Who was/is The Rays ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more
The Rays were a Brooklyn quartet boasting more musical experience than most of their peers. Second tenor David 'Sugar Lump' Jones had been with The Four Fellows of Soldier Boy fame (it's on our 1955 disc), and powerful lead singer Harold 'Hal' Miller was once with The Four Toppers, the Fellows' predecessors. Tenor Walter Ford and baritone Harry James rounded out The Rays. They began working with songwriters Frank Slay, Jr. and Bob Crewe when they signed with Chess and released the upbeat Tippity Top b/w Moo-Goo-Gai-Pan at the end of 1955. They encored with a ballad, Second Fiddle, flipped with the hard-charging How Long Must I Wait, out on both Chess and Argo in 1957.
Crewe, a handsome young singer with several singles of his own, supposedly noticed a couple romantically embracing through a window shade while aboard a passenger train, inspiring him to team with lyricist Slay to work up Silhouettes. The clever rock-a-ballad sports an entrancing narrative; the singer thinks he sees his girl kissing another guy through the shade, only to realize he's peeping through the window of a house on the wrong block (he races over to his chaste girlfriend's place, thoroughly relieved). Crewe and Slay gave their creation to The Rays, Miller belting the tale with dramatic zeal, and put it out on their little Philly-based XYZ label with the hip rocker Daddy Cool, another Crewe/Slay creation, on the rear. It was their XYZ encore; the devotional ballad My Steady Girl came before it.
Supposedly Philly deejay Hy Lit dozed off while auditioning new singles, Silhouettes endlessly repeating on his record player. By the time he woke up, Lit had absorbed every note. He spun Silhouettes on his show and got the ball rolling. Bernie Lowe and Kal Mann's Cameo imprint, a bigger local concern, picked the single up. It was a smash, zooming to #3 on both the pop and R&B listings in the autumn of 1957. The Diamonds took no chances, covering both sides of the 45 for Mercury, but their Silhouettes only made it to #10 pop. Also charting with a cover for ABC-Paramount: '40s mainstays Steve Gibson & The Redcaps. Herman's Hermits made Silhouettes a hit again in '65, peaking at #5 on the pop Hot 100.
The Rays made more platters for Cameo (their first encore paired the Silhouettes-styled Triangle flipped with Rendezvous) and XYZ. It took a while, but the quartet found their way back to the pop hit parade in 1960 with the catchy Mediterranean Moon and then Magic Moon (Clair De Lune) the next year, both on XYZ and penned as usual by Crewe and Slay. Not much was heard from the Rays after that, but Crewe masterminded incredible hitmaking runs by The 4 Seasons (who cut their own version of Silhouettes on Vee-Jay) and Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels.
- Bill Dahl -
Various Street - Corner Symphonies 1957 Vol.9
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