Gary McCray was born in Shawnee, Oklahoma to a Cherokee Indian mother and a fiddlin’ Irish father. His mother financed his first guitar, a Fender flat top, and he went to church to find someone who could teach him his first chords. The preacher at that church showed him a D chord, then a G, which he worked on till his fingers got so sore they were “glowing red”, Gary says. But, that didn’t stop him from learning. Gary took it all in and learned to play and sing those old gospel tunes at first, but it didn’t take him long to adapt his newly learned skills to those country songs he was hearing on the radio. When he was only seven years old, he entered a talent contest at the state fair in Shawnee and won the five silver dollars they gave as first prize. The honorable Raymond Gary, Oklahoma’s governor at the time was there as honorary master of ceremonies to present Gary his winnings. In the governor’s introduction, he called Gary a “Songster ” from Shawnee, a name that his daddy called him till the day he died. Early on, Gary’s daddy didn’t think very much of his musical leanings, so he never got much encouragement from him. But Gary kept up his singing and playing music and pretty soon started to write songs like those he was hearing on the radio. Some of those songs were in the rock and roll style of the day, but his heart was really set on country music.
Meeting up with a country music promoter and publisher from Oklahoma City named L.D. Allen, Gary made his first trip to Nashville to check out how songs were recorded as demos to pitch to artists who were looking for original material. Gary learned that L.D. had quite a few friends in Nashville who could help get songs cut and promoted, so Gary worked really hard to hone his skills as a songwriter and singer. That hard work landed Gary’s songs on many independent artist projects that he and L.D. worked to develop and Gary recorded several single records himself for the NSD label, owned by their friend Joe Gibson. Those songs can still be heard occasionally on traditional country stations worldwide. Later, L.D. became friends with country superstar Charley Pride, who signed Gary to a publishing agreement. That deal led to Charley recording several of Gary’s songs on some of his biggest albums. “Heartbreak Mountain”, “Let Me Have The Chance To Love You One More Time” and “When The Good Times Outweighed The Bad” were included in the You’re My Jamaica album, while Pride’s Burgers and Fries album had Gary’s “Nothing’s Prettier Than Rose Is”. Charley also recorded one of Gary’s songs, “I Call Her My Girl”, as a B-side of a tribute song to the Dallas Cowboy football team. About this same time, Gary had a big hit on another country star, Wynn Stewart, with ”Eyes As Big As Dallas”. That song has been recorded dozens of times and is still a featured song at dances all over the country, especially in Texas.
Gary moved to Nashville during this period of his career and traveled with Wynn Stewart as his bandleader for two and half years. He stayed in Nashville until it became clear to him and his wife that trying to have a family life and a music career together wasn’t going to work so well. So, Gary and his wife moved back to Shawnee to raise their family and put music on hold. Gary wrote a lot of songs during this time, but didn’t pursue recording again until he met producer Ernie Rowell in 2010. Gary had written a special song for his ailing mom and wanted to have it recorded to play her before she passed away. So, he did just that and continued to write and record until he finished his first CD, Singin’ Like A Cowboy, completed in late 2012. On this CD, Gary pays tribute to his mom, Charley Pride’s help and influence, and the cowboy life he loves. It truly sounds like he’s never missed a beat with his music. Give it a listen and we’re sure you’ll agree! The “Songster” from Shawnee is back…singing and writing traditional country music the way he was always meant to be!