Susan Raye (born , 1944 in Eugene, Oregon, United States) is an American country music singer, best known for a series of Top 40 Country hits in the early half of the 1970s, most notably the song "L.A. International Airport" in 1971.
Susan Raye got her start as protegee of legendary Country music singer Buck Owens. Owens and Raye recorded a number of hit albums and singles together because of this, which jumpstarted Raye's professional career as a solo artist. Raye had a number of Top 10 hits as a solo artist in the early 70s while achieving success with Owens before retiring towards the end of the decade.
Years before success
Raye was born in 1944 in Eugene, Oregon. She first began singing with a high-school rock group, but after the band called it quits, she auditioned for a local country station. Not only did she begin performing on the radio, she also landed work as a disc jockey, eventually becoming the host of a Portland TV program called Hoedown. It was at one of Raye's performances at an area nightclub where she met Jack McFadden, Owens' manager. McFadden was so impressed with her vocal talents that he persuaded Owens to fly her to his home in Bakersfield, California, for an audition.
Rise to success
She moved to Bakersfield and began singing with Owens in 1968, and soon after she cut her first recordings. One of these songs, "Put a Little Love in Your Heart," made the Top 30 in 1970. At about the same time, she began a nine-year stint as a featured performer on the program Hee Haw.
Country music career
1970 ??? 1975: Breakthrough into the industry
Also in 1970, she released two duet records with Owens, We're Gonna Get Together and The Great White Horse. Both albums spawned Top 20 hits that year. Three singles spawned from We're Gonna Get Together; the title track, "Togetherness", and "The Great White Horse", which peaked at #8 on the Country chart that year. Soon after 1970, Raye began to focus on her solo career, where she would remain successful for the next few years.
Her biggest year as a solo artist came in 1971, when she issued three consecutive Top Ten hits ??? "L.A. International Airport," "Pitty, Pitty, Patter," and "(I've Got A) Happy Heart." The title track of 1972's My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own also reached the Top Ten. Although not her biggest hit, "L.A. International Airport" became Raye's signature song, peaking at #9 on the Billboard Country Chart and a minor hit on the Billboard Pop Top 100, peaking at #54.
Susan Raye became the first woman to become a major country artist without recording in Nashville, a feat previously accomplished only by male stars like Owens and Merle Haggard. Raye was nominated by the Academy of Country Music three times as "Top Female Vocalist". Raye married Owens' drummer, Jerry Wiggins in 1972. They have been married for over 30 years and are the parents of six children.
Much of her material was light-hearted in tone and colored by scenes of domestic life. In 1972, Raye had an additional two Top 20 Country hits from separate albums, "Wheel of Fortune" and "Love Sure Feels Good in My Heart". In 1973 Raye's next album, Cheating Game spawned two singles, one of which (the title track) reached #18 on the Billboard Country Chart that year. The second single, "When You Get Back from Nashville" was not as successful and peaked outside Country's Top 40. That same year, Raye and Owens reunited for an album, The Good Old Days (Are Again), and together they had a Top 40 hit from the album. In 1974, Raye's album, Singing Susan Raye also released a Top 20 hit, a remake of "Stop the World (And Let Me Off)".
Raye returned in 1975 with "Whatcha Gonna Do With a Dog Like That", which peaked within the Top 10 on the Billboard Country Chart and a duet single with Buck Owens also placed in the Top 20 that year. However, Raye's next single from her album Whatcha Gonna Do With a Dog Like That didn't become successful, and her popularity soon began to decline. Raye released one final album with Capitol in 1976, Honey Toast and Sunshine before parting ways with the label.
1977 ??? 1984: Career decline
In the late 70s, Raye dropped out of the music business, citing family and religion as her reasons. In 1977, she released her last album of the decade. The self-title album on United Artists spawned four singles, none of which reached the Top 40. It was Raye's last studio album issued from a major record label. In 1985, she released the album There and Back, which generated the minor hit single "I Just Can't Take the Leaving Anymore," but it only reached #68 that year. She followed up There and Back with Then and Now. Then and Now was a double-concept album. The A-side of the album featured updated rerecordings of Susan Raye's biggest hits. The songs on the B-side were gospel/contemporary Christian songs. It was the last time Raye recorded an album.
Other careers since music
Susan Raye is a devoted Christian. She went to college to obtain a degree in psychology in the early 1980s. She decided to continue her studies rather than build on her chart return and became a successful Christian psychologist. She has been completely retired from show business since 1986.
Susan Raye returned to LAX on August 6, 2003 during the 75th anniversary year of LAX. She performed the song with a Bakersfield band and backup vocalists for an enthusiastic outdoor crowd from the airport community.