|Who is it?||Soundtrack, Actor, Music Department|
|Birth Day||January 10, 1927|
|Birth Place||Dallas, Oregon, United States|
|Age||93 YEARS OLD|
|Died On||February 24, 1990(1990-02-24) (aged 63)\nLos Angeles, California, U.S.|
|Cause of death||Hepatic encephalopathy|
|Resting place||Hopewell Cemetery, Hopewell, Oregon, U.S.|
|Education||Franklin High School, Portland, Oregon|
|Spouse(s)||Marilyn Morrison (m. 1952–1954)|
Though barely remembered today, to the fifties record buying public Ray was something of a former-day Leonard Cohen or a Morrissey, creating a body of work that was the very definition of depressionfest. With titles like "What's the Use", "Oh, What a Sad, Sad Day", and "Here I Am Broken Hearted", coupled with a stage show that was as emotionally draining as a revival meeting, Ray dominated the pre-rock & roll charts.
Johnnie Ray was born January 10, 1927, in Dallas, Oregon, to parents Elmer and Hazel (née Simkins) Ray. Along with older sister Elma, Ray spent part of his childhood on a farm and attended grade school in Dallas. Ray began playing the piano at age three, and beginning at age twelve, sang in the local church choir. After the United States entered World War II, the family moved to Portland, Oregon, where Ray attended Franklin High School.
Ray is one of the cultural touchstones mentioned in the first verse (concerning events from the late 1940s and early 1950s) of Billy Joel's 1989 hit single "We Didn't Start the Fire", between Red China and South Pacific.
In the 1950s, after both sides of the single "Cry"/"The Little White Cloud That Cried" ran their course, more hit songs followed. They included "Please Mr. Sun," "Such a Night," "Walkin' My Baby Back Home," "A Sinner Am I" and "Yes Tonight Josephine." He had a United Kingdom number 1 hit with "Just Walkin' in the Rain" (which Ray initially disliked) during the Christmas season in 1956. He hit again in 1957 with "You Don't Owe Me a Thing," which reached number 10 on the Billboard charts. Though his American popularity was declining in 1957, he remained popular in the United Kingdom, breaking the attendance record at the London Palladium formerly set by fellow Columbia Records Artist Frankie Laine. In later years, he retained a loyal fan base overseas, particularly in Australia.
In 1951, prior to Ray's fame, he was arrested in Detroit for accosting and soliciting an undercover vice squad police officer for sex in the restroom of the Stone Theatre, a burlesque house. When he appeared in court, he pleaded guilty to the charges, paid a fine, and was released. Due to his obscurity at the time, Detroit newspapers did not report the story. After his rise to fame the following year, rumors about his sexuality began to spread as a result of the incident.
Ray was also referred to in two classic Eartha Kitt songs, "Monotonous (song)" from "New Faces of 1952" (I even made Johnnie Ray smile for me) and "I Want to Be Evil" (I want to sing songs like the guy who cries).
Aware of Ray's sexuality, Morrison told a friend she would "straighten it out." The couple separated in 1953 and divorced in 1954. Several Writers have noted that the Ray-Morrison marriage occurred under false pretenses, and that Ray had had a long-term relationship with his manager, Bill Franklin. However, a biography of Ray points out that Franklin was 13 years younger than Ray and that both their personal and Business relationships began in 1963, many years after the Ray-Morrison divorce. In a 1953 newspaper interview with James Bacon, Ray blamed rumors about his sexuality for the breakup of his marriage to Morrison.
Archival footage of Ray arriving at London Heathrow Airport in 1954 was featured in the 1982 music video for Dexys Midnight Runners' single "Come On Eileen". The lyrics of the song also mention him: "Poor old Johnnie Ray sounded sad upon the radio/He moved a million hearts in mono."
At age thirteen, Ray became deaf in his left ear following a mishap that occurred during a Boy Scout ritual called a "blanket toss." In later years, Ray performed wearing a hearing aid. Surgery performed in 1958 left him almost completely deaf in both ears, although hearing aids helped his condition. Ray credited his deafness as pivotal to his career and performance style saying: "My need for sincerity traces back to when I was a child and lost my hearing. I became withdrawn. I had an emotional need to develop a relationship to other people." After graduating high school, Ray worked as a soda jerk, bus boy, and as a mill worker in Salem, Oregon. In the interim, he did jobs playing piano at clubs in Salem and Portland.
