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Ray Burnette and The Moonlighters secure place in Galax history

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The Galax-based band played everywhere from hay wagons to the decks of battleships from the 1960s to the 1980s.

By SHAINA STOCKTON, Staff
Friends, family and fans gathered to celebrate with the members of Ray Burnette and the Moonlighters on March 30, as a display following the band’s history was unveiled at the Jeff Matthews Memorial Museum in Galax.
Ray Burnette and the Moonlighters formed in the late 1960s and performed until the early 1980s.
They were a variety band, “playing country, country rock, rockabilly, bluegrass, gospel or whatever people wanted to hear,” said drummer Jim Doane of Galax.
The band was known for putting on benefit shows, mainly to help others with medical expenses. “When people asked, the band would play,” Doane said. “We met a lot of good people, made many friends and had lots of fun over the years.”

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Their local venues included private clubs, VFW halls, Elks and Moose lodges, Ruritan clubs, wagon trains, company picnics and horse shows, said Doane. The band traveled to several areas in Southwest Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina. They played their music in Bluefield, Roanoke, Bristol, Raleigh, “and many towns in between.”
They had a radio show in the late 1960s on WBOB-1360 AM in Galax and appeared on TV shows in Roanoke.
They recorded two hit records, "Young and Reckless" and "Highway 9" on Destiny.  
In the early 1970s, they took their music international as the band toured Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and San Juan, Puerto Rico with stops in Kingston, Jamaica. They brought their music to battleships, officers’ clubs and enlisted men’s clubs to entertain troops and their families. “Back during that time, this wasn’t considered ‘cool,’” Doane said.
But that didn’t stop them. They had their own style.
Before the display was unveiled, Doane’s son Mark said a few words. “The group has been part of the musical history of Galax for over 20 years, entertaining folks from atop hay wagons in Southwest Virginia to the decks of battleships in the Caribbean Sea,” he said. “They always gave their best effort, resulting in good entertainment.”
Mark also read a congratulatory message from the Grayson/Carroll Shriners organization, which congratulated and thanked the band for “the music and entertainment that your band played at the horse show dances and banquets in the 60s and 70s, for the benefit of the Shriner’s Hospital for Children.”
Virginia Sen. Bill Carrico sent a commendation as well, “in recognition of 20 years of musical, patriotic and professional entertainment.”
Back in the day, Doane said, people would tell the group, “You boys can make it big in music.”
An unveiling of the new display showed a collection of framed photos of the band, and news clippings following their travels both locally and overseas.
Viewers could tell that the band had a fair taste of success.
“I guess in our hearts we did make it big... not bad for some old working boys from Galax. No sir, not bad at all,” Doane said. "I just wish we could do it all over again."