston,
Missouri." He said "this is the third time I have been here." We proceeded
into my home to talk business. After a conversation and everything was
settled, the final words were "If I can get you a contract on a leading
label, will you sign me as your manager?" I replied "Yes." Three days
later, he returned from Memphis, Tennessee with a contract from Sun Records
signed by SAM PHILLIPS. In 1958 I did my first recording "So Young."
Charlie Terrell was my manager for fifteen years.
Q) While with Sun, you didn't record with your own band but used the famous
Sun Studio gang for backup. Why did you not use your own band?
A: You are wrong! I did use my own band. The only one that was not a member
of the Rock and Roll Boys was Charlie Rich who wrote and played piano on four
records I recorded for Sun. The only other one that was used at Sun Records
that was not my band was the fellow who wrote "I Forgot to Remember to
Forget" recorded by Elvis Presley. His name is Stan Kessler. Oh, and Lee
Van Cleef as drummer for one session, otherwise the rest of the musicians
were all the Rock and Roll Boys. The engineer and A&R men were Jack Clements
and Bill Justis, who had a hit with "Raunchy."
Q) I know a lot of things happened at 706 Union in Memphis and there are
plenty of stories around about those wild days. Please tell me what you
remember most of all about the time you spent with Sun Records.
A: Happiness, parties, etc.
Q) Then came JUDD... obviously this was pretty logical as it was owned by
Sam's brother. How exactly did the Judd recordings happen?
A: Very carefully. They produced my biggest seller: "Rockin' Little Angel."
Q) Your first Judd single was a smash hit... released nationwide and even
getting a lot of recognition overseas. The follow-ups didn't do so good and
no wonder, they lacked that catchy rock and roll beat. Why didn't Judd try
to follow that hit with another rocker instead of the ballads?
A: Because he is stupid. (ha ha)
Q) Tell me how you came to record for the following labels and if possible
give me approximate years you recorded those records. Infinity, Vee Jay,
Warner Brothers, Smash, Tollie, Celebrity Circle, Diamond
A: Because I was asked. Infinity - 1962, Vee Jay - 1963, Warner Brothers -
1963, Smash - 1963, Tollie - 1964, Celebrity Circle - 1965, Diamond - 1966
Q) The Diamond single was followed by 3 singles for BC, a label owned by
Charlie Terrell. Did this label exist before you recorded on it?
Q) How did you get on the Nashville based Cinnamon records? This is quite
interesting, as Narvel Felts (another underrated fiftier) recorded some stuff
A) Charlie Terrell.
Q) What is the connection between Corona and Boot?
Q) How do you feel about the two singles you made for WIX records?
A: Beautiful... "Room Full of Roses" is #1 in London England now.
Q) What do you think about today's country music with all the violins and big
A: Mel Tillis, Faron Young, Marty Robbins... they are beautiful!
Q) Have you always been in the music business full time since you left the
Air Force? Did you have any jobs on the side - What kind and where?
A: Yes, music full-time.
Q) How did a Kentucky boy end up all the way in cold cold Canada?
A: You go to Detroit and turn left.
Q) What do you specifically like about being in the music business?
A: Company, people, and friends.
Q) What are your goals in the music business?
A: Same as anyone else in the business.
Q) Do you feel the business has given you a fair shake so far?
A: Not as far as royalties, but as far as people - I love it and I will do it
until I die.
DON'T STICK NO FORK IN ME ... I AIN'T DONE YET!!!
This is Ray at home in Ontario working on what would eventually become his
rockin' version of "Roomfull Of Roses." The piano at which he sits was
obtained from the legendary Ronnie Hawkins. Ray was looking for a piano for
his home and inquired with Ronnie if he could buy this one. Ronnie came up
with the price of $300. Ray then offered him double or nothing on the flip
of a coin - and won - taking the piano for nothing. (notice cool beverage at
"Much of the material you see here comes courtesy of the one and only Tommie
Wix, without whom this page would not be possible. Tommie was a close friend
of Ray's. She presided over his fan club, produced his last recordings, and
was largely responsible for his resurgence in popularity (particularly in
Europe) in the late 1970's. Thank you Tommie, and rock on!"
Yes, that's Sleepy with Ray, along with Peter Zdrenko,
LEFT: One of Ray's early line-ups featuring a very young Stanley Walker
on lead guitar. RIGHT: Ray performing in 1956 (2 years before his first
recording at Sun). Note the stand-up bass and banjo accompaniment in the
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