On September 14, 1935, I was born north of Paradise Hill, Saskatchewan and was named Raymond Maier. In 1970, when I decided to become a “BIG country music star”, I changed my name to Ray Meyers. However, unlike most other country music stars, I will have to admit I did not start out poor.
My dad or Pa, as we called him at home, had an obsession for buying land and more land. Fall threshing of the wheat, oats, barley and alfalfa lasted for many weeks. So as I’m saying Pa, or Dad, usually done everything in a big way. When we planted potatoes, we would do it as you see it here, with me driving the team to plant a potato patch twice the size as needed. The garden also was very big. When firewood was cut, enough was cut for two years.
I started playing guitar at about age 6, laying it flat on my lap and hands on top. My much older brother, Carl, was very innovative. He would convert his Spanish guitar to Hawaiian style, then back to Spanish style again. We would listen to the radio intently and copy the cowboy singers of the day. I tried to play all of the little guitar licks just like Wilf Carter. Also sang his songs and yodeled.
Carl in his late teens, had his work cut out. As well as keeping his four younger brothers and one sister in line, he would decorate his saddle and even made a pinto out of his horse using some dye. He braided ropes and leather things, and made many things on the forge, such as bits and spurs. He insisted on having sister Margaret sew him fancy western shirts.
My very first playing job was when I was ten and playing at a Henderly school dance. Around about this time Carl entered me into a radio amateur hour in Paradise Hill. I was terrified, but secretly thought to myself that maybe this could be the beginning of me becoming a BIG radio cowboy singer. I thought I was very good and sounded just like Wilf Carter. The big night came with just me and guitar getting up in front of a packed house, I sang “Echoing Hills Yodel Back to Me”. (As I am printing this now, I am feeling a warm painful sensation going through my head). I must go for therapy for this. When I started yodeling, a small girl in the front row started laughing hysterically. I know this girl very well to this day, maybe someday I will confront her.
This was the last time that I ever yodeled, until 1991, the day of Wilf’s passing, when I sang a few of Wilf’s songs at a seniors center. In 1998, I recorded my “My Tribute to Wilf” album, doing vocals and over dubbing on guitar, fiddle, mandolin, and accordion. Knowing what I know now about the history of music, I strongly feel that Wilf Carter, as he stands in our history books, is a very under rated pioneer and trail blazer of country and folk music.
As young kids, our heroes were the talked about around the dinner table men. Maybe it was the certain good man on the threshing crew who could throw on a load of bundles faster than anyone else, or the man who had the best well trained team of horses. There were a few big herds of cattle in the vicinity, and a few men of strong character who lived in bunkhouses or shacks while feeding cattle in the winter, also were some of my big heroes. The men that hauled feed or drove cattle down the roads fascinated us. These idols of ours probably had no idea that as well as setting a good example, they were also badly influencing us. Some of them chewed tobacco and snuff and got a little careless when they went to town. My brothers and I tried chewing the bitter tobacco. After many tries, I finally got it, now at last, I was a man and could be mounted on top a horse in bitter cold and try to spit over the icicles hanging down my chin or beside the wood heater in the bunkhouse.
We kids built mini hayracks and sleighs. Nothing uncommon on our farm to see a 12 year old boy turning the forge blower, with a big piece of iron in the coals. If someone would ask him what he is doing, you might get the wildest idea you ever heard of.