Orangie Ray Hubbard: Great Rocker from (Near) Cincinnati

Orangie Ray Hubbard‘s “Is She Sore” is a big, big tune for such a tiny label – Cincinnati’s Lucky (whose address is a residential home in the Fairview/Clifton Heights neighborhood):

“Is She Sore”     Orangie Ray Hubbard     1959

“Is She Sore” is actually Orangie Ray’s second single — two years prior, Dixie had released his debut 45, “Sweet Love” in 1957.

As Randy McNutt notes in The Cincinnati Sound:

“[Hubbard] recorded ‘Sweet Love‘ for Dixie Records of Nashville when he was a young man in Barbourville, Kentucky.  He moved to Cincinnati to work in an automobile factory, and recorded for the Lucky label and later for King.  ‘The establishment didn’t accept me,’ he said.  “And I had bad luck.  A record called ‘Big Cat’ would have done something for me if Syd Nathan of King Records hadn’t died just before it was to be released.'”

Actually, From Barbourville, KY

Orangie RayOrangie Hubbard would, in fact, release two singles on the almighty King label:

Both of Orangie Ray’s singles for King were released in 1967.  Orangie Ray himself would tell WVXU’s Lee Hay in 2008 (on a program aired in 2018 — see link at end of the piece) that “Big Cat” went to #10 on Cincinnati radio at the time of its release.  What a revelation to also learn from this same radio interview that “Just Moved In” — legendary kick-off track from Great Rockers in Cincinnati — was recorded in the late 1950s at Cincinnati’s King Studios!

Orangie's King 45Twelve years later would see the release of what appear to be Orangie Ray’s final 45s — “Just Moved In” b/w “Our Love Won’t Stop” [and] “In Search of You” b/w “Don’t Knock It If You Never Tried It (The Worst I Ever Had Was Good)” from 1979 on Cincinnati label, Lee.  HOWEVER, as we learned from the paragraph above (and let’s be honest:  we sensed this all along), those “final” 45s had actually been recorded during rockabilly’s heyday in the late 50s.

Just Moved In,” as already noted, kicks off a wonderful Dutch (bootleg) compilation —Great Rockers from Cincinnati — of hillbilly bop, country and western swing 45s released on tiny Ohio Valley record labels.

Great Rockers from Cincinnati

Orangie Ray makes a memorable appearance in Nathan D. Gibson‘s indispensable The Starday Story:  The House That Country Music Built — much gratitude to Mr. Gibson for kind permission to reprint this text:

As the rock ‘n’ roll phenomenon continued throughout 1958 and 1959, hundreds of musicians contacted Pierce about pressing their Dixie custom rockers.  Perhaps the most sought-after Dixie custom from this period came a Lousiville, Kentucky, man named Orangie Ray Hubbard.  The record (Dixie 662), an original song entitled “Sweet Love,” was his prize for winning a local talent competition, and has become one of the most infamous rockabilly records ever pressed.  Hubbard shares his story:

“Here’s the way it goes:  they were puttin’ on this talent scout contest to promote this new radio station WBBL.  So Clyde Brown calls in Zeke Clements.  Zekes puts on a talent scout contest and he copied it after The Arthur Godfrey Show.  In other words, if you won, you won by applause meter like Arthur Godfrey did it.  It was in a big theater in Barberville, Kentucky, the Mitchell Theatre.  And the way they did this, you couldn’t just win once and be done with it.  If you didn’t get voted #1, you were allowed to come back the next week and perform.

Well I went in and I won eight straight weeks.  But the day they did the finals, they didn’t do it by applause meter.  They brought in judges.  I find all this out after it was all over.  Anyway, there was a tie that day with me and a guy named David Lundy.  He’s on the flip side of ‘Sweet Love.’  So we sent our tapes to Don Pierce.  I did my tape in the radio station in Louisville with Herman Criss on bass and Riley Ripton on lead guitar.  I don’t know where he did his.

But we sent our tapes in and I thought we would each get a two-sided disc.  But instead, they put Dave on one side and me on the other.  They said, since we have a tie, we’ll play the song on the radio every day.  The man who gets the most requests is the winner.  That was the end of it.  I was promised a recording contract with Starday and Don Pierce.  That was the prize, a promise of a record contract for giving up all your weekends.  Well, at the time I think I have gotten an oil change for my car but it got a lot bigger than what they expected it to be.  I’ve since heard it called the Holy Grail of rockabilly music.”

Indeed it is collectable, valued in Jerry Osborne’s 16th Edition 45 Price Guide at $4000 in excellent condition, though Hubbard notes he has been offered much more for his only remaining copy.  As to why it might be worth $4,000, scarcity likely plays a large part.  It is also one of the best rockabilly records released in the 1950s, featuring an Elvis-like swagger in the vocals, stellar finger-picked guitar solos, streaking steel guitar lines, accented drum fills and lyrics regarding “sweet love.”  Popular Cincinnati recording artist Rusty York even cut his own version of Hubbard’s rocker, though York changed the words “sweet love” to “sweet talk.”  Still, the preceding description could be applied to numerous records worth a mere fraction of the stated value of Hubbard’s “Sweet Love.”  Regarding the record’s desirability, Hubbard offers his own explanation:

“It’s because of the sound that’s on it.  The cleanness of the sound.  And I was offered a lot of money to show people how we could get that sound.  But then nobody would pay me and I wasn’t gonna show them how I did it.  There was a cleanness, a separation from the music that none of the other rockabilly people ever got.”

Hubbard’s obituary from 2011 notes his leadership in local philanthropic work:

“Orangie was a retiree of General Motors where he spent 30 years as an employee and headed up the GM fundraising efforts for the Neediest Kids of All Campaign.  A passionate musician, Orangie was known around the world for his musical talents.  As a singer/songwriter, he will be remembered as an originator of Rockabilly Music in 1955 and is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.  He recorded several records in Cincinnati that are still being sold in Europe today.  He was also a member of the Norwood Masonic Lodge #576 and an avid bass fisherman.”

Father giving away bride: Charmin, on August 26, 1989

Orangie Ray & Charmin Hubbard

Hats off to WVXU’s Lee Hay for putting together a one-hour radio special in June 2018! LINK to King Records & Orangie Ray Hubbard.

How about that — Zero to 180’s tribute is listed as a reference site on Discogs when you click on their link to Orangie Ray Hubbard.

Starday scholar, Nate Gibson, with Orangie Ray Hubbard