LifeNotes: Canadian Country Great Ray Griff Passes

Ray Griff

Ray Griff

Hit Nashville songwriter and Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame member Ray Griff has died at age 75.

Born in Vancouver, he came to Nashville as a teenager to become a country-music artist. He earned recording contracts with MGM, Dot, Capitol, RCA and other labels. Between 1967 and 1987 he placed 24 songs on the charts.

Griff made the top-40 with such self-penned songs as “The Mornin’ After Baby Let Me Down” (1971), “You Ring My Bell” (1975), “If I Let Her Come In” (his biggest singing hit, 1976), “I Love the Way That You Love Me” (1976), “That’s What I Get” (1976), “The Last of the Winfield Amateurs” (1977) and “A Passing Thing” (1977). He released 30 albums and had eight top-10 Canadian country hits.

But he became much more prominent in the U.S. as a songwriter for others. Griff wrote “It Couldn’t Have Been Any Better,” a No. 1 hit for Johnny Duncan in 1977. His top-10 songwriting successes include Gene Watson’s “Where Love Begins” (1975), Faron Young’s “Step Aside” (1971), the Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton duet “Better Move It On Home” (1971) and Wilma Burgess’s “Baby” (1965).

He had more than 700 recordings of his songs by Nashville stars. Among them are the top-20 “Who’s Gonna Play This Old Piano” by Jerry Lee Lewis (1972), “Something Special” by Mel Tillis (1968) and “Between This Time and the Next Time” (1981) by Gene Watson.

Other notable cuts include the hits “Canadian Pacific” by George Hamilton IV (1969), “Your Lily White Hands” by Johnny Carver (1967), “Lost in the Shuffle” by Stonewall Jackson (1965) and “Darlin’” by Wayne Kemp (1972).

“Darlin’” has also been recorded by Conway Twitty, George Jones, Jeanne Pruett, Wilma Burgess, Jim Ed Brown and Nat Stuckey. Similarly, “Baby” has multiple recordings by, among others, Dinah Shore, Ferlin Husky, Pat Boone, Eddy Arnold, Teresa Brewer, Dottie West, Arlene Harden and Tennessee Ernie Ford. “The Mornin’ After Baby Let Me Down” has been covered by Loretta Lynn, Ray Price, Bill Anderson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Mel Tillis and more. “Something Special” has been recorded by Bob Luman, Claude Gray, Jerry Wallace and George Hamilton IV, in addition to Tillis. “Step Aside” also has multiple recordings.

Ray Griff songs have also been recorded by Chat Atkins, Jim Reeves, Johnny Horton, Bonnie Guitar, David Houston, Marty Robbins, Kenny Starr, Del Reeves, Hank Snow, Slim Whitman, Connie Smith, Sheb Wooley, Jean Shepard, Narvel Felts, Mac Wiseman, Ruby Falls, Wayne Newton, Bobby Lewis and many others.

He moved back to Canada from Nashville permanently in 1998. Ray Griff is said to be his homeland’s most prolific songwriter, since his catalog includes more than 2,500 titles. Griff has seven BMI awards and 47 ASCAP citations. His songs “Canada” and “Maple Leaf” are often played on Canada Day (July 1) north of the border.

Also in his homeland, he hosted two TV series, Goodtime Country and Uptown Country. In addition, he has been a radio host with the syndicated series Raymond’s Place, which had its last broadcast on Jan. 31. In recent years, he has produced records for a number of Canadian country artists.

According to Canadian country journalist Larry Delaney, Ray Griff was hospitalized this week for minor rotator cuff surgery. He developed pneumonia in the hospital and died on Wednesday, March 9. In recent years, he had battled throat cancer.

Funeral arrangements have not been announced.


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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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