Monday, 13 September 2010

Ray Peterson

I've made a brief mention of this record previously in this blog: Skeeter Davis's answer songs album called Here's The Answer in which she sang replies to original hit songs by various artists. The original songs and her reply versions alternated throughout the album. It was quite a novelty for me when I was young because not only did it give me an introduction to country music, I could listen to seven different recording artists within one record and it gave me a chance to compare their various styles of presentation. Thus, there were songs by Hank Locklin (Please Help Me, I'm Fallin'), Eddy Arnold (I Really Don't Want To Know), Don Gibson (Just One Time), Jim Reeves (He'll Have To Go), Floyd Cramer (Last Date) and Ray Peterson (Tell Laura I Love Her). I remember that I played through this record many times and this morning, I pulled it off the shelves again to give it another spin. Bliss....

Incidentally, today (13 Sep 2010) marks the 50th anniversary of the start of a campaign in the United Kingdom to ban this last mentioned song, Tell Laura I Love Her. The song was denounced in the UK press as likely to inspire a teenage glorious death cult. Many radio stations refused to play it. Decca Records destroyed thousands of copies of the 45rpm record, claiming it was “in bad taste”.However, it has really withstood the test of time.

More than anything else, Ray Peterson was so well known for that automobile disaster song that his numerous other hits have been somewhat forgotten. There were songs like Corrina Corrina and The Wonder Of You.

He was the first singer to record The Wonder Of You. It was released in 1959 and it went up the American Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at the 25th spot. Various other people sang this song too and the most notable among them was Elvis Presley in 1970. He always sang it before an audience, never in a studio. A story goes that Elvis called Peterson for permission to do the song. Peterson took the call and told him: "You don't have to ask, you're Elvis Presley." And Elvis replied: "Yes, but you're Ray Peterson."

Anyway, here's a rare chance to see Ray Peterson with his version of the song. It is an excerpt from a television show in 1999. At that time, Peterson was already 60 years old and 40 years had passed since he charted with it. He was to pass away six years later. In this video, you can see Mary Wilson, original singer with The Supremes, visibly affected watching him.

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