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Thursday, 17 March 2016

Ray Ellington born 17 March 1916

Ray Ellington (born Harry Pitts Brown, 17 March 1916 – 28 February 1985) was a popular English singer, drummer and bandleader. He is best known for his appearances on The Goon Show from 1951 to 1960. The Ray Ellington Quartet had a regular musical segment on the show, and Ellington also had a small speaking role in many episodes, often as a parodic African, Native American or Arab chieftain (but also often, with no attempt to change his normal accent, as a female secretary or a Scotsman).
Ellington was born at 155 Kennington Road, Kennington, London, the youngest of four children. His father was Harry Pitts Brown (c.1877–1920), a black music-hall comedian and entertainer, and his mother was Eva Stenkell Rosenthal (b. c.1879), a Russian Jew. His father died when Brown was four years old. He was brought up as a strictly Orthodox Jew. He attended South London Jewish School (1924–30), before entering show business at the age of twelve, when he appeared in an acting role on the London stage.
Ellington's first break came in 1937 when he joined Harry Roy and His Orchestra as the band's drummer, replacing Joe Daniels. His vocal talents were put to good use too, from the time of his first session when he recorded "Swing for Sale." Ellington was called up in May 1940 when he joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a physical training instructor where he served throughout the war. He played in various service bands including RAF Blue Eagles (1945).
After demobilisation, Ellington resumed his career, fronting his own group, playing at The Bag O'Nails club. Early in 1947, he rejoined the Harry Roy band for a few months.

Ellington specialised in jazz but experimented with many other genres throughout the show's history and his musical style was heavily influenced by the comedic jump blues of Louis Jordan. Ellington’s catch-phrase was "That's nice!"

He formed his original Ray Ellington Quartet in 1950, and was also known to millions through the radio program Mr. Ros and Mr. Ray. Ellington's band was one of the first in the UK to feature the stripped-back guitar/bass/drums/piano format that became the basis of rock and roll, as well as being one of the first groups in Britain to prominently feature the electric guitar which was produced and introduced by their guitar player, Lauderic Caton. The other members of Ellington's quartet were Dick Katz (piano) and Coleridge Goode (bass).

Early in the Goon Show's run, there were many jokes linking Ellington to the African nation of Ghana, thus leading Ellington to say that he came from Ghana. Ironically, his association with the Goons helped him sustain a musical career during an era when British Invasion rock & roll was vanquishing just about any kind of musical performer who did not possess a mop-top haircut and the ability to sing "yeah, yeah, yeah." Not that he stuck to straight jazz when exploiting the popularity of the Goons; he had chart singles in the early '60s, but these were rock and rhythm & blues numbers, some produced by the superb Joe Meek. Ellington's recording of "The Madison" reached #36 in the UK Singles Chart in November 1962.

He was married to Anita West, who was to become the second female presenter of Blue Peter when she replaced Leila Williams, but she only lasted a few weeks in this role. They had two small children (Lance and Nina) when the marriage ended in divorce, due to Ellington's constant touring.
In 1970, Ellington established the popular Ray Ellington Big Band & Singers. For the last decade of his life, Ray continued to lead small groups. He played at the exclusive White Elephant Club in Chelsea and enjoyed a long-term residency at the prestigious London Hilton "Roof Top" restaurant in Park Lane. Ray Ellington died of cancer on 27 February 1985, three weeks short of his 69th birthday.
Ray's son Lance Ellington is a singer who has recorded several jazz orientated albums. Lance has also appeared in tributes to Peter Sellers and in the movie The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, where he played his father.

Ray and his son Lance.
In May, 2001, Lance took part in "Goon Again", a 50th anniversary celebration of the Goon Show. (info edited mainly from Wikipedia & AMG)

1 comment:

boppinbob said...

Find Disc 2 of Ray Ellington’s Essential Selection here;

1. Let the Good Times Roll
2. Old Mother Hubbard
3. Black Eyes
4. Little Miss Muffet
5. The Be-Bop
6. Progress
7. The Tailor's Blues (Frayed at the Edges)
8. That's My Girl
9. Little Red Riding Hood
10. Lonely Guy
11. Bright Lights and Blonde Haired Woman
12. Keep off the Grass
13. The Teddy Bears' Picnic (The Teddy Bears' Boogie)
14. Slow Coach
15. Baltimore Rag
16. In a Shady Nook (By a Babbling Brook)
17. Feet Up
18. (I've Got a Gal In) Kalamazoo
19. She Wears Red Feathers (And a Huly-Huly Skirt)
20. All's Going Well (My Lady Montmorency)
21. Ol' Man River
22. Bruce and the Spider
23. Rub-A-Dub-Dub
24. My Mother's Eyes
25. A Sky Blue Shirt and a Rainbow Tie
26. Play It Boy, Play
27. The Naughty Lady of Shady Lane
28. Cloudburst
29. Pet

(Unable to get track info from database so mp3's numbered as above)