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Ray Conniff

Joseph Raymond Conniff (November 6, 1916 - October 12, 2002) was an American musician. He was born in Attleboro, Massachusetts, and learned to play the trombone from his father. He studied music arranging from a course book. After serving in the U.S. Army in World War II (where he worked under Walter Schumann), he was hired by Mitch Miller, then head of A & R at Columbia Records as their home arranger, and he worked 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. Amongst 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; "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. In these early years he also produced some similar sounding records for Columbia's Epic label under the name of Jay Raye (which stands for "Joseph Raymond") amongst them a backing album and singles with Somethin' Smith & The Redheads, an American male vocal group. Because of the success of his backings Mitch Miller allowed him to make his own record, and this became the successful "'S Wonderful", a collection of standards that were recorded with an orchestra and a wordless singing chorus (four men, four women). He released many more albums in the same vein, including "Dance The Bop" (1957), "'S Marvelous" (1957, gold album), "'S Awful Nice" (1958), "Concert in Rhythm" (1958, gold album), "Hollywood in Rhythm" (1958), "Broadway in Rhythm" (1959), and "Concert in Rhythm, Volume II" (1959, gold album). 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 of word— not just syllable — singing singers 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 (1965), 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. The single and album reached high positions in the international charts (a.o. Australia, Germany, Great Britain, Japan) as well. Also extraordinarily successful was the first of four Christmas albums by the Singers, "Christmas with Conniff" (1959). Nearly fifty years after its release, in 2004, Conniff posthumously was awarded with a platinum album/CD. Musically different highlights in Conniff's career are two albums he produced in cooperation with Billy Butterfield, an old buddy from earlier swing days. "Conniff Meets Butterfield" (1960) featured Butterfield's solo trumpet and a small rhythm group; "Just Kiddin' Around" (after a Conniff original composition from the 1940's), released 1963, featured additional trombone solos by Ray himself. Both albums are pure light jazz and did not feature any vocals. Later in the 1960's he produced an average of two instrumental and one vocal album a year. Among these are (Original albums only): * "'s Wonderful" (1956) * "Dance the Bop!" (1957) * "'s Marvelous" (1957) * "'s Awful Nice" (1958) * "Concert in Rhythm, Vol.1" (1958) * "Broadway in Rhythm" (1958) * "Hollywood in Rhythm" (1958) * "It's The Talk of the Town" (1959) * "Conniff Meets Butterfield" (1959) * "Christmas with Conniff" (1959) * "Concert in Rhythm, Vol.2" (1959) * "Young at Heart" (1960) * "Say It with Music (A Touch of Latin)" (1960) * "Memories Are Made of This" (1960, gold album) * "Somebody Loves Me" (1961) * "'S Continental" (1961) * "So Much in Love" (1962, gold album) * "Rhapsody in Rhythm" (1962) * "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" (1962, gold album) * "The Happy Beat" (1962) * "You Make Me Feel So Young" (1963) * "Speak to Me of Love" (1963) * "Friendly Persuasion" (1964) * "Invisible Tears" (1964) * "Love Affair" (1965) * "Music From 'Mary Poppins', 'The Sound of Music', 'My Fair Lady' & Other Great Movie Themes" (1965) * "Here We Come A-Caroling" (1965) * "Happiness Is" (1965) * "Ray Conniff's World of Hits" (1966) * "En Español (The Ray Conniff Singers Sing It in Spanish)" (1966) * "This Is My Song" (1967) * "Ray Conniff's Hawaiian Album" (1967) * "It Must Be Him" (1967, gold album) * "Honey" (1968, gold album) * "Turn Around Look at Me" (1968) * "I Love How You Love Me" (1968) * "Live Europa Tournee 1969/Concert in Stereo" (1969) * "Jean" (1969) * "Concert In Stereo: Live At 'The Sahara Tahoe'" (1969) * "Bridge Over Troubled Water" (1970) * "We've Only Just Begun" (1970) * "Love Story" (1970) * "Great Contemporary Instrumental Hits" (1971) * "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" (1971) * "Love Theme from "The Godfather" (1972) * "Alone Again (Naturally)" (1972) * "I Can See Clearly Now" (1972) * "Ray Conniff in Britain" (1973) * "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" (1973) * "Harmony" (1973) * "The Way We Were" (1973) * "The Happy Sound of Ray Conniff" (1974) * "Ray Conniff In Moscow" (1974) * "Laughter in the Rain" (1975) * "Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song" (1975) * "Love Will Keep Us Together" (1975) * "I Write the Songs" (1975) * "Live in Japan" (1975) * "Send in the Clowns" (1976) * "Theme from 'SWAT' and Other TV Themes" (1976) * "After the Lovin'" (1976) * "Exitos Latinos" (1977) * "Ray Conniff Plays the Bee Gees and Other Great Hits" (1978) * "I Will Survive" (1979) * "The Perfect '10' Classics" (1980) * "Exclusivamente Latino" (1980) * "Siempre Latino" (1981) * "The Nashville Connection" (1982) * "Musik für Millionen" (partly produced for a German TV show in 1982) * "Amor Amor" (1982) * "Fantastico" (1983) * "Supersonico" (1984) * "Campeones" (1985) * "Say You Say Me" (1986) * "30th Anniversary Edition" (1986) * "Always in My Heart" (1987) * "Interpreta 16 Exitos De Manuel Alejandro" (1988) * "Ray Conniff Plays Broadway" (1990) * "'S Always Conniff" (1991) * "Latinisimo" (1993) * "40th Anniversary" (1995) * "Live in Rio (aka Mi Historia)" (1997) * "I Love Movies" (1997) * "My Way" (1998) * "'S Country" (1999) * "'S Christmas" (1999) * "Do Ray Para O Rei" (2000). Between 1957 and 1968, he had 28 albums in the American Top 40, the most famous one being "Somewhere My Love" (1966). He topped the album list in Britain in 1969 with "His Orchestra, His Chorus, His Singers, His Sound". He also was the first American popular artist to record in Russia—in 1974 he recorded "Ray Conniff in Moscow" with the help of a local choir. His later albums like "Exclusivamente Latino", "Amor Amor" and "Latinisimo" made him very popular in Latin-American countries, even more so after performing in the Viña del Mar International Song Festival. In Brazil and Chile he was treated like a young pop superstar in the 1980s and 1990s when he was in his 70s and 80s. He even played live with his orchestra and eight-person chorus in large football stadiums as well as in Viña del Mar. Ray Conniff was a quiet, modest sympathetic artist. He always worked in the background so that in the fifties there were rumours that this man didn't even exist and his name was just a name fake as then his orchestral sound was so sensational. Nevertheless he sold about 70 million albums world-wide and continued recording and performing until his death in 2002. He died in Escondido, California, and is interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, California. In 2004, a memorial two-CD compilation set, "The Essential Ray Conniff", was released, featuring many rare and previously unreleased tracks. "The Singles Collection, Vol.1" was released on the Collectables label in 2005. This also features many rare tracks.

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