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Vernon "Lucky" Wray was born on January 7, 1924 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He learned to play guitar when he was 11 years old.
In 1943, Vernon's family moved to Portsmouth Virginia. His first job as a professional musician was playing drums and singing with a trio in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He later played doghouse and electric bass.
When his brothers Link and Doug were old enough, they started their own band. Names changed according to the venues they played - Lucky Wray and the Lazy Pine Wranglers...Lucky Wray and the Palomino Ranch Hands...(the "Lucky" was Vernon, picking up his nickname for his success at gambling.)
The band consisted of Vernon on rhythm guitar, Link on lead guitar and Doug on drums. They were later joined by Dixie Neale for a short time (his brother Jack was a member of Gene Vincent's Blue Caps), as well as mainstay Brantley "Shorty" Horton on bass.
Always the entrepreneur, Vernon had the first taxi license in Portsmouth. His nights were spent honing his craft in the clubs and honky-tonks around the Navy Yard.
The band, minus Dixie, moved to the country music hotbed of Washington DC in 1955. It was there they played the clubs until Vernon had the hit "Evil Angel" in 1957. The band then had a four million selling smash in 1958...the seminal "Rumble". The group was then going by the name Link Wray and the Ray Men.
Vernon - who had established a solo music career as "Ray Vernon" - released sides for Kay, Starday, Cameo and Liberty Records. He had one of the first DIY record labels - Rumble Records - in 1961. He also went on to host "The Milt Grant Show", DC's answer to American Bandstand.
Vernon continued to work with the Ray Men, moving "behind the scenes" as manager and producer. He moved his recording studio from Washington DC down to his spread in Accokeek Maryland. First stop was in the basement of Vernon's home.
Too loud for Vernon's wife Evelyn, he moved the studio across the street in a building that housed Wray Grocery (always the entrepreneur...). Final, and most famously, the studio ended up in an outbuilding on the property and christened "Wray's Shack 3 Tracks".
"The Shack" was a busy place. All of Link and the Ray Men's classic Swan tracks were recorded there, as well as too many local musicians to count. The last recordings in Accokeek saw major label interest - Mordecai Jones and Link's solo debut on Polydor Records, as well as the UK issued "Beans and Fatback", studio outtakes of the Link Wray LP.
In 1972, Vernon decided he wanted to "mellow out", so he started working solo - just him and his acoustic guitar. He packed up and moved to Tucson Arizona, taking a talisman of sorts with him - the back wall of the legendary "Shack".
Vernon may have wanted to "mellow out" but he kept very busy. He became the "artist in residence" at the Plaza International Hotel, playing gigs seven nights a week with occasional jaunts to Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington D.C. His repertoire included songs from the Big Band era, Sons of the Pioneers, Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, John Prine, his idol Kris Kristofferson and of course original compositions, having written over 200 songs, some with brothers Link and Doug.
While in Tucson, Vernon began to act, getting movie work in Kris Kristofferson's "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore". He also filmed four episodes of TV's "Gunsmoke".
Using the back wall of the original "Shack", Vernon reconstructed it, complete with an upgrade from 3 to 8 track recording. Now dubbed "Vernon Wray's Record Factory", he continued his production work for Tucson musicians. He also released his final two works, "Superstar At My House" available on cassette and 8 track only, as well as "Wasted", both on his Vermillion Records label. Now incredibly rare, these highly sought after collectibles command top dollar prices.
Vernon passed away in 1979. In 2010, WASTED was re-released by the independent label Sebastian Speaks. Pirated CDs of WASTED have been sold online, but these have not been authorized by Vernon Wray Music.
It is anticipated that we will see more recordings from the archives of Vernon Wray Music in the not too distant future.