Nov 03

JOHNNIE RAY – “Yes Tonight Josephine”

Popular18 comments • 2,536 views

#60, 7th June 1957

Snappy nudge-wink tune bizarrely and gratifyingly enlivened by the backing vocalists, who repeat – ahem – “Yip Yip we ‘pon the boom-ditty boom-ditty!” at every opportunity (and they have several). It would undermine a more serious song, but from its title down “Yes Tonight” is no such thing. My wife suggests that Josephine should have nothing to do with this chancer, but that seems a little harsh. After all, Ray gets inside the song with aplomb and plays the comedy horndog role to the hilt, his lips smacking and tongue flapping like a Tex Avery cartoon wolf. Yip yip!



  1. 1
    wichita lineman on 21 Jul 2008 #

    Monumentally silly and catchy as hell. I love this, it condenses the corn and melodic joy of Guy Mitchell’s hits and throws them into a nascent rock arrangement. Quite audibly, you can hear the camp and sass that Elvis drew from Johnnie.

    I know Tom’s take is how the music stands up in the 21st century, without contemporary context. But I’ve often wondered how audiences – allegedly the first teen screamers – reacted to Ray’s stage act, so I bought, for research purposes, his 1954 Live At The London Palladium album. The answer? They ooh and aah and gasp as if they were watching a saucy circus act, sex presumably being rather new in Britain seeing as it wasn’t officially invented until 1963.

    And, finally, they scream for Such A Night, which he reprises, and reprises again, like James Brown throwing off the cape. And he does this until you can hear girls shout “Johnnie!!” At which point, modern Pop begins.

  2. 2
    Victoria on 8 Feb 2010 #

    I must say I’ve become rather taken with Johnnie Ray, having never heard anything by him in my life before yesterday.

  3. 3
    Mutley on 9 Feb 2010 #

    Johnnie Ray is a strange transitional and hard to categorise character between Sinatra of the mid 1940s bobby-soxer era and Presley of the mid 1950s. He’s not really a crooner and he’s not rock’n’roll, but at his peak he could drive an audience to hysteria just like the other two, crying and breaking down on stage – so that he was known as the “Prince of Wails” and the “Nabob of Sob”. It’s nice to see that he has 3 number one songs in these charts with largely favourable comments from contributors. He also had major hits in 1951 before these charts began with “Cry” and “The Little White Cloud that Cried” (Johnnie was always crying).

  4. 4
    wichita lineman on 9 Feb 2010 #

    It’s quite odd how many chirpy hits he had considering his reputation for blubbing.

    The fact he was originally signed to R&B label Okeh is also a clue that he was a major break from the past. I think J Ray and Roy Hamilton were important crossover figures – one white, one black – before Elvis blew it wide open.

    Has anyone ever used the word Nabob, apart from as Johnnie Ray’s nickname?

  5. 5
    Mutley on 9 Feb 2010 #

    Are there many original nicknames in rock/pop? Off the top of my head I can only think of lazy, obvious ones like the King of.., the Godfather of.., the Queen of.., the Princess of.., the First Lady of.., the Boss and Macca. They should be reasonably widely-known nicknames, as the Nabob of Sob was in its day.

    Is Sting a nickname?

  6. 6
    wichita lineman on 9 Feb 2010 #

    I like Perry Como’s – the Barber of Civility.

  7. 7
    Mutley on 10 Feb 2010 #

    I like that. Perry Como inevitably leads to Dean Martin. His best-known “nickname” Dino was of course his real name, but according to the usually unreliable internet sources he was also called King Leer – which is at least an original take on the stale King of..etc categories, although I don’t think it suits the amiable Dino persona. He was a boxer in his younger days and at that time had the nickname Kid Crochet, based on his real surname Crocetti.

  8. 8
    wichita lineman on 10 Feb 2010 #

    Gene Chandler credited himself as the Duke of Earl after his biggest US hit. Sadly he had stopped using this nonsensical (to us forelock-tuggers) nickname by the time of his one UK Top 20 hit, Get Down, in 1979.

    Kid Crochet! Sounds like a parallel universe King Creole, starring Pat Boone instead of Elvis.

  9. 9
    Mutley on 10 Feb 2010 #

    Is Flip, Flop and Fly the only song recorded by both Johnnie Ray and Pat Boone? Given the penchant for cover versions in the 1950s, there’s got to be more.

  10. 10

    belated NABOBwatch:
    Nixon’s first veep Spiro Agnew denounced the east coast print media as “nattering nabobs of negativism” sometime in the early 70s; the line was written by rightwing columnist (and noted scholar of American English) William Safire.

    Nawab is the more usual modern spelling of the word it comes from, the title of a middle-level potentate in the Mughal Empire — you see it a lot in names of Indian restaurants.

  11. 11
    Jimmy the Swede on 14 Feb 2011 #

    I can remember a classmate of Billy Bunter’s called The Nawab of somewhere or other, who was routinely racially abused by Bunter. Bunter, a simply dreadful fellow, was also, as I recall, unspeakably rude to the boy who arrived at Greyfriars from an unspecified place in Lancashire on a scholarship.

    Billy Bunter would have lasted about twelve seconds at Stockwell Manor including the count.

  12. 12
    enitharmon on 14 Feb 2011 #

    Jimmy surely remembers the Nawabs of Pataudi, père et fils, who used to play cricket for India? Well, perhaps not the elder who was long before my time, but the younger anyway who, IIRC, used to have a rather dashing eye-patch.

  13. 13
    punctum on 15 Feb 2011 #

    #11 – Hurree Jamset Ram Singh, the Nabob of Bhanipur, a.k.a. “Inky.” The Lancashire scholarship boy was Mark Linley.

  14. 14
    Tom on 15 Feb 2011 #

    He turns up, somewhat randomly, in a Teardrop Explodes song – “Hurree Jamset Singh, sing a song for me”.

    I am not sure that Billy Bunter was pleasant to anyone, mind.

  15. 15
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 15 Feb 2011 #

    You say somewhat randomly, but if I had five guesses who’d written a song that mentioned him, J.Cope would surely be in the top three.

  16. 16
    Tom on 15 Feb 2011 #

    Heh yes randomly more in the context of the song, where it’s filling in time before the end of a verse I think, than in the context of the singer.

  17. 17
    wichita lineman on 15 Feb 2011 #

    So that’s who he is… not any old Teardrop Explodes song, but the one that wrecked their Smash Hits profile; Colours Fly Away, a top 54 at the tail end of ’81.

    On an ’81 tip – Wattie, the Nabob of Gob.

  18. 18
    Gareth Parker on 9 Jun 2021 #

    I think Tom’s 6/10 is spot on here.

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