- "Well you can kiss my decision as it's walking out the door."
- —Rayna Jaymes to Marshall Evans
Rayna Jaymes (born Rayna Wyatt) was a country singer/songwriter who lived in Nashville and was trying to maintain her place as "Queen of Country", but was losing her top status to her rival, Juliette Barnes. She was portrayed by Connie Britton.
After two decades of topping the charts, Rayna Jaymes’ career has begun to wobble: Her last album tanked and ticket sales are soft. But Rayna is not ready to surrender the crown as the “Queen of Country.”
Rayna’s going to try to reclaim her career, all while juggling the responsibilities of being a mom to Maddie and Daphne, and supporting her husband, Teddy Conrad, who’s trying to rebuild a career of his own.
Rayna remembers a time when it didn’t used to be this hard. In the early days, she and Deacon Claybourne would write together, and within months those songs would ring out on radios across America. Those days seem distant now but she's not giving up. Rayna Jaymes has still got something to say.
Rayna Jaymes is "Queen of Country", but the head of the record label she's with, Marshall Evans, wants her to team up with a younger star on the rise, Juliette Barnes. Juliette is compelled to meet Rayna, but she snubs her by paying her attentions to Rayna's friend Watty White first, and then tells Rayna her mother had been a fan of hers. Rayna isn't all that happy that her girls, Maddie and Daphne are fans of Juliette. And she certainly doesn't want to be opening act for Juliette Barnes.
When she turns down Marshall Evans's plan, the record label stops pushing her records. Watty White comes up with a plan for her to tour more intimate venues with her guitar player, Deacon Claybourne, back like they used to do when she was starting out, a plan inspired by seeing and hearing Deacon's niece, Scarlett O'Connor, and Gunnar Scott sing together at the Bluebird Cafe.
Rayna isn't totally on board with that plan. She doesn't want to be unfaithful to her husband, Teddy, by falling back into love with Deacon. And there's also some friction between Rayna and Deacon due to Juliette trying to woo him over to playing for her. Rayna seeks out a rock star with an interest in country music, Liam McGuinnis, to help her re-invent her sound. He succeeds by getting her drunk.
The record label gets Rayna and Juliette to team up for an awards show. They write a song together and it's a hit. A tour is organised with the two stars alternating as main act. Rayna fires Deacon, following a verbal altercation between him and her husband. She has trouble adjusting to a new guitar player, but gets Liam to fill in at least for a few shows. Juliette hires Deacon, re-opening tensions between Teddy and Rayna. Teddy asks Rayna for a divorce.
It's not all her fault. Teddy's ambition to become Mayor, encouraged by Rayna's wealthy father, Lamar Wyatt, had led to Teddy confessing to her a past indiscretion: To cover a cash flow problem with a troubled Cumberland Plaza deal, he and Peggy Kenter had illegally borrowed some money. Rayna had been shocked, and even more upset to find out later from her daughter Maddie that Teddy was sweet-talking Peggy whilst she was on tour. Peggy leaks news of the divorce to the tabloids, who spread gossip that Rayna had slept with Deacon and Liam. When a publicist asks her whether she had, Rayna gets up and leaves the room, saying something like "You know what? I refuse to dignify that with a comment".
Her sister, Tandy, helps her through this difficult time. It's through Tandy, who is closer to their father, Lamar, than Rayna is, that Rayna finds out why Lamar had not been supportive of her ambition to become a country singer: their mother had had, or been suspected of having, an affair with one. But she learns from Lamar, himself, that he had, unbeknownst to her, paid for her first album.
Rayna strikes a deal with Marshall Evans whereby she can have her own record label if she signs up two great acts. She remembers the duo Watty White had gotten her to listen to, and invites them to audition. Scarlett shows up alone, with her banjo, but is good enough to get offered a deal, even though Rayna had had to race off to be with her daughter Maddie who had snuck out to attend a Juliette Barnes concert and gotten injured at the overcrowded venue. Rayna tells off Juliette; Juliette mends her ways. At the hospital, Rayna and Teddy are greeted by Deacon who had come to Maddie's rescue. It's a little awkward for them, both knowing that Deacon was Maddie's biological father, whereas Deacon is oblivious to that.
