Ray was born in Moate, County Westmeath to Patrick, a baker, and Nora, a shopkeeper. He was one of three sons, his brothers being Padraic and John. His first venture into the music scene was when he played saxophone for a local group “the Merrymen” while still attending the local Carmelite College Secondary School. By 1969 he had joined and was lead singer for the group Ray Lynam and the Hillbillies and had their first Irish Charts success with a cover of the Buck Owens song “Sweet Rosie Jones”.
During the Wembley Country Music Festival of 1974, he teamed up with one of Irelands leading female country singers, Philomena Begley and went on to record many hit duets with her, including My Elusive Dreams in 1975.