Billy Ray Lathum

American Bluegrass/Country banjo player. Born January 12, 1938 in Wild Cat Corner, Arkansas. Died August 19, 2018. He was a member of the The Kentucky Colonels (1961- 1974) and The Dillards (1974-’78).
At about 10 years old his family relocated to Michigan. As a young teen a friend gave him a banjo. He fashioned a pick out of a Prince Albert can and taught himself to play. He and his friend played a couple of songs on a local radio show and shortly after formed the Cumberland Mountain Gang.
After being laid off Latham and his brother moved to California where he was hired to teach a young Barbara Mandrell how to play the banjo by her father. In 1958 after being heard in a local music store, Latham was invited by Clarence White to join his family band, Three Little Country Boys - which became just Country Boys after adding Billy. The Country Boys were in high demand and shared the stage with artists like Muddy Waters and Johnny Cash. They made appearance on The Andy Griffith Show. Several of their songs from the show were featured on the album Themes and Laughs from the Andy Griffith Show. When they recorded their first album in 1962 the label had them change their name to the Kentucky Colonels. The Kentucky Colonels were regulars on Cousin Herb Henson’s “Trading Post” show on KERO-TV in Bakersfield.
Latham toured with Rick Nelson and was recorded on two of his albums.
Latham briefly joined Doug Dillard and the Expedition then formed his own group Country Gazette, but soon joined The Dillards. Soon after a chance meeting with a new up and coming artist, Elton John lead to the Dillards serving as his opening act. They also toured on their own and pulled a record 25,000 person crowd at the Wolf Trap in Washington, DC and appeared on several television shows including the Midnight Special and Don Kirshner's Rock Concert.
Latham left the Dillards in 1979 and began playing guitar and singing harmony for Mary Arnold. After leaving he settled in California again, playing with some local bands are remarrying. He and his wife formed a duo and played and recorded locally.
In the 1990s Latham discontinued playing due to complications from ulcerated colitis. In the mid '90s he recorded two albums with Laurel Canyon Ramblers but had to leave in 1997 for surgery.
Soon after Latham moved to Kentucky to join Soulgrass. During his stay he lived in Horse Cave, Glasgow and Franklin. A car accident in 2004 crushed his arm. In 2009 he was working to relearn how to play his instruments and living just north of Nashville.
In Groups:


BGOCD357 Billy Ray Lathum - Kentucky Colonels  album art Kentucky Colonels* Featuring Roland* & Clarence White (2) With Billy Ray Latham*, Roger Bush, Bobby Slone & Leroy Mack Kentucky Colonels* Featuring Roland* & Clarence White (2) With Billy Ray Latham*, Roger Bush, Bobby Slone & Leroy Mack - Kentucky Colonels (CD, Album, RE, RM) BGO Records BGOCD357 UK 1997 Sell This Version
DBL/BRL 1001 Billy Ray Lathum - Live In Stereo album art Billy Ray Lathum Presents The Kentucky Colonels Billy Ray Lathum Presents The Kentucky Colonels - Live In Stereo(CD, Album) Double Barrel Records (3) DBL/BRL 1001 US 1999 Sell This Version
SRCD-1005 Billy Ray Lathum - Rare Performance album art Bush*, Lathum* And White* Bush*, Lathum* And White* - Rare Performance (Album) Shikata Records SRCD-1005 US 2003 Sell This Version