Rayna gives Maddie a guitar that had been given to her by her own mother, in hopes that Maddie will be able to channel her teenage feelings into music. Maddie gets ambitious to be a singer, and her younger sister, Daphne, also wants to be like their mother. When Rayna lets them sing during a soundcheck, they impress Marshall Evans enough that he suggests they could be the second act Rayna's looking for. She tells him to back off. She wants her girls to grow up outside the spotlights.
Lamar has a heart attack. Rayna brings the girls back to Nashville. Lamar tells her the show must go on, but she's cancelled, leaving Juliette to handle the booked-out event. Attempting to leave hospital before he should, Lamar spots Watty White and gets irate. Tandy explains to Rayna that Watty had been their mother's special friend. Watty assures Rayna that that wasn't why he'd helped her (Rayna); he'd spotted her talent. He also reveals that the day Rayna's mother had crashed her car, she was packed to leave Lamar. Deacon lends his support too, after seeing the show through. Alone with her unresponsive father, Rayna tells Lamar that she'd long thought he'd been mad at her, when he'd actually been angry at her mother. He opens his eyes. Later, out of hospital, Lamar credits Rayna with having been there for him; he shows her his collection of clippings from her career.
Rayna makes out with Liam in a recording studio. Liam urges her to be spontaneous and fly off to St. Lucia with him for a few days. She eventually agrees, and tells Deacon, who'd gotten into trouble with Stacey for not telling her that he'd come back to Nashville for Rayna's sake, that he should be patching things up with her (Stacey). Then she changes her mind, and tells Deacon she loves him. "Are you trying to kill me?" asks Deacon, with reference to the changing signals he'd been receiving from her. She says that she loves him, she felt that he should know that she loves him, and he can do what he wants with the information. She starts to leave. He cusses quietly. She returns to him. They kiss. They undress each other slowly. They sleep together. But Rayna wants to keep their relationship slow. Deacon breaks up with Stacey. Teddy tells Rayna to honor the promise they (Teddy and Rayna) made when Maddie was born.
Scarlett convinces Rayna to give Gunnar a second chance as a performer for her record label, but he tells her (Scarlett) that he isn't ready. Whilst Gunnar is busy getting a demo cut, Scarlett takes her new upstairs neighbor, Will Lexington, to an Edgehill Records party celebrating its CMA nominees, who include Rayna and Juliette, both nominated for Female Vocalist of the Year. Scarlett also lets slip to Will that Rayna will be holding a secret audition session, to which he turns up unannounced. He wows Rayna enough that she decides she'll announce her new label, Highway 65 Records, when Scarlett makes her Oprey debut.
Rayna has Deacon to dinner with her and her girls. Teddy pops by, and he's furious. He even has a temporary restraining order served against Rayna to keep the girls 100 feet away from Deacon. She asks Lamar for help. He facilitates an early private hearing. The judge grants Rayna unrestricted custody, with the restraining order to be given a fuller hearing in a fortnight's time. Afterwards, Rayna tries to reassure Teddy that he'll always be Maddie's father. However, Maddie, snooping in her mother's wardrobe finds a paternity test that seems to prove that Teddy is not her biological father.
Rayna tells her girls that Deacon has asked her as her date to the CMA Awards. The girls affirm that they like Deacon. Maddie drops hints about having found out about Teddy not being her father, before turning up at Deacon's door and asking him if he is. At the CMA ceremony, to which Deacon turns up with hardly a moment to spare, Rayna performs with Brad Paisley. Then Deacon questions her about Maddie. Has she been lying to him every moment for the last thirteen years? Maddie's his. How is that even possible? Rayna explains that the fact that he doesn't remember is exactly how it's possible.
On her way back early from the CMAs, Rayna contacts Teddy so that they can talk to Maddie together. Maddie blames Rayna. "You lied to Deacon and to me." She leaves the room still angry. Rayna starts to follow her, but Teddy holds her back advising that Maddie be allowed to work it off. He promises Rayna that she won't lose her daughter.
