Hopewell Cemetery, 21600 SE Church Rd, Dayton, OR 97114, Stati Uniti
John Alvin Ray (January 10, 1927 – February 24, 1990) was an American singer, songwriter, and pianist. Extremely popular for most of the 1950s, Ray has been cited by critics as a major precursor to what would become rock and roll, for his jazz and blues-influenced music and his animated stage personality. Tony Bennett called Ray the "father of rock and roll," and historians have noted him as a pioneering figure in the development of the genre.
Raised in Oregon, Ray, who was partially deaf, began singing professionally at age fifteen on Portland radio stations. He would later gain a local following singing at small, predominantly African-American nightclubs in Detroit, where he was discovered in 1951 and subsequently signed to Columbia Records. He rose quickly from obscurity in the United States with the release of his debut album, Johnnie Ray (1952), as well as with a 78 rpm single, both of whose sides reached the Billboard magazine's Top Hot 100 songs of 1952: "Cry" and "The Little White Cloud That Cried".
In 1954, Ray made his first and only major motion picture, There's No Business Like Show Business, in which he, Ethel Merman, Marilyn Monroe and others were part of an ensemble cast. His career in his native United States began to decline in 1957, and his American record label dropped him in 1960. He never regained a strong following there and rarely appeared on American television after 1973. His fanbases in the United Kingdom and Australia, however, remained strong until his death in 1990 of complications from liver failure.
British Hit Singles & Albums noted that Ray was "a sensation in the 1950s, the heart-wrenching vocal delivery of "Cry" ... influenced many acts including Elvis and was the prime target for teen hysteria in the pre-Presley days." Ray's dramatic stage performances and melancholic songs have been credited by music historians as precursory to later performers, ranging from Leonard Cohen to Morrissey.
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.
Despite her knowledge of the solicitation arrest, Marilyn Morrison, daughter of the owner of West Hollywood's Mocambo nightclub, married Ray at the peak of his American fame. The wedding ceremony took place in New York a short time after he gave his first New York concert, which was at the Copacabana. The New York Daily News made the wedding its cover story for May 26, 1952, and it reported that guests included Mayor Vincent R. Impellitteri.
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.
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.[b]
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.
Ray suffered from alcoholism throughout his life, though during the 1950s at the height of his fame, newspaper and magazine pieces about Ray did not disclose the extent of his drinking problem. On September 2, 1952, Ray was arrested in Boston for public intoxication, but was released four hours later. According to biographer Jonny Whiteside, he drank heavily then. In 1960, he was hospitalized for tuberculosis. Shortly after his recovery, he quit drinking, according to Whiteside. His music was not available for sale and he did not appear on American television during the first half of the 1960s. Consequently, American newspapers ran ads for his concerts but reported nothing about his life: marital status, offstage behavior or health issues.
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, 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.
In early 1990, poor health forced Ray to check into Cedars-Sinai Medical Center near his home in Los Angeles. He was confined there for more than two weeks without the knowledge of journalists or talk radio personalities who had interviewed him in various countries throughout the 1980s.
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.
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.
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.
JJohnnie Ray was to become ... the overnight success, as soon the press stepped in with its bouquet of clever, clever epithets: he was the Cry Guy and the Prince of Wails.