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With five platinum records and fifteen number-one singles to his credit, country star Collin Raye is one of the most successful recording artists to ever have emerged from Arkansas. Joining the ranks of acclaimed country performers Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty, and K. T. Oslin, Raye has proven to be a versatile performer, turning out diverse hits ranging from tender ballads to socially relevant tunes.
Collin Raye was born Floyd Elliott Wray on August 22, 1960, in De Queen (Sevier County). His mother, Lois Wray, had achieved notoriety in the 1950s as a regional musician, opening shows for Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins. Later in her solo career, Raye’s mother had Raye and his older brother accompany her on stage to perform harmony vocals.
When Raye was a young boy, his family relocated to Texas. He and his brother, Scott, formed the Wray Brothers Band when he was thirteen. Using the stage name Bubba Wray, Raye eventually began performing with his brother in the Pacific Northwest before moving to Reno, Nevada, where they played in casinos and nightclubs.
Raye married Connie Parker in 1980, and they had two children. They later divorced.
The Wrays recorded a number of singles which subsequently attracted the attention of Mercury Records in Nashville, Tennessee. Mercury released two of their singles in 1986 and 1987. Around that time, Scott Wray opted to stop touring. Raye also considered giving up touring. But he persevered, eventually landing a recording deal with Epic Records.
His debut album, All I Can Be (1991), contained the number-one hit “Love, Me,” as well as “Every Second,” a tune that reached number two on the country music charts. The title cut of In This Life (1992) was a number-one hit, while “Somebody Else’s Moon” and “That Was a River” were top-five singles. The critically acclaimed Extremes (1994) featured another number one, “My Kind of Girl,” as well as the up-tempo hit “That’s My Story” and the poignant “Little Rock.” Raye’s fourth album, I Think about You (1995), was also his fourth consecutive platinum record. It was noted for the top-five hits, “One Boy, One Girl,” and “I Think about You,” and “What If Jesus Comes Back Like That.” A 1998 Christmas project containing the single “The Gift” won a Dove Award from the Nashville-based Gospel Music Association. Raye’s other releases include Live at Billy Bob’s Texas (a DVD), Twenty Years and Change (2004), and Fearless (2006) for independent labels. In 2007, Raye’s Selected Hits was released on his own label, StarPointe. In 2009, he released Never Going Back. Late in 2011, he released the album His Love Remains, consisting of spiritual and inspirational music.
Noted for a number of issue-related songs, Raye has been recognized for his humanitarian work with organizations ranging from Al-Anon, Special Olympics, Boys Town, and Easter Seals to Country Cares About AIDS, Childhelp USA, and the Tennessee Task Force Against Domestic Violence.Though reluctant to endorse companies or particular products, in 2005 Raye sang a humorous commercial jingle, “You Can’t Over-Love Your Underwear,” for Fruit of the Loom.
Raye received nominations for male vocalist of the year by the Academy of Country Music in 1998 and the Country Music Association (CMA) in 1996 and 1997. His singles, “Love, Me” and “Little Rock” were CMA song of the year nominees in 1992 and 1994, respectively. In 2004, he published his autobiography, A Voice Undefeated, which recounts, in part, his conversion to Catholicism when he was twenty-three.
For additional information:Carlin, Richard. Country Music: A Biographical Dictionary. New York: Routledge, 2003.
“Collin: A Real Hero.” Country Weekly, March 5, 2001.
Collin Raye. http://www.collinraye.com/ (accessed February 26, 2013).
“Collinfest at De Queen.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 24, 2005, p. 2W.
Hornaday, Sarah. “Country Balladeer Puts Life, a Little Rock, into Lyrics for Austin Livestock and Rodeo.” Austin American-Statesman, March 19, 1996.
McCloud, Barry, ed. Definitive Country: The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Country Music and Its Performers. New York: Berkley Publishing Group, 1995.
Raye, Colin. A Voice Undefeated. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2014.
Greg FreemanSouthern Edition
Last Updated 11/8/2016
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