Collin Raye is one of the most celebrated country music artists who helped define the ’90s era. You have probably heard of his songs like ‘Love, Me,’ ‘I Can Still Feel You,’ and ‘Little Rock’ growing up as your parents play the songs on your old CD player. Did you know that back then those were hits selling millions of copies?
But aside from his well-loved songs, Collin Raye carries around some sort of mysterious aura with him. So here are some facts that you probably didn’t know about him.
1. His real name is actually Floyd Elliot Wray.
He is professionally known as Collin Raye but he was born as Floyd Elliot Wray on August 22, 1960 (the baby boomer generation) in DeQueen, Arkansas. His mother, Lois Wray, was a local musician back in the ’50s opening acts for the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins. After some time, she went solo and performed at many stages with Collin and his brother Scott.
According to other sources, his father was also a musician who played the guitar in local clubs in Arkansas. An uncle of his was also a professional musician. So it wasn’t surprising that Raye would actually pursue a music career as well. He’s now 60 years old with an estimated net worth of $6 million and regarded as one of the richest celebrities in his industry.
2. He and his brother Scott formed a country-rock band known as the Wray Brothers Band.
After the two experienced performing with their mother, they decided to form their band as teenagers at that time, with Collin using Bubba Wray as a screen name. They performed primarily in Texas then zipped off to Carvallis, Oregon playing in clubs before they landed in Reno, Nevada.
In 1986, they signed a deal with Mercury Records and renamed themselves as The Wrays. They recorded 4 singles, namely Reason to Believe, Until We Meet Again, I Don’t Want To Know Your Name, and You Lay a Lotta Love on Me. Unfortunately, the songs did not do well in the charts, and so they disbanded.
3. In 1980, he built his own family with Connie.
Not much was known about Connie except that she was married to Collin Raye in 1980, and they had two beautiful children. The first was Brittany, who was born on February 10, 1983. Brittany Wray appeared in his 1996 song I Think About You, and the two also penned the song Undefeated about Haley (Brittany’s daughter) who they lost in 2010.
Their second child Jacob was born on March 31, 1985, three months earlier than expected. Connie was diagnosed with a stomach ulcer the size of a golf ball and so she had to deliver the baby. During the C-section, she suffered a stroke and cardiac arrest simultaneously forcing her into a coma. She regained consciousness after 9 weeks.
4. He started his solo career in 1991.
After disbanding with his brother, he used Collin Raye (altering the spelling of his last name) and signed a record deal with Epic Records. His debut album All I Can Be was a tremendous success earning him his first certified platinum album by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
His debut single All I Can Be (Is a Sweet Memory) entered the charts in 1991 and peaked at number 29 on the US Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks Chart. His follow-up single Love, Me earned him his first number 1 on the country music charts. And then, the final single, Every Second peaked at number 2.
5. From 1991 to 2007, he had 4 No.1 hits and 21 Top 10 Hits on the US Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks Chart.
Collin Raye really made a name for himself in the country music scene. He had 4 consecutive albums – All I Can Be, In This Life, Extremes, and I Think About You – selling millions of copies (certified platinum by the RIAA). His 4 singles that reached number 1 on the charts are Love, Me (1992), In This Life (1992), My Kind of Girl (1995), and I Can Still Feel You (1998). He also recorded Christian gospel songs, lullaby tracks, and Christmas albums.
He was also nominated numerous times as country music’s Male Vocalist of the Year. And in 2001, the Country Radio Broadcasters (CRB) awarded him the Artist Humanitarian Award for his significant contribution to humanitarian efforts.
6. He released a song about child abuse titled ‘The Eleventh Commandment’.
The song was not released as a single, but it was included in his 1998 album The Walls Came Down. In the music video, he talked about the issue of child abuse and at the end, a number for a child abuse hotline was featured. This was one of Collin Raye songs that delved into the topic of societal issues alongside Little Rock which talked about alcoholism.
7. His granddaughter Haley Bell died in April 2010.
In 2009, he released a song in his album Never Going Back titled She’s With Me. This song was a tribute to her granddaughter, who was then suffering from an undiagnosed regressive neurological condition that slowly took away all of her abilities including her ability to walk.
She died in April 2010, and Raye was so devastated with the loss. In a phone interview with the Catholic Herald in 2011, he said that it was so crippling, but God helped him through that time and he learned to take what he felt from that loss into something positive. He released his CD afterwards titled Through It All, His Love Remains which featured inspirational songs as well as two new singles – Undefeated and I Get What I Need. He recorded the songs with a rosary and a picture of Haley lying on his lyric sheets.
8. He founded his own charity, the Haley Bell Blessed Chair Foundation.
Inspired by his granddaughter’s short life, Raye wanted to help other families who also experience and struggle with the same issue. They started the charity in 2012, and in a span of four years, they were able to provide about 25 wheelchairs which cost around $30,000 each. Though these might not be much in quantity but these wheelchairs are not often covered by insurance, and so it meant a lot to the families who received them.
9. In 2011, he became the national spokesman for the pro-life organization Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network.
He was first acquainted with the organization when he performed in April 2010 for their first fundraising concert. During the fall of the same year, they discussed officially joining forces.
In an interview, Raye noted how a lot of artists were too afraid to get involved in something controversial and face the consequences of losing their careers. But he personally wanted to be a voice and witness for life as he believed that people who did not have the chance to speak out end up being filled with regret.
10. Just last year, he unveiled his new album Scars.
Scars was his first album in ten years, composed of all-new material. In this album, he co-wrote 12 out of the total 14 tracks, and his title track of the same name was penned by his brother Scott Wray alongside Tony Ramey. The track was written around 20 years ago but his label gave it a thumbs down because it didn’t sound like him.
But he didn’t give up and finally had the chance to record and release the track. He invited Miranda Lambert (Scott Wray has been the guitarist of her band) as a guest vocalist on Scars.
You should definitely give Collin Raye’s new album a listen!