Rayna, concerned for Deacon, seeks help from Coleman, who advises her to let him find Deacon alone.
At the funeral for Juliette's mother, Rayna attempts to console Juliette. Juliette says she (Juliette) knew she'd never be good enough. Rayna says, "That's not true. You're good enough." Juliette enquires after Deacon. Rayna had also wanted him to be there.
Rayna tells Maddie that she doesn't want her to be mad at her forever, because they need each other. She tells Maddie that she married Teddy because she loved him, but also because she wanted Maddie to have a father who loved her as much as she (Rayna) did, and that she loves her more than anyone else in the world. A crying Maddie hugs her.
At a memorial service for Juliette's mother at the Bluebird Cafe, Rayna spots Deacon by the door, and makes a move to join him. Deacon tries to avoid her by going out to his car, but she catches up to him, and won't let him drive drunk. He drinks as she drives him. They argue. He covers his eyes Both of them have their eyes off the road as a car starts to cross at an intersection ahead. Rayna manages to avoid a collision with that car, but the car she's driving goes off the road, rolls over, and lands in a ditch.
Rayna is put in a medically induced coma and hanging on to life for two weeks following the wreck. Deacon believes he was the one driving and pleads guilty for driving under the influence. Rayna wakes up and is able to say that she was the one driving the car and Deacon is set free.
There are several flashbacks showing Rayna and Deacon's life around the time she got pregnant with Maddie. During the flashbacks it's revealed that Deacon proposed to Rayna followed by Maddie's conception. The morning after Rayna realizes that Deacon had been drinking and he didn't know that he had proposed. She gives back the ring and leaves him, Rayna finds out that she's pregnant and goes to tell Deacon. She sees him drunk, tearing up his place, and Tandy suggests not telling him about the pregnancy.
Rayna struggles to get out of her contract with Edgehill and butts heads with the label's new CEO, Jeff Fordham because he steals Will Lexington from "Highway 65" and threatens to release a Rayna James album against her will. Her father was going to loan her money to get her out of it but Lamar was sent to prison before he had the chance to. She is eventually able to get out of her contract by using her mortgage. Tandy finds out that Lamar was involved with the car crash that killed their mother but can't say anything about it. Rayna eventually finds out. Soon after Lamar is released from prison he suffers fatal heart attack while visiting Teddy at his office.
During the season Rayna and Deacon are able to get back to good terms following the events of the wreck and him finding out that he is Maddie's biological father. Maddie and Deacon spend more time and he gives her music lessons much to Teddy's disliking. Also during the season, Rayna begins dating fellow country music singer, Luke Wheeler.
When Maddie posts a video of herself singing, using Deacon's last name, the media soon finds out the truth about her being his daughter. Rayna, Teddy and Deacon go on GMA to talk about the situation and Deacon says that Teddy did a great job raising Maddie.
After Rayna and Luke get done singing "Ball and Chain" at her show at LP Field, Luke proposes to her on stage and she accepts. Later that night Deacon visits her telling her not to marry Luke because he now knows how to love her. He also proposes to her.
Rayna must make a decision whom to marry: Luke or Deacon. She goes through old letters Deacon wrote to her, albums and starts playing their song, "Postcard from Mexico".
While listening to the song she looks back at their relationship, which includes her going to his hotel room and finding him being passed out or being unable to find him anywhere. She also remembers a time that Luke was there for her. Rayna then goes to Deacon and tells him that she chooses Luke because they have a clean slate and that he is the safe choice. Deacon responds that he is not the right choice.
Looking for new artists to sign at Highway 65, she comes across a fellow country singer, Sadie Stone, who is looking for a new record deal. When Rayna hears that Jeff Fordham of Edgehill is talking to Sadie, she does, too.
Rayna's manager Bucky later tells her that Sadie is leaning towards Edgehill so Rayna rushes to her before contracts are signed. Sadie says that Edgehill can make her as big as 'Rayna Jaymes' but Rayna says no, only she (Sadie) can make herself big.
Then, Rayna explains to her that Jeff only wants to sign her so he can show her off to his board so they will see that he has a female artist on his roster, then forget about her.
