"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.
Peterson was 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
"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
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
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
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
Goodnight My Love
Answer Me My Love
What Do You Want To Make Those Eyes At Me For?
Richer Than I
My Blue Angel
Corrina, Corrina - (Bonus Track)
Missing You - (Bonus Track)
Courtesy: Aurora Woodruff, Aurora Productions
For more information about Troy please email Aurora at:
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