"The Golden Voice of Rock 'n' Roll"

Ray Peterson R.I.P.
            January 26, 2005 - Ray Peterson has died from cancer. Ray enjoyed a handful of pop hits during the early 1960s, among them the Phil Spector-produced "Corrina Corrina" and the car-crash melodrama "Tell Laura I Love Her." Born April 23, 1939 in Denton, TX, he spent much of his childhood recovering from polio, and during an extended stay in a nearby treatment facility he began performing for his fellow patients. As Peterson's health returned he began singing professionally in local clubs, eventually relocating to Los Angeles; there he was discovered by manager Stan Shulman, signing to RCA in 1958. The owner of a four-octave voice, Peterson's early material ran the gamut from teen ballads like "Let's Try Romance" to covers including Little Willie John's "Fever," all to little success; he finally scored a hit in 1959 with "The Wonder of You," which reached the Top 30 in both the U.S. and the U.K.
            Another minor hit, "Answer Me," followed before Peterson scored his greatest success with the 1960 epic "Tell Laura I Love Her." The record's popularity allowed the singer to fund his own label, Dunes, and he soon recruited producer Spector to helm a smash rendition of the traditional "Corrina Corrina." The Dunes roster also i ncluded singer Curtis Lee, for whom Spector produced the 1961 hits "Pretty Little Angel Eyes" and "Under the Moon of Love." Peterson himself went on to cut the Goffin/King-authored "Missing You" and "I Could Have Loved You So Well," but his stardom quickly faded, and after scoring a last minor chart entry with 1963's "Give Us Your Blessing" he signed to MGM in an attempt to cross over to country audiences.
            He recorded and toured for over 50 years. Although sick the last couple of years he still performed whenever he could. Last February Ray performed at a benefit concert for Gene Hughes, of the Casinos, in Nashville along with Dickie Lee, Larry Henley, Steve Jarrell and Joe Stampley to name a few. Petersonwas also the recipient of a similar fundraiser last May.

Update: December 2, 1999

Ray Peterson has a unique voice and scored a string of interesting hits from the heart wrenching "Tell Laura I Love Her" and the easygoing folk of "Corinna, Corinna" to the dramatic Roy Orbison influenced "I Could Have Loved Her So Well".

Ray was born in Denton, Texas, April 23, 1939. Diagnosed with polio as a child, he was told he would never walk again, but miraculously that was not the case, and he was left with only a slight limp. In later life, he even became an accomplished golfer. It was while he was being treated for polio at Warm Springs Foundation Hospital in Texas, that Ray began to sing to amuse himself and the other patients. When he was finally released, he began to work in local clubs before moving to Los Angeles, where he met longtime manager Stan Shulman.

Ray Peterson's remarkable 4-1/2-octave voice intrigued executives at RCA Records and they signed the singer in 1957. His first single was an unusual, almost gospel version of the Little Willie John 1956 hit, "Fever" that fell somewhere between the bluesy John arrangement and the later, sexier take by Peggy Lee.

"Fever" cooled in the marketplace and a new single "Let's Try Romance"/"Shirley Purly" was issued, but also found little response. Despite the lack of interest in Ray's early records, he remained with RCA and finally scored his first hit with his seventh single "The Wonder Of You". It was a gentle ballad written by veteran Baker Knight, and became a Top 30 success in the summer of 1959. Elvis Presley was so taken with Ray's heartwarming rendition that he called Ray and asked if he too could record it. A very flattered Ray Peterson told Elvis that he didn't have to ask - he was Elvis Presley. Elvis replied, "Yes I do - you are Ray Peterson". "The Wonder of You" became a Top 10 hit for Elvis in 1970.

Ray closed out 1959 with another success scoring a small hit with a version of the classic Jesse Belvin love ballad, "Goodnight My Love". That modest success set the stage for what would become his biggest hit ever. "Tell Laura I Love Her" was a classic heart wrenching teen song about young Tommy trying to raise enough money to buy a ring for his beloved Laura by entering a car race. But, as bad luck would have it, the car overturned in flames and Tommy perished. The quietly effective production and Ray's dramatic vocal combined in a song that caught the ear of numerous teens and made it a No. 7 hit on Billboard's Hot 100. The song was composed by Jeff Barry, who went on to write and produce hits like "Sugar Sugar" for The Archies, and "Rock Me Gently" for Andy Kim. There was also a "Tell Laura I Love Her" album that featured the big hit and earlier singles.

Despite the success of "Laura", the next single, "Teenage Heartache" by veterans Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman didn't chart. When "My Blue Angel" also failed to hit, Ray and his label parted company.

Leaving RCA was hardly the end of Ray Peterson's recording career. In association with publishing giant Hill and Range Music, and manager Shulman, he formed New York City based Dunes Records, a name inspired by his work at Las Vegas' Dunes Hotel. His first record was produced by, at that time, relatively unknown Phil Spector, brought to New York by Ray and his manager, to apprentice with producer-writers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

"Corinna, Corinna" was an old Scottish folk song done by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, and later by Joe Turner, who had a Top 2 rhythm and blues record with it in 1956. Phil Spector's production had a slightly Latin feel, as strings and a chorus swelled up behind Ray's strong performance. Issued on Dunes in late 1960, it quickly became a Top 10 pop record. The next single, "Sweet Little Kathy", written by Ray Peterson and Tommy Boyce was a minor hit in the spring of 1961. However, he did much better with "Missing You", a nice updating of the 1957 Webb Pierce country hit.

