Her passion for music began early, fueled by her family’s musical talents and interests. Her first stage performance took place when she was just four years old. Other members of the family played fiddle, mandolin, and the banjo, while Ruby herself learned to play the guitar sitting on her daddy’s knee. Her real passion though, was for the fiddle. When she was younger, she would always manage to get her hands on her older brother Raymond’s fiddle and by the time she reached high-school she was determined to be a great fiddle player. This, remember, was during a time when women were not held in the same regard as men in the fiddle playing community. Practicing sometimes as much as eight hours a day, she eventually went on to win the National Champion Lady Fiddler award in 1947, which solidified her as a top fiddler, challenging the idea that women were not worthy competitors in fiddle playing. Ruby also played numerous shows all around northeast Texas including Greenville, Bonham, Wolfe City, and many others.
As television was mostly absent in working-class homes of the time, much of the entertainment came from the types of country shows in which Ruby was involved. From early on she had what many people recognized as an engaging stage presence, which was an extension of her lively personality. As she played more local shows throughout her teenage and young adult years, she developed an exceptional style of fiddling and a charisma that was uniquely her own. In the 1940s Ruby was playing in these shows with two very renowned fiddle players, Georgia “Slim” Rutland and Howard “Howdy” Forrester. Also during this time she was a part of a band that included her two brothers, Raymond and Roy Allmond, who played acoustic rhythm guitars, and Harold Carder, who played stand up bass. She eventually formed her own band called the Texas Jamboree which included Guy Bryant, his children Joyce and Gene Bryant, and Clay Harvey. Ruby played the fiddle, Bryant and his children played the mandolin and acoustic guitars, while Harvey was on stand up bass. Considered at that time as one of the “top notch fiddle bands”, Texas Jamboree soon caught the attention of Congressman Sam Rayburn who would take them along on his campaign tours to entertain the crowd.
Writing and Recording
Throughout this time, Ruby’s long time friend, and now the executor of her estate, Audra Brock, had been supporting her. Audra lived “within shouting distance” of Ruby and her family, and remembers being able to hear Ruby’s family in the front yard playing music. After she and Ruby became good friends, Audra recognized that Ruby had a real talent and wanted to help preserve her music. Audra bought a reel-to-reel tape machine to record Ruby’s songs and even learned how to play the drums to help Ruby keep rhythm. In a makeshift home studio, which was an eight by twelve ready made building, the duo recorded Ruby’s songs. Audra said that each of them had their own side of the studio: Ruby had her end with guitar, fiddles, amplifiers, and microphone while Audra had her own side with the tape machine and drums.
Ruby had all-around talent and would edit, produce and record most of her own music. Both she and Audra worked at the Bonham State Bank, and during the day Ruby would compose complete songs in her head, including lyrics, melodies and instrumentation. After work she would go visit with her father, usually eating dinner with him, and then it was off to the studio where, as Audra explains, Ruby wanted to play the song she had been compiling in her head once through with no interruptions.
In 1968, Audra and Ruby decided to take some of Ruby’s songs to Nashville, but before they went, Ruby said she wanted to stop by and see the Texas singer/songwriter Cindy Walker. They met with Cindy one Saturday afternoon and Cindy was impressed with Ruby’s talent. She asked Ruby and Audra to stay in town overnight and they attended church with her the next morning. In the church auditorium after the service, Cindy explained to Ruby that she had put in a call to Nashville. Cindy was sending Ruby to talk with Bob Jennings, the publisher at RCA. In turn, he would introduce Ruby to Chet Atkins. Ruby and Audra sent a tape to Jennings and he invited them to a studio for a demo recording session. Audra recalls that after he listened to six of the recorded songs, he handed Ruby a guitar and asked her to sing something that was not on the tape. She sang “Reno”. The song, which ended up being recorded by Dottie West and produced by Chet Atkins, was a hit, breaking the Top Ten on the country music charts. Chet Atkins produced several of her songs, and even told Ruby that she was “a great songwriter.” The decision to meet with Cindy, along with the conversation in the church auditorium, would propel Ruby into a successful and fulfilling career in music.
Besides writing songs to be recorded and produced by others, Ruby also wrote songs that were specifically for stage shows. Later on in her career Ruby participated in many local stage shows around the Bonham, Texas area to raise funds for the community. One song that was strongly requested was “Listen to The Mockingbird”. Considered a stage song, the original arrangement came from back in her early fiddling days. She arranged the song in such a way as to highlight her extraordinary fiddle playing. Other crowd favorites like “Honky-Tonk Rock” and “Indian Rock” not only had obvious country music roots, but had influences from other genres as well. These were meant to be lively, up-beat songs that would energize the atmosphere at the shows.
Ruby told Audra later in life that she wanted Audra to destroy her songs after she had died. She reasoned that they were her songs alone, and that people may not be able to appreciate them or the work that she had put into their creation. But in 2003, after Ruby met with Dr. James Conrad from Texas A&M University-Commerce’s Special Collections Department, Ruby agreed that Audra could submit her music to the University's Collection.
Before she died in January 2006, Ruby and Audra had been working on assembling some of her songs into a collection. The songs were compiled into 2 CD sets, Today I’ll Think About the Rain and A Little Home Cooking. The former is an anthology of songs that consists of two CD’s plus a book of lyrics of all 41 songs in the collection. Ruby helped pick the songs and assemble the book. She also chose the title which comes from a line in “I Mustn’t Pass This Way Again.” The book contains not only the lyrics to all the songs, but also forwards written by Audra about Ruby and her music. It is divided into three sections, Sounds of Texas, A Little ‘Bout Life, and A Lot About Love. After Ruby’s death, Audra published the book.
The latter CD set, A Little Home Cooking, came about because the residents around Bonham requested a compilation of Ruby’s instrumental work. Audra promptly assembled an album of 22 instrumental songs played by Ruby on the fiddle and guitar. Most are songs that Ruby herself wrote, while a few are cover songs.
Ruby is described by friends and fellow musicians as a very talented and fun-loving person. Audra recalls that Ruby had not only a love for music but also a strong interest in words and writing. Ruby’s writing was so eloquent that she won the Interscholastic Essay Contests in high school. Her knack for writing songs came from her fascination with words in addition to a general love of people and life. With a great sense of humor and endearing personality, it is no wonder that she had such a strong group of supporters and friends. Audra said that Ruby loved stringed instruments and quoted her as saying “Having your hands directly on the strings, you could put your heart into it.” And living by that mentality, Ruby has left a legacy that will be remembered and cherished.