No other artist has done so much in such a short time – Tony Ramey has been a college professor, an award-winning literary scholar, an award- winning songwriter, and is one of the most successful artists on the Texas music scene today. His repertoire of songs reaches over 1,800 in number and his songwriting career spans sixteen years as a professional.
Based outside of Dallas, Tony has been playing shows from north to south Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, and all over the Midwest since his move there from Nashville in 2011. Fans are quick to say that Tony feels his music more deeply and performs it with more soulfulness than most other blues artists on Bourbon Street.
Tony hails from Kenova, West Virginia. A poet at heart, he began writing at the young age of ten. He learned to play guitar and put his words to music when he was sixteen and sang and wrote his way through the Master’s program in English Literature at Marshall University: “I played through the weekends to cover books, have spending money, and get a relief of the rigors of the undergrad and masters program…I was always serious about my music and my writing, but I never planned to ‘go into the music business.’ I had been around it growing up, so playing music was a way of life.”
Tony cut his musical teeth in the Tri-State area of Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia playing in country cover bands. During that time, he performed more than 100 dates a year, opening for Billy Ray Cyrus, Dan Seals, Reba McIntyre, Lorrie Morgan, George Jones, Keith Whitley, Glen Campbell, and a multitude of other legendary and iconic country music artists.
He was encouraged to come to Nashville in 1995 by legendary record producer Buddy Cannon (Kenny Chesney, Willie Nelson, George Jones, etc.), with whom he would collaborate in the studio early in his career. His Nashville run saw him in and out of record label offices negotiating deals that never quite came to fruition, all the while writing hits for publishers on Music Row, and recording his original music in studios all over Nashville: “I worked with some talented, good people there, and I still do from time to time. Even most of the label folks there are just plain good folks who still love great music, but they always seemed under the gun by the business-as-usual corporate climate. I would get close to firmin’ up a deal with a company–even go in the studio to record sides for a project–and somebody in New York or LA would pull the plug on this or that division.”
“By the time I was a ten-year veteran of the town, there were fewer than five majors left. A slew of artists and writers were set free and floundering without deals, and I was still where I had always been, with a loyal publisher (George Strait and Erv Woolsey’s company, Muy Bueno Music) walkin’ on the fringes because I was writin’ what I thought was real country music and tryin’ to live up to the songs that I had grown up listenin’ to: the “Amarillo by Mornin’” and “He Stopped Lovin’ Her Today” kind of songs. I’ll never forget the long conversations I had with the guys who wrote the big hits for Ronnie Milsap, George Strait, Garth Brooks, and the list goes on. Sittin’ in a room writin’ with them was great, but talkin’ to them about the power of a song was just as good, confirmin’ the beliefs I had about the ‘magic’ a song has and the power it possesses (or could possess) to change a person’s heart and mind forever.”
Since then, Tony has had hit songs and gold and platinum record awards for songs on albums cut by George Strait, Trisha Yearwood, Doug Stone, Craig Morgan, John Michael Montgomery, Easton Corbin, Alabama, Johnny Lee, Texas artists Aaron Watson and Jason Meadows, and a host of others. After 14 years of part-time touring and full-time writing, Tony decided to relocate in Texas, where the live music scene is vibrant and accessible to plenty of genres, including Tony’s brand of country: “Texas was a place I’d had my eye on for a few years. The live music venues are plentiful, the people still love the kind of heartland country music I do, and the new landscape is somethin’ that I had needed, creatively, for a while. Movin’ was less about gettin’ out of Nashville and more about goin’ somewhere new to recharge. A writer needs a change of scenery after bein’ in one place for a long time, and I was ready to get back to the country-side and tourin’.”
The Red River draws the line between Oklahoma and Texas the way Tony draws the line between the pop sounds of contemporary country format and the substantive country soul of yesterday. And, as a writer, he remains as fluid and as constant as the river that runs between the states. When you spin a Tony Ramey record, you might hear a variation of arrangement and instrumentation, but you will always hear the message in the lyric and melody loud and clear. Most who see him live know they want to see him again, and take his music with them before they leave. There is a reason for that–people still want to hear a song with a message and a sound they can hold onto, a song that’ll make them laugh, cry, think, or at least take them to another place for a while. “Music is supposed to be an experience,” Tony says, “and the song is the key to makin’ it feel like one.”
Tony resides in Greenville, TX with his wife Debbie Money, also a country music artist, and their children Savannah and Logan.