With Highway 65, she (Rayna)won't. At the beginning of her show, Sadie announces that she signed with Rayna, leaving Jeff furious. In retaliation, Jeff calls someone saying that he is interested in signing a young sister act then waves to Teddy. He wants to sign Maddie & Daphne.
Rayna becomes closer to Juliette when she is the first person Juliette tells about her pregnancy.
During her tour, Rayna is also planning her wedding to Luke. She and Luke go for two months without really seeing each other and when they do have a few days off, Rayna uses that time to be interviewed by Rolling Stone. Luke is angry since they have barely seen each other. The Rolling Stone reporter then interviews her at home.
As she, Luke, and the reporter walk around they hear loud music playing. They go find the noise and when they do, they walk in on Maddie and Luke's son, Colt, making out. Fearing that the reporter will write what he saw, Rayna goes to him and convinces him not to write about it, offering her story about Deacon instead.
Rayna gets the most CMA nominations with six, including some for which she is up against Luke; "Entertainer of the Year", "Album" and "Single".
When the CMA's finally come around, Rayna immediately wins the first award of the night for "Single of the Year", beating Luke. During her speech, she thanks Deacon who co-wrote it with her. Luke is not pleased. Rayna beats out Luke again for "Album of the Year".
So far, Luke has only won "Male Vocalist" and then "Musical Event" with Rayna. To blow off steam he drinks and his ego gets to him. He walks off to the restroom, and Rayna follows him to see what's wrong. He complains about her thanking Deacon, saying she came to the show with him, not Deacon, and he is the reason her album went gold because he proposed to her the day it was released.
As the show closes, Rayna sweeps her nominations and wins "Entertainer of the Year". At home, Luke apologizes for his behavior. He blames it on his ego and drinking and assures her that she is the only reason her album went gold.
As her wedding day approaches, Rayna starts to feel unsure about going through it. The girls talk about going to boarding school when they hear from Luke that his kids do. Rayna disapproves of them talking about that with him, without her. She tells the girls they aren't going to boarding school. One of the reasons is because she feels that everything is changing and not for the better.
On the day of the wedding, Rayna tells Luke she can't marry him and calls it off, leaving him furious. Later that day, Rayna goes to Deacon to tell him she loves him and always has, but she needs some time for herself.
Jeff now only wants to sign Maddie so he can have a singer like Taylor Swift on his roster. He blackmails Teddy into signing his consent that Maddie be signed since only one parent's consent is necessary. Rayna is furious when she finds out, but she is able to prevent it when she tells Jeff's boss about Layla overdosing at Jeff's house, among other things.
In addition to Maddie not getting signed, Jeff gets fired and Edgehill folds. Deacon finds out he has liver cancer, but he doesn't want Rayna to know. He tells Scarlett he is supposed to take care of Rayna, not the other way around. He keeps his distance from her for a while until she asks him to sing with her to celebrate the 10th anniversary of her induction into the Grand Ole Opry.
When they finish singing, Deacon runs off to avoid talking to her. He goes to his cabin at the lake, but Rayna follows him. Deacon finally tells Rayna that he has cancer and she breaks down.
After spending all day at the lake talking, they finally get back together. They go back to Rayna's house so they can tell the girls they are back together, and so Deacon can tell them he is sick.
With Deacon's sister, Beverly being his only match as a donor, Rayna goes to Mississippi to ask her, but Beverly refuses. Rayna and Beverly don't have a good history with each other because years ago Deacon chose to join Rayna's band instead of making it big with Beverly, and Beverly resents Rayna for that. Eventually, Beverly agrees to be his donor.
As the surgery approaches, Deacon has nightmares about dying. Before he goes into the O.R. he asks Rayna to marry him right then and there. She tells him no, they will wait until after the operation so they can have a proper ceremony. They do, however, recite wedding vows to each other. Rayna assures him that he is going to be alright.
While waiting for the surgery to be over, Dr. Rand tells Rayna something has gone wrong. The heart-monitor then appears on screen showing a flat-line, leaving viewers to wonder if it was Deacon or Beverly who flat-lined.
