27
Oct 03

JOHNNIE RAY – “Just Walking In The Rain”

Popular8 comments • 2,371 views

#52, 16th November 1956

Ray’s sodden grief is so public it draws spectators to their windows to gawp at a walking portrait of misery. A shame then – perhaps – that the song starts with a jaunty whistle and Johnnie wolfishly confessing that he’s “getting soakin’ wet”. The whistle persists, meaning that “Just Walking” is never as wracked as it might have been. But maybe that’s the point – if you take your broken heart onto the streets it’s because you want somebody to take notice of it. (Especially if you bring your mates along to sing smooth backing vocals – Ray might have been sad but they make sure his audience has a pretty fine time.)

6

Comments

  1. 1
    rosie on 30 Sep 2010 #

    Can’t believe there’s no (post-Haloscan?) comments here.

    I’ve become a little bit of a retrospective Johnnie Ray fan, and I like this song a lot. I’m wont to sing it to myself, with a startling obviousness, when caught out in this officially wettest and windiest of English town. Being prone to bouts of depression helps too – in fact it’s in my repertoire of songs to ease me out of a bad patch. He did self-pity so well; no wonder they called him the Nabob of Sob! The clash between the jauntiness and the underlying misery is a killer. I’d give it a 7, maybe an 8.

  2. 2
    Mutley on 1 Oct 2010 #

    I agree with you entirely. There are a few post-Haloscan and largely favourable comments about Johnny against the other two hits on this list (Such a Night/ Yes Tonight Josephine). He would probably have had five number ones here (Cry/ The Little White Cloud that Cried) if these charts had started a year or two earlier. See Johnnie singing JWITR on the Frankie Laine Show in 1956. Note the “dancers” wearing raincoats – a cross between low budget performance art and John Sergeant level Strictly Come Dancing. Only fake rain is missing. See it on
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCjTWYoRTzM

  3. 3
    wichitalineman on 1 Oct 2010 #

    Mutley, can I direct you to Britain’s First Number Ones which compiles the sheet music number ones from 1945 to 1952. Cry didn’t make the cut – as with Elvis sheet music, it possibly didn’t sell as well as you’d expect because the Nabob’s stylings didn’t lend themselves to a family singalong round the piano. Not sure of Cry’s chart position but it’ll be in the indispensable First Hits, Brian Henson’s book from the early 80s.

    Oddly, the very first British charts, between 1939 and 1942, were only printed in the States, in Variety and Billboard, which no one seems to have noticed until recently apart from pre-rock expert Ossie Dales. So now there’s a prequel compilation, with the number ones from 1939 to 1945, due out next spring.

  4. 4
    lonepilgrim on 1 Oct 2010 #

    Thanks for the link Mutley

    wikipedia gives a fascinating account of how the song was:
    written in 1952 by Johnny Bragg and Robert Riley, two prisoners at Tennessee State Prison in Nashville, after a comment made by Bragg as the pair crossed the courtyard while it was raining. Bragg allegedly said, “Here we are just walking in the rain, and wondering what the girls are doing.” Riley suggested that this would make a good basis for a song, and within a few minutes, Bragg had composed two verses. However, because Bragg was unable to read and write, he asked Riley to write the lyrics down in exchange for being credited as one of the song’s writers.

    Nowadays that would lead to front page news in the tabloids: No.1 songwriter a multiple rapist

  5. 5
    Mutley on 1 Oct 2010 #

    Thanks for the lead, Wichita – I see that before the current charts Johnnie Ray was up against Issy Bonn in the sheet music stakes! As a child, I saw Issy in pantomime. He is also on the Sgt Pepper cover, as is the late Tony Curtis, but sadly the Nabob is not included.

  6. 6
    wichitalineman on 1 Oct 2010 #

    Issy in panto! I was unaware of Issy’s existence before doing the comp. He also starred in a film called I Thank You, which I imagine is pronounced “ayyy thang yeeoow”. Poor chap died on his birthday – I’ve never worked out if that would be a good or bad way to go.

    Another great Johnnie Ray sobber is 1957’s Street Of Memories, the superior b-side to Build Your Love. No rain for him to contend with this time, just burning arid heat and his usual mental torment.

  7. 7
    Mutley on 1 Oct 2010 #

    #4. Johnny Bragg was the leader of the African-American group The Prisonaires consisting of a rapist, two murderers (each serving 99 years) and two other inmates of Tennessee State Penitentiary in Nashville(according to Wikipedia). I’ve got their version of “Just Walking in the Rain” on a Sun Records compilation. Their version is in the style of the Ink Spots. They went to Memphis under armed guard to record at Sun studios. They were allowed out to perform including at the state governor’s mansion. Bragg’s sentence was commuted in 1959 – given the prejudice against the black population in those days it makes you wonder about the original charge.

  8. 8
    crag on 13 Apr 2011 #

    DESERT ISLAND DISC WATCH

    George Fenton, composer (2003).

Add your comment

(Register to guarantee your comments don't get marked as spam.)


If this was number 1 when you were born paste [stork-boy] or [stork-girl] into the start of your comment :)

Required

Required (Your email address will not be published)

Top of page