About The Artist
Ray "Chubby" Howard ranked as one of the more notable pedal steel guitarists, working with Johnny Bush and Boxcar Willie among others. He also worked for ten years on the staff band at the Renfro Valley Barn Dance. A native of Goose Rock, Kentucky, Howard's family migrated to Franklin, Ohio where he completed high school. In later years, he spent 25 years as a disc jockey at WBZI radio in Xenia, Ohio where he gained wide respect.
Chubby's family had musical interests that preceded his birth. A grandfather or great-uncle John Henry Howard recorded for Gennett in 1925, playing in a style somewhat similar to Uncle Dave Macon. In the late thirties, his father bought him one of the first electric steel guitars, a Silvertone from Sears, Roebuck & Co.
Howard served in the Navy during the latter part of World War II and later often worked for Steve Lake, a jewelry store owner who ran Chautauqua Park, a local music park. Lake's band the Swingmasters often served as a band for name country musicians on USO tours. Thus Howard worked with several of them on these tours ranging from the Statler Brothers to Crystal Gayle, Loretta Lynn, and Connie Smith. The USO tours were in the early 1950's and took him to the Far East, Alaska and Greenland.
Chubby spent nearly a decade in the northwest in the town of Tacoma, WA. In 1970, he was a disc jockey over KAYE out of Puyallup. He was interviewed by Rod Cardwell at his home in March 1970 and they got to talking about country music. Chubby said, "They used to call it hillbilly, then country western, and not it's just plain country."
Chubby was playing steel guitar for Jack Roberts and his Evergreen Drifters, doing apperances around the northwest.
Chubby told Mr. Cardwell, "I don't read music and the biggest percentage — 80 per cent, I'd say — of the country (music) people don't read it. ... Country is something I think you more or less learn from the heart."
The interview with Mr. Cardwell tells of how Chubby came to Tacoma. He was playing guitar five days a week in 1958 on a Tampa, FL television station. His wife was a native of Tacoma. Her parents took ill and his wife went back to Tacoma. Chubby went with her thinking it would be a one month leave of absence. He liked it so much, he decided to settle there. He said there was hardly any country music when he got to the northwest. He was playing regularly on the "Evergreen Jubilee" on Channel 4 and had his own show, "Western Jamboree."
Chubby first introduced Mike Stanton on television. That led to him becoming part of the Judy Lynn show in Las Vegas.
On August 30, 1970, "Country Western Jamboree" premiered on Channel 13 in Tacoma. Grover Jackson and Chubby Howard were the co-hosts. Their first guests were Mike Stanton and Judy Lynn.
Rod Cardwell told readers about the album Chubby did with Opry veteran Shot Jackson. It was produced by Bill Wiley's WASP Records in their studio on north 46 th Street in Tacoma. It was called "Nashville NOrthwest." The album caught on a bit and a single was released from it - "I'll Be All Smiles Tonight" b/w "Maiden's Prayer." Chubby told Mr. Cardwell he was getting letters from Alaska to Florida.
Bill Wiley's studio was known to many musicians that came through Tacoma. His studio had signs such as "My Time Is Your Money. Let's Not Waste Either." Or, "Where the Hell Is The Melody?" The album by Shot and Chubby was the studio's first album project after having done about 45 singles. He said he taped just about everything, but his first love was country. He told Mr. Cardwell:
"The country tune always fits some situation you've had in your life. Some poor cat wrote it because it happened to him, which means its happened to about everybody."
In December 1971, Chubby sent a letter to his friend, Mike Stanton (a steel guitar player from Parkland, WA) who was in Las Vegas working on the Judy Lynn show. He told him that KAYE listeners had chosen Mike as their favorite country instrumentalist. By that time, Mike had been promoted to Judy Lynn's adviser and arranger.
Chubby made a trip to Nashville toward the end of 1971. Shot was a well-known guitar manufacturer and one of the steel guitars he was making was going to be given to Chubby as a Christmas present. Chubby was going to visit his parents in Franklin, OH on that trip as well.
In July of 1972, Rod Cardwell told readers that Paula and Bill Wolfe had joined Pat Roberts' Evergreen Drifters group. The sister - brother team had previously had their own band. Bill played lead guitar. Paula was a steel guitar player. In fact, Paula was replacing Chubby Howard in the Roberts' group. Chubby had left Tacoma for the next stop in his career, Ohio.
In July 1978, Chubby joined radio station WCNW in Fairfield, OH as their weekday music host from 1 to 6pm. He had been working for the previous four and a half years as the WPFB weekend and vacation relief disc jockey. In May of 1979, Jack Reno took over Chubby's slot on WCNW.
As a sideman for Boxcar Willie, Chubby backed him on the Opry some 26 times. His work with WBZI began in June 1998, the station eventually expanded to three stations known as Real Roots Radio.
Chubby took part in various musical events. In April 1991, he performed at the Fourth Annual Derby City Steel Guitar Convention in Louisville. Famed steel players such as Ron Elliott, Stu Basore, Hal Rugg, Gene O'Neal, Jimmy Day, Stoney Stonecipher and of course Chubby Howard. The Saturday portion of the convention had an admission price of $15. The show would feature over 14 steel players - pedal steel, lap steel and National steel. The organizer of the two day event, Tuck Raisor, said he does a lot of "hair-pulling" to get the event together. He ends up $200 - $300 in the hole and really didn't plan on making any money. His vision for the future was to have it spread over 3 or 4 days. The timing of the event was planned - another hope was to have it become an 'official' Kentucky Derby Festival event, but he didn't know where to start to make it happen.
In 2015, he was elected to the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame. On his own, Chubby did not record extensively, but did make a couple of cassettes and also a steel and Dobro cassette with Shot Jackson that was also released on a compact disc.
Credits & Sources
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