Ruby Murray (29 March 1935 – 17 December 1996) was one of the most popular singers in the United Kingdom and Ireland in the 1950s. In 1955 alone, she secured seven Top 10 UK hit singles.
Ruby Florence Murray was born on the Donegall Road in south Belfast, Northern Ireland. Her voice's unique sound was partly the result of an operation on her throat in early childhood. She toured as a child singer and first appeared on television at the age of 12, having been spotted by producer Richard Afton. Owing to laws governing children performing, Murray had to delay her start in the entertainment industry. She returned to Belfast and full-time education until she was 14.
Again spotted by Afton, she was signed to Columbia and her first single, "Heartbeat", reached number 3 in the UK Singles Chart in December 1954. Afton had offered her the position of resident singer on the BBC's Quite Contrary television show, to replace Joan Regan. "Softly, Softly", her second single, reached number one in early 1955. That same year Murray set a pop-chart record by having five hits in the Top Twenty in one week, a feat unmatched for many years.
The 1950s was a busy period for Murray, during which she had her own television show, starred at the London Palladium with Norman Wisdom, appeared in a Royal Command Performance (1955), and toured the world. In a period of 52 weeks, starting in 1955, Murray constantly had at least one single in the UK charts - this at a time when only a Top 20 was listed.
She starred with Frankie Howerd and Dennis Price in her only film role as Ruby, in the 1956 farce, A Touch of the Sun. A couple of hits followed later in the decade; "Goodbye Jimmy, Goodbye", a #10 hit in 1959, was her final appearance in the charts.
She married her first husband, Bernard Burgess, of the close harmony group the Jones Boys, in 1957, and in 1962 they started a year-long tour of Britain in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. When Murray fell in love with the comedian Frank Carson, who was both married and a Roman Catholic, the stresses it put on her marriage increased her reliance on alcohol. She joined Alcoholics Anonymous and twice spent time in a psychiatric hospital after nervous breakdowns. When she and Burgess divorced in 1977, he was awarded custody of their two children Julie and Tim (now the singer Tim Murray).
The same year Murray began living with Ray Lamar, a theatrical manager for Bernard Delfont, and in 1993 they were married. Though it was a loving relationship, the chronic alcoholism persisted, despite repeated attempts by Murray to stop. (When she did stop, she would smoke 80 cigarettes a day.) In 1982 she was arrested and fined for being drunk and disorderly - she spent a night in a cell and is alleged to have entertained the police with her hit songs. Still fondly remembered, she received a standing ovation in 1985 when she appeared in the concert Forty Years of Peace in the presence of Princess Anne, but her final London appearance, at Brick Lane Music Hall in March 1993, revealed a frail, halting performer.
For the last two years she had totally given up drinking, but her liver had become irreparably damaged and for the eight months until her death she was a patient in a nursing home in Torquay where she died from liver cancer, aged 61, in December 1996. At her beside were Ray Lamar, ex-husband Bernie Burgess and their son and daughter Tim and Julie.
The LBC broadcaster Lee Stevens, her manager for 12 years, said, "She gave happiness to millions of people, but sadly she never found real happiness herself."
A play about Murray's life, Ruby, written by the Belfast playwright, Marie Jones, opened at the Group Theatre in Belfast in April 2000. (Info edited from Wikipedia & The Independent)