All About Michael Ray’s Lucky Penny

New Ink Inspired by His Grandma's Nickname

It’s not like Michael Ray has ever kept his tattoo passion a secret.

His arms are virtually covered in ink, and yet, he rarely covers them up. The vast collection includes a faith-based cross, an old-school microphone, and a feather pen tattoo for his late grandfather. And he likes to show off his sleeve tattoo that is the mirror image of his dad’s sleeve tattoo.

And Ray is kind of an open book when he talks about them. So the last time he was in Chicago — when he tweeted that he was getting some new ink and needed some new music to listen to during the tattooing process — he told me all about the new one.

“I brought my tattoo guy on the road with me this time,” Ray told me, “because I never have time when I’m home.”

Then Ray showed me his new arm ink of a penny with the year 1945 right below it, and shared the story behind it.

“When my grandfather passed away, I was up late doing his obituary and the slide show for his funeral. At about 3:00 in morning, there was this typical, this-cannot-get-any-worse moment. Everything was going wrong.

“I said to him, ‘You’ve got to give me a sign.’ I looked down and saw a penny on the ground. My grandmother’s nickname was Penny, and she’s had it her whole life. I picked that penny up, and now anytime anything monumental happens, I find another penny.”

He has played the Grand Ole Opry 35 times, and now he treasures the 35 pennies he’s found backstage somewhere.

“I’ve always found them randomly before I walk onstage.” And now, even when he doesn’t find one, he’ll always have a penny with him.

Ray is on the road through the end of the year, and then he’ll kick off his 2019 with scheduled tour stops from Iowa to British Columbia.

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.