WADE RAY (By Kevin Carey)

Born Lyman Wade Ray, 6 April 1916, Evansville, Indiana
Died 11 November 1998, Sparta, Illinois

Wade Ray's career started at the tender age of 5 years old when he started playing a "fiddle" his father had made him from an old cigar-box, and performing to audiences as "the youngest violin player in the world", playing country fairs in and around his home state of Arkansas.

A keen collector of fiddles, Wade amassed over a hundred in a short period of time and by the time he was 18 had a collection of over a hundred. Coming of age, Wade moved to St Louis where he joined Pappy Cheshire's 'National Champion Hillbillies' who performed locally as well as having a regular radio slot on station KMOX.

After a stint in the army, Wade returned to music and joined Patsy Montana's "Prairie Ramblers', both performing as a group and backing many solo artists travelling through Chicago. Wade Ray has the distinction of being the first performer to play with an electric fiddle.

Wade's recording carer as a solo performer kicked off in 1949 when he signed for the Paramount label, although this association was short-lived and by 1951 he had switched to the RCA label where he would remain for six years, and having 23 releases.

In 1954 Wade cut the proto-rockabilly number "Idaho Red" (RCA 47-5624) - one of the all time great road songs and still a hot favourite in clubs today. Other recordings from this period included the equally good 'It's All Your Fault' and 'Cuddle Bug'.

Wade went on to record for ABC-Paramount from 1966, while continuing to be in demand as a session musician throughout the 60's and until his recording retirement in 1979.

Upon retirement, Wade moved to Sparta, Illinois where he continued playing "for fun" and supporting the annual 'Wade Ray Fiddle Contest' which continues to this day. Wade continued playing until 1997, with his final performance being alongside Willie Nelson.

Recommended listening: 'Idaho Red' appears on a number of compilations (Bear Family - Let's Go Jivin' To Rock n Roll), as does 'It's All Your Fault' (Rhino - Heroes Of Country Music, Vol 1). E-bay is probably the best source of original 78's, 45's and albums. There is also some TV footage (Grand Ol' Opry) and a video featuring Wade backing Herby Wallace (Steel Guitar Classics) on which he performs two numbers (Little Red Wagon and My Mother's Eyes).

More info: http://www.route40.net/history/whos-who/wade-ray.shtml

These pages were originally published as "This Is My Story" in the
Yahoo Group "Shakin' All Over". For comments or information
please contact Dik de Heer at

-- Return to "This Is My Story" Index --