Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Oct. 12: Orchestra leader Ray Conniff died on this date in 2002...

... he was 85 when he passed away.

Born in Attleboro, Massachusetts, Conniff learned to play the trombone from his father, and music arranging from a book. After serving in the U.S. Army in World War II, he joined the Artie Shaw big band writing many of the arrangements.
(Follow links below to view You Tube Videos:)

-- "Somewhere My Love"  ("Lara's Theme" from  Doctor Zhivago) Ray Conniff Singers

Afterwards, he was hired by Mitch Miller as an arranger, working with several artists including Rosemary Clooney, Marty Robbins, Frankie Laine, Johnny Mathis, Guy Mitchell and Johnnie Ray. He wrote a top 10 arrangement for Don Cherry's "Band of Gold" in 1955, a single that sold more than a million copies.

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 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.

Conniff shunned the limelight and as a result there were rumors in the 1950s that he didn't exist and that his name was made up. Nevertheless he sold about 70 million albums worldwide and continued recording and performing until his death in 2002.

HIGHLY Recommended (Links to Amazon):

Say It With MusicTurn Around Look at Me / I Love How You Love MeIt Must Be Him / Honey

Among 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; "Moonlight Gambler" by Frankie Laine; "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.

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