Ray Fulcher has the distinction of playing the Grand Ole Opry and being the recipient of a 2005 SEC Championship Ring and a 2007 Season Sugar Bowl Ring.
Getting to that ultimate milestone for a country music artist arrived in June, more than seven years after Fulcher picked up and moved from his hometown of Harlem, Georgia, near Augusta to Nashville.
It followed co-writing a # 1 hit streak with Luke Combs and signing a recording deal with Black River Entertainment which released Fulcher’s new EP last week.
It’s been quite a journey since his days as a student assistant and then graduate assistant in the Georgia football program.
He worked with assistant Mike Bobo and quarterback Matthew Stafford.
âI always tell people that I got to live two dreams,â said Fulcher, 35, before a recent show at Summerfest in Milwaukee. âThis is my second. My dream was to play soccer in Georgia, but my dream came true because I started working for the soccer team.
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That football team – the # 2 ranked Bulldogs – are heading to where Fulcher is now calling home for a Saturday 12 p.m. ET game at Vanderbilt, but he’s taken his new music from Music City on tour.
He will perform this fall at Madison Square Garden in New York, United Center in Chicago and TD Garden in Boston on tour with Combs and Ashley McBryde. He performed in another large venue – the Appalachian State Football Stadium for the Combs comeback concert earlier this month in front of more than 30,000 people.
It was at Sanford Stadium in 1996 that Fulcher was struck by Georgian football when his father took him to a game against Southern Miss.
âIt was just like heaven on earth,â he said. âI just fell in love with the atmosphere of Athens and the pageantry of what college football is like – the playing group, the bridge and the Sanford stadium. From there, I didn’t miss a game.
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Even when he played for the Harlem High football team in a rare Saturday game at the same time, Georgia beat Auburn in 2002 on their way to the SEC Championship game. He listened to the game on the radio on headphones during warm-ups.
His first season in Georgia came in 2005 when DJ Shockley helped lead the Bulldogs to the 2005 SEC Championship.
His time on staff meant a full course load until 2 p.m., then to the Butts-Mehre building and training grounds until around 9 p.m., with Saturdays being busy on match days, including games. road trips.
âI wouldn’t have done it any other way,â Fulcher said. âIt was heaven for me. All I wanted was to graduate and work for the team. I was a guy who loved training, loved the camaraderie, loved traveling outside, seeing other stadiums and feeling like I was somehow a part of every win and I felt every loss even stronger when I was just a fan.
He was then a graduate assistant to the equipment staff for two years.
âA great guy, worked hard,â said Georgia athletic director Josh Brooks, who at the time was director of football operations for coach Mark Richt. “I remember learning about his passion for music and his projects.”
Fulcher graduated from UGA with an undergraduate and master’s degree in education and thought he would embark on teaching and training in high school, but seeing Eric Church perform at the Georgia Theater in Athens for the first time was changed the game.
âHe played a song called ‘Lightning’, and it hit me like a freight train,â Fulcher said. âI went to buy a guitar.
He was part of a group with college roommates called Southern Cured. They performed a few nights a week downtown at places like JR’s Bait Shack, 40 Watt, Georgia Theater, and Sandbar.
âAny bar that would allow us to play,â he said.
He formed another band called Country Line with a friend from his home who performed mostly covers around Augusta and South Carolina, in northern Georgia and Valdosta as well as that of General Beauregard in Athens.
âI would try to write songs,â Fulcher said. “I knew if I ever had to make it more than a hobby, from what people told me, I had to move to Nashville and give it a try.”
On his first weekend there, he met another newcomer from Georgia who Combs was staying with as he launched his own recording career.
Their friendship led to four # 1 songs they co-wrote, including “When it Rains it Pours” and “Even While I’m Leaving”. Fulcher has written 17 songs in everything Combs has recorded as well as a couple for the new Zac Brown Band record and for Riley Green and Tenille Arts.
âYou were hoping for the best for him and to see it all come to fruition is awesome,â said Brooks. âYou are always happy when good things happen to good people. Just a great guy and always someone I keep in touch with.
Fulcher’s new music is featured on his EP “Larkin Hill Mixes” which includes the singles “Girl in It” and “Compliment”.
âWe recorded these songs during the pandemic even before we had a recording contract and several others,â said Fulcher, who has reached 30 million artist streams and 3 billion streams as a songwriter. . Hope people like it.
Fulcher recorded a song that brings family and football together last year called “Love Ya Son, Go Dawgs”.
The clip features a photo from Fulcher’s senior day and then coach Mark Richt.
Fulcher follows this year’s Georgia team on their road tours.
He usually checks the Bulldog news for the day before going to sleep.
He received text messages for updates while playing Clemson while playing the Appalachian State show. He recorded the game and watched it all the next morning when he returned to Nashville.
âI also have group texts, where we’re almost doing film studies,â Fulcher said. “‘Have you seen this room? How did this guy miss this block? We still break it down pretty well. It still means as much to me as it did when I worked for the team.
Fulcher will be up Saturday morning in Seattle where he has a show that night to watch Vanderbilt’s game at 9 a.m. He would like to have a particular concert on the road.
“Maybe,” he said, “I’ll play Sanford someday.”