In the 1990s, when I first began researching Ray’s life and work, I got copies of most of his recordings from various collectors, mostly on cassette tape. I also dubbed all of his lp recordings to digital. These were briefly released on cd through a “print on demand” service. When that service folded, I offered … Continue reading Restoring Ray Bourbon’s Recorded Legacy: An Update
While researching some background on the early 1930s Pansy Craze as part of my research on Ray Bourbon, I stumbled on an obscure film appearance by one of Ray's contemporaries, Gene (aka Jean) Malin. Malin performed as openly gay starting around 1930 and donned drag, impersonating popular personalities like Theda Barr, in his act. He … Continue reading Pansy Craze Artist Gene Malin on Film
Research on Ray has been an ongoing process over the past twenty-five years, sometimes with fits and starts and often with long periods where nothing turns up. Here’s an overview of what I’m currently researching about Ray and leads I’m following this summer. If you have any ideas on places to look or resources to … Continue reading Research on Ray, Summer 2019
I recently obtained an unusual copy of Ray's first album, the 10" lp, "An Evening in Copenhagen". I had seen photos of another copy of this release before, but it was interesting to see it up close. The jacket uses different artwork than the normal pressing of the album and features a drawing of a unicorn. … Continue reading An Unusual Pressing of “An Evening in Copenhagen”
Did you know that Ray Bourbon had a pet camel and was friends with one of the biggest stars of Egyptian films? On Ray’s UTC album, “Around the World in 80 Ways”, he included a long list of clubs he appeared at that included “Symia’s” in Cairo, Egypt. I thought this might be a bit … Continue reading Ray, Egyptian Star Samia Gamal, and the Pet Camel
People who talk to me about Ray, getting familiar with his voluminous recorded output, sometimes ask me what my favorite recording is by Ray or the one I find most interesting. It's difficult to choose. I have a fondness for "The Wedding" and "The Raid", outrageous stories about 1920s gay life told as only Ray … Continue reading Ray Bourbon’s Last Recording
Ray's incomplete autobiography, written while he was in prison, along with his letters, are really the only documents we have were Ray tells his own story. Remarkably, as outlandish as many of the stories are, doing a little digging can usually confirm that what Ray said was true or had some basis in fact. I … Continue reading Ray Bourbon and a Member of the Chinese Royal Family?
In October 1961, Ray Bourbon was booked for ten weeks at Tony's Talk of the Town, a nightclub in Chicago. The owner of the club was D.W. Summers, who had just started a small record label, Roslyn Records. He recorded Ray's show on October 25, 1961, intending to release it as an album. He also … Continue reading Ray’s “Lost” Live Album
Once every few years, I've gone into sites like ancestry.com looking for more information about Ray's parents and family. While Ray himself turns up in official records, starting in the 1930s with his registration for a Social Security card, and we've found newspaper articles mentioning Ray as far back as 1920, nothing about Ray's parents … Continue reading What Was Ray Bourbon’s Real Name?
When I first obtained a copy of "An Evening in Copenhagen" in the early 1990s, I could tell that most of the tracks on the lp were actually dubs from Ray's 78 releases - you can hear the surface noise of the original 78 rpm records in the tracks. I wasn't sure about "The Wedding" … Continue reading The Censored Tracks on “An Evening in Copenhagen”