A month has past since the transplant. Deacon and Beverly made it through the surgery although Beverly had an aneurysm and is in a coma. Rayna, who just officially dropped Juliette from Highway 65, gets a call from her, crying and saying that she needs help. Rayna flies out to Los Angeles to see her because she cares about her.
When Rayna tries to talk to Juliette after her set, she doesn't have much luck. Juliette yells at her and says she is not having good luck with Highway 65. On her way back home in Nashville, Rayna hears the radio DJ's criticizing her about letting Juliette go and how she is not that good at running a label.
In an effort to save her record label, Rayna tries to find a big-name artist to sign. She comes up with a rock star named Markus Keen who is looking for a new label, but Bucky thinks that it won't work because he is a rock artist. On a flight to New York, she is conveniently seated right next to Markus.
During the flight, Rayna smooth talks Markus about switching to country, convincing him that at her label he can be heard. Markus ends up signing with her. Scarlett makes the tough decision of taking Beverly off life support. At the funeral, Deacon breaks down during the eulogy so Rayna takes over.
After the funeral, Markus calls Rayna saying he is on his way to Nashville and ready to work. Rayna gets mad at Maddie when she finds out Juliette invited her to sing on stage with her in Atlanta and punishes her. She is having a tough time with Maddie and brings her and Daphne to the meeting with Markus.
Markus gets Rayna to produce his album after he fires Avery for not "getting" his "vision", among other things. While working on the album, he behaves like an arrogant brat, as usual. He and Rayna don't see eye-to-eye so he storms off, saying this was a mistake. Markus eventually gets her version of his song now.
Deacon decides to buy into a bar with one of his buddies, Frankie Grey, who was his AA sponsor. Rayna is unsure about it because he is a recovering alcoholic. They get into an argument over it, but she eventually supports him. Deacon proposes to Rayna and she says yes.
When Rayna and Deacon's wedding day arrives, the paparazzi has discovered where the wedding is going to be held: at Rayna's late mother's country property, where she has lots of wonderful childhood memories with her mom and Tandy.
Rayna's publicist finds a private barn where the wedding can be held out of the public eye. Maddie is concerned about her parents getting married because sometimes Deacon can be violent; for instance, when he pushed a paparazzi photographer out of the way and broke his camera in rage. Daphne is concerned about the marriage, too because she's worried about being the outsider.
Rayna assures both of the girls that there is nothing to worry about because they are a family and nothing is going to tear that apart, and Deacon loves them both more than anything. Tandy is openly opposed to the marriage and threatens to hunt Deacon down if he ever hurts her sister. Then, the ceremony proceeds and Rayna and Deacon are now married.
Maddie runs away from home to live with Frankie's daughter Cash, and Cash is going to help her with her career. Cash tells Maddie about the recording contract at Edgehill she was offered that she didn't know about. Maddie feels that her mother is standing in her way and wants to be emancipated so she can take control of her career.
Rayna doesn't want Maddie to be like her, when she was younger and left home for a career. She wants to shield Maddie from being exploited, but also fears that she is losing her.
At the hearing, Deacon's violent, drunken past is exposed to the judge. The lawyer uses this as a tool to help get Maddie emancipated. Deacon realizes the only way the lawyer knew all of that is because Frankie told Cash, who then told the lawyer.
Deacon then confronts Frankie outside of their bar. The two get into a brawl after Frankie sucker punches him. Just as Deacon bloodies Frankie's nose, everyone from inside comes out to, and Frankie accuses Deacon of trying to kill him. This causes the judge to decide to grant Maddie's emancipation.
Cash wants Maddie to get away from Nashville so there will be no connections to Rayna, and Maddie signs with a shady label in New York. When an older record producer attempts to assault Maddie, Deacon bursts in and rescues her. Maddie reconciles with her family, and as the season comes to a close Rayna, Deacon, Maddie and Daphne are a happy family once more.
Rayna has her family back at last. The season opens with the family watching the news coverage of Juliette's plane crash.
Rayna has some financial issues with the record label hitting some bumps in the road. She agrees to play at a private event in Silicon Valley hosted by an app developer named Zach Wells (who is a fanboy of hers) as a way to bring in money.
