"Cuzin" Ray E. Rutherford and Gene “Butter Bean” Brewer, local musicians and entertainers at The Museum of Appalachia in Norris, Tennessee, spend their time on a porch playing music, sharing stories and cracking constant jokes. “I play somethin' between country and rap and call it crap,” laughs Ray. Gene and Ray are part of the museum's band of nine members that play for tour groups, company events, weddings, dogfights, and anything else that comes up. Ray says out on the porch you have to have a hillbilly nickname, hence the names “Cuzin” and “Butter Bean.” Every Saturday Ray also goes by “Rawhide Ray” on the western television show 'Riders of the Silver Screen.' “Ray, if you put a saddle on that horse you wouldn’t be so raw!” Gene advises. Gene and Ray are from opposite sides of the bridge in Norris and have been playing music since they were kids. Both retired, they play in the Appalachia Band part-time and on the weekends work at local beer joints. Ray's wife works in the museum gift shop.
Ray and Gene have held too many jobs over the years to count. Gene was a race-car driver and mechanic in California for several years. He came back to Tennessee to run a liquor store, worked at a Chevrolet garage and then for the last ten years of his life went back to “his roots” working on heavy equipment, specifically Caterpillars. Gene has been in a few movies, “I was a preacher in one of Barbara Mandrells’ movie. She only made one movie where she was the star in it and I was in that movie. It’s about a guy coming home from the war and finding another pig roosting in his pin. It's called Johnny Bull.” Gene was recently in a made-for-TV movie produced by Mormons.
Ray moved to Cleveland, Ohio in the 1950's to work at a foundry with some friends and would come out of there looking like a coal miner. It wasn't for him. Soon after he attended broadcasting school in Nashville. Once he graduated he became the voice of WGSV, an AM radio station in Gunnersville, Alabama. Ray worked at WGSV for nine months until the draft called him and he enlisted in the army. He never did go back Alabama. He did keep playing music, however, and while stationed in the army formed a little band who performed at a bar called Cactus in Carrizozo, New Mexico on Saturday nights. Released from the army, Ray moved to California briefly and worked at a plant were they made airplane parts, then moved back to Norris where he has lived for the past seventeen years.
Ray and Gene have known each other ever since Gene left California and came back to his Tennessee. They are often featured together on the "Heartland Series" television show in Knoxville, TN.
A quote from Ray, talking about his mother-in-law:
"I wanted to put my mother-in-law in that frame, but I couldn't find a good picture," pointing at a picture frame made from an old toilet seat. "While on her death bed she looked up at me and said, 'When I die and you bury me, I'm a gonna dig out of my grave and come back and haunt yew,' I told her I'd a bury her face down and let her dig. She's about almost to China by now."
Ray's Business Card
Ray's Pride and Joy
Click below to listen to Ray, Gene and Judy play music on the porch: