Ray Kirkland

Born: May 13, 1941, Dothan, AL

Ray has the ability to play guitar, fiddle, banjo and bass guitar. He began his musical career, touring with such legendary greats as "Jim and Jesse" and the "Osborne Brothers". He opened shows for Jimmy C. Newman, while also acting as Newman's band leader and road manger, for several years. Ray has appeared with regularity on the "Grand Ole Opry", since 1961. He is a member of the renowned "Jamboree USA", in Wheeling, West Virginia and has performed at the "Wimbley Festival", in England for over nine years. Ray hosted his own television show for several years and has appeared on many syndicated broadcasts and network specials including, the CBS Special, "Country Comes Home", "Backstage at the Opry", "Pop Goes the Country", NBC's "The Today Show", and the "Porter Wagoner Show".

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame

 

As a boy in his hometown of Dothan, Alabama, Ray Kirkland would sit on the floor by his grandmother's radio and listen to the 'Grand Ole Opry'.  "I used to stare at that old radio just waiting for Grandpa Jones to come on the air," Ray recollects.  Besides Grandpa, the 'Opry' stars Ray most idolized were Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell.  "They influenced a lot of people," Ray says fondly.  Little did he know that he would soon share the stage with his childhood heroes.  It was an old guitar belonging to his mother that set Ray on the road to Music City, and by the age of twelve Ray was a regular feature on a variety television show in Dothan called "Open House With Barbara".  By the time he graduated from high school, standing on the stage was second nature.

 

In 1961, Ray made his first appearance on the 'Grand Ole Opry' as a guest of Hank Locklin and has appeared with regularity on the 'Opry' stage ever since.  Shortly after his premier 'Opry' performance, he joined the Webster Brothers Band and also served a stint  singing duets with Rebe Gosdin.

 

In 1964, Ray was hired as a bass player by 'Opry' legends Jim and Jesse, which became a major turning point in his life.   He packed up his dreams (along with his instruments) and moved to Nashville.   During the time he wasn't on the road with the famous band, Ray  worked for Music Row talent agent Joe Taylor.  "Joe's offices were  upstairs over Columbia Records," says Ray.  "Kris Kristofferson was  working as a studio assistant for Columbia and on our lunch hour  we'd get together and write songs."  One of those songs was  titled  "You're Everywhere Except Here In My Arms".  Ray's talents were  quickly recognized in the music community and he became a sought-after musician as well as songwriter and music publisher.   However, in 1965, he answered a higher calling and served a hitch in the United Stated Army.  When Ray left the service, he found out that Nashville had not forgotten him.

In 1967, he signed a recording contract with Chart Records, a division of RCA.  His first release, "Let It Ride", was a 'pick hit' in the trades.  Another song entitled "Today's Teardrops", graced the top ten lists of many major cities, as well as the Cashbox and Billboard Top 100.

 

In 1971, Ray joined the Osborne Brothers as bass player and featured vocalist, opening shows for such artists as Merle Haggard and George Jones.  That same year, the group was voted 'Vocal Group of the Year' by the Country Music Association.

In 1972, Ray was made a member of the renowned 'Jamboree USA' in Wheeling, West Virginia.  Later that year he found himself traveling to Dothan, Alabama once again to host his own syndicated television show on WTVY.  An illness in June of 1973 cost Ray about a year away from the music business.  It was a hard time for him and a major setback to his career.  His health restored in 1974, Ray began to pick up the pieces.  He resumed his television show and his appearances on the "Jamboree"; and his ability to play bass, guitar and banjo soon led him back to the Nashville scene.

It was Ray's combination of talent and dedication that captured the attention of 'Opry' star Jimmy C. Newman; and for the next eight years, Ray opened the shows for Newman while also acting as his band leader and road manager.  In 1985 he left Newman and went to work with Grandpa Jones, during which time he recorded a double album entitled "Dixie's In Alabama," produced by lifelong friend, Carl Jackson.

In 1992, Ray once again joined the Jim and Jesse show working the bluegrass festival circuit.  He continued to write songs with his old pal, Carl;  and in 1997 left the Virginia Boys to become the bass player, opening act and emcee for Kitty Wells.  Ray says working for the "Queen of Country Music" is one of the highlights of his career.

Ray has led a fascinating life and his credits read like a who's who of Country music.  His latest project, "Old Brush Arbors," is a labor of love culminating his musical career of over forty-five years.

Source: http://www.raykirkland.net/bio.htm

Y'all Come: The Essential Jim & Jesse, Jim & JesseOnce More, Vol. 1 & 2, Osborne BrothersI Can't Stop Loving You, Kitty WellsLouisiana Saturday Night, Jimmy C. Newman

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Book: http://www.amazon.com/Jamboree-Years-Country-Music-Wheeling/dp/B00152NRRU

 

 

 

 

 

 

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