Although practically deaf, Johnnie Ray's tear-inflected delivery tabbed him as an early-'50s sensation.
Leaving Oregon for Detroit, Ray found a gig at the Flame Club, an R&B and jazz institution. In 1951, Ray signed with Columbia's R&B subsidiary Okeh Records, although "Cry," his histrionic million-seller that year, was a pop entry all the way, with background vocals by the Four Lads. Produced by Mitch Miller, "Cry" remained perched atop the pop charts for nearly three months. Ray encored with "The Little White Cloud That Cried" before moving to the parent Columbia logo and enjoying a steady stream of pop hits, including "Walkin' My Baby Back Home" in 1952 and a cover of The Prisonaires' "Just Walking in the Rain" in 1956. Ray's frenzied antics set off riots among female admirers during his heyday, but the advent of rock soon dulled his hitmaking powers. By 1959, the hits were through. ~ Bill Dahl, Rovi