Johnnie Ray

Singer + Songwriter
Born Jan 10, 1927

Johnnie Ray was an American singer, songwriter, and pianist. Extremely popular for most of the 1950s, Ray has been cited by critics as a major precursor of what would become rock and roll, for his jazz and blues-influenced music and his animated stage personality.… Read More

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Learn about the memorable moments in the evolution of Johnnie Ray.


1927 Birth Johnnie Ray was born January 10, 1927, in Hopewell, Oregon, to parents Elmer and Hazel (Simkins) Ray. … Read More


Ray's first record, the self-penned R&B number for OKeh Records, "Whiskey and Gin," was a minor hit in 1951. … Read More
1952 25 Years Old 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.
1953 26 Years Old Several writers have noted that the Ray-Morrison marriage occurred under false pretenses, and that Ray had a long-term relationship with his manager, Bill Franklin. (A biography of Ray points out, however, 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.
1956 29 Years Old More hits followed, including "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.


1957 30 Years Old 1 More Event
He hit again in 1957 with "You Don't Owe Me a Thing," which reached number 10 in the Billboard charts.
1959 32 Years Old 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. … Read More
1965 38 Years Old 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.


1969 42 Years Old In early 1969, Ray befriended Judy Garland, performing as her opening act during her last concerts in Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmö, Sweden. … Read More
1970 43 Years Old He made network television appearances on The Andy Williams Show in 1970 and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson three times during 1972 and 1973.
1976 49 Years Old His personal manager Bill Franklin resigned in 1976 and cut off contact with the singer a few years later. … Read More


1981 54 Years Old 1 More Event
In 1981, Ray hired Alan Eichler as his manager and resumed performing with an instrumental quartet rather than with the large orchestras he and his audiences had been accustomed to for the first 25 years of his career.
1986 59 Years Old In 1986, Ray appeared as a Los Angeles taxicab driver in Billy Idol's "Don't Need a Gun" video and is name-checked in the lyrics of the song. … Read More


1987 60 Years Old He performed there in 1987 "with a big-band group," according to a Los Angeles Times profile of him during that year.
…  His fan base in other countries, however, remained strong until his last year of performing, which was 1989. … Read More
1990 63 Years Old On February 24, 1990, he died of liver failure at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles. … Read More
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