Member Since 1966
Ray Pillow has made his mark on country music not just as a first-rate hit-maker but also as a music publisher.
He learned to play guitar as a teen, graduated from high school, and joined the Navy. After his discharge, he got a degree in Business Administration from Lynchburg College in Virginia.
“My first professional appearance was at the VFW Hall in Appomattox, Virginia,” Ray recalls. “I sort of got talked into substituting for a sick member of my uncle’s band. When I walked out on the stage to the microphone, I knew what I wanted to do ... but I didn’t know if I could do it. After I finished and heard the applause, I knew I was doing what I had wanted to do all along.”
Ray came to Nashville in 1961 as a regional winner in the Pet Milk Talent Contest. He came in second in the national finals, but his performance landed him a guest spot on the Grand Ole Opry. That just fueled his desire for a country music career.
He released his first two singles, “Take Your Hands Off My Heart” and “Thank You Ma’am,” in 1965. Capitol released his first album, Presenting Ray Pillow, and by late 1966 he was a star. That was the year he teamed with Opry star Jean Shepard on a pair of hits, the Top 10 “I’ll Take the Dog” and “Mr. Do-It-Yourself.” Between those two singles, he became an Opry member himself.
Ray’s other hits included “Volkswagen,” “Common Colds and Broken Hearts,” and “Reconsider Me.” In 1994, the state of Virginia added him to its Country Music Hall of Fame.
In addition to his own performing career, Ray has helped shape the professional paths of others, including Lee Greenwood. His publishing company published many of Lee’s hits, including the 1985 CMA Song of the Year, “God Bless the USA.” Ray is well known on Music Row as a publisher who can match the right artist with the right song and recording company.
Although he knew he was country, Ray has never been a “rhinestone cowboy.” In fact, several record producers told him that he should be a pop singer, because he looked like one. “But I didn’t want to be a pop singer,” Ray says. “A country singer is all I’m ever going to be. I sing what I like to sing.” Just as he sang that night years ago in Virginia.
Ray Pillow - Country Class
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Birthplace: Lynchburg, Virginia
Birth Date: July 04
Opry Induction: April 30, 1966