Ray Ruff

Real Name:Marvin Ray Ruffin

Ray Ruff, a pivotal figure in the north Texas music scene, filled a number of different roles in the music industry over his lifetime. He was born in Amarillo, Texas on March 24, 1938. In 1956, Ray was playing semi-pro baseball for Amarillo against the team from Lubbock, and met one of the opposing team members, a 20-year-old Buddy Holly. They became fast friends and Buddy invited him to see Elvis Presley in Lubbock. Buddy decided to go pro with his rock band The Crickets, and Ray tagged along for fun with Buddy to radio disc jockey Bob Montgomery’s studio at KDAV radio. Buddy introduced him to the record producer Norman Petty in 1957, and soon Ray was trailing along with the band going to Petty’s recording studio sessions in Clovis, New Mexico. Ray decided this was the life for him, and went on the road with Buddy and The Crickets that year, as a roadie and musical assistant with Waylon Jennings. After Buddy Holly's death, Ray formed his own rock & roll band, The Checkmates (5), and began recording songs Ray and others were writing as tribute songs to Buddy. Ray would sing them in a Buddy Holly style, wearing a spare pair of the “Wonder glasses” Buddy had given him. Ray recorded about a dozen songs from 1959 to 1964 in various places, on various labels, around the great state of Texas, until deciding he wanted to be a record producer like his friend Norman Petty, and get paid for it.

He went to Hollywood and got a meeting with famous record producer Dick Pierce at RCA Victor and was given some valuable pointers on how to record in the studio and work with artists and musicians. His first artist he personally produced was pop singer Brian Hyland on his song “Ginny Come Lately” in late 1962, when he sat in on recording sessions with the song’s writers, and producer Stan Applebaum. Ray liked it, and in 1967 he moved from Amarillo to Hollywood and began work as an A&R man for Dot Records when it was sold to Paramount Pictures. Ray brought Brian Hyland to Dot and began working with him and produced his song “Tragedy” in 1969. Ray also worked for other labels in the late 1960s, and other well-known artists. In 1967 he landed a gig at Bang Records and produced Van Morrison’s first big solo hit, “Brown-Eyed Girl”, which Ray also recorded in another excellent version in 2003 for country-western star Tony Brantley. Ray also worked in the late 1960s for record labels Era and Happy Tiger with Anita Kerr, who was also busy at Warner Bros. working with poet Rod McKuen on their successful series of “The Sea, The Earth, The Sky” albums of orchestra music and poetry.

Flush with cash, but still frustrated by not having control over the music he was recording for others, Ray decided to start up his own record company. In the early 1960s, he had created his own record label called Ruff Records (2), noteworthy for its recording of garage rock bands including Kansas band The Blue Things. He had also been a partner in Sully Records, taking it over from Gene Sullivan in the mid-1960s and moving its home quarters from Oklahoma City to Amarillo. But he wanted something more polished and professional, so he founded a new record label in 1970 and called it Oak Records (2). This started a new phase in his career. For an early project, Ray hired a group of studio session players, and some very creative singers and songwriters, for his new Rock Opera of the Bible, titled TRUTH OF TRUTHS, which became a musical stage road show extravaganza employing up to 300 people. He recorded the entire show in a rented studio stage in Hollywood as the soundtrack album from the Rock Opera, and released both the stage show and the soundtrack album on Easter Sunday in April 1971. It was a big success, and toured the USA in six major cities in a year, and the album sold half a million copies in the 1970s. Ray moved on to many other projects, like recording two albums for Hank Williams Jr. and a bicentennial album called “Happy Birthday USA!” in 1976.

He was soon in demand by many famous names in show business, and worked hard for another 20 years, also co-founding two other record companies, Cougar Records (2) in 1994, producing a new album for Nancy Sinatra in 1995, “One More Time”, and working with Outwest Entertainment Inc. in 1998. After the turn of the century, Ray decided to record once again on his Oak Records label, and began auditioning new Country-Western artists for his company. Ray also recorded a new Country-Western Rock Opera in 2001, titled “Billy the Kid”, a romance of the Old West narrated by a cowboy actor. Ray often recorded with singer Pat Boone, and his last two albums as producer were on Pat Boone’s “Ready To Rock” in 2004 and his last, “Gospel Train” in 2005.

Ray passed away on September 15, 2005.
In Groups:The Checkmates (5)
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