Born: January 10, 1927, Hopewell, Oregon, United States
Died: February 24, 1990, Los Angeles, California, United States
Albums: Johnnie Ray's Greatest Hits, 'Til Morning, Cry Guy, more
Movies: There's No Business Like Show Business, Rogue's Gallery
Record labels: Columbia Records, Okeh Records
Buried: Hopewell Cemetery, Dayton, Yamhill County, Oregon, USA
Johnnie Ray (1927–1990) was an American singer, songwriter, and pianist. Extremely popular for most of the 1950s, Ray has been cited by critics as a major precursor of what would become rock and roll, for his jazz and blues-influenced music and his animated stage personality. Tony Bennett credits Ray as being the true father of rock and roll. In 1951, when Ray was obscure and not yet signed to a record label, he was arrested in Detroit for accosting and soliciting an undercover vice squad police officer in the restroom of the Stone Theatre, a burlesque house. When he appeared in court, he pleaded guilty. He paid a fine and was released. Because of his obscurity at the time, the Detroit newspapers did not report the story. After his sudden rise to fame the following year, rumors about his sexuality began to spread. 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 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 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 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 of his homosexuality. Johnnie Ray was born January 10, 1927, in Hopewell, Oregon, to parents Elmer and Hazel (Simkins) Ray. Along with older sister Elma, Ray spent part of his childhood on a farm in Dallas, Oregon and attended grade school there. The family later moved to Portland, Oregon, where Ray attended high school. On February 24, 1990, he died of liver failure at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles. He is buried at Hopewell Cemetery (12475 SE Finn Ln, Dayton, OR 97114).
Queer Places, Vol. 1 edited by Elisa Rolle
Release Date: July 24, 2016
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