Interview with Razzy Bailey
©2008 By Bronson Herrmuth
Razzy Bailey has had a long successful career while blending his talent for songwriting, recording, producing, entertaining, singing, performing, running record labels, and on and on and on. As an artist, his natural ability to blend country music with his very cool R&B vocal stylings is very distinctive and has served him well over the years. Five #1 records as an artist and he's an award winning songwriter who is far from done creating and performing music. While sitting with him in his recording studio where this interview took place his enthusiasm, drive, and obvious passion were quite visible and I enjoyed my visit with him very much.
Listen to this 20 minute interview: Part 1 of 4 (4.4 MB) mp3
Bronson: You've had a long career, you originally come from Alabama?
Razzy Bailey: I was born in Alabama and I moved to Georgia right after I got married. I graduated from high school and got married and moved over there and lived in La Grange for a long time.
Bronson: Do you remember the first time anybody payed you to play music?
Razzy Bailey: Very very well (laughing). We had a little string band in the FFA (Future Farmers Of America) and anybody that offered us money, our agriculture teacher was very much against us getting paid. He said, "These boys shouldn't get paid, this is something they enjoy doing", so he would intervene and tell 'em not to pay us but then one day there was these people... back then people would have square dances or dances at an old country house. They'd take all the furniture out of one of the rooms, you probaby never saw that happen but it was in the south you know so they'd have a big cookin' and have a little moonshine tucked away somewhere and everybody would just come and have a good time. Me and some of the other guys stood there in the corner and played in this big ol' country house room where everything had been cleard out and people danced. Then when we got through playin' they took up a little collection for us and I think we made something like 60 cents a peice. We were elated because that was back in the 50's ya know so we had enough to go out and get a hamburger and a coke. We was big stuff back then.
Bronson: Well heck yes, so how old were you?
Razzy Bailey: I was probably about 14 at the time.
Bronson: So you made your first recordings though when you were 10 years old?
Razzy Bailey: No that's a mistake that I don't know how in the world it ever happened because you know I joke a lot and say we didn't even have electricity when I was 10 years old (laughing) which we didn't. We lived in an old farmhouse out there in Five Points, Alabama, and didn't have runnin' water or electricity or anything. I hadn't really even started playing the guitar when I was 10. I started playing the harmonica a little bit, like I noticed you doing a while ago, when I was about 12 I think. I recorded my first record when I was 19 so some where down the line doing interviews somebody didn't understand what I was saying and it's been quoted over and I've been asked that question so many times ...
Bronson: I'm sorry, I didn't mean to repeat a question ...
Razzy Bailey: (laughing) No, no, no that is a curious question so if I was on the other end of the mic I'd probaby be asking, "So you recorded when you were 10?" (laughing).
Bronson: What year and how did you come to Nashville?
Razzy Bailey: Well, for a long time you know I went to Atlanta all the time because I lived in Georgia and I didn't know anybody and didn't usually have enough time off work to come to Nashville, so I would take songs to Bill Lowry in Atlanta who had Lowry Music and he started people off like Joe South and Billy Joe Royal and Tommy Roe & the Tams and you know on and on and on ..
Bronson: And Razzy Bailey.
Razzy Bailey: Yeah, so I'd take my songs up there to him but finally we started a label out of Macon, Georgia. I was playing in a club there, me and a guy named R.J. Lindsey, that owned the club. We started a little label called Aquariun records and got a lot of success with a song on the label. We just went out like the Loretta Lynn thing did in the movie and we went to radio stations everywhere we could find a tower and tried to do an interview and leave a little, you know, back then smoking wasn't such a big deal so we'd leave a little ash tray or something like that and we got our first hit ...
Bronson: What was your first hit?
Razzy Bailey: "I Hate Hate" ... so I started you know working out of Nashville more and then coming up here to record and things like that and had the opportunity, but I always said that I wouldn't move to Nashville ... pull up roots and move to Nashville .. til I had a really good reason, so I didn't move up here til I had my deal with RCA and saw that it was gonna yield some hits and finally I was spending more time in Nashville doing TV and radio and recording and etc., etc., til it actually meant I'd get more time with my family to move them up here. That was 1980.
