Born: July 28, 1923 | Died: October 27, 2008 Primary Instrument: Arranger
In a career that began in the mid-1950s, Ray Ellis arranged the music for Standing on the Corner and Moments to Remember for the Four Lads; Splish Splash and Dream Lover for Bobby Darin; Everybody Loves a Lover for Doris Day; Where the Boys Are for Connie Francis; and That Certain Smile for Johnny Mathis.
Ellis worked with producer Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records arranging a number of R&B classics, including Ben E. King's Spanish Harlem, Brook Benton's There Goes My Baby and the Drifters' Under the Boardwalk. He also worked on some Ahmet Ertegun productions.
Born in Philadelphia in 1923, Ellis took saxophone lessons as a teenager and played in dance bands in the Northeast before going into the Army in 1943. He found his way into the band of the 1st Armored Division; he played dances and tried his hand at arranging. After the war, he played saxophone, clarinet and flute for Paul Whiteman's band, including some television work in a live jazz group at a Philadelphia station.
His break came when a friend introduced him to Mitch Miller, then a leading executive with Columbia, who helped Ellis get work arranging the songs for the Four Lads, including Moments to Remember in 1955 and Standing on the Corner from the 1956 Frank Loesser musical The Most Happy Fella.
Both songs were hits, and Ellis became Miller's protege at Columbia, where he found steady work producing records and often leading the orchestra for his arrangements.
In 1958, he gained notice as the arranger for Billie Holiday's last two albums, including Lady in Satin, which received mixed critical notice. The album seemed to gain greater acceptance over the years and was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2000.
In 1959, Ellis became the A&R director for MGM Records, creating hits for Francis, Frankie Laine and Clyde McPhatter. He later worked with Lena Horne, Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, Maurice Chevalier and Streisand.
In the early 1960s, he recorded a number of albums of easy listening music for several labels under his own name, including Let's Get Away From It All and Ellis in Wonderland for Columbia.
His career also included work for television and commercials. In 1971, he composed the first of two themes for the Today show, which lasted until the end of the decade. A second theme, based on the NBC chimes, was the show's signature for several years in the 1980s.
In the late 1960s, he became a composer for the cartoon studio Filmation and wrote the scores or the arrangements for several Saturday morning cartoon shows, including Spider-Man, The Archies, The New Adventures of Tarzan, Star Trek and Fat Albert.
As he reached his early 80s, he was still called on occasionally for arrangements. In the last few years, he worked with Barry Manilow and on Bette Midler's Peggy Lee Songbook album.
The Third Album
Arranger and Conductor
Peggy Lee Song Book
Lady in Satin
Ellis In Wonderland
Let's Get Away from It All
Jazz For Dad's
Broken Hearted Melody
A Certain Smile
Standing On The Corner
The Four Lads
Billie's Blues: The Original Recordings by Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday, Ray Ellis, and Ray Ellis & His Orchestra
The Exciting Connie Francis
Arranged and Conducted by Ray Ellis
Disclaimer: All About Jazz is not responsible for the accuracy of the discographical data at the website(s) provided. If a link is no longer valid, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.