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Ray Ruff & The Checkmates
January 28, 2010

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Over the years of doing these columns on our rich rock and roll history, one of the areas I talk about is regional road band marketing.

This is the model, where a band from Kansas, Oklahoma, Illinois, or Texas would buy a large quantity of ads on such stations at KOMA-Oklahoma City, KAAY-Little Rock, Ark.,or WLS in Chicago. The bands would tour an area based upon the strong radio promotion,

and become real regional rock and roll stars.

There are countless bands who all made this model work. Such groups as the Fabulous Flippers, Roarin' Red Dogs, Blue Things, Rising Suns, Spider &. the Crabs and Wes Reynolds & His Blood Thirsty Executioners, all come to mind.

But, there had to be an artist that can take credit for inventing the concept of regional radio rock and roll marketing. Keep in mind that most of the above mentioned bands were all touring between 1966 and 1971.

The concept really began in 1961-1962 with an artist based out of Amarillo, Texas, Ray Ruff & The Checkmates.

Ruff invented the idea of broad based radio marketing using the concept to turn him and his band the Checkmates into real rock and roll stars over a broad based area. There is no question, Ruff was the "godfather" of Mid America rock and roll road marketing.

Ruff, born Ray Puffin, grew up and was childhood friends with such artists as Buddy Holly and Buddy Knox.

Because of his singing style and his cool Texan youthful looks, Norman Petty, Buddy

Holly's record producer, tabbed Ruff to fill the shoes of Holly after Holly's tragic death. In fact. Holly played on some of RufFs early recording sessions at Norman Petty's studios in Clovis, New Mexico.

Ruff brought together some great Texas based musicians to compose one of the best rock bands on the road, The Checkmates. They included: the legendary Chuck Tharp on lead guitar and vocals, Larry Marchan, rhythm guitar. Jerry Hodges-bass, Chico Apadocca- drums and Ruff on vocals.

Tharp was a well known musician though out Texas and New Mexico from the time he spent with the Fireballs ("Sugar Shack"- " Bottle Of Wine").

Ruff was like a recording gypsy. He traveled the U.S. to release his singles. Such locations where he recorded included: 0klahoma City, Gainsville, Texas, Amarillo, Texas, Dallas, Texas, Clovis, New Mexico, St. Louis, Missouri, and Seattle, Washington.

Later in his music career Ruff would work in music promotion for Dot, Decca, and Motown Records. In this role he would manage and produce records for such artists as:

Dorsey Burnette, Pat Boone, Ronnie Dove, Oak Ridge Boys, Reba Mclntyre, Osmond Brothers, Hank Williams Jr, and Susie Allison.

Ray was a true music man from his very beginning to his untimely death in 2005.

Ruff was a regular visitor to our area ballrooms in the early 60's having played the Starr Ballroom in Dakota City twice and our Laramar Ballroom here in Fort Dodge two times as well. His October 1964 appearance having set the Laramar's largest attendance to that date.

Ray Ruff & the Checkmates, real rock and roll road warriors, and another important part of the Fort Dodge music story.

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