Raymond Lumpkin passes

This obituary for Virginia grasser Raymond Lumpkin is a contribution from his grandson, Spencer Atkinson.

Richmond, VA bluegrass scene native, Raymond Lumpkin, passed away at his home in Mechanicsville, VA on June 24. He was 83 years of age.

Being born January 8, 1940 in the city of Richmond, Raymond got well acquainted with the scenery and the people of the capitol city. Growing up with friends around the district of Churchill was a priceless time for him. One thing always stuck to him throughout his life: his love for music. Raymond and a friend, Bubba Kenney, started playing around Richmond as kids, singing Hank Williams, Bill Monroe, and Reno & Smiley. 

Later in the mid ’50s, he hooked up with a mandolin veteran from Lunenburg County, George Winn. Ray played with George for a while as his guitar player. He started migrating his playing to the Charlottesville area when he met his soon to be wife, Phyllis Houchens, to whom he married on August 16, 1963. In 1966 he bought his first professional guitar, a 1966 Martin D28, for $500. He used that guitar to cut his only record for Major Recording Co.

Using George Winn’s band, with George on mandolin, he cut a double-sided 45 rpm record which included timeless classics Love Letters In The Sand and Homestead On The Farm. That got him some airplay locally, and around the Charlottesville and Farmville area.

Later on he hooked up with banjo extraordinaire, Alvin Breeden, who played in Ray’s band, Ray Lumpkin & The Bluegrass Ramblers. They played for a long time together. Ray has had such people move in and out of his band throughout his career: Curley Lambert (played for The Stanley Brothers for about 12 years, plus Charlie Moore and Leon Morris), Alvin Breeden (played for Mac Wiseman and had his own group), Bernie Wright (played for Leon Morris), Billy Cox (multi-time banjo champion in Virginia), Earl Yager (played for Bob Paisley, Jimmy Martin, and the Johnson Mountain Boys), and countless others.

In the ’90s, he started a monthly show at a venue in Mechanicsville, VA called Berkley’s Opry House. Ray and Berkley King had many years together, playing there every third Friday for about 30 years. Ray had a grandson, Spencer Atkinson, who shared a love for the music as strongly as he did. The music was a big part of their bond and relationship. Ray had Spencer sink his teeth into the music, and he did so with full force. Playing with his grandpa at Berkley’s for years before joining local bands and as of December, going pro with Nick Chandler & Delivered. 

After Ray gave up performing he would still come out and watch the shows at Berkley’s, and other spots where Spencer would play. The admiration in Spencer for the music reminded him of him when he was younger and first heard the music through his grandpa. 

Raymond passed on unexpectedly June 24 at home, and his legacy and personality will live on forever in the memories he made with many people. 

R.I.P., Raymond Lumpkin