Little, Ray Radio Cowboy Show
Origin: Henniker, New Hampshire - Calgary, Alberta
Since we started our research, we learned that the singer fans came to know as Ray Little was actually born with the name Raymond Petit by his parents, George and Helen Petit in Henniker, New Hampshire.
Ray was a tenor banjo player. The first group he was with was the Crockerville Mountaineers who were apparently the first hillbilly music act to air over WNAC in Boston, Massachusetts back in 1930. By 1935, he had formed his own group, the Musical Cowboys.
In 1941, he married his duet partner, Ann and they proceeded to open the M-Bar-C Ranch in Carmel Maine. However, that was a short-lived endeavor due to the onset of World War II.
The M-Bar-C Ranch attracted many stars of the day passing through the northeast such as Ray Whitley, Polly Jenkins, Gene Autry, Georgia Mae, Pappy Howard, The Down Homers, the Tennessee Partners and others, including the Lone Pine Mountaineer.
The M-Bar-C Ranch closed for the season on Labor Day 1942. Ray took his group on a bit of a tour doing personal appearances in Aroostock County. But World War II was calling them. On September 30, Walt, the accordionist for the group, was called into service with the U. S. Army. In a few weeks, on October 18, 1942, Ray and Dusty Rio enlisted in the U. S. Army at Fort Devens and went to training in Virginia. No mention was made in Ray's booklet as to where Dusty eventually served. Ray's booklet notes that while in the service, their paths crossed in England in 1944.
Ray was discharged from military service on September 27, 1945. After a short rest, Ray was back on the air at WLBZ in Bangor, Maine on November 1. Former band members Dusty Rio and Champ were with Ray at the time as well.
Ray Little left the New England area after World War II and began finding a niche in the Canadian provinces. His personal appearances back then included places in Ontario, western Canada, and even as far north as the Yukon and Alaska.
We read in a September 1946 article that Ray and his group had left the Bangor, Maine area and were touring the Canadian provinces during the summer of 1946.
By 1948, Claude Dugay in National Hillbilly News was telling readers that Ray Little and his show were being heard over WLAW in Lawrence, Massachusetts.
We start seeing articles in 1949 telling readers that Ray and his show were touring various venues in Canada again. During the summer season, Ray's group toured Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Newfoundland as well as Halifax, Nova Scotia. Claude Dugay reported in his monthly column that the group spent about a month on Prince Edward Island, and worked six days a week, doing half-hour programs and many other shows.
In early 1949, the group had a half-hour show over CKCW from 2:00pm to 2:30pm each day.
Along about 1950, Ray Little and his band made their home in Alberta. There, they worked for radio station CFCN out of Calgary. They were one of the featured acts on the weekly Saturday night show called "Red Head Jamboree". That Jamboree show was broadcast over a network of Alberta radio stations and was sponsored by the Great West Petroleum Products company. Around 1954, they wrote it was in its third year. Ray also had a daily radio show during the week, too.
In 1951, Earl Heywood told readers of his Country Song Roundup column that Ray had signed with the Aragon record label. His first release was to include Standing In The Rain
In early 1952, Mr. Heywood told readers that Ray was being heard over three radio stations - CFCN, CJOC and CFRN on a program called the Redhead Jabmoree. The sponsor was Red Head Petroleum Products.
As testament to his popularity and the fame he enjoyed with his south of the border US counterparts, Ray Little's guest list read like a who's who of hillbilly music of that era. They included: Hank Snow, Floyd Tillman, Ernest Tubb, Slim Whitman and others.
Ray enjoyed some reputation as a fine banjo player and had done numerous recordings for the Aragon label they said.
It appears that around 1955 or 1956, one of the members of his show, Floyd Sillito, had gone off on his own as a featured vocalist and was doing shows over CFCN every Saturday night in Calgary with the Golden West Playboys. Floyd was also a part of the Sons of the Saddle group for a time.
Vic Siebert told readers in early 1955 that Ray and his group were entertaining audiences in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Stu Davis, reporting for Rustic Rhythm magazine in 1957, indicated that Ray Little's Cowboy Show was enjoying sold out audiences in Saskatchewan and Manitoba as well in other venues in Ontario and south into his native USA.
Group Members included (at one time or another):
Ray Little, banjo
Anne Little, (Ray's wife), guitar and vocals
Jimmy Daughtry (also spelled Dotry), bass, mandolin, fiddle and comedy
Tex Emery, steel guitar
Cowboy Floyd Sillitto, featured vocalist
Doug Goldsmith, accordion
Dusty Rio, bass, guitar, vocals
Big Champ, fiddle