... he died on February 24, 1990 when he was 63 years-old.
-----John Alvin Ray was born in Dallas, Oregon. He was of Native American origin; his great-grandmother was a full-blooded Blackfoot Indian and his great-grandfather was Oregon pioneer George Kirby Gay of Berkeley, Gloucestershire, England.
Popular for most of the 1950s, Ray has been cited by critics as a key forerunner of what would become rock and roll, because of his jazz and blues-influenced music and his stage presence. Ray's performing style included theatrics included beating up his piano, writhing on the floor and crying. As a result, Ray earned was referred to as "Mr. Emotion," "The Nabob of Sob," and "The Prince of Wails."
Inspired by rhythm singers like Kay Starr, LaVern Baker and Ivory Joe Hunter, Ray developed a unique rhythm-based style, described as alternating between pre-rock R&B and a more conventional classic pop approach.
Ray lost his hearing in is right ear at age 13 after an accident during a Boy Scout event. Ray later performed wearing a hearing aid. Surgery performed in New York in 1958 left him almost completely deaf in both ears, although hearing aids helped his condition.
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Ray's 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 hit single of "Cry" and "The Little White Cloud That Cried." Selling over two million copies of the 78rpm single, Ray's delivery struck a chord with teenagers and he quickly became a teen idol.
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 UK Christmas #1 hit with "Just Walkin' in the Rain" in 1956. He hit again in 1957 with "You Don't Owe Me a Thing," which reached #10 in the Billboard charts. He was popular in the United Kingdom, breaking the record at the London Palladium formerly set by Frankie Laine. In later years, he retained a loyal fan base overseas, particularly in Australia.
In early 1969, Ray befriended Judy Garland, performing as her opening act during her last concerts in Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmo, Sweden. His career in the U.S. underwent a resurgence in the early 1970s, with appearances on The Andy Williams Show in 1970 and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson three times during 1972 and 1973. However, the revival was short-lived.
Ray drank regularly and his alcoholism caught up with him in 1960, when he was hospitalized for tuberculosis. He recovered but continued drinking, and was diagnosed with cirrhosis at age fifty.
On February 24, 1990, Ray died of liver failure at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.