Ray Conniff Singers
Ray Conniff Singers
He wrote a top 10 arrangement for Don Cherry's "Band of Gold" in 1955, a single that sold more than a million copies. Amongst the hit singles he backed with his orchestra (and eventually with a male chorus) were "Yes Tonight Josephine" and "Just Walkin' in the Rain" by Johnnie Ray; "Chances Are" and "It's Not for Me to Say" by Johnny Mathis; "A White Sport Coat" and "The Hanging Tree" by Marty Robbins; "Up Above My Head," a duet by Frankie Laine and Johnnie Ray; and "Pet Me, Poppa" by Rosemary Clooney. He also backed up the albums Tony by Tony Bennett, Blue Swing by Eileen Rodgers, Swingin' for Two by Don Cherry, and half the tracks of The Big Beat by Johnnie Ray. In these early years he also produced some similar sounding records for Columbia's Epic label under the name of Jay Raye (which stands for "Joseph Raymond") amongst them a backing album and singles with Somethin' Smith & The Redheads, an American male vocal group. Because of the success of his backings Mitch Miller allowed him to make his own record, and this became the successful 'S Wonderful, a collection of standards that were recorded with an orchestra and a wordless singing chorus (four men, four women). He released many more albums in the same vein, including Dance The Bop (1957), S Marvelous (1957, gold album), S Awful Nice (1958), Concert in Rhythm (1958, gold album), Hollywood in Rhythm (1958), Broadway in Rhythm (1959), and Concert in Rhythm, Volume II (1959, gold album). In 1959 he started the Ray Conniff Singers (12 women and 13 men) and released the album It's the Talk of the Town. This group of word— not just syllable — singing singers brought him the biggest hit he ever had in his career: Somewhere My Love (1966).
The title track of the album was written to the music of "Lara's Theme" from the film Doctor Zhivago, and was a top 10 single in the US. The album also reached the US top 20 and went platinum, and Conniff won a Grammy. The single and album reached high positions in the international charts (a.o. Australia, Germany, Great Britain, Japan) as well.
Also extraordinarily successful was the first of four Christmas albums by the Singers, Christmas with Conniff (1959). Nearly fifty years after its release, in 2004, Conniff was posthumously awarded with a platinum album/CD. Musically different highlights in Conniff's career are two albums he produced in cooperation with Billy Butterfield, an old buddy from earlier swing days. Conniff Meets Butterfield (1960) featured Butterfield's solo trumpet and a small rhythm group; Just Kiddin' Around (after a Conniff original composition from the 1940s), released 1963, featured additional trombone solos by Ray himself. Both albums are pure light jazz and did not feature any vocals.
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