Collin Raye

Anyone who is familiar with Collin Raye’s music knows there is so much more to him than country hit records. He has the kind of voice that can do justice to just about any song he chooses to sing. He regularly steps out of that comfort zone and performs a variety of musical projects in addition to the variety he includes in his live performances. The beauty of his shows lies in the simplicity, letting the words, music and his voice blend together rather than compete.
Last time he was in Laughlin, he and his trio of musicians, paid homage to artists we had lost at the time—Glenn Frey and Merle Haggard. But then he also tackled “American Pie,” as if he had originally recorded it. It’s probably one of the toughest songs to perform considering its 14 some-odd stanzas and seven repeats of the chorus, but it was one of the highlights of the show.
He performs songs by one of his good friends, Glen Campbell, on a pretty regular basis. But this time they will take on a little deeper meaning because of Campbell’s passing in August.
“My hero… my friend… Glen Campbell, is gone,” he stated. “My heart is heavy. A lot of memories…the end to a beautiful era in music. His incredible legacy is what we have now. Thank you, my friend, for always treating me as an equal, though clearly I am not. May God comfort your sweet family, and welcome you into His presence. The Heavenly Band, just got way better. I love you, Glen. Happy Trails.”
Raye knew from the beginning about Campbell’s battle with Alzheimer’s and decided to record an album of Campbell’s best-loved songs while he was still aware and able to understand. He wanted him to know what he was doing, why, and most important, he wanted his blessing. So in 2013, Raye released Still on the Line, The Songs of Glen Campbell. The album features Ricky Skaggs and Billy Dean performing on classic Campbell hits.
Of course the show will reflect his own career and the connection he’s had with Nevada for decades.
It was Nevada, not Nashville where he first became a successful entertainer. For many years, he and his brother Scott, a.k.a. The Wray Brothers, worked in Oregon and then in casinos in Las Vegas and Reno. They even made it to Laughlin back in the ’80s. Along the way, he discovered he could sing just about anything audiences could throw at him.
He made his inroads into the Nashville country scene in the early ’90s when he signed as a solo act with Epic Records.
A collection of romantic songs on his break-through album, All I Can Be, turned the release into an immediate best-seller, opening a flood-gate for hit song after hit song. His singles “Love Me,” “In This Life,” “That Was A River,” “One Boy, One Girl,” “My Kind of Girl,” and “That’s My Story,” were among the more than 20 Raye hits making it to the Top Ten. He soon became known for his “message songs”—works like “Little Rock,” “Love Me” and “Not That Different.” These songs have taken on separate lives of their own with some of the songs played at weddings and lyrics carved on tombstones.
Ten times nominated as country music’s Male Vocalist of the Year, with five platinum albums and 16 No. 1 records, Raye has consistently used his stardom to advocate and advance a lot of social causes. At the 2001 Country Radio Seminar, Clint Black presented Raye with the organization’s Humanitarian of the Year award for his issue-oriented music and his tireless charity work.
Raye continues to tour and perform, with regular stops in Laughlin, and we’ve talked to him pretty often over the years. Here’s his take…

Talk a little about what Glen Campbell meant to you.
Raye: I do a couple of Glen Campbell songs in the show. I just idolized him as a kid watching “The Glen Campbell Good Time Hour” on CBS. I’d never seen a show like that, it was entertaining, they had comedy, and all that, like all TV variety shows at the time did. But it was about the music and he’d have Bob Dylan on, or Johnny Cash on—it was an incredible musical show. I always thought he hung the moon. Eventually, when I got into the business, I got to know him and we became friends. He was always so kind to me.

Do you have a good story about him you can share?
Raye: One of the coolest moments ever was when the Academy of Country Music chose me to be the guy to induct him into the Hall of Fame. I’ll never forget that. That was really special and I’ll never forget that, and I’ll always be thankful that they chose me. I’m sure a lot of artists at the time would have loved to have had that job—they just knew that I just loved Glen so much that I was a good fit for that.

Talk about recording Still on the Line.
Raye: When we first heard he had Alzheimer’s, I wanted to make that record while he could still comprehend it. So often we wait until someone’s dead, or in the case of Alzheimer’s, where they don’t know what’s going on, before we pay tribute to them. I wanted him to know it and hear it. I’m so proud of that record—so proud of it. We didn’t take many liberties with those songs. We changed the instrumentation just a little bit, to make some of his more pop sounding records sound a little more organic and things like that, but for the most part, it was true to Glen. The bonus of doing an album like that is that it gives me the license to play some of that music in the live show. I like to sing “Gentle On My Mind,” “Galveston,” and “Rhinestone Cowboy” anytime I want—and have a legitimate right to do ’em, because I cut ’em.

Experiencing a ’90s music resurgence…
Raye: I always try to stay as relevant as possible. I’ve been playing a lot with a lot of friends of mine from that era, and we’re all saying the same thing. There seems to be a growing demand for acts from the ’90s—my radio era. And not just by die-hard fans. Promoters, different venues and festivals are really wanting us on their bills now. The only thing I can make of that is I think people are getting kind of tired of the whole “bro-country” deal and miss the good songs, and the artists from that era.
When Garth decided to do his world tour, I saw that as an indicator because he doesn’t do anything that isn’t calculated, researched and thought out. If he’s planning on making his big comeback now, that means something. The rest of us can kind of benefit from that—the same way we did the first go-round.

Maintaining the voice…
Raye: I’ve been able to maintain my range. That is an amazing thing to me. I can still sing them the exact same way—and in many ways I think I sing ’em better because as you get older you start to develop a character to your voice that wasn’t there when you were younger.

Your thoughts on your music as part of people’s lives?
Raye: Not a show or meet-and-greet goes by that someone doesn’t ask, “Are you gonna sing ‘The Gift’ or ‘If I Were You,’ or ‘In This Life, or ‘One Boy, One Girl, because “that was our wedding song.”
“One Boy, One Girl” is one I would never have thought was a wedding song, but a lot of people relate to how the couple meets in that song. Sometimes they use album cuts that never made it to radio. “All My Roads” has been played at a ton of weddings.
The other side of that are funerals. That is a tremendous compliment. Because weddings and funerals are significant moments in people’s lives—when they’re starting life together or when they’re celebrating someone’s life at the end—for your music to be included in that is about as good as it gets.

Playing Laughlin again…
Raye: I always love coming down there. I love playing the Riverside because it’s one of those rare places I stay in one place for more than one day and I get to enjoy it. Of course, it’s gonna be good and hot down there. You can always dive into the Colorado River. How cold it is always surprises everyone.

Talk about the show you’re bringing back to the Riverside?
Raye: This is a trio show with me on guitar, my fiddle and mandolin player and a pianist. I love our band and getting in there and playing loud and going at it, but I really enjoy the trio shows a bit more. It’s a little more musical, it’s more intimate. I can tell my little stories and my little jokes and just talk about the music and do a few songs that I wouldn’t do in a larger venue. I enjoy that more, actually.

Collin Raye

Don’s Celebrity Theater at the Riverside Resort

Thurs-Sat, September 14-16 8 p.m. (See “Showtimes” for tickets)