Ray Pennington
Step One Records

'I'm a Ramblin' Man' Songwriter Ray Pennington Dies in House Fire


Ray Pennington, a veteran of Nashville's country music community and writer of Waylon Jennings hit "I'm a Ramblin' Man," died on Wednesday (Oct. 7) in a house fire at his rural Tennessee residence. He was 86 years old.

As reported by the Tennessean, Shackle Island Fire Department Chief Marty Bowers said that Pennington noticed smoke coming into his Sumner County home around 2:30 p.m., so he "walked out to the garage to see what was going on, and the golf cart was on fire. The smoke was so bad that his wife couldn't get to him."

The Tennessean also reports that two firefighters were treated for heat exhaustion after extinguishing the blaze.

Taste of Country reports that Pennington's wife was home when the fire broke out, but she escaped unharmed.

Born Ramon Daniel Pennington on Dec. 22, 1933 in Clay County, Kentucky, the future Nashville mainstay began his career as a performer in the Ohio-based Western swing band The Western Rhythm Boys. In 1958, he signed with Cincinnati's King Records, using the name Ray Starr for the release of future Roy Drusky and James Brown hit "Three Hearts in a Tangle."

Pennington moved to Nashville in 1964 and first worked as a producer for Pamper Music artists Tex Williams and Kenny Price. The latter cut two of Pennington's songs, "Walking on New Grass" and "Happy Tracks." Pennington also sat in the producer's chair over the years for Billy Walker, Hawkshaw Hawkins, the Stanley Brothers and Reno and Smiley.

Two years after arriving in Music City, Pennington signed to Capitol Records as a recording artist. Singles issued by Capitol include his crowning achievement as a songwriter, "I'm a Ramblin' Man." Pennington's version reached No. 29, with Jennings' definitive recording becoming Hoss' second-ever No. 1 in 1974.

Pennington's other Capitol singles of note ask the questions "Who's Been Mowing the Lawn (While I Was Gone)" and "Who's Gonna Walk the Dog."


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Pennington also performed and recorded with steel guitarist Buddy Emmons as members of the Swing Shift Band and with Jerry McBee as the duo Bluestone.

By the '80s, Pennington ran Step One Records, the label home of everyone from living legend Ray Price to up-and-coming fiddler Clinton Gregory.

No word yet on funeral arrangements.

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