About The Artist
Ray Chaney was born in Paducah, Texas and pretty much made his country music career in Texas. He started playing around Texas back around 1945 and saw his career span into the 1970s.
His first break came when he became part of a group known as the Sunnyridge Boys in 1947. The group was entertaining the listening audiences over radio station KCNC in Fort Worth, Texas.
His next stop was a stint with Jerico Jerry and the Alabama Boys over KCLE in Cleburne, Texas. The show / act also included Frank Wyatt. Their emcee was Hank Craig. A 1970 article notes that both Rank and Hank were deceased by that time.
In 1948, he became part of a band that was touring the club circuit in California. That band included Dub "Cannonball" Taylor. No mention was made of what band that was but the article points out that he returned to his Fort Worth roots in 1949.
He found work at the Wagonwheel Club as part of the Willie Cooper and the Louisiana Ramblers act.
His next stop was in 1950 when he started working at the then new HIllbilly Inn located at 609 Jennings in Fort Worth. His tenure there was a bit longer this time, until about 1952.
That next stop was a place called Stella's Club which later became known as Rustler's Rest.
In 1953, Ray formed his Ranch Hands band and began working at the Sunset Ballroom in Fort Worth, Texas. The article mentions the makeup of the band at that time as you can see below. The band also had a 25 minute radio show on radio station KXOL which was a country station at the time. You might recognize one of the disc jockeys at the station at the time - BIll Hightower, Norm Aldon and a fellow that later found popularity on McHale's Navy and the Carol Burnett show, Tim Conway.
Around 1955, Ray got out of the music business and began driving a truck haluling rocks out of Bridgeport, Texas. But that job only lasted until 1958 when he found himself on stage at a place called Todd's Western Club. But after 22 months, management of that club decided Ray "couldn't make it". He went back to hauling rocks, but maybe management had some second thoughts because it wasn't too long before Ray returned to Todd's club.
It was during this second stint that he ran into a young guitar player that was working with Guy Rambo's band. He had heard the guy a few times and actually told him once to 'give it up'. But that guitar player had a little bit more pluck just as Ray seemed to have. Ray remarked, "It's a good thing that he (Willie Nelson) didn't listen to me."
in October of 1961, Ray opened the first generation of the Stagecoach Inn. It was located at 2408 N. Main in Forth Worth, Texas. He got the joint off to a rousing start. On opening night, he had Al Dexter of "Pistol Packin' Mama" fame as his first act. He did quite well at the location. But for whatever reason, he moved his operations in 1963 to the then Crystal Springs Ballroom and began the second generation of the Stagecoach Inn.
Ray booked quite a few of the big names of the era at his club. The names included Willie Nelson, Bob wills, Porter Wagoner, JIm Reeves, Bobby Bare and we're sure quite a few more.
The last performer to appear at the Stagecoach Inn was Tommy Duncan, shortly before he passed away on January 19, 1967. The club was destroyed by a fire.
He opened another version of the Stagecoach Inn in Fort Worth later in 1967. Bo Powell and Gene Kelly noted that it "..was one of the biggest crowds ever seen in a club in Fort Worth" when the new Stagecoach Inn opened.
But this time it may have peaked too soon. The 1970 article notes that Ray told his employees in late 1968 that if business didn't start to pick up, he was going to have to close the place.
On New Year's Eve 1968 or 1969, his old friend Willie Nelson came in to play and brought the crowds along with him. That seemed to be the spark that renewed the interest in the Stagecoach Inn.
Documenting the record labels that Ray recorded for has been a challenge. We've found the Eagle and Shah recording information. But the 1970 article mentions releases on the Try label and Blackfoot label.
The Stagecoach Inn in 1970 was located at 2514 East Belknap in Fort Worth and at the time it was "...the largest country-western night club in Fort Worth". The club was open seven days a week. The Ranch Hands usually worked from 9:00pm to 2:00am each Wednesday through Sunday and featured Don Reese. There were matinees on Sundays starting at 3:00pm that featured Dave Farley and the Sunshiners, who also appeared at the club on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Some of the musicians that Ray crossed paths with and worked with include Skip Jackson on steel guitar, Carl Vaughan, bass and rhythm guitars, Paul English, drums (Willie's drummer), Willie Nelson, lead guitar; Bill Mack; JOe Poovey (Johnny Dallas); Joe Paul Nichols; Gene Hensley; Billy Stack.
Timeline & Trivia Notes
Group Members (1953):
Group Members (1964) - first Stagecoach Inn:
Group members (1966) - Lone Star Radio Show (Bill Mack, announcer):
Group members (1970):
Credits & Sources
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