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Ray Conniff

The man who popularized wordless vocal choruses and light orchestral accompaniment on a mix of popular standards and contemporary hits of the 1960s, Ray Conniff was a trombone player for Bunny Berigan's Orchestra and Bob Crosby's Bobcats before being hired as an arranger by Mitch Miller for Columbia Records in 1954. After he wrote the charts for several sizeable Columbia hits during the mid-'50s, Conniff became a solo artist as well, applying his arranging techniques to instrumental easy listening for the booming adult album market. The result, 12 Top Ten LPs and well over 50 million total albums sold, cemented his status as one of the top LP sellers of all time, but his increasingly watered-down and commercially focused arrangements gained few young fans by the end of the '60s. Though he continued recording and touring the world into the '90s, Conniff's albums slipped off the charts in the early '70s.

Born in November 1916 in Attleboro, MA, Ray Conniff gained much of his musical experience inside the home. His father, a trombone player, led a local band, while his mother played the piano. Ray began leading a local band while in high school -- picking up the trombone for the first time not long before -- and began writing arrangements for it; after graduation, he moved to Boston and began playing with Dan Murphy's Musical Skippers (besides playing and arranging, Conniff drove the band around). By the mid-'30s, he was ready for the big time, landing in New York just after the birth of the fertile swing era. He comped around Manhattan for several years, and by 1937 landed an arranging/playing job with Bunny Berigan. Two years later, he moved to Bob Crosby's Bobcats, one of the hottest bands of the time, though Conniff stayed for only a year before joining up with Artie Shaw and later Glen Gray.

With the advent of American involvement in World War II by 1941, Conniff joined the Army, though the closest he came to Wake Island was Hollywood, where he worked as an arranger with Armed Forces Radio. At the end of the war, Conniff worked with Harry James but lost interest in arranging when bop moved to center stage during the late '40s. Completely divorced from the music business, he studied conducting and music theory during the early '50s, emerging by 1954 to accept a position with Columbia Records and notorious pop producer Mitch Miller. The following year, he put his theories to practice with Don Cherry (the vocalist, not the jazz trumpeter) on a Top Five hit, "Band of Gold." Close on its heels were some more big hits of 1956-1957, including the number ones "Singing the Blues" by Guy Mitchell and "Chances Are" by Johnny Mathis, plus Top Five entries by Johnnie Ray ("Just Walking in the Rain"), Frankie Laine ("Moonlight Gambler"), and Marty Robbins ("A White Sport Coat [And a Pink Carnation]"). Columbia, undoubtedly ecstatic over the success of its arranger, agreed to let Conniff record an instrumental album, and the result, 'S Wonderful (1956), spent months on the album charts. With a similar intent (though far tamer results) to Lambert, Hendricks & Ross' album of the same year, Sing a Song of Basie -- which transcribed classic Basie orchestra solos into vocal parts -- Conniff arranged parts for an easygoing chorus of singers just as he had with instrumentalists in the past. 'S Wonderful was background instrumental music for adults who still liked to hear the human voice, and the technique grew to define the "Muzaky" feel of much of the adult pop of the 1950s and '60s.

During the rest of the late '50s, four Ray Conniff albums reached the Top Ten, led by the gold-certified 'S Marvelous and Concert in Rhythm. Conniff did well in the early '60s as well, with popular theme albums like Say It with Music (A Touch of Latin), Memories Are Made of This, So Much in Love, 'S Continental, and We Wish You a Merry Christmas, which continued to chart during the holiday season of the next six years after its 1962 release date. The rise of rock & roll in the mid-'60s obviously hurt Conniff's record sales, though in 1966 the inclusion of "Lara's Theme" in the film Doctor Zhivago resulted in Conniff's only significant singles-chart placing at number nine, and a million-selling album with Somewhere My Love. During the late '60s, he began to include the softer side of rock and Bacharach-David pop into his repertoire, with artists from Simon & Garfunkel to the Carpenters and the Fifth Dimension all receiving the Conniff treatment (alongside more questionable attempts, such as "Theme from 'Shaft'"). He continued to record albums and perform to his large Latin American audience into the '90s. On October 12, 2002, Conniff passed away after falling down and hitting his head. He had suffered a stroke months prior, but his health had continued to deteriorate. He was 85. ~ John Bush, Rovi
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Comments

