Let me clean this up a bit...
Composer Ray Ellis dies at 85
Arranged 'Chances Are,' 'Splish Splash'
By Mike Barnes
Oct 31, 2008, 08:30 PM ET
Composer Ray Ellis, who arranged such classics as "Chances Are" by
Johnny Mathis, "Splish Splash" by Bobby Darin and "Standing on the
Corner" by the Four Lads, died Monday in Encino of complications from
melanoma. He was 85.
During a career that spanned almost 65 years, the Philadelphia native
also arranged for acts including Tony Bennett, Doris Day, the
Drifters, Connie Francis, Judy Garland and Ray Price.
Ellis, in collaboration with his son Marc, wrote original music for
many of the animated series produced by Filmation Studios, along with
the original "Spider-Man" cartoon, "The NBC Nightly News" and "The
Today Show." Father and son also created music for game shows
including "Sale of the Century."
In the late 1940s and early '50s, Ellis played tenor sax in the Gene
Krupa Band and the Paul Whiteman Band and performed on live TV with
jazz combos on WCAU in Philadelphia.
He was discovered in 1955 by Columbia Records producer Mitch Miller,
and under the famed bandleader's guidance, Ellis arranged a string of
top 10 records for acts including the Four Lads, Mathis, Bennett,
Darin and Chris Connor.
Ellis also recorded instrumental albums under the Ray Ellis and His
Orchestra banner for Columbia and RCA Records.
With Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records, Ellis arranged R&B classics for
the Drifters ("Under the Boardwalk"), Brook Benton ("There Goes My
Baby"), Ben E. King ("Spanish Harlem") and Etta James ("C.C. Rider").
He did arrangements for Billie Holiday's last album, 1958's "Lady in
Ellis became A&R director at MGM Records in 1959, creating hits for
Connie Francis ("Where the Boys Are"), Frankie Laine and Clyde
McPhatter ("Lover's Question"). Later, he worked with such artists as
Lena Horne, Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Anthony Newley, Michelle
Lee, Liza Minnelli and Maurice Chevalier.
Most recently, Ellis worked on projects with Adam Sandler, Barry
Manilow and Bette Midler. During his retirement years, he was involved
in fundraising efforts for the Ojai Music Festival.
Among Ellis' survivors is his wife of more than 60 years, Yvette.
Well, another one of the greats gone. It seemed to me about the time
the DVD set was coming out that most of the people involved with the
show were already gone or dropping like flies. And STILL no original
recordings have turned up. (sigh)
When I started learning about Ray Ellis a few years ago, I commented
that there seemed to me to be a heirarchy when it came to composers
doing film soundtracks. You had those who did feature films. Then you
had those who "only" did tv shows. And then you had those who did tv
CARTOONS. This does not diminish the people or the work they did in
the latter 2 categories. Let me put it this way: I love John Williams'
work on LOST IN SPACE more than anything he's done since. Really! (The
scores for the 1st 2 STAR WARS movies were wonderful, of course.) A
lot of GREAT tv music from the 60's-- and I consider the 60's to be
quite possibly the best-EVER era for tv music (seriously, can ANYBODY
name ANYTHING since that measure up??) has taken decades to show up on
LP, CD, whatever. We're still waiting for SPIDER-MAN.
It was wonderful to read of the various things Ellis was involved in--
"Spanish Harlem" is one of the all-time greats (though even I have to
wrack my brain sometimes to remember exactly what it is an "arranger"
does). Mitch Miller, a favorite of mine when I was a little kid (no
really) turns out to have had a big impact on who worked for Columbia,
bieng their R&D man (he also signed Bob Dylan-- ain't that a kick?).
I'm playing the SPIDEY COVERS disc right now. I suggest anyone who
hasn't gotten a copy yet go do it! They may not be his recordings, but
they are his songs.