In late 1961 Ray again teamed up with Phil Spector on "I Could Have Loved You So Well", an emotional love song by Barry Mann and Gerry Goffin. Unaccountably, it only peaked at No. 57 during its eight week run on Billboard. Other singles, like "You Know Me So Well", "Is It Wrong" and "Where Are You?" didn't fare well in the marketplace. But proving you can't keep a good man down, Ray returned to the charts in the summer of 1963 with "Give Us Your Blessing", another Jeff Barry teenage torch song. An equally anguished version by The Shangri Las was a Top 30 success in 1965.

As for Ray Peterson, he hit the charts one more time, in the spring of 1964, when RCA reissued "The Wonder Of You", that went to No. 70 on the pop charts. In late 1964, Ray signed with MGM Records, cutting a number of singles. In 1969 he did "Together" for Reprise and then moved to UNI for three more records.

Ray also recorded a single for Decca in 1971, and the album "Peterson Country," that featured straight country material, produced by Joe Johnson and arranged by veteran Bill Walker. While his records weren't doing well, there was still an audience for his live shows. In 1971 based in Nashville, after years in California he told Cash Box Magazine he was amazed at the reaction he still received when he performed his greatest hits live.

Ray is still performing for those audiences all over the country and receiving standing ovations at every event. His voice is as strong as ever with its now four-octave range, and he still sounds exactly like his recordings. In addition to singing his hits, he pays tribute to Elvis Presley and his good friend, Roy Orbison. In addition to his solo dates, he is currently joined by close friends Troy Shondell, Ronnie Dove and Jimmy Clanton performing as a new group called "The Masters of Rock 'n' Roll".

Ray Peterson has been called an "Entertainer's Entertainer" and a "Singer's Singer", but he is truly "The Golden Voice of Rock 'n' Roll".

Ray Peterson - Discography

    Corrina, Corrina / Teen Angel (Mark Dinning)
    Stamp Out Loneliness / There's a Better Way
    Corrina, Corrina / Be My Girl
    You didn't Care / Sweet Little Kathy
    Missing You / You Thrill Me
    Why Don't You Write Me / Could Have Loved So Well
    You Know Me Much Too Well / You Didn't Care
    You Didn't Care / If Only Tomorrow
    Slowly / Is It Wrong
    Deep Are the Roots / Where Are You
    Without Love / Give Us Your Blessing
    I Forget What It Was Like / Be My Girl
    I'm Not Jimmy
    Corrine, Corrine / Be My Gal
    Corrina, Corrina / Promises
    Oh No / If You Were Here
    Across the Street / When I Stop Dreaming
    House Without Windows
    Tell Laura I Love Her / Fever
    Fever / We're Old Enough To Cry
    Shirley Purley / Let's Try Romance
    Love is a Woman / Richer Than I
    I'm Gone / The Wonder of You
    My Blue Angel
    Goodnight My Love, Pleasant till Then
    The Wonder of You
    What Do You Want To Make / Answer Me My Love
    Tell Laura I Love Her / Wedding Day
    Teenage Heartache / I'll Always Want You Near
    I'm Tired / My Blue Angel
    Wonder of You / Goodnight My Love, Pleasant Dreams
    Tell Laura I Love Her / The Wonder of You
    Tell Laura I Love Her / Be My Girl
    I'm Gone / The Wonder of You
    Answer Me My Love / What Do You Want To Make
    Goodnight My Love, Pleasant Dreams
    Love Rules the World / Together
    Love the Understanding Way / OK City Times
    Tell Laura I Love Her / To Wait For Love

    Tell Laura I Love Her - RCA
    Very Best of Ray Peterson - MGM
    Other Side of Ray Peterson - MGM
    Goodnight My Love, Pleasant Dreams - RCA
    Missing You - The Best of Ray Peterson - UNI
    Ray Peterson Country - DECCA

  • CD'S
    Nipper's Greatest Hits - The 50's Vol 2 - The Wonder of You - RCA CD
    Nipper's Greatest Hits - The 60's Vol 1 - Tell Laura I Love Her - RCA CD
    Hard to Find 45's:
    Corrina, Corrina - CD

    Ray Peterson sings Tell Laura I Love Her - COL CD:
    Tell Laura I Love Her
    The Wonder of You
    Come And Get It
    Till Then
    Goodnight My Love
    Answer Me My Love
    What Do You Want To Make Those Eyes At Me For?
    Richer Than I
    My Blue Angel
    I'm Gone
    Corrina, Corrina - (Bonus Track)
    Missing You - (Bonus Track)

    Courtesy: Aurora Woodruff, Aurora Productions
    For more information about Troy please email Aurora at: albumrec@aol.com

  • Rockabilly Hall of Fame