About The Artist
Ray Anderson spent more than two decades in music and about five decades in the ministry with a few years of overlapping in the middle. While his recording activity produced no real hits, he did turn out some memorable topical songs that still attract attention. His long work as clergyman included a quarter century as pastor at the Roosevelt Avenue Church of God in Cincinnati, Ohio where he was much loved.
By his own account, Ray was born in Webster County, West Virginia, but some sources place it in Nicholas County, the son of Jesse and Bessie Anderson. Apparently his mother died at an early age and he was reared by an aunt in Zanesville, Ohio. However, he remained in close touch with his father as they are pictured together as adults in at least two of his songbooks. Like most young men of his generation, he served in World War II and perhaps afterward for as much as five years. Growing up in a country music atmosphere, he seemingly wished to pursue a musical career following his release.
The next few years of Ray's life are somewhat confusing in terms of chronology. He often begins with an account of an Opry audition under the watchful eyes and ears of George D. Hay who told him to come back when he sounded like Ray Anderson, not Hank Williams. If so, this must have been 1947 or later as Williams would not have been known to the "Old Judge" before that time. Be that as it may, Anderson soon joined Radio Dot [Henderson] and Smoky [Swan] and seemingly also worked with Dot's brother Jack Henderson.
In 1949, he was at radio station WHOK in Lancaster, a new outlet that had just gone on the air the previous October. Mary Jean Shurtz reported in a short note in her column in July/August 1959 that Ray and Tommy Steph had signed a recording contract with Donnett Hit Records. By 1950, he had gone on to WHTN in Huntington, a station that had several live country acts on its roster including Jimmie Skinner. Mary Jean Shurtz told readers in her Cowboy Songs column that Ray was spinning records about 25 hours a week at the station as well as three and a half hours of live entertainment.
In 1950, Anderson made four recordings on the Nashville-based Jamboree label, all of which showed a heavy Hank Williams influence, especially his topical "Draft Board Blues," which combines elements of "Lovesick Blues" and "Long Gone Lonesome Blues." Such might have prompted George D. Hay to say, "new lyrics, same Williams!"
Except for a single song on Cozy in 1951, Ray then shifted his recording activities to Cincinnati and the Carl Burkhardt labels.
Anderson's career with the Burkhardt firms (Kentucky, Gateway Big 4, etc.) included his cold war classic "Stalin Kicked the Bucket," other originals, and covers of Hank Williams hits. About this time, he also began doing deejay work at WCHO in Washington Court House, issuing more song books.
At some point working as bass player for the Osborne Brothers and Red Allen who were starting to make a name for themselves at the WWVA Jamboree, and recording such bluegrass classics on MGM as "Once More" and "Ruby, Are You Mad at Your Man."
While Ray did not work on their sessions-held in Nashville-the Osbornes backed him on some sacred recordings cut for Ray's own Mountaineer Records at WWVA. These included a Williams tribute, "The World Lost a Star." Anderson also cut a country single in Wheeling on the Admiral label owned by Dusty Owens.
Country & Western Jamboree published a yearbook in 1958 and among the Fan Club registry listings was one for Ray Anderson; the president was listed as Betty Adams of Ohio.
Ray's next venture into recording produced another topical classic, this time for Starday built around the Soviet launch of the dog-carrying space satellite, "Sputniks and Muttniks," which had a near rockabilly flavor and has been reissued twice.
He also did a second single for Don Pierce's label and a sacred four-song EP. After that, he seems to have not recorded again until the mid-1960's.
About 1963, Anderson had a conversion experience and in 1965 entered the ministry. For the rest of his life he pastored at least three churches, all in the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee.). He also started a couple of record labels—G R S (Gospel Recording Service) and later Victory.
He recorded relatively well-known figures such as Molly O'Day and Lynn Davis, Carl Story, and Zeke Hoskins and the Country Gospel-Aires.
However, most recorded were he and his wife Maxine, and a family of musicians surnamed Roar associated with his pastorate at the Richmond Dale, Ohio Church of God.
The collapse of the Silver Bridge spanning the Ohio River at Point Pleasant, West Virginia, on December 15, 1967 inspired Anderson's talent for topical material once again and he came up with and recorded within 48 hours "Silver Bridge Disaster," which was patterned after Ernest Stoneman's "The Titanic."
As Ray recalled, it was out by Christmas. Later, he cut a second Silver Bridge song, "Why Did It Happen?" in essence new lyrics to Jack Cardwell's "Death of Hank Williams," which appeared only on the Silver Bridge LP, along with ten of his original sacred songs. By 1970, he thought the single had sold between 11,000 and 12,000 copies.
In 1969, based on the moon landing, he did a single "Man on the Moon," which came out on his Victory label. This seems to have ended his recording efforts. Lynn Davis thought Ray got into financial difficulties and sold his O'Day-Davis masters, much to Lynn's chagrin.
A little later, Ray relocated to Waynesville, Ohio and finally settled in Camden, Ohio, but pastored from 1984 at the Roosevelt Avenue Church of God. Not entirely eschewing music, he still had a gospel program (Country Camp Meeting) at WCNW in Fairfield at the age of 78.
In the meantime his wife, the former Maxine Elouise Lehman, who he had married in Highlands, Florida on February 10, 1942, passed away on April 24, 1999. In 2003. a son, who was born on November 3, 1943, Lawrence Charles Anderson died on February 11, 2003.
In 2000, he remarried a woman named Shirley Tucker.
Ray died at age 84, survived by daughter Vicki Anderson Kindel, who lived in Alabama.
Musically, Ray Anderson was never a star, but a musician who had a most interesting life.
Credits & Sources
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