THREE RIVERS AREA Zyndall Raney sat on the bench at his black Yamaha grand piano and began to play a medley of songs in his studio in Drasco.
“A little boogie-woogie,” he said with a laugh, never missing a note as he continued to play more snippets of songs. “That was an old Floyd Cramer song; he was a good friend of mine.”
For his lifetime of achievements, Raney, 64, was recently inducted into the George D. Hay Foundation and Music Hall of Fame. Raney said his father, Wayne Raney, had been inducted into five halls of fame.
Following in the footsteps of his father, Raney made his career in almost every aspect of the music business, from performing to producing to manufacturing. Another thing Raney and his father had in common was that they were both born in the same log cabin in Wolf Bayou. The cabin is now at the William Carl Garner Visitor Center in Heber Springs, not because two famous men were born there, but because it was the first cabin built in Cleburne County that had windows, Raney said.
The Raney men worked together hosting a radio program that was broadcast on 126 stations. Also in the mid-’50s, Zyndall and Wayne were on another show in California called California Hayride.
Zyndall said he played rhythm guitar for his father, who had his own segment on the show. Also on the show were Cal Smith, who was known for his 1974 hit “Country Bumpkin”; George Hayes,who was better known as Gabby Hayes in Western movies; and Johnny Rivers.
Meanwhile, in Concord, Wayne had set up Rimrock Manufacturing Co., which was not only a recording studio, but also manufactured LPs and 45s. In 1961, when Zyndall was 16, he moved back to Concord to help build the family business.
Also a sideman for several bands, Zyndall said he joined the McCoys and played organ and sang thirdpart harmony in the band’s song “Hang on Sloopy,” which was a No. 1 hit in October 1965.
Working for performers such as Charlie Rich, Jerry Lee Lewis and Mel Tillis, Zyndall was not only the opening and closing act for them, but he kept theirpianos tuned. He also played piano on the demo cut for Rich’s hit “Behind Closed Doors.”
In 1974, Stax Records in Memphis, Tenn., bought Rimrock, but Zyndall continued to work with the company.
“We would commute back and forth from the Batesville airport to the Memphis airport in a Cessna 410 as much as six times a day,” Zyndall said. “We did some demo cuts for Aretha Franklin to decide if we wanted to contract her or not.”
Zyndall said that although he voted for her, the majority of the board members decided not tocontract Franklin.
“The rest voted her out,” he said. “The rest is history. She went to Atlantic.”
He said because it would cost about $1 million to record and promote an artist, the board didn’t believe she was a good risk.
“I told them, ‘This lady is unique enough - she can sell.’ Well, their opinion was different,” he said.
After Stax bought out Rimrock, the Raneys signed a noncompete agreement for seven years.
“I got serious about building this company on June 12, 1990,” he said about his current Raney Recording Studio, which he runs with his son, Jon. “I got busy and worked day and night and had 35 employees at one point.”
B ecause Jon’s mother, Mary, helped Zyndall in the business, Jon literally grew up in a recording studio. He said he got to witness history.
“I got to see Elvis in the early 1970s do some dubbing,” Jon said about growing up at Rimrock in Concord. “He could come up here at midnight, and nobody would know.”
In fact, Jon said, he still has the 1957-era 667 Neumann microphone that Elvis used.
“I still use it at the studio,” he said.
He also recalled when Ikeand Tina Turner came to Concord to make a recording.
“ They had to smuggle them out of town,” Jon said, “because the KKK had gotten wind that they were here.”
“S e veral black p eople had to come in at night [to record] and leave,” Zyndall added. “Cleburne County didn’t accept blacks at all. That’s changed now, for the good. The younger folks are more accepting.”
Another achievement of which Zyndall is quite proud is a song he wrote with his father.
“My dad and me wrote a gospel song, ‘We Need a Whole Lot More of Jesus (And a Lot Less Rock and Roll),” he said. “Linda Ronstadt thought enough of it to record it.”
Jon said the reason the Raneys set up shop in Drasco is because it’s home.
“Most of our business is out of state, and in the last two months, I’ve recorded six to eight albums,” Jon said.
Raney Recording Studio is still going strong, but in the 1990s, it produced more than 90 albums a year and manufactured more than a quarter million cassettes per year.
“ Times have changed, people have changed, and the way you do business has changed,” Zyndall said.
Staff writer Jeanni Brosius can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
up closegetting to know Zyndall RaneyBirth date: Feb. 9, 1944 Birthplace: Wolf Bayou, Ark.
First musical instrument: A Bigsby guitar given to me when I was 7 by Lefty Frizzell Which side of the music business I like best: Whichever side the money is on