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”
Prank phone calls have been a staple of comedy for many years, ever since little boys started calling their local store and asking, "Do you have Prince Albert in a can?". Steve Allen is famous for his prank calls on his tv show (listen to some of them here and here). Remember Allen and Johnny … Continue reading Ray Bourbon, Bill Barclay, and Hollywood Phone Pranks
I have to give credit to Kliph Nesteroff in his 2012 post on Ray Bourbon, "Murder in Mink", at the WFMU blog, for this odd little highlight. Imagine that you're a housewife in Bakersfield, California in 1931 and, in your local paper, find a full page ad for the unveiling of the latest spring fashions … Continue reading Ray Bourbon Models Spring 1931 Fashions at Bakersfield Department Store
One of the more outlandish and remarkable stories about Ray Bourbon is that he rode with Pancho Villa. In drag. But did he? After Ray was put in jail for conspiracy to commit murder, his defense lawyer, William W. Bell, as taken aback by the eccentric old man he had signed on to defend. Ray … Continue reading Did Ray Bourbon Ride With Pancho Villa … In Drag?
In the mid-1990s, on a hunch, I sent a public records request to the Federal Bureau of Investigation to see if the agency might have a file on Ray Bourbon. With Ray's many travels, his high profile as a performer, and notoriety for his arrests for dressing in drag, I wondered if the FBI might … Continue reading The Strange Case of Ray Bourbon, the FBI, and the Russian Defectors
One of the most curious questions about Ray Bourbon I've been trying to sort out for several years is how he became friends with Bob Hope. There are several second-hand reports that Ray knew Hope and that Hope attended shows at Ray's nightclub in Los Angeles. Ray's lawyer, in an interview about a decade after … Continue reading Ray Bourbon and Bob Hope