Ray Deaton is much more than just a bassist in bluegrass bands. And that doesn't just mean that he is also good at singing bass vocals, as many a bluegrass bassist is required to be. Not that he isn't; in fact, Deaton is said to have one of the lowest voices in this genre, often praised by critics with some of the same adjectives used to describe a healthy, idling truck engine, including "rumbling." Deaton is also a tenor vocalist who can bring an audience to its feet, and the producer of many bluegrass bluegrass and gospel sessions, with a particular knack for bringing out the best in family bands. Not enough? Deaton began doing the booking for some of the groups he worked with, including the illustrious IIIrd Tyme Out, leading to him start up his own booking agency. Seeing as how he also picks quite well on guitar and mandolin, in summation he seems to make any other members of any group obsolete, unless they own a van.
Many fans of the mountain music scene came across Deaton in the company of Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, although he also worked with the Everett Brothers. The bassist joined the former group in order to replace Curtis Vestal, and critics immediately commented that Deaton's bass vocals were even "more rumbling" than Vestal's. In 1991, a gaggle of pickers with this group decided to leave and start their own band, which would become IIIrd Tyme Out. Guitarist Russell Moore and fiddler Mike Hargrove were the others involved in making this musical move. The group, based out of Georgia, became one of the most important progressive bluegrass outfits of the '90s. Deaton began producing the group's recordings, and by the end of the '90s, was also taking on projects such as the Chapmans and the superb singer Beth Stevens. While he seems to be focusing more and more on producing, that doesn't mean he isn't playing. Deaton often does vocal or instrumental guest spots on his production projects.