One of the odd little things that pops up in lore about Ray is that Hollywood legend Robert Mitchum wrote songs and perhaps routines for him. Turns out that little legend is true.
Mitchum discussed his work for Ray and other “blue” nightclubs acts on page 94 of “Man With the Immortal Face – Bob Mitchum” by Eleanor Harris in the December 1945 edition of the movie fan magazine, Photoplay.
“I wrote so-called ‘original’ songs,” he says. “For Ray Bourbon, Peggy Fears, Nan Blakstone, and numerous others. Frankly, I often used the same recipe for a dozen songs. But they were all risqué songs with double-entendres; and some of them brought me in five bucks, and some brought me a hundred. I finally left the business because I had a contract to write a series of them for one entertainer, for which I was to get $1,500. I fulfilled my end, but I never got paid – so I quit in disgust and went to work at Lockheed.”
Mitchum wrote for nightclub acts shortly after moving to California in 1939 with his family. He was also studying and writing plays, even getting encouragement from Eugene O’Neil. He started out writing songs and patter for his sister, Annette (aka Julie Mitchum), who was a singer in Los Angeles nightclubs, often cranking out new material just about every day for her.
Lee Server went into more detail in the recent biography, Robert Mitchum: “Baby, I Don’t Care” on pages 45-46.
“Robert hung out at the clubs all night, at the bar, or back in the dressing room with his sister. At the end of her last show, they would repair to an all-night coffee spot where they would sit and schmooze with the other cabaret and club performers, singers and musicians and comedians who appeared on the boulevards and in side street dives and hot spots throughout Los Angeles. Before long he was writing material for some of them as well, his clients including such denizens of the nightclub as Belle Barth and a transvestite performer named Rae Bourbon. For ten or twenty dollars per piece, he would write them a song, or satiric new lyrics to a hit tune, or sentimental interlude patter, whatever was needed. Much of it was risqué stuff, packed with off-color implications and double entendres, going as far as the law or a club’s management would allow. Mitchum would laughingly recall, “Some were so blue I blush to remember ‘em.”
Mitchum wound up getting a job at Lockheed in 1941 and got his first bit parts in films in 1942.
Ray never mentioned Robert Mitchum in his autobiography. Ray did contact several of his celebrity friends when he was arrested for murder, but Mitchum was never mentioned among them. It appears that their business association was brief before Mitchum’s career went on a different trajectory.
We still don’t know which songs Mitchum wrote for Ray.