Nashville ‘A’ Team Guitarist Ray Edenton Has Died
Maybe you’re not intimately familiar with the name, but you’re most definitely familiar with the licks he played, and the songs that he helped turn into country hits and standards over decades. One of the most prolific and respected session guitarists in country music history, Ray Edenton, has died at the age of 95. He passed away Wednesday evening, September 21st.
With over 12,000 studio sessions logged, Ray Edenton was an undisputed part of Nashville’s ‘A’ Team of go-to musicians that started in the Golden Era of the 50s and lasted well into the 70s and beyond. Ray Edenton played on such iconic recordings as Roger Miller’s “King of the Road,” “Bye Bye Love” and “Wake Up Little Susie” by the Everly Brothers, and Lynn Anderson’s “Rose Garden.” The first hit he ever played on was Webb Pierce’s “There Stands the Glass” in 1953, and after his performance on “One by One” by Kitty Wells and Red Foley the following year, it was established that Edenton had a Midas touch for country music, making him in high demand.
Born Ray Quarles Edenton on November 3rd, 1926, he was part of a musical family, and was performing at square dances around his home in Mineral, Virginia with his two brothers and cousins by the age of 6. His first instrument was a banjo ukulele, and along with guitar, Edenton would play banjo, mandolin, ukulele, and sometimes bass in recording sessions as well. Though he could do it all, what Ray Edenton became best known for was playing acoustic and rhythm guitar.
After serving in the United States Army in World War II, in 1948 he began appearing on WRVA’s Old Dominion Barn Dance radio show out of Richmond every Saturday night in a group called the Korn Krackers, which also featured guitar virtuoso Joe Maphis. After spending 27 months in a VA hospital suffering from tuberculosis, Edenton moved to Tennessee and worked briefly at WNOX in Knoxville before officially moving to Nashville, and landing a regular gig playing acoustic guitar on the Grand Ole Opry.
Edenton’s first studio session came in 1949, playing a version of “Lovesick Blues” by Red Kirk for Mercury Records. After he played on Pierce’s “There Stands the Glass,” he would go on to appear on 26 of Webb’s 27 top hits. Other notable artists who took advantage of Edenton’s services over the years include Elvis Presley, Sammy Davis Jr., The Beach Boys, and later artists such as Leon Russell, Neil Young, and Reba McEntire. By 1961, he had devoted his entire career solely to studio work.
In remembering Ray Edenton’s contributions, current country guitarist Chris Scruggs remarked, “Ray was a true innovator. Even while guitar provided the backbone for country music going back to the genre’s earliest days, it was Ray who navigated the instrument’s more focused role in a modern rhythm section that also featured drums, piano, bass. He developed the ‘high G’ acoustic guitar tuning (where the G note is a light gauge plain string, tuned an octave higher than standard), the ‘Nashville tuning’ (where the low four strings on an acoustic guitar are strung with thinner strings and tuned an octave higher than normal, creating an airy, harp-like effect) and developed the ‘chank’ rhythm guitar style, where the electric guitar plays higher voiced chords behind the snare drum on the off-beat.”
Though Ray Edenton retired in 1991, he would regularly make appearances around Nashville, including an interview at the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2007 as part of the Nashville Cats series.
Ray Edenton was one of the last surviving members of the Nashville ‘A’ Team, with Charlie McCoy, steel guitar player Lloyd Green, and fiddler Buddy Spicher comprising some of the last remaining members.
September 22, 2022 @ 8:40 pm
I have listened to several of the songs mentioned in the past week or so.
Thanks for the music.
September 22, 2022 @ 9:06 pm
I must admit never known about him but I am well familiar with his work it’s amazing just how many people work behind the “scenes” & never really get credit for the work they do. Mr. Edenton was a true innovator & he made such huge impact on Country Music, thanks for the wonderful work you done & serving in the Army R.I.P. Mr. Ray Edenton
September 22, 2022 @ 10:08 pm
“In remembering Ray Edenton’s contributions, current country guitarist Chris Scruggs remarked, “Ray was a true innovator. Even while guitar provided the backbone for country music going back to the genre’s earliest days, it was Ray who navigated the instrument’s more focused role in a modern rhythm section that also featured drums, piano, bass. He developed the ‘high G’ acoustic guitar tuning (where the G note is a light gauge plain string, tuned an octave higher than standard), the ‘Nashville tuning’ (where the low four strings on an acoustic guitar are strung with thinner strings and tuned an octave higher than normal, creating an airy, harp-like effect) and developed the ‘chank’ rhythm guitar style, where the electric guitar plays higher voiced chords behind the snare drum on the off-beat.””
Find this very intriguing.
Had no idea there were so many ways to manipulate/coax different sounds out of a guitar.
