Rodney Lay may not have made it to the highest echelons of Country
music, but for many years, he has been representative of the
performers who have provided the backbone that keeps Country music
alive. Both Rodney’s grandfather and father were part-time musicians;
his dad playing guitar at square dances.
Rodney played from an early age and debuted publicly at his school at
age 9. He and his sister Sue, formed a double act, performing at talent
shows. When he was 15, Rodney joined Tommy Joe Ryan and the
Country Rhythm Boys, getting .00 a night.
In 1957, he formed his own band, Rodney Lay and the Off Beats,
which by 1960 had become the Rock'n'Roll band the Blazers. Lay then
took the band to Kansas City where the group recorded Teenage
Cinderalla for their own Kampus lable, making a profit of 35 cents per
record. A copy of the disc was purchsed by Johnny Tillotson’s
manager for his young singing star. However, as fate would have it, the
record was heard by an executive with Dore Records in Hollywood and
the disc was picked up and released under the banner of Rodney and
The group followed up in 1961 with Snow White/Tell Me Baby, also
released on Dore. At the suggestion of Joey Dee (and the Starliters),
the band moved to New York in 1962, where they played the
Peppermint Lounge. During the 60’s, the Blazers toured with Jerry Lee
Lewis and then from 1964 through 1966, Wanda Jackson.
However, the big turning point for Lay was in 1962. It was that year
that he met and played with Roy Clark (also managed by Jim Halsey)
in Las Vegas. Clark would later play a major part in the Lay career.
By 1965, Rodney had turned his back on Rock music. Gone were the
silver hair, silver shirts and wraparound sunglasses and in were the
denims and boots.
In 1966, Rodney became a deejay on station KGGF Coffeyville (he
stayed with the station until 1972), the following year, putting together
his band, Rodney Lay and the Wild West. However, he was also
starting to get his own songs recorded. In 1967, Hank Thompson had a
Top 20 hit with Rodney’s He’s Got a Way with Women, which Bob
Luman would record a decade later. In 1969, Waylon Jennings hit the
Top 20 with Something’s Wrong in California and the same year, the
Hagers scored with Gotta Get To Oklahoma.
During 1970, an interview with Buck Owens on Rodney’s radio show
led to Owens arranging a record deal for Rodney, initially with his
Blue Book label and then with Capitol. He released two singles for the
label, Georgia Boy/I Don’t Wanna Make It and Tennessee Woman/I
Don’t Know Enough. Rodney made his screen debut in 1973, when he
appeared in the Sam Peckinpah movie, Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid.
For eighteen months between 1975-1976, the band backed Freddy
Fender during his halcyon days.
Then, in October 1976, Rodney was reunited with Roy Clark as Clark’
s band leader. With Clark, Rodney became exposed to a wider
international audience. By 1979, Rodney had signed to Sun Records,
and his 1980 album, Rockabilly Nuggets, was critically acclaimed. He
hit the Country charts for the first time in 1981 with the Top 90 single,
Seven Days Come Sunday. By the end of that year, Rodney had
moved to Halsey’s Churchill label, as Rodney Lay & the Wild West,
and in 1982, they had a Top 75 hit with Happy Country Birthday
Darling. He followed it up with the much-acclaimed single, I Wish I
Had a Job to Shove, which gave him his first Top 50 hit.
In 1983, he racked up two more middle entry successes for the label,
You Could’ve Heard a Heart Break, (a No.1 song for Johnny Lee, the
next year) and Mary Lee. He next hit the charts with the Evergreen
single, Walk Softly On The Bridges, in 1986. His version of Rock
Around the Clock, which came from the album, Rockabilly Nuggets,
was featured in the Tom Cruise movie, Born On The Fourth Of July,
which was released in 1989. Rodney currently manages Roy Clark’s
band and jointly owns with Roy, the Roy Clark Celebrity Theater in
Through the years, Rodney’s second love has been horses and he and
his family currently live on a ranch in Oklahoma, where he raises
racehorses. His other interest is politics and he once ran for
Montgomery County commissioner. In his own words, "I’m a big fan
Listen to the amazing
story of Rodney Lays
fight with cancer.