On October 30, 1967, in Campton, a small farming town in South-Eastern Kentucky, Ray Tharp was born. Cradled in his Mother Oma's arms, a musical journey began for Ray that destined him for greatness. The sounds of bluegrass and traditional country music surrounded him as a child. It has been said that he could sing Dolly Parton's songs (still his favorite today) before he could talk.
At age twelve Ray learned to play guitar and began to sing in church. He recalls many enjoyable weekends when he gathered with family and friends to play and sing the songs rich in his heritage. Whenever they would get together you could hear some of the best pickin' and singin' in the country. As they grew, Ray's friends pursued other interests but Ray ached with a passion to sing that would not die. Ray not only had an insatiable desire to sing, he began to write his own music. He found solace and healing in his new-found talent. Among his first efforts were tunes such as "Time Won't Wait," a song that documented his grief and emptiness after the death, in 1978, of his Father Estill. He also paid loving tribute to his Mother with "Mother's Day." Even though Ray has attempted some honky-tonk tunes, his best work is in his ballads.
From seventh grade through high school, Ray wrote a weekly human interest column for a local newspaper. That column and his phenomenal young voice captured the interest of a senior colleague. Her article, published in the Campbell County Recorder, chronicled a young Ray Tharp's participation in concerts, musical reviews and solo performances. It was also noted that he was, "a conscientious student with respect for himself and others; a virtue that has all but diminished among his peers." Ray was voted vice-president in his junior year and president in his senior year of his high school chorus. At graduation he counted among his honors, A-B honor roll, National Honor Society, Who's Who Among American High School Students and awards in Music, Art, Literature and English. Ray went on to Northern Kentucky University and the University of Cincinnati where he studied liberal arts and music.
In 1996, Ray met Jan Canada Fritsch, an internationally renowned star of theater and stage. He began to study voice under her instruction and soon discovered a gift rarely given to any vocalist. Ray had been born with perfect pitch. That gift, a four octave range and raw talent enabled Ray to quickly progress to an advanced stage in his vocal lessons. In October of that year, he took first place among over eighty contestants, in a talent contest at Coyote's in Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky. After accepting his award he said, "I'd like to thank God for leading me to Jan Canada Fritsch. She is very talented and an excellent instructor. She has become my mentor and I am blessed to have found her."
After winning at Coyote's, Ray's popularity increased. He performed at various clubs throughout Northern Kentucky such as Lebo's on the River, Blazzer's and the Silver Saddle in Cincinnati, Ohio. Ray's accomplishments were featured in an article that appeared in The Jackson Times, Jackson, Kentucky. "Wolfe County's Native Musician Gains Recognition," read the caption under a photograph of handsome Ray Tharp dressed in western attire and holding the reins of his horse. The article recounted his modest beginnings and some of the memories of life in Appalachia that have been or may become the subject of his music. "So, the next time you turn on your radio and hear a beautiful melodic tenor voice, singing a song that reminds you of home, listen carefully to the artist's name. It just may be Ray Tharp, the native son who dared to grab a shooting star and hang on," were the proud and inspirational last lines of the article.
In the spring of 1997, Ray Tharp began the preparations that would make his dream of recording an album become a reality. He poured over his songs and narrowed them down to the best sixteen tunes.
"In January 1995, I went to Nashville and recorded two videos, singing songs that were not my own. While the experience was a good one and the videos turned out great, I want my first album to be my own music," Ray said.
Ray employed the talent and expertise of two-time Dove and one-time Grammy award winning producer Roger Cadle. Mr. Cadle, a veteran in country music, gathered the best musicians available.Ray warmly recalls, "I heard those guys blow my tunes up into the works of art I knew they could be."
This group of enlightened musicians instinctively knew how Ray wanted each number to sound. "Jenny's Always Home" captured the pain of abuse suffered by a childhood friend. "What You Have Done To Me" earmarks the depth of despair Ray felt after the breakup of his first true love. "Why Can't I Get You Off Of My Mind" was created in an effort to make sense of her painfully lingering memory. "The Rain Is Pouring Down" recounts the sad emptiness of his sister's divorce. "I'm A Sinner Because Of You" grips the lost dignity of a man who loved too deeply. After a year of preparation and three months of recording, engineering and production, "After The Storm" was born.
In August 1997, Ray introduced "After The Storm" to his public. Festivities began on August 27th with an appearance on WKRC-TV 12, in Cincinnati, Ohio's Morning Show. He talked about his rising career and the release of his debut album. He then performed an acoustic version of "Jenny's Always Home."
That evening, in the Alexandria Kentucky Fair Parade, he serenaded his hometown fans. The crowds cheered, waved, and stared in awe at the spectacular float that carried their "claim to fame."
On August 28th, amid a phenomenal show of lights and music, Ray Tharp emerged from the smoke. He thrilled, seduced and entranced his audience; and for one and a half hours, Ray sang for the people who loved him best.
In February 1997, another piece of the dream came true. WOBO-FM in Mt. Orab, Ohio aired Ray's recording of "50,000 Names." Program director Mr. Don Littman reported that Ray received the most positive listener response of any artist introduced on their radio station. Today his music can also be heard on WJSN-FM in Jackson, Kentucky; WDLY-FM (Dolly Parton's Station) in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee; as well as many stations scattered throughout the United States.
Ray Tharp is a man who works hard and stays focused. He strives for personal success so he can realize the desires of his heart. He does and always will support the drive to end the neglect and abuse of children. Further, he aspires to create a network of schools and programs for creative and performing arts throughout Appalachia. Ray states, "Many children there can never develop their talents. I dream of being able to offer, every Appalachian child who wants it, the opportunity to develop their talent. Once established, I hope institutions of higher learning will follow suit and offer special scholarships to these children." So the dream continues. Ray Tharp with his angelic tenor voice and electrifying showmanship, thrills us. When all is said and done and Ray's dreams come true "We" are the winners!