The CRY! Show
Lonnie Lee

the music and story of johnnie ray

Johnnie Ray

The Lobby

This is the show a generation has been waiting for..

(Where one pretends to BE Johnnie Ray or make every move he makes)

It is one Music Legend paying homage to another Legend.

Born in a small country town of Dallas near Portland Oregon in 1927, Johnnie was raised in a normal working class family. He loved the songs of Billie Holiday and Kay Starr and after leaning piano became passionate about his singing and playing.

When he was about 12 his hearing was impaired during a Boy Scout camp frolic with friends and due to this he had to wear a hearing aid the rest of his life.

In 1950 he left the stripper burlesque joints of the Portland area where he played and headed for Los Angeles. He was not very lucky there and finally after a year headed for the centre of blues and jazz and the time, Detroit. He was offered a singing job in the famous all black club, 'The Flame' and it was here where he really learnt his craft. Because his style was so different from any other white performer he came to the notice of the black Okeh Records and they decided to record him. At the time he was the only white artist on the label.

He recorded his own songs, with 'Whisky and Gin' as the A side. It was extremely well received and his career was on its' way.

When it was learned he was in fact a white singer they transferred him to the parent label, Columbia and gave the well known producer Mitch Miller the job of producing him.

The hits started with 'Cry' in 1951 and didn't stop until the mid 60's. Tony Bennett gave him the title, 'The Father of Rock'n'Roll' because of two things which were very different from anyone else at the time.

His vocal styling was the very first way the Rock'n'Roll singers were to use in later years. Singers such as Elvis and Buddy Holly learnt heavily on Johnnie's style.

New York Times Feb 25 1990
"Mr. Ray's singing style, which was iconoclastic in an era dominated by polite crooners, had much in common with rhythm-and-blues shouting. In a typical performance he would sing in full voice, breaking up the syllables of a song to accentuate the rhythms and sometimes simulating sobs. His mannerisms earned him ridicule as well as popularity, and he was a favorite subject of impersonators. "

The way he moved around on stage was also very new at the time. He was the first to jump on the piano, kick the piano stool away from him as he stood at the piano, throw the microphone or microphone stand in the air, throw himself on the ground, have his hair fall over his face, use his arms, body and legs to express himself sexually. All of this was later picked up by Elvis and every singer who moved on stage. At the time they thought he was a freak, was weird, was disrespectful to the music and many banned him from their clubs and theatres.

As the first who dared 'buck' the soft singing and movement style of the 'crooners', he was to find it very hard as many such as Frank Sinatra went out of their way to destroy him and his career. Because he was a fan of black singers and performed at the Flame Club, he was targeted by many racist members of the Detroit police who harassed him for many years.

During his career he came to Australia many times and in fact still holds the Sydney Stadium and Festival hall records for the most attendance, even over the Beatles. The same was at the London Palladium, New York's Copacabana and many other venues.

His fans bought his records in the millions and went to his shows until he stopped performing in 1990 when he passed away.

He recorded well over 500 songs in his career, many of them being among the first truly international hits and his albums are still best sellers today.

Singers of yesterday and today talk of his uniqueness and how he was one of the only true popular music stars who had his own distinct singing and stage style.

Johnnie Ray is gone but his songs and style live on.


For those who remember that era, the show will be an instant time machine back to a softer and more gentle time, when girls were romanced and popular music sang about love gained and love lost.

For those young adults looking to experience more than the current popular music offerings, the show will offer a welcome change. It will create the feeling of a more romantic time, and expose some of the the world's most popular songs, even though they may be from a different era.

You will also be taken on a brief, yet revealing story of Johnnie Ray's career and if you are into the history of rock and pop music, you will be surprised to hear just who Johnnie Ray was and what he achieved.


As one of Australia's best popular music singers, Lonnie's versions have the excitement and edge of today. If you like the new albums of Rod Stewart, Barry Manilow, Paul Anka and even Michael Buble, you will definitely love this show.

The show runs for one hour and the accompanying show..
'The Best of Lonnie Lee' is also one hour.