still miss ray coniff. love his christmas music. did he make any christmas videos?
Oigo la musica de Ray Coniff desde mi adolescencia , y la seguire oyendo.
Me encanta toda su música desde mi niñez, es preciosa y sensitiva!!!
Amo la música de Ray Conniff, es hermosa!!!
Love his fresh arrangements of old standards, making them sound as though you've never heard them before
helbernk
I lived through the Swing Era and when Conniff started to record with his own band, I became hooked and bought almost every LP he ever made.
jorhazbun
Desde la edad de 14 años es mi música, me tildaron de viejo,gracia s a este estilo de música mi vida es diferente gracias Ray conniff
es mi musica preferida en especial besame mucho,el mar,y muchas mas con esta musica aprendi a bailar con mi primer novio que es un amor que ha revivido de nuevo.
Have enjoyed his music since Brazil and Besame Mucho in 1962 while in the Air Force in Germany...hi s sound can't be beat
in the era of rock'nroll-s ' wonderful was oe of my favorite albums
RAY CONNIFF IS THE BEST, I LOVE HIS MUSIC...
PLEASE, NO MORE CHRISTMAS MUSIC UNTIL THE NEXT CHRISTMAS SEASON. THANK YOU
Brand New Key is one of my favs. I also liked when Ray would sing, like with Honey....And , it's not Christmas at our house until Ray's Christmas songs go on.
rey_aranas
Ray Conniff's songs really brings back wonderful moments in my life. I will forever cherish them. And hey, Somewhere My Love was our Elementary Graduation song!
tony_ped
ray conniff's music brings back a lot of childhood memories .....thank you for the soundtrack of our lives
I have loved Ray Conniff's music since I was a very young girl, under the age 10, when my mother listened to his music on the radio. We also had albumns that my mother played over and over........ . . . . T h a t was when we lived in the Philippines. My entire family moved to the U.S. in 1972 and I have never forgotten Ray Conniff and have always hoped to get a hold of his music....... . . When my daughter, Melissa, shared Pandora with me, I searched Ray Conniff and I was so pleased and happy when
dcbrodeur
I met the love of my life 50 years ago in Singapore when we were 16. We learned to love Ray listening to his Talk of the Town one Christmas. Still love his music and each other. Wish we could have seen him in concert.

I'm 63 years old and the music of Ray Conniff is the best for mr. I fell in love with the love of my life and with his music. This is what you call wonderful music and so unique. I hope he is delighthing the angels ain heaven with his marvelous music.
The background music of my childhood... m y dad always had this and Ferranti and Tieicher playing.
I still love his bright, crisp sound! His music always put me in a happy frame of mind way back in the 50's and 60's. It still has the same effect on me today. Thank you Mr. Conniff for your wonderful music.
a favorite of mine since i heard his recording of concert in rythym in the 50s GOD BLESS
handvgonzale s
His music takes me back to my younger years. I love it!
Vocal harmony! I love it!!
camcosta
nice elevator music ;o)
I like him and the artists you have listed above, Floyd Cramer, Percy Faith Paul Mauriat and all of them, Man you guys have hit me where it hurts - heart and memories.
quintanilla. 0 0 7
RAY C. is my all time favorite. GOD Bless His soul. My X and I still good friends and listting to His music when ever we can.
I love Ray Conniff very much! He is my favorit artist!
my mom likes your songs and i like new york song whel something like that
tourodevenus
I still listen over and over his music. They are MAGIC
ltelle001
I prefer instrumental s only

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