Ray Carr: The Larry King of Cleveland Media and Pop Culture

CLEVELAND, OHIO – Cleveland media personality, interviewer and WCSB-radio DJ, Ray Carr, is one of those unique individuals who knew what he wanted to do in life from a very young age... and some 35 years later, it turns out he was exactly right!

Article by Joe Milliken * Photos courtesy of Ray Carr 1. Your Master of Ceremonies 2. Cleveland media man 3. Ray in his true element 4. Ray with another Cleveland icon, David Spero

“I wanted to be a member of the media since I was 5-years-old, it just fascinated me,” Ray said in a recent Standing Room Only interview. “Being an only child, my confidence was a little shaky early on and I wanted to be the center of attention. I learned to temper that and perfect my showmanship, however, and when to exert my abilities to enhance the moment.”

A tried-and-true Clevelander, Ray attended Lakewood High School, majored in communications at Cleveland State University (CSU), loves baseball and hockey, and his knowledge of music, sports, television, movies and the Cleveland history is unprecedented. His home is a relative pop culture museum, including sports and entertainment bobbleheads, classic cartoon collectables, and tons of music and rock-and-roll photography, including rare images by legendary Cleveland photographer George Shuba.

A lifelong music fan, Ray declares – like many – the Beatles as his main music influence, however, he also sites people like Cleveland Cavalier, Hall of Fame play-by-play broadcaster, Joe Tait (“his phrasing and style was second-to-none”) and iconic interviewer Larry King as major influences. “Larry had a radio show in the 80s and interviewed people from all walks of life. That gave me the idea to eventually become an interviewer myself.”

While in high school Ray started doing gigs as a DJ and was influenced by such great on-air personalities as Casey Kasem, Johnny Holliday, Larry Morrow, Mad Daddy and sport talk show legend Pete Franklin. “They all had an impact on me, and my breaks started coming at different times and in different ways. My first DJ gig was at a dive bar in Cleveland’s near westside area - when I literally had no idea how to play music - for a rough biker crowd coming from the antithesis in lifestyle. I survived because I learned to assimilate and then eventually start a rapport, memorize all requests and become a student of music. That became my salvation!”

Carr would float around Cleveland for the next couple of years, honing his craft while playing every bar and club gig he could muster, while also attending Cleveland State University for a year, before realizing he wasn’t ready for college or the discipline of radio. “In 1983 my first break came at a bar in Maple Heights, Ohio called The Maple Grove Inn. It gave me the valuable exposure and a showcase needed to enhance my popularity in Cleveland.

“I learned how to build a big crowd and keep them entertained, dancing, and excited! I created many crazy contests to start the evening, such as full contact musical chairs, hula hoops, beer chugging and various trivia – things would get much more refined as the years went on – losing the beer chugging and other less than sophisticated contests. (laughs)”

In the early 80s the format at WCSB wasn’t necessarily Ray’s “cup of tea” – playing mostly punk and metal music – not the 50s and 60s music that he mostly enjoyed playing, so he continued to book parties, bars and events. “I was too raw and green to understand how to adjust, so I continued as a mobile DJ under the name ‘The DJ Ray Show’ from 1982 through 2007. Then, I decided to finish college and in 2008, I was again a student at CSU. That’s when my WCSB career started in earnest, interning at the station until 2009 when ‘The Ray Car Show’ was finally born!”

Ray's popular radio show focuses on rare 50s, 60s and 70s songs that have mostly flown under the radar, with various interviews mixed in. Early on the interviews were with mostly local, not-so-famous people but as time went on, the guests just got bigger and bigger. Ray has a unique flair, and a distinctive radio voice that resonates. He has the uncanny ability to spark interest in whatever subject he is talking about, whatever unique songs he is offering up, and whoever he is engaging in an interview.

And speaking of interviews, Ray has talked to a who’s who of musicians and a wide array of celebrities over the years, such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Rich Little, Petula Clark, Wayne Newton, Dick Dale, Engelbert Humperdinck, Neil Sedaka, Jane Seymour, Mickey Gilley, Peter Noone, Chubby Checker, Gene Simmons, Jeff Foxworthy, George Lopez, and Graham Nash, to name but a few. “All my past influences helped me to hone my skills to eventually become the top interviewer in Cleveland.

“However, I also remember the struggles,” Ray continued. “The voluminous amount of party centers, some were very challenging in terms of setting up, treating me poorly because I was simply thought of as ‘just another DJ’ in their minds. I had to overcome a lot of negative stigma and prove that I was a professional, unique, and a notch above the rest. I had to know more and speak better, read the crowd and, let’s not forget, have all the records people wanted to hear before there were CDs and laptops.”

It has been a long and winding road (to quote his favorite band) for Ray Carr, but all these experiences have molded him into the stellar interviewer and entertainer that he has become. He makes his guests feel at ease, which this writer can certainly attest to, as I was interviewed by Ray multiple times for my recently published book about Cleveland icon, the late musician Benjamin Orr of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees The Cars. Yes, the man knows his craft and does it well.

Tune in to Ray’s Tuesday morning radio show, “The Ray Carr Show,” on Cleveland’s WCSB 89.3 FM for live, in-depth interviews mixed with unique oldies music (50s, 60s,70s) and assorted comedy interludes. His mobile DJ service, “The DJ Ray Show,” provides top-notch professional entertainment for weddings, events and parties, including his extensive music collection (Top-40 pop, classic oldies, jazz, Motown and more), interactive games and activities and trivia contests.

Carr also Emcee’s corporate events and has been a high school sports announcer for over 20 years. He has also been the Master of Ceremonies for such companies as American Airlines, Cleveland Cavaliers, Cleveland Athletic Club and Fox News 8, and such charities as Blondes vs. Brunettes – Alzheimer’s Association Annual Football Game, Blind Cane Walk, Race to Cure Sarcoma, and the Monster Mutt Dash. To learn more about Ray’s many professional entertainment services, please visit the “master of ceremonies” of entertainment knowledge at raycarram.com.