Monday, October 1, 2012

Eddie Ray - "Against All Odds"

Eddie Ray is probably one of the least known, and most humble, of all the people involved in bringing R and B, and Rock and Roll records into the mainstream media. His career has taken him from the stockroom; filling orders at Aladdin Records for Leo and Eddie Mesner; and on into the boardrooms of major record companies during the last days of Jim Crow. And, if you listen to music of any genre, Eddie Ray has had a hand in bringing many of those artists and composers who created that music, into millions of homes.

Mr. Ray was appointed by President Reagan as a U.S. Copyright Commissioner to serve on the U.S. Copyright Royalty Tribunal during the early 1980’s. As the technology surrounding music changed, so did the way in which the artists needed to be compensated. Mr. Ray helped create copyright regulations which provided a substantial increase in royalty fees for the Artists and composers who created the music. The aim was to be fair to the listening public, the artist and the copyright users. This has not always been easy.
I am privileged to have had the chance to ask Mr. Ray a few questions about his remarkable career, spanning almost 7 decades! You can usually find him at the NC Music Hall of Fame, located in the old jailhouse in Kannapolis, North Carolina. In addition to overseeing the activities of the Hall of Fame, and attending to various Award Ceremonies, he has found the time to pen a memoir about his extraordinary life, both on, and off, the road. The book, titled “Against All Odds” is due out shortly, and will also explore the evolution of the process by which the artists receive their fair share of the profits, as well as the challenges of staying abreast of the newer technologies. Here are the questions, posed by my alter ego “RT” for Rooftop Reviews, followed by Mr. Ray's responses;
RT. What is your first memory of music? Was it in your home, or church? And did you have a radio, Victrola or an instrument in your home?
Eddie Ray: My first memory of music was in my home and to a lesser degree in churches. We always had a radio and victrola in our home and I constantly listened to all genres of music. However, the primary genres of music that were broadcasts on radio stations that we were able to receive at that time in the mountains of NC were Big Band, Country, and what I refer to as White Gospel/Sacred music. My mother and I would also listen every Sunday morning to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir from Salt Lake City and The Wings over Jordan Choir from a Black church in Cleveland, Ohio.
RT. What were your parents like? How did their relationship with you relate to your life in reference to perseverance and self-esteem, traveling in the Jim Crow South, and later navigating the white dominated corporate world?
Eddie Ray: Neither of my parents had a formal education beyond high school but both were highly intelligent and hard workers who under a severe racial discrimination and segregation system achieved a very successful life for themselves and their family. Perhaps even more importantly, they both possessed a high esteem of themselves and maintained a strong self confidence that they could succeed in spite of the racial restrictions and negative thoughts that others may have of them. All these extremely positive attitudes that they possessed were instilled in me and my siblings and we were constantly reminded that our ultimate fate was in our hands only.
RT. Does it astound you when you think of all the lives that your career has touched, from the artists to the listener? And are you cognizant of the impact which the music you helped to present had on society, and how that has affected the world today, from music to politics?
Eddie Ray: I am often asked if I am aware of the positive impact that I may have had on the lives of others. That is something that never crossed my mind during my career. I was only concerned with doing the best job that I could with every project that I undertook. That is what my parents had instilled in me. Also, in spite of whatever success I may have achieved in any of my projects, I was still searching for the REAL purpose of my life. Although, I always enjoyed whatever project that I accepted, I thought that there must be something more important that I should be doing with my life. However, as I grew older and finally began to listen to many people that thank me for the impact that my efforts have had upon their lives, I began to realize that perhaps I had being doing what I was destined to do. Yes, I do believe that the legendary musical artists and great music and songs with which I have been associated did and will continue to have a positive impacted upon politics, racial justice and society in general. I am honored that I had a small part in bringing these artists and their music to the public, but the credit should go to these wonderful artists and songwriters, and not to me.
RT. What do you think it is about you that draws people to you? What is the magic behind Eddie Ray?
Eddie Ray: If I do possess anything special that attracts people to me, I am not aware of what it is. I am basically an introvert and rather shy, especially when I meet new people. However, I cannot explain how I was so successful as a national sales and promotion person with major radio/television disc jockeys. Also, how I was also successful as an executive in negotiating agreements with major recording artists/songwriters and their agents/attorneys and later with US Congress members and national copyright Owners/Users as a US Commissioner of Copyrights and Chairman of the US Copyright Royalty Tribunal.
RT. Finally, how do you maintain your level of interest in all that you do? How would you like to be remembered; in terms of your accomplishments; or is there something more that you hope to leave behind as a statement of who you are?
Eddie Ray: I have never been concerned about if or how I may be remembered after my death. I have always been more concerned about establishing a productive and enjoyable relationship with people while we are alive. I have even asked my family not to have a funeral for me. I want my ashes to be spread in a particular place in the peaceful, blue waters of the Pacific Ocean.
For a short biography about Eddie Ray's remarkable career, please visit his Wikipedia page at; 
And for a short video which outlines some of the subjects and artists which will be covered in the book, hit this You Tube link;

For more information about the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame, and upcoming events, go to;
The following short synopsis of the book was provided by Mr. Ray. And you can be sure that you will be reading my review here very shortly.

“An incredible journey from the racially segregated mountains of Western North Carolina as a youth; to the smoldering heat of tobacco fields as a farm laborer in Glastonbury, Connecticut; to the shipping department of Decca Records Distributing Company as a stock boy in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; to a skid-row hotel room in Los Angeles, California, working as a dish washer in a sea food restaurant; to a major music company executive in Hollywood and Beverly Hills, California as well as Memphis, Tennessee; to a founder and president of the Tennessee College of Recording Arts and Sciences in Memphis, Tennessee; to a Presidential Nomination and US Senate Ratification as a United States Commissioner for Copyrights in Washington, DC; to an Induction into the Music Hall of Fame in his home State of North Carolina.”

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