Writer, Dave Lodge remembers the Voice of Ireland, the 1950s singer and entertainer, Ruby Murray.
I am very pleased to be asked by Andy Howells to share memories of our friend Ruby Murray. The memories are from conversations shared with Ruby. If other people have different memories, it is not my intention to change or contradict them.
When Ruby Murray sadly died on December 17, 1996, the world lost a wonderful singer, my wife, Margaret and I lost a lovely friend. Ruby was like several other entertainers introduced to us by our great friend Tommy Bruce. The photo illustrated was a gift from Tommy.
Before getting to my personal memories, I will start by trying to pass on memories from conversations I had with Ruby about her career.
Ruby Murray was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland on March 29 1935.
One of the first things she told me was that because of having swollen glands she had an operation on her throat, when she was only six weeks old. Ruby felt this may have been how her warm husky voice developed. At the age of 12 it seems that TV producer Richard Afton arranged for her to sing on TV. Ruby was an overnight sensation but the law at that time said it was full time education until she was 14, so back to school.
Shortly after leaving school, Ruby was spotted by talent scout and music director, Ray Martