Born James Ray Raymond, 1941, Washington, D.C.
Life was grim for James Ray until his life was turned around by a dynamic musical entrepreneur and a talented new songwriter.
Gerry Granahan, who had scored a Top 30 hit with "No Chemise Please" in 1958, formed his own label, Caprice Records, in late 1960, in New York City. He had almost immediate chart success with his discoveries the Angels ("'Til", # 14) and Janie Grant ("Triangle", # 29).
Delivering demos to the Caprice office on a regular basis was Rudy Clark who, in addition to being the local mail carrier, was an enthusiastic songwriter in his spare time. Granahan liked his songs, but not his voice and advised Clark to bring in someone who could really sing. Clark took Granahan at his word and brought in James Ray whom he had discovered performing in a club. The singer was destitute at the time and living rough on the rooftop of an apartment block. Granahan saw great potential in the 20-year old Ray and immediately signed him to Caprice, bought him a new wardrobe of clothes and found him somewhere to live.
Ray's first record was Clark's composition "If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody" (Caprice 110), released in October 1961. The production was taken care of by Granahan himself, while Hutch Davie supplied the arrangement and accompaniment. Davie had played piano on Jim Lowe's million-selling "The Green Door" in 1956 and had released a few honky tonk piano singles on Atco, including "Woodchopper's Ball", which went to # 51 in 1958. "If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody" was/is an excellent record, now a minor classic, and peaked at # 22 on the pop charts and # 10 R&B. In the UK it was released on Pye International, but the song did not chart there until 1963, when it was revived (butchered is perhaps a better word) by Freddie and the Dreamers from Manchester, as part of the Merseybeat phenomenon that was taking the UK by storm. Maxine Brown charted with the song in 1966 (# 63).
Granahan and Davie then recorded an entire LP with James Ray. The album, simply titled "James Ray", included "Itty Bitty Pieces", which was issued as the follow-up single and peaked at # 41 (pop) in the spring of 1962, and "I've Got My Mind Set On You", both written by Rudy Clark. The latter also came out as a single in 1962, on Dynamic Sound 503, but this is probably a re-recording of the Caprice track. (Can anyone confirm this?) George Harrison had picked up a copy of Ray's Caprice LP (now a collector's item) in New York in 1963 and always wanted to record "Got My Mind Set On You" himself. He finally did it in 1988, scoring a # 1 US hit in the process. Rudy Clark went on to sign with Bobby Darin's T.M. Music publishing company and write such hits as "It's In His Kiss (The Shoop Shoop Song)" and "Good Lovin'".
James Ray Raymond died in the 1960s from an overdose of drugs. Some sources say he already died in 1962, Joel Whitburn writes "He died soon after his success as a singer" and others date his death towards the end of the sixties. The Social Security Death Index has no entry for him, not under Raymond nor under Ray.
Ray's Caprice LP was reissued on CD by Collectables (COL-5199) in 1994, but is now probably out of print.
Acknowledgements: Mick Patrick (Spectropop message).
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