Part 2 of 4 (4.3 MB) mp3
Bronson: Have you toured overseas? Have you traveled internationally?
Razzy Bailey: Yeah.
Bronson: Where are some of the places you've went?
Razzy Bailey: Well we toured all over Australia, New Zealand, England, Croatia .. went to Croatia got to go over there and do a show. I've been in Germany but never actually played in Germany and I've been to France but it wasn't Paris, it was Cannes, France but I didn't play there. So actually to answer your question the main places are Australia, New Zealand and Croatia.
Bronson: That's fun ain't it? Going overseas and playing like that. The fans are so much fans.
Razzy Bailey: Yeah, you know they know everything about you. I think they know more about you then people here in the states do. They'll know the first song you recorded .. you know it was funny one time, we went to England ... to go back a little bit they always told me, you know when I started recording with RCA they said, "well you can tell when you've made it because they'll be bootleg albums out on ya" you know (laughing) I thought that was kind of funny. So we flew into England to do a show over there at the Wembley Festival and when I got off the plane and was gettin' my luggage and everything there was a reporter walked up to me and started talking to me and he said, "I love your new album!" and I said, "Well thank you man, I sure am glad you like it. What song do you like on it?" and he named some song that wasn't on the album, I said, "What?" and he said, "Yes that's on your new album that Shelby Singleton has put out", so it was a bootleg album. He didn't even notice the RCA album he was carrying on about the bootleg album.
Bronson: Ain't that somethin'. So now actually your success began as a songwriter?
Razzy Bailey: Well, you know I had been recording through the 60's occasionally, just like the single I did when I was 19. About every 2, 3, or 4 years I'd manage to get a single out on some label and sometimes it'd be something I wrote and sometimes I didn't, but like you said the first real success I had was with "I Hate Hate", a song that I'd written and then when Dickey Lee recorded "9,999,999 Tears", on RCA and it went to #1 and that's what enabled me to parlay that into a record deal for myself.
Bronson: So I've got to ask you man. You wrote a song called "Peanut Butter?
Razzy Bailey: Yeah and that song is really weird because I wrote that in my sleep and I've done that occasionally through my lifetime. I still do it but you know 9 times out of 10 you can't remember 'em when you wake up but this particular song, it was so different til I woke up the next morning and I remember telling my wife, I said (laughing) "You know I wrote the craziest song last night in my sleep and it goes like this" and I started singing it for her and she said "How in the world did you get that idea?" and I said "I don't know." So anyway I recorded for Capricorn, I was on their label for a year and it didn't do anything but after Dickey Lee had the success that he had with the "Tear" song, then he recorded it and it went to #12.
Bronson: What that's fantastic. Congratulations on all your success.
Razzy Bailey: Thank you sir.
Bronson: I know that's a lot of hard work, a lot of miles, a lot of blood sweat and tears to have some of those success's and you've had a lot of ups, a lotta downs you know as you've went and you've weathered them all. We're sitting right here in your studio today in Nashville. You actually have your own independent label don't you now?
Razzy Bailey: SOA, yeah.
Bronson: Could you talk a little bit about that label and what you're doing with that?
Razzy Bailey: We actually started that label back in I beleive it was '87 and I had started some other labels like the Aquarian label and we had success and then after I left Capricorn in '76 and it was '78 when I signed with RCA so there was a 2 year period that I didn't have a label and so I started another little label called Erastus Records and I got in the Billboard charts with that. Back then ... I'm probably going more in depth then what you asked me, but you couldn't expect to make money off record sales because if you sold them they wouldn't pay you you know. If you were on an independent label the distributors would sell them and keep the money ...
Part 3 of 4 (4.5 MB) mp3
Bronson: You talk about anything you want.
