Poor old Johnny Ray

Poor old Johnny Ray …

This was a first line of “Come On Eileen”, which was a huge hit in the early 1980s for a UK band, Dexy’s Midnight Runners. I loved the song, but I was a teenager and had no idea who Johnny Ray was, so asked my Dad.

“Hmmph. He was a pop star. He was the first of the Screamers,” he said.

Ray 1956 aPuzzled, I asked what he meant. It emerged that it wasn’t Johnny Ray who screamed, but his young female fans. You know the hysterical screaming which made the Beatles pretty much inaudible when they played live? Apparently this meme started with Johnny Ray.

My Dad was a conservative soul. He loved music, but he believed it had reached perfection in the works of J.S. Bach, and been going downhill ever since, with the possible exception of Gilbert and Sullivan. So, he was never going to approve of Dexy’s Midnight Runners, or indeed Johnny Ray.

He had a point about the screaming, mind.

That was all I knew about Johnny Ray until I bought this 10” 78rpm disc. It is one of the “G.S.” collection, and came out in 1956. This was right at the end of shellac as a popular medium, and shows that “G.S.”, though fond of jazz and swing, liked the emerging pop of the fifties as well.Ray AM

The record stands as a monument of this transition. A jazz classic, Fats Waller’s “Ain’t Misbehavin’”, is given a doo-wop treatment by a rising rock star. The B-side is altogether different: in “Walk Along with Kings”, Ray shows himself a strong singer of a straight gospel which even my Dad could not disapprove of.

But I would wager this record against a mint condition copy of the first release of “Love Me Do” that it was “Ain’t Misbehavin’” that G.S. bought it for.

  • Artist: Johnny Ray
  • Title: Ain’t Misbehavin’
  • Track: Side A “Ain’t Misbehavin’”
  • Format: 10” shellac disc, 78rpm
  • Label: Coronet KP-032
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 1952

I Wonder a Lot of Things

Eddie Carl was a doo wop singer. He seems to have had a few hits in the late 1950s, but they can’t have been that big because I can find out nothing about him. On the other hand, he must have made a bit of an impact, because he recorded in America on the Decca label, and did well enough there that he had a single released in Australia on the Festival label.

0292 Carl 1959 A compressedFestival is an important part of the history of recorded music in Australia. It started out in 1952 as one of the first labels able to press the then-new “microgroove” discs. It released local recordings, some its own and others in partnership with small local labels, and also bought the Australian distribution rights for overseas artists – Festival had the rights to Bill Haley and the Comets when rock’n’roll arrived in 1956, and from there it became a big player on the local scene.

The distinctive yellow and black Festival label is a familiar sight to record collectors in Australia. This one turned up at a church fete, one of a box of records which had once been part of someone’s collection – you can tell because the owner put little stickers on the label or each record with a hand-written number. This one was number 13.0292 Carl 1959 B compressed close up

This record was pressed in 1959, and it can’t have done especially well, as Festival did not issue another of Carl’s records, but the writer of the little stickers must have liked it – it sounds as if it was played a lot – and I like it too. Like a lot of doo wop, the interest here is in the singing rather than what is sung: the lyrics are fairly lightweight love songs. I have decided to go with the B side, I Wonder, I Wonder, which is sadder and stronger than the bouncy A side, The Wonderful Secret Of Love.

I wonder who owned this record, and whether they are still alive? I wonder how many years it had sat in a box, before I bought it and cleaned it and gave it a spin? I wonder what happened to Eddie Carl – he was around for a little while, because he crops up in doo wop anthologies? Perhaps he went by other names – a lot of doo wop artists changed stage names like they changed their undies. If you know a bit about doo wop and can tell me more, please get in touch.

One thing is clear, though: Eddie Carl really can sing, and the backing instrumentation is nicely arranged by Jack Pleis. Great, melodic pop music.

  • Artist: Eddie Carl
  • Title: I Wonder, I Wonder
  • Format: 7” vinyl disc, 45rpm
  • Label: Festival FK-3079
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 1959