Zach informs Rayna that he is on his way to Nashville. He wants to "hack her cloud" and wants to go into business with her. Rayna and Deacon are unsure of the proposal, but she needs the money.
In return, Zach wants 20% of Highway 65. Luke has put Wheelin' Dealin' Records up for sale, and Zach wants Highway 65 to acquire it. Rayna gets inspired for her and Deacon to write their story for a concept album featuring the two of them.
Rayna also has a stalker. One day when she walks into work, someone watches her as they listen to her music. A few days later, Rayna discovers a mysterious package with no stamp at her door. It contains a letter and rose petals.
More mysterious letters show up and she and Bucky try to figure out who is behind them. The man who wrote the letters, Wayne Hockney, shows up at Highway 65, which alarms her. Bucky escorts Wayne out while she calls for security. She gets a restraining order against Hockney and increases security at her house. One day, Wayne shows up at Daphne's school.
Wayne taunts the Jaymes/Claybourne household by going as far as he can while still obeying the restraining order. This drives them crazy, turning their lives upside down, and Deacon wants to confront him, but the police advise not to do that. They want Wayne arrested, but he hasn't done anything for which he can be arrested. He eventually violates the restraining order by surprising Rayna at work.
Wayne holes up in her office where they talk, and when she tries to get free he catches her and threatens her with a knife. After pleas from Rayna and the police, Wayne lets her go and is arrested. The police take her home, and as Rayna is on the phone with Deacon to tell him what happened, an oncoming car crashes into them, sending Rayna to the hospital.
Due to the crash, Rayna has a shattered pelvis and hip, and is in surgery for four hours. Lying in her hospital bed, Rayna sees her dead mother and talks to her. This worries Deacon because he knows people can experience that when they are on the brink of death, but the doctor tells him not to worry.
Daphne's choir comes to the hospital to support Rayna. While they sing for Rayna, she crashes and is sent to the ICU. Rayna's organs are failing, her condition worsens and her outcome isn't too promising. She can't hold on any longer and ultimately dies with her family by her side.
Following Rayna's death, Bucky announced that the CMT Awards (where Rayna was scheduled to perform) had planned a musical tribute by Faith Hill. Juliette convinces the organizers that she knew Rayna best and should sing instead, however, when she comes to perform "Sanctuary", she leaves the stage and allows Maddie to sing instead. Maddie breaks down halfway through the song and is then joined by Daphne and Deacon, with the trio receiving a standing ovation from the crowd.
Rayna's death causes tension within the family when Teddy & Tandy suggest that the girls should live with Teddy (as Daphne is biologically his child and Deacon has proven to be an unstable parent). Tandy also states that Deacon is not fully equipped to run Highway 65. Eventually, Teddy realizes that Rayna would have wanted Maddie & Daphne to stay with Deacon.
At a Highway 65 meeting, Deacon is furious when Zach states that they should release Deacon & Rayna's duet album (as Rayna had completed the majority of her studio recordings before her death) although he later comes to see that the album is the perfect way to end Rayna's career.
Deacon goes into their home studio where he finds Bucky, Gunnar, Scarlett, Will, Avery, Juliette, Maddie and Daphne all singing along with Rayna's recording of the track "You're Mine" and he joins them, seeing it as their final song together.
Rayna is a good person, but she is very strict and acts like a southern June Cleaver to her kids. Mostly Maddie and Rayna have a sometimes estranged relationship. Maddie is a little bit rebellious and is more like Juliet and Rayna when they were teenagers. Rayna was the Queen of Country and she is very successful.
- She was kicked out of the house when she was 16 by her father, when she pursued her country music career and the main reason why they are very estranged.
- Sometimes she and Maddie have an estranged relationship. Maddie is similar to Rayna as a teenager and more like Juliet. Maddie wanted to pursue a career in country music like her Mom, Rayna is more like Lamar herself when she stopped Maddie Pursuing music.
- She died after being involved in a serious car accident during season 5.
To view the Rayna Jaymes gallery, click here.
- "Momma's got a headache" - (to her girls, Pilot)
- "Did you try to murder the father of my children?" - (to Lamar, Too Far Gone)