RAY, ROBERT JAMES [BUDDY]

Andrew Gray

Listen to this artist

RAY, ROBERT JAMES [BUDDY] (1919–2003). Buddy Ray, western swing and jazz violinist, saxophonist, vocalist, songwriter, and actor, was born Robert James Ray in Waco, Texas, on November 30, 1919. A formally-trained violinist who was influenced by early jazz violinists, such as Stuff Smith, Eddie South, and Joe Venuti, Ray got his start with his mother’s band, Lucille Ray and Her Moonglow Orchestra in Waco. In 1937 Ray played a radio program in Shreveport with the Modern Mountaineers. He followed the band back to Houston and joined the outfit. Ray recorded songs for the first time and soon began to make a name for himself as a fiddler. In 1939 he joined Cliff Bruner’s band the Texas Wanderers, which featured pianist Moon Mullican, and in 1940 he joined the Village Boys, led by Dickie McBride. During his tenure with the Village Boys, Ray wrote the “Tulsa Twist,” a twin fiddle instrumental song in G minor, along with the ballad, “I Don’t Want Anyone But You.” By 1942 Ray had become the band’s leader.

Ray moved to California in 1943 because gasoline rationing during World War II made touring difficult, and the draft had taken a few members of his band. He made his living as an independent musician, touring with such notable performers as Merle Travis, T. Texas Tyler and his Oklahoma Melody Boys, and Jimmy Wakely. In his travels with the U.S.O., Ray went to such places as Japan, Hawaii, Guam, and Korea. For a short time in 1944 the “King of Western Swing” Bob Wills hired Ray to play in his Texas Playboys, but Ray soon left the group. “Bob Wills was a two-fingered fiddler,” Ray later said in an interview. While in Hollywood, Ray was a cast member in movies such as Brigadoon (1954), A Star is Born (1954), Jailhouse Rock (1957), and Giant (1956), which featured Hollywood icons Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Elvis Presley, and James Dean respectively. Ray’s favorite musical experience, however, was playing with Nat King Cole and the Leighton Noble Orchestra.

Ray returned to Texas in 1970. He toured with Ray Price and Sammy Smith until eventually settling in Fort Worth. In 1994 he joined his last band, Bruton and Price Swingmasters Revue and played with the group until his retirement in 1998. When asked about his career in the late 1990s, Ray replied, “Heh, if I’d known I was going to live so long…well, I’d’ve paced myself.” He died in Waskom, Texas, on September 3, 2003. He was survived by his wife Peggy and a daughter.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

“Fiddle Player Buddy Ray—A Pioneer of Western Swing,” Neonbridge: A Louisiana Music Journal (www.neonbridge.com/Articles/2000-2002/May%202002/Buddy%20Ray.htm), accessed October 11, 2006. Fort Worth Star-Telegram, January 11, 1997; September 5, 2003. Duncan McLean, Lone Star Swing: One Scotsman’s Odyssey in Search of the True Meaning of Texas Swing (New York: W. W. Norton, 1997).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Andrew Gray, "RAY, ROBERT JAMES [BUDDY]," accessed December 11, 2019, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fra90.

Uploaded on May 19, 2015. Modified on October 31, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...