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The life of Johnnie Ray, an Oregon-born ‘50s singing sensation, is explored in OPB documentary

In the times just before Elvis Presley and The Beatles rocked the audio earth, an Oregon native named Johnnie Ray was producing a name for himself as an emotional performer who merged influences from rhythm and blues with pop. Though he was a star in the 1950s, Ray is not as remembered these days, which will make The OPB “Oregon Encounter” documentary, “Johnnie Ray,” a powerful reminder of Ray’s successes and difficulties.

Written and manufactured by Kami Horton, “Johnnie Ray” uses footage from his very first television appearances, old images and recordings to paint a photograph of a singer whose intensely bodily effectiveness design and style and total-throated renditions of hits like “Cry” and “ The Minimal White Cloud That Cried” briefly manufactured him a sensation.

Lifted on a farm close to Dallas, Oregon, Ray later on moved to Portland, exactly where he sang on the “Stars of Tomorrow” radio clearly show. Ray was challenging of hearing and occasionally wore a listening to aid on phase. In addition to singing, Ray also wrote songs, and soon after going to Detroit, he performed at the Flame Showbar, a venue that showcased black musicians. Ray was intensely motivated by rhythm and blues and black nightclub performers.

In the course of his keep in Detroit, Ray was also arrested for proposing to a law enforcement officer and pleaded responsible. As the documentary details out, the late 1940s was not a very good time to be gay or bisexual, a different obstacle Ray experienced to offer with. Above the a long time, Ray also struggled with alcoholism.

But Ray’s profession took off with the launch of the track, “Cry”, which became a huge strike. Ray began appearing on tv reveals like Ed Sullivan’s “The Toast of the Town,” and co-starred with Ethel Merman, Marilyn Monroe, Dan Dailey, Mitzi Gaynor and Donald O’Connor in the showbiz tale, “There is no enterprise like show business” in 1954.

Even as crowds cheered him on, some critics derided Ray’s theatrical design as about the top rated. By the conclude of the 1950s, his occupation was cooling off. Ray remained well known in Australia and England, and continued to carry out, until finally his last physical appearance, in Salem, in 1989. He died of liver failure in 1990, at the age of 63.

“Johnnie Ray” is broadcasting a opb.org/oregonexperienceand will air at 9 pm on Monday, October 24 on “Oregon Experience” on OPB.

—Kristi Turnquist

503-221-8227 kturnquist@oregonian.com @Kristiturnquist

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Nicole Aniston
Nicole loves to write and works as a corporate communications expert by day. She's been working in the field for quite some time now. Her training in media studies has provided her a wide perspective from which to tackle various issues. Public relations, corporate communications, travel, entrepreneurship, insurance, and finance are just few of the many topics she's interested in covering in her work.
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