Razzy Bailey: So then the main object was to try to use the record to get known and get your name out there to try to get bookings and that sort of stuff so everytime I've ever started a record label I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish. During those 2 labels it was mainly just to get some airplay, which I did and then SOA Records was after I had left MCA and I was again with out a deal. I started SOA and the first thing I put out on it I got independent song of the year with a song called, "But You Will". There again at that time you couldn't get paid so I didn't worry or try to go on and you know and depend on getting paid from the distributors. But now Thank God, with the internet the way it is you can sell music over the internet and get paid for it and you've got soundscan and if you sell records through soundscan you can keep up with it and you know how many you're really sellin' and they can't say the record didn't sell, etc., etc.,. Now mainly I'm using the label, I've got a new single out at this point, it's called "Last Stop On A Dead End Street", with me and Tracy Nelson and I have two other artists out. I have Christina Bailey, she's a 16 year old girl that has a song out on there called, "Mississippi Missing Me", and then I have a male artist out of Alabama. His name is J.C. Kirsten and he has got a new version of the song I mentioned, "But You Will". Also I've just signed a record deal with Spector Records out of Charleston, South Carolina but they have offices across the United States but that's the office I've been dealing with and we are going to soon have a new single out with them, it's called "Whiskey California"...
Bronson: I like that title.
Razzy Bailey: .. and I'll have a new album with them but I didn't do an exlusive. I'm gonna to do 3 albums for them but in the meantime I'll probably still release some things along on my own label that may or may not fit what they're looking for. We've started a new album on myself that's gonna have horns like the old R&B sound, "Knock On Wood", "Dock Of The Bay", "Midnight Hour", kind of sound. We're doing it mostly with new songs, I took one of my RCA cuts, "Ain't Got No Business Doin' Business Today", and we changed it to more of a funky kind of pattern and we're putting horns on it and then another one of the RCA #1's was "I Keep Comin' Back". I always felt like that was more of an R&B song than it was country so we did a real R&B version of it this time and it's got strings and horns on it and it'll be on my horn album.
Bronson: Well even though Razzy your main forte has been that you're in Country music, you've always been referred to as the R&B guy in Country music. That flavor, they've always associated that. I saw in doing research on you I didn't see anywhere that they didn't refer to that. So what's with the love for the R&B? Is that something you got young in life?
Razzy Bailey: You know I don't know if it really goes back to my real real young childhood, back when I was telling you about we didn't have electricity and we didn't have running water but we had a battery radio. Each night of the week we had special shows we liked to listen to. One night we'd listen to Dixie Land Jazz out of New Orleans and then they had the Hit Parade the next night and then they had times where there was a pretty good variety of music although at that time there wasn't a lot of R&B music playing but shortly after then in the '50's there was things like you know, Bobby Blue Bland, Jimmy Reed and all those people. I didn't know the charts were supposed to say it's not hip to like all kinds of music ya know (laughing). I just liked all kinds of music and then when I started playing as a musician we started out playing more country music and then we put a band together and decided to do dance music and more R&B like "Knock On Wood" and "Midnight Hour" and Otis Redding and the Eddie Floyds and people like that. We called that The White Soul Movement and that band lasted for maybe, oh gosh at least 4 years we played on the road with that and then I went to work at Nashville South. Being called Nashville South they sorta promoted that as a Country Music place so I played about 40% country, 50% country but I also still did the good R&B dance tunes.
Part 4 of 4 (5.4 MB) mp3
Bronson: So how did you actually learn to play? Did you teach yourself how to play or who was your teacher? Who inspired you to play music?
