Monday, March 19, 2012
COOL JEWISH BLACK GOON: "RAY ELLINGTON" BROWN
50 years ago, Ray Ellington cracked the Top 40 in England with "The Madison."
And only 27 years ago, he died. February 27, 1985 to be exact.
Who says this blog isn't current? But that's why you're here, because almost no new releases are coming out anymore, and most of what does manage to come out "isn't worth buying." Or do you really think Adele is something new, the latest Springsteen doesn't use the same boring cliches about darkness and politics and hope as every other one, or that "Civil Wars" doesn't offer anemic songs or harmonies that were better done by musicians writing during the Civil War or by CSN who were born only a few years after Lincoln was assassinated.
Ellington might best be known by fans of "The Goon Show" who discovered him by staying tuned during the break in the comedy action. That's when he sang a song to fill time (a more forgettable music interlude was provided by harmonica player Max Geldray). The music was left off early Goon record albums, but preserved via the CD compilations issued in the past ten years. Many a bewildered younger fan still ain't too sure what to make of Ellington's cameo comedy appearances when the script called for an African chief or played on the studio audience sight gag of Ray pretending to be a white woman and delivering a line in a low throaty voice.
Ray's real name was Henry Brown. His black father Harry was a British Music Hall comic and his mother Eva, a Russian Jew. In a sort of Jolsonesque upbringing, Ellington attending Jewish schools and learned his Orthodox religion, but his heart was in show business and he loved jazz. He joined eccentric Harry Roy's band as a drummer. Roy's notorious today for cutting a track called "My Girl's Pussy." Louis Jordan was also a big influence on Ray, and once successful, the Ray Ellington Quartet covered Jordan's classic "Five Guys Named Moe" and other Jordan gems.
Ellington is available on CD mostly via the 40's big-band material. BBC Records did issue "Goon Show Hits" in 1974, an Ellington compilation of standards such as "The Lady's In Love with You," "Old Man River," "Miss Otis Regrets," etc. But his early 60's singles are pretty much scattered around on obscure compilations with other Brit one-shot wonders of the bygone era. It was a strange time, after all, when guys like Ellington (and Louis Prima) were trying novelty, hep-R&B and anything else to keep bopping their way into a Top Ten increasingly dominated by rock and roll.
A sample of Ellington's swingin' 45's shows his range of cool, boogie, and giddy-up ding-dong. Slippin' you five:
DRACULA'S THREE DAUGHTERS, THE MADISON, IF YOU CAN'T SAY ANYTHING NICE, LEFT HAND BOOGIE, GIDDY-UP-A-DING-DONG
Five rarities from RAY ELLINGTON Instant download or listen on line. No capcha codes, wait time, or whines about paying for a premium account.