Ray Naylor is a longtime member of the Philadelphia Folksong Society. He regularly attends PFS Open Mics and the Philadelphia Folk Festival. Ray is not only a kind soul, talented singer-songwriter, but is also extremely dedicated to helping the Philadelphia Folk music scene. Ray hosts a weekly radio show, Philly Folk Scene, every Thursday 3-5pm on PhillyCAM/WPPM 106.5FM where he interviews a wide variety of musicians. Ray also has a long running interview series on YouTube called The Performing Songwriter. It gets broadcasted every Sunday at 6pm on WPPM. Ray is a true force of nature. He constantly advocates for Philly’s music community. Ray has contributed so many articles to the Tune Up spotlighting the Philadelphia Music Co-op. PFS thanks Ray for all of his contributions not just to the Philadelphia Folksong Society but to Philly’s music community. I took some time to speak with Ray about his journey as a musician, writer, and music lover.
What has your involvement with the Society and the Folk Festival entailed? I started attending and camping at the Festival in about 1981. About 20 years ago I stopped camping, it was just getting too hard. Also I use a C-Pap machine and I would need a long extension cord in the campground! In 1997 I performed for the first time at the Festival. I was in a songwriters workshop with Lucy Kaplansky, Dan Burn, David Olney and Michael Jerling. In 2017 I led and performed in a workshop with artists that had been on my interview TV show, Lady Bird and Chickabiddy. I have been a member of the Society since maybe ‘82 if not earlier! And of course I started the writing the Co-op Spotlight article for the Tune Up four years ago.
What has your journey as a musician been like? I never really thought I would ever play in front of people, just me in the backyard. But I got up the nerve to go to an open mic in 1980 (The Boothy Folk Club at 31st & Market at that time). So that started it all. I joined a new group about that time called Swords Into Plowshares. We produced concerts for artists that did peace and social justice music like Pete Seeger and Tom Paxton. As part of that I was asked to play at a demonstration in Point Pleasant against a new water pump that was planned in the Delaware River. Pete Seeger was there and he turned around towards me and asked if I’d pluck a high string E. I did but had no idea if I was in tune. The Emcee that day was Abbey Hoffman. So I like to say that in the same day I helped Pete Seeger tune his guitar and I was also introduced by former Yippie Abby Hoffman.
After all that I started playing out and getting some gigs, produced a concert series called The East Falls Folk Club. I was the first person who booked Dar Williams in Philly. Gene Shay booked her after I did (I think) and she performed at Gene’s show the night before she did at my concert.
Around 1995 to 1998 I managed three singer-Songwriters: Susan Piper, Karen Deveau and Marina Victoria. Susan, while we worked together, was one of the 6 winners of the Kerrville Folk Festival’s New Song Competition. I also ran a bunch of open mics, including one at The Tin Angel and booked music into small venues. Later on I produced another concert series in Mt Airy.
I produced and hosted a radio program Fiddles & Frets from 1980-1982 out of Widener University’s radio station, and a cable TV show by the same name from 1983-1984. In 2006 I put together an interview radio show. I currently host the Philly Folk Scene on PhillyCAM/WPPM 106.5FM every Thursday from 3-5pm. I produced and hosted a YouTube TV show for 4 years called “The Performing Songwriter”. It ended in June 2018 after 100 shows.
Where do you get the most inspiration for your song writing? If an idea pops into my mind or sometimes I’ll come up with the title first. The title came up in my mind and I write the song around the title—it’s a story but it’s a made up story.
A lot of the work you do revolves around helping today’s musicians with their own music promotion—teaching them how to promote themselves. I’ve done a lot of that, yeah. Probably to the detriment of my own music. Part of that is true, I enjoy helping people and I’ve done that pretty much since the beginning. Shortly after I started performing, I became a Social Work and was one up until I retired.
You’ve contributed so many Spotlight articles throughout the years. Is there a specific interview that stands out most? Why? All the articles were memorable but I really can’t pick one. Now, if I had interviewed Bob Dylan….
Have you learned anything new from your interviews? Have they changed you as a musician, music lover, etc.? One thing I learned is how many talented musicians we have in Philadelphia. I’ve talked to several who had lived somewhere else and came to Philly for the music scene. As far as myself, I’ve learned that I have to practice more. Still working on it!
You’ve recently started a new endeavor as a radio show host on WPPM. Tell us about your experience so far! The radio station (WPPMFM) is part of PhillyCam. In addition to the radio station, PhillyCam provides all the public access TV programing in Philadelphia for Comcast and Verizon. I went to PhillyCam asking if they would run episodes of The Performing Songwriter on their public access station, which they agreed to. It runs every Sunday at 6pm. It was then that learned about the radio station. They like local stuff and I talked with the station manager about the Folksong Society and the Philadelphia Music Co-Op. She was interested, and that’s how it came about.
At least 40% of the music I play are local artists, the rest from out of town artists. I’ve always loved live music on my shows, and every week I have a guest, many Co-Op members. I still have a long, long list of people that want to be guests. I’m happy to be able to provide another benefit for Co-Op members by playing their recorded music, and giving them a chance to be on the radio.