In 1959, Ray was arrested again in Detroit for soliciting an undercover officer at the Brass Rail, a bar that was described many years later by one biographer as a haven for Musicians and by another biographer as a gay bar. Ray went to trial following this second arrest and was found not guilty. Two years after his death, several friends shared with biographer Jonny Whiteside their knowledge that Ray was homosexual.
For his contribution to the recording industry, Johnnie Ray was honored with a star in 1960 on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6201 Hollywood Boulevard.
Two months before Kilgallen's death in 1965, her newspaper column plugged Ray's engagements at the Latin Quarter in New York and the Tropicana Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. He began his gig at the Latin Quarter immediately after an eight-month vacation in Spain during which he and new manager Bill Franklin had extricated themselves from contracts with Bernie Lang, who had managed Ray from 1951 to 1963. Ray and Franklin believed that a dishonest Lang had been responsible for the end of Ray's stardom in the United States and for large debts that he owed the Internal Revenue Service.
Not until December 1966 did Ray return to American television, and even then it was a program telecast locally in Chicago but not elsewhere: An Evening With Johnnie Ray. Video of this performance was reviewed by Whiteside in the early 1990s, and he wrote in his book that Ray appears emaciated and unhealthy.
In 1969, Ray headlined a European concert tour with Judy Garland. He served as the best man at her wedding to her last husband, nightclub manager Mickey Deans, in London on March 15, 1969. Denmark and Sweden were among the countries where Ray and Garland performed together; they played Stockholm on March 19.
According to Ray's two biographers, Jonny Whiteside and Tad Mann, he did not have a close relationship with a man or a woman during the 13 years he lived after Bill Franklin stopped interacting with him and phoning him. Ray did maintain a loyal friendship with his road manager Tad Mann, who was married and raising five children. When Ray gave parties at his Los Angeles house in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, frequent guests included Mann, whose real name was Harold Gaze Mann III, and Actress Jane Withers.
He is also mentioned (as Johnnie Ray-ay-ay) in Shangri-La, a song from Kevin Coyne's 1976 Heartburn album, along with Frankie Laine. In the song, 'the old heart-throbs singing' represent the singer's memories of the 1950s.
In 1981, Ray hired Alan Eichler as his manager and resumed performing with an instrumental trio rather than with the large orchestras he and his audiences had been accustomed to for the first 25 years of his career. When Ray and the trio performed at a New York club called Marty's on Third Avenue and East 73rd Street in 1981, The New York Times stated, "The fact that Mr. Ray, in the years since his first blush of success, has been seen and heard so infrequently in the United States is somewhat ironic because it was his rhythm and blues style of singing that help lay the groundwork for the rock-and-roll that turned Mr. Ray's entertainment world around. Recently, Ringo Starr of the Beatles pointed out that the three Singers that the Beatles listened to in their fledgling days were Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Johnnie Ray."
Ray is mentioned in the lyric of Billy Idol's 1986 hit "Don't Need a Gun" and appears with him in the video.
In 1969, shortly after Ray returned to the United States from a European tour with Judy Garland, an American Doctor informed him that he was well enough to drink an occasional glass of wine. He resumed drinking heavily and his health began to decline. Despite this, in the early 1970s he appeared several times on prime-time network television in the United States. After the offers for television stopped, he continued touring, attracting major media attention outside the United States, until he gave his final concert, a benefit for the Grand Theater in Salem, Oregon, on October 6, 1989.
On February 24, 1990, he died of hepatic encephalopathy resulting from liver failure at Cedars-Sinai. Kay Starr was among those who spoke at a public memorial Service held at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills. He is buried at Hopewell Cemetery near Hopewell, Oregon, in a grave plot alongside his mother, father, and sister.
Ray was name-checked by Van Morrison in his duet with Tom Jones titled "Sometimes We Cry" that was released in 1997.
In 1999, Bear Family Records issued two five-CD sets of his entire body of work, each containing an 84-page book on his career. Companies including Sony and Collectables have kept his large catalogue of recordings in continual release worldwide.
In Eva Rice's 2005 novel, The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets, Johnnie Ray is an idol to the main characters, Penelope and Charlotte- as is introduced a precursor to Elvis Presley.