September 24, 2022 @ 7:03 am
In an interview with Guitar Player magazine, Ray remembered that he came up with high G tuning with the Everly Brothers. Don Everly was using an open G tuning, which made a very “wide” sound, and Ray was trying to fill in the gaps.
September 24, 2022 @ 11:05 am
I think that is Amazing …
This is the kind of stuff that really gets my blood going
September 23, 2022 @ 4:45 am
What a guy! Hats off to a real picker. Rhythm guitar doesn’t get the same ooohh and ahhh factor that flashy lead playing elicits. But there is an art to it, for sure. I try to learn a lot of these country standards on acoustic, and there are some tricky rhythms that you discover. Fascinating commentary from Chris Scruggs. Chris is the go to historian for country guitar. Some great footage on YouTube of him demonstrating great country guitar techniques of the past. I guess Ray probably had a guitar or two strung with the light gauge, higher octave tuned strings, and probably kept it that way just for recording.I’ve long admired the old baritone guitars you would hear on trucking tunes, with the heavy gauge strings, and I’m aware of the ” tenor” guitars Gibson used to make. Maybe this was sort of a DIY tenor guitar.
Anyhow, what am impressive career Edenton had.
September 23, 2022 @ 6:34 am
Wow. What a life, and a career! Some of my favorite recordings of all-time are listed among his credits. Requiescat in pace, Ray Edenton.
Luke the Drifter
September 23, 2022 @ 8:33 am
One of my least favorite aspects of mainstream country music culture is how little respect is paid to musicianship compared to bluegrass/rock/jazz/blues. To think of how many classic sounds the Nashville A-Team was able to conjure at a moment’s notice in limited takes is genuinely amazing. I’ve seen enough discographies of the era to know Ray Edenton is on seemingly everything! I often wonder what it must have been like for guys like him, Grady Martin, Pig Robbins, etc. to turn on the radio and hear their playing on half or more of the songs they would hear.
September 24, 2022 @ 10:00 am
I don’t know where you are getting this idea, country musicians and songwriters are cited as influences by many artists from other genres and they have been written about extensively. Just like nearly every important country artist/musician cites artists/musicians from other genres as influences. The idea that classic country music is somehow not loved and respected by a wide range of people is absurd.
Luke the Drifter
September 24, 2022 @ 10:38 am
I was specifically referring to the way instrumentalists are revered by the fans. If you were at a mainstream country music festival like Fan Fair or something and someone said “Welcome our special guest Brent Mason” the amount of fans in the crowd knowledgeable enough to be excited would be miniscule even though every fan there would own hundreds of recordings with his playing on it. Compare that to bluegrass fans who speak of Kenny Baker with an esteem far surpassing the way a great Nashville fiddler like Tommy Jackson or Buddy Spicher is recognized by ordinary country fans (who mostly would say “Who?”) There just isn’t much of a “guitar hero” culture in country. Chet Atkins is probably the only non-singing guitarist with name recognition equivalent to the way rock fans know their guitarists. As evidence consider how few comments there are on the death of Ray Edenton among people who are enough of a musical degenerate to be talking in the comments section of a website like this.
September 23, 2022 @ 2:18 pm
Who’s Webb Pierce!? There Stands the Glass is a Sam Hunt song.
In all seriousness, thanks for another informative obit. As you noted, I didn’t know the name but love some Webb Pierce. It sounds like he was pretty innovative as well. He must have really understood music, which I can’t say about all guitar players, including myself. I’m curious on the Neil Young music. I remember the Harvest album being pretty country but it looks like he played on an album titled Comes a Time. I don’t think I’ve ever heard that so will check it out along with some of his other stuff.
September 29, 2022 @ 8:19 am
Just because people buy Cash middle finger shirts doesn’t mean a large audience knows and respects classic country.
Sorta like jazz. People say they like jazz. Own Miles Davis albums or a box set never opened. It sounds cultured and truth is they never listen to it but now and then say they appreciate it.
Singers drop the name Hank to rhyme with drank and that’s as classic as anyone is getting. Kane Brown for sure isn’t listening to old George Jones 1960’s cuts ever but I’m sure he’d say he loves that stuff because it’s a good thing to say etc.
September 25, 2022 @ 5:29 pm
Another great obit for another great Nashville musician. You perform a real service with these, Trigger…don’t know how you do it.
September 29, 2022 @ 4:31 pm
January 15, 2023 @ 7:36 pm
Some of the stuff you shared with me. I knew some of the artists. I did not know who wrote the songs. I remember seeing some artists at the old Grand old Opery. I was little then. It is a shame that it is changing so much and that there are so many different types now. The older country you do not hear as much. That is the same with blue grass. I grew up on old country. Many of the ones I knew are now gone. At least we can still hear them.