ARTIST: Johnnie Ray & The Four Lads
Listen to it here:
Cry was written by Churchill Kohlman in 1951 and originally recorded by Ruth Casey, but made popular by Johnnie Ray & the Four Lads. It became a Billboard #1 hit that year and spawned many a cover versions.
John Alvin Ray was born on January 10, 1927 in The Dalles, Oregon. Ray started playing piano at age 3 and by age 15 started singing on local radio stations, despite losing his hearing in one ear thanks to an accident during a boy scout ritual. Ray started performing around the Pacific Northwest where he started gaining fame in Seattle before moving on to Detroit where he would perform at mostly Black-owned clubs. Due to his sad-boy theatrics on stage (falling to his knees, pulling his hair), he got himself more attention which led to a record deal and the release of the double sided hit single Cry and The Little White Cloud That Cried (this was considered an R&B release, by the way.). Ray became a star and started performing on television, including the Ed Sullivan Show, which propelled his fame through the 1950s. The 1960s saw his star dim until a minor resurgence in 1969 when he toured with Judy Garland and made appearances on the Andy Williams Show and The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
Johnnie Ray’s career declined again in the 1980s, although he still toured and made small cameo appearances in movies and music videos. In 1990 however, his lifelong battle with alcoholism caught up with him and he died of liver failure at age 63.
Johnnie Ray was best man at Judy Garland’s last wedding to nightclub owner Mickey Deans.
Ray was arrested not once but twice for soliciting sex from an undercover male police officer, fuelling rumours about his sexuality.
“Oh fuck yes I love doo wop! Oh nooooo why does he sound like he’s singing into a metal trash can?!” That was my first reaction to this song. I love that wistful, languid, young and in love summer night-type of vibe this kind of doo wop makes me feel (reminds me of being thin in grade 11) and I’ve never actually heard this one before. I feel like Dion Dimucci (of Dion and the Belmonts) took a couple pages out of this guy’s book! Although I do like the style of singing and the arrangement, I don’t think I like the song itself. I’m sure the recording techniques don’t help it, but I just find the melody grating, and I think it’s that initial interval. There’s definitely better doo-wop coming (Orioles, Five Satins, I’m looking at you).
Wow, I haven’t changed my opinion so quickly in a long time. I loved the first 5 or so seconds, until Johnnie came on. I just really hate the weird treatment they gave his voice, all this close delay echo stuff, and then I’m just not a fan of his tone. It’s mushy and nasal, and lacking depth. I bet there’s a great version of this song out there. I like the melody, I like the understated jazz combo in the background, but this seems like a step backwards from the genuineness of some of these other songs we’ve been covering.
Average mark out of 10:
Other notable versions of this song:
Like I would leave off a Sam Cooke version.
A VERY reverberated Willie Nelson take:
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Link to 1,001 Songs to Hear Before You Die spotify playlist: