The Little White Cloud that Cried
October 8, 2019 8:52 AM   Subscribe

Danny Kessler, head of Okeh Records Artists & Repertoire (A&R), told [Johnnie] Ray's biographer Jonny Whiteside, "I played the record for the sales force at Columbia and almost in unison they said, 'We don't think she's gonna make it.' They all thought I was pitching a girl who sounded like Dinah Washington! Finally I convinced them that she was a boy, and then I had to break the news that she was a white boy. I know they all felt that I had lost my head completely." PopMatters shares an excerpt from Rocking the Closet: How Little Richard, Johnnie Ray, Liberace, and Johnny Mathis Queered Pop Music.

The author Vincent L. Stephens has a number of interesting articles, unpublished papers, and other works here, largely focusing on depictions of social plurality in post-WWII popular culture.
posted by DirtyOldTown (5 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Johnnie Ray really did sound sad on the radio. But you have to admit he moved a million hearts in mono.
Our mothers all cried and sang along, and honestly, who'd blame them?
posted by Naberius at 9:22 AM on October 8, 2019 [5 favorites]

There would have been no Elvis without Johnnie Ray - you hear Ray's voice throughout all of Elvis's 1950s work -- even more so than the supposed black influence on Elvis's singing. For instance, in his "Playing for Keeps".

It was said that Sun Records owner Sam Phillips said, "If I could only find a white man who could sing like a Negro ... " But what he got in Elvis, was actually a white heterosexual who could sing like a gay man.

(By the way, check out this Jack Benny program with Jack going ga-ga for Johnnie Ray - starting at 7:55. The gay subtext is not so sub.)
posted by Modest House at 9:39 AM on October 8, 2019 [4 favorites]

I have so many feelings about Johnnie Ray. I do not understand why Sinatra, who sang with emotionless dead shark eyes in my opinion, is a bigger star.
posted by blnkfrnk at 10:19 AM on October 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

Obligatory Stan Freberg parody here.
posted by non canadian guy at 11:18 AM on October 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

'Lotus Blossum' is my fave track.
posted by ovvl at 6:59 PM on October 8, 2019

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