To Country Star Razzy Bailey, Nashville's More Than 'music City'—it's Twilight Zone South
In the past two years Razzy Bailey has had five No. 1 singles on the country charts—Lovin' Up a Storm, I Keep Coming Back, Friends, Midnight Hauler and You Left Love All Over Me. His current Everytime You Cross My Mind (You Break My Heart) is in Top 10 territory. His most recent present to his wife, Sandra, was a Datsun 280-ZX. Yawn, right? Just another freak C&W success. But look again: For 12 years Razzy, 43, was strumming in anonymity on the honky-tonk circuit, a heavy drinker and a gamblin' fool right out of Kenny Rogers' nightmare. One day in 1976 his wife of 17 years got so fed up she packed up the kids and left Razzy high and wet. So he got it into his head to turn things around, and guess what did it for him. Are you ready?
"When I first saw Razzy, I knew he had more on the ball than he was using, and I felt it was my responsibility to plant seeds of how to optimize his potential." The speaker is June Mahoney, and the sign outside her home/office in Cassadaga, Fla. reads "Medium." A decidedly this-worldly sort, Razzy, who was living in Macon, Ga. at the time, had agreed to see her only to mollify his mom. Still, he knew he had a problem because of "these quivers in my stomach telling me when things were wrong. I just thought I was paranoid."
The first thing that impressed him about the tranquil, soft-spoken June was when she told him that she knew he was a songwriter and that he was in a funk about a contract he'd signed. Then she asked, "Do the initials 'P.W.' mean anything to you?" They did indeed. Bailey's manager then was Phil Walden, former head of the now defunct Capricorn Records. "She told me I was going to get out of my contract real easy," Razzy remembers, "and this guy was notorious for making people buy out of their contracts. She told me I should go in and ask him to free me." Sure enough, when Bailey mustered the nerve, Walden not only said okay but wished him good luck.
That same year June predicted that one of Razzy's tunes would become a hit. "I hadn't been to Nashville to pitch a song in months," says Bailey. But Dickey Lee recorded Razzy's 9,999,999 Tears, which climbed to the Top 10. An RCA contract for Bailey followed.
"I think of Razzy as a son," says June, a minister of the Universal Spiritualist Association based in Chesterfield, Ind. For her help Bailey gives her "donations" from time to time. What's more, he adds, she's taught him to listen to his own "inner guts."
The second of three children of a cotton mill laborer and his wife, Razzy (born Rasie) grew up poor near Big Snipper Creek, in Huguley, Ala. "We had no indoor plumbing or electricity," he recalls. "My mother could shoot the head off a chicken with one shot. That's how we got Sunday dinner." School was brightened only by jam sessions at recess. Razzy joined the Future Farmers of America, not because he hankered to till the soil but to gain a slot in the FFA string band.
Married at age 19 to high school sweetheart Sandra Pressley, Bailey supported his burgeoning family by working at a series of daytime jobs in Tampa, Fla., getting his musical licks where he could. Alas, by age 21 he thought himself "over the hill for sure, because Elvis had made it at 19." Then he sought to make his fortune by gambling in the back rooms of Georgia nightclubs. He lost a heap of money. "I was too stupid to cheat," he observes.
That setback sent him back to music. By 1967 he had formed a trio which weathered a succession of sidemen and monikers (Daily Bread and Aquarians, among them) and held forth in a range of sleazy locales—including a booking in an Atlanta strip joint. In the '70s Razzy graduated to a solo act. But he never really clicked until his meeting of minds with Mahoney.
His association with her has engendered criticism, says Razzy: "Some of my friends are ribbing me and saying I shouldn't be involved in things like that." Some of his friends, however, are also asking for June's phone number. And the success she inspired helped Bailey to clean up his act, reconcile with Sandra, and move his family into a three-bedroom house down the road a piece from Johnny Cash in Hendersonville, Tenn., outside Nashville. "I'd like more hits," he says, "but I'd also like to do television and eventually acting." What does Mahoney have in mind? "I see Razzy going much further," she says. "His music will always be the major part of his career. But I see other avenues opening up—commercials, TV, definitely a few movies." Told of June's predictions, Razzy chuckles. Unbeknownst to her, he insists, a movie producer has already contacted him. "She keeps telling me everything is going to be all right," Bailey says. "And it is."
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