Johnnie Ray

Not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Eligible since: 1976 (The 1977 Induction Ceremony)

Previously Considered? No  what's this?

Essential Songs (?)WikipediaAmazon MP3YouTube
Cry (1951)

Johnnie Ray @ Wikipedia

Johnnie Ray Videos

Will Johnnie Ray be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?
"Musical excellence is the essential qualification for induction."


3 comments so far (post your own)

I would put him in as an early influence.

Posted by Brian on Monday, 10.19.09 @ 07:56am

A small case can be made for Johnnie Ray as an Early Influence.

Johnnie Ray, in the early 1950s, was the ultimate teen idol. The hordes of teenage girls that flocked to his concerts and publicity he got were akin to the later rages surrounding Elvis Presley and The Beatles. Ray was viewed as a threat to older, established crooners like Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. Sinatra in fact even harbored a resentment towards Ray for his success and for knocking 'Ol Blue Eyes off the pop charts. Considering Sinatra's notorious hatred of rock 'n' roll, his dislike of Ray sounds eerily similar.

Elvis Presley considered Ray to be one of his idols and got to meet him at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas in 1956. When Ray and Presley respectively became registered in the national public consciousness, it was assumed that they were black because of their voices. Both men struck up a friendship that lasted until Elvis's death.

Ray was a passionate fan of rhythm and blues music and counted Ivory Joe Hunter and LaVern Baker among his favorites. In fact, Ray and Baker were even signed to the same record label, Okeh (which at the time was a subsidiary of Columbia Records), in 1950. I found these quotes from the Johnnie Ray International Fan Club web site which sum up Ray's feelings on Baker and Hunter:

Ivory Joe Hunter:
"... one of my favorite composers." -Johnnie Ray

LaVern Baker
"I was moved no end by the work of LaVern Baker."-Johnnie Ray

Ray doesn't really have much influence musically, but he did inspire quite a few major names.

Bob Dylan said of Ray that he was "The first singer whose voice and style I totally fell in love with."

Ringo Starr once recounted in a People magazine interview that "When I was 15, he [Johnnie Ray] was sitting on top of Liverpool's Adelphi Hotel throwing photos down to the fans, and I thought, 'That's the job for me.'"

Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones said "Johnnie Ray was one of the first to make me really open my ears. That was like 2 or 3 years before Elvis."

Ray has also been namechecked in the songs Come On Eileen by Dexy's Midnight Runners (A brief clip of Ray even appears at the beginning of the music video) and We Didn't Start the Fire by Billy Joel.

Tony Bennett has even gone on record by saying that he considers Ray to be the true father of rock 'n' roll in the biography Cry: The Johnnie Ray Story.

Overall, Ray really can't be called an Early Influence because the songs for which he became popular were rooted in the traditional pop and showtunes genres. I wouldn't necessarily blame Ray for that because when you worked for Columbia Records in the 1950s, you had to play by Mitch Miller's rules. Miller wasn't willing to allow artists to experiment, so they had to settle for some very pappy, substandard material (The Mama Will Bark fiasco with Frank Sinatra and Dagmar is the most notorious example of Miller's interference). Aside from Such A Night, which features some very suggestive vocals by Ray, there's really no other material from him that can even be called a precursor to rock 'n' roll.

The only thing that Ray has going for him as an Early Influence is that he's been a source of inspiration for some major (and not so major ) names in music. If anyone can find any evidence to the contrary, I'd love to see it.

Posted by Zach on Tuesday, 09.25.12 @ 13:22pm

Here are my sources for the quotes and facts I included earlier:

Posted by Zach on Sunday, 10.7.12 @ 19:51pm

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