Saturday, April 23, 2022
The Greatest Pop Stars Who Came To Singapore: Johnnie Ray: Part 1.
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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 rockabilly 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 because of an accident and had affected him emotionally but he was an attraction on stage and sang his songs with much fervor and feel. He had a movie role with Marilyn Monroe too [image below]. 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.
Johnnie Ray in Concert.
YouTube Video by: John1948SevenC
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 15th, 16th, 17th, 1967 when he was 38 years old, he was in Singapore for a two night concert. He also visited the Singapore Association for the Deaf at Mountbatten Road. He was also interviewed by the press at Hotel Singapura.
Pix from Randy Lee [Stylers rhythmist: 4th left]
There was even a Johnnie Ray of Singapore. Robert Song [image 3rd left], who used to work in one of the more prominent movie businesses here, sang like Ray, performing the popular evergreens on stage. He was accompanied by the famous Stylers and Checkmates during his later years, a unique combination indeed, considering that these bands were guitar groups. But like Song, the Stylers and Checkmates were versatile teams indeed.
Song also played well on percussion instruments like the conga, bongos and maracas, showing off his impeccable style that was the attraction those years, donned immaculately in bow tie and a dark suit. I guess they were tailored to fit, the band and Singapore's Johnnie Ray.
Now, hopefully, some readers can understand why the word Influence is used in the title to this blog. We had so many influences before even today's influencers came on the scene.
Original article: by Andy Lim.
Johnny Ray In Concert.
YouTube video: from Johnny Ray.
Best 40 minutes ever to know Johnnie
and his unique antics on stage as he sleeps on the piano
and cries and covers his head with his jacket.
Read the interesting chat with Irene Hoe, ex-journalist in Singapore when Johnnie Ray ordered food in a restaurant - Click Comments below: