1960 Ray Smith – Rockin’ Little Angel
Ray Smith was born in Kentucky. His mother taught him to play the piano. Ray left school when he turned 12 and did odd jobs for several years before joining the Air Force in 1952. He played in clubs on the weekends while stationed in California. When he got out of the armed forces four years later, he formed his own band, Ray Smith and the Rock & Roll Boys. They set up in Kentucky and began playing in clubs and even had their own half-hour television show.
Sam Phillips signed Ray to a recording contract with Sun Records in 1957.
Ray recorded several songs written by Charlie Rich for Sun Records in 1958. One single, Right Behind You Baby, featured Charlie Rich on the piano and a guitar solo by 18-year-old Charlie Walker. Ray and his group appeared on American Bandstand and performed So Young, the other side of the single. None of the releases on Sun Records did well, so Sam Phillips passed Ray along to his brother Judd’s record label.
The melody from the Country/Western tune Buffalo Gals became the basis for Ray’s next single. Jimmie Rodgers created some new lyrics, and the song became Rockin’ Little Angel. Judd Records released Ray’s rockabilly version of the song as a single in 1960. It sold over a million copies and reached #20 on the Hot 100.
The label then had Ray cover Put Your Arms Around Me Honey, a song that was a number one hit in 1911. Times had changed, and Ray’s single peaked at only #91. He never reached the Hot 100 chart again.
Ray recorded singles for at least seven more labels before he moved his family to Ontario, Canada, in 1967. He played and clubs in the area and continued recording and had one single reach #70 on the Country chart in 1973.
Ray died from a self-inflicted gunshot in 1979.
The Rockabilly Hall Of Fame has a page devoted to Ray at http://www.rockabillyhall.com/RaySmith.html
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