JOHNNIE RAY, American singer, died (b. 1927); an American singer, songwriter, and pianist. His first record, the self-penned R&B number for Okeh Records, “Whiskey and Gin,” was a minor hit in 1951. The following year he dominated the charts with the double-sided monster hit single of “Cry” (penned by a songwriter whom he didn’t know personally) flip side “The Little White Cloud That Cried” (a Ray composition). Selling over a million copies of the 45 single, Ray’s emotional delivery struck a chord with teenagers, and he quickly became the biggest teen idol since Frank Sinatra almost ten years earlier. Ray has been cited as the historical link between Sinatra and Elvis Presley in the development of popular music. Ray’s last American big hit, was Just Walking In The Rain.
Ray married Marilyn Morrison a short time after he gave his first New York concert, which was at the Copacabana in 1952. The wedding ceremony, attended by New York mayor Vincent R. Impelliteri, made the cover of the New York Daily News. Marilyn was supposedly aware of the singer’s alleged bisexuality from the start, but the couple separated within a year, anyway. Their separation and divorce were major news items in 1953 and 1954, respectively. The explanations given by the couple and by newspaper columnists such as Louella Parsons were similar to the ambiguous reasons announced by many other divorcing entertainers in that era. Some years later, in the 1960s, Ray’s personal manager Bill Franklin was said to be his lover.
To this writer’s everlasting embarrassment and shame, when Ray tried to pick him up in a Los Angeles bar in 1979, I didn’t have the vaguest idea who he was. My only excuse was I was only two years old when he had his first huge hit. Now that I am his age when he tried to pick me up, I am all the more embarrassed. And a little sad.