SUN Records: Ray Smith

Ray Smith:

Ray Smith

Ray Smith was born October 30, 1934 in Melber, Kentucky. Raised in Paducah, Kentucky, Ray was taught piano at an early age and performed Cowboy songs in school. As a teen he was a moonshine bootlegger with his brother-in-law and also worked for Coca-Cola.

After a stint in the Air Force, Ray decided to jump on the burgeoning new Rock and Roll bandwagon, even though he admitted later that at first he hated Rock and Roll; his main influence was not Elvis, but Faron Young.

Ray Smith & his Rock & Roll Boys formed and began playing gigs in Kentucky and Illinois. He immediately landed his own Television program on Paducah’s WPSD-TV, which ran from 1956 to 1959.

Charlie Terrell, who managed Onie Wheeler, saw Ray’s TV show and was impressed enough to urge SUN Records’ Sam Phillips to give Ray a shot. Sam was also impressed by the tape Terrell had given him, and it’s said that Ray Smith is the only artist Phillips ever signed without an audition in person first.

SUN Singles:

298 Ray Smith So Young
Right Behind You Baby

308 Ray Smith Why, Why, Why
You Made A Hit

319 Ray Smith Rockin’ Bandit
Sail Away

372 Ray Smith Travelin’ Salesman
I Won’t Miss You (Till You Go)

Smith was an artist with SUN only until late 1959;  ironically, 6 months later he recorded “Rockin’ Little Angel” for Judd Records and it sold over 3 million copies.  Sadly, he committed suicide on November 29, 1979 at the early age of 45.

Other Recordings:

Rockin' Little Angel
/Break Up
/Want To Be Free
- Judd label (1960):

That's All Right

Sweet Misery

Let Yourself Go

Right Behind You Baby

Shake Around

Shake Around was a single recorded at SUN but never released.  It was later released on a SUN album of Ray Smith recordings and the Album was called Shake Around.

Ray recorded some memorable material on SUN, including Charlie Rich’s “Break-Up”, which was later recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis and then by Rich himself. But when Jud Phillips split off from SUN to start his own Judd label, Ray went with him, and it was there that he had his breakthrough hit – “Rockin’ Little Angel” / “That’s All Right”, which featured an all-star backing band and production team including Chet Atkins, Floyd Cramer, Grady Martin, and Bill Justis. The record sold well over 3,000,000 copies, and Ray Smith was suddenly a star, appearing on American Bandstand and touring in a snazzy bus with his band, now called the Rockin’ Little Angels.


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