Razzy Bailey: Well I always wanted to play but nobody in my family knew how to play. I didn't know anybody that I knew that could play the guitar so I played harmonica, you know just self taught on the harmonica for about a year or two and then one day there was a guy that came to our school that was teachin guitar lessons so I signed up with him and I took about 4 or 5 lessons. Pretty soon I could play ahead of myself. In other words he would show me something and I'd just run throught it and I was supposed to be learning how to read notes and he'd get aggravated because I'd play it without the notes and things like that. The rest of it was self taught and sitting in with older musicians. We had some little back porch bands and I got to watch more experienced musicians and learn all kinds of music. There again they were playing everything from "Up The Lazy River" to "Down Yonder" to you know "When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold", again you name it. Back then people didn't seem to be as pigeon holed with their music. They played all kinda music and I really enjoyed that because the experience that I got in learning how to play "Stardust" and "Misty" and all those things I think really helped my overall chordal knowledge that I still enjoy. I know Country is basically 3 chords and I love Country and I love the 3 chord stuff too but if I hear another chord goin' I know what it is (laughing).
Bronson: Well you know Duke Ellington said "There's only 2 kinds of music .. good and bad." That's the one I subscribe too.
Razzy Bailey: Yeah.
Bronson: Well in closing, you've seen so much. You've been through so many different phases of the music business. I mean you know through the years it's changed and like you were bringing up the new technology, the internet and the web. If you had any advice for someone out there that's young and they're coming out bright eyed and bushy tailed and they just want to do what's right to try to have some success as an artist, as a songwriter. Do you have any advice for 'em that you could give them that might help them that would be universal through all these years, that if you do this, this will help you?
Razzy Bailey: Well I think to answer that question I have to draw from some of the experiences I've had in the last 8 years, well really always. I've always wanted to find a young artist or a couple young artists or groups that I could work with and help develop them and hope to move them on to a major label or whatever and be part of that and everytime I do they ain't none of them wanting to ... either they won't take direction or they're lazy. I've got this book at the house, I don't know who gave it to me, it's called "101". Ironically this morning I was thumbing through there and it was talking about people that say, "I want to do this more than anything in the world", whether it be an actor or an artist, you know whatever. This one woman was telling these people her biggest dream was to be an actor. She said she spent all of her time trying to be an actor. They said, "How much time do you spend on your day job?", and she said, "Well 8 hours a week.", they said, "How much time do you spend ..?", you know named over several catagories so when it finally got down she was only spending 1 hour a week, you know is all the time she had to spend toward it. So if you're lazy or if you have got so much going on in your life that you can't spend enough time, and it takes time. I know when I was trying to get started I worked, and I still do work all the time with one focus and that's music, creating music. I write all the time and now you know a lot of it I do know is because I love it so much and it's what I want to be doin' but these kids today seems to think it's okay if you miss a rehearsal, it's okay if you don't show up for a studio session, it's okay if you decide to get your hair fixed instead of you know, whatever. I've got this kid now that I'm trying to work with and you know we can have a recording session set up and she'll come in and she'll say, "Oh I've got to do so and so today", you know and it's so frustrating, I mean it's so absolutely frustrating.
Bronson: I understand, so basically make sure that you're doing all you can on your end?
Razzy Bailey: Right, absolutely. If you have the opportunity and you're doing everything you can and you're tryin' to learn to apply to do that and make that your focus then you know then I think that's the biggest thing you can do but of course you've to keep on analyzing what you're doing and see if you're improving and comparing it. You know you hear the people say, "Well I've got a song as good as that one on the radio", well if you have you're probably not going to get yours on the radio because it's got to be better. It's gotta be different. You've got to come from a different direction or you've got to have a major deal or something like that or get with a major publishing company and that's best done through knowin' the right people. Getting out and rubbin' elbows with people and you know and hoping somebody will say, "Come on down to my publishing company I write for and I'll see can I can get you on". You know, that kind of type which that was never the way I accomplished anything personally. Mine has just been through hard work and you know just persistance.
Bronson: You've had a great career. Digital Muze magazine really appreciates you doing this, I appreciate you doing this. It's been an honor to sit with you.
Razzy Bailey: Thank you and I wish you all the most success with your new mag.
Bronson: Thank You.
You can visit Razzy Bailey online at his personal web site www.razzybailey.com
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