Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Johnnie Ray - Pop 50s Music - US Influence

Before rock and roll there was John Alvin Ray (1927-1990) American singer, songwriter, and pianist. Popular for most of the 50s and 60s, he was one of the major predecessors of the rockability craze, in fact, paving the way for Elvis' hyperactive movements on stage.

Just as popular in Singapore, Johnnie Ray's records, some in the 78rpm format, sold very well on the island. Many local singers in the early 60s imitated Ray and Robert Song was one of them. It was well-known that Johnnie Ray was deaf in his right ear. He died of liver failure in 1990.

Ray's song, Cry, with The Four Lads, (1951) made him famous as radios became a common household item in Singapore. Then came, All of Me (1952), Hernando's Hideaway, Alexander's Ragtime Band, As Time Goes By, (1954), Just Walkin' in the Rain (1956) - with a whistling introduction and accompaniment, Who's Sorry Now (1956) - more poignant than the Connie Francis version and Yes, Tonight Josephine (1957) - for me, his swan song.
These songs were hits in Singapore and Ray was just as famous in the UK and Australia. Such A Night, recorded in 1954, was also covered by Elvis Presley on his 1960 album, Elvis Is Back. Johnnie Ray was a singing idol in his days and, on a personal list, is placed above Frank Sinatra.
On May 17th, 1967 when he was 38 years old, he was in Singapore for a two night concert. He also visited the the Singapore Association for the Deaf at Mountbatten Road. He was interviewed by the press at Hotel Singapura.
Reference: (1) Wikipedia. (2) National Heritage Board, Singapore Website.
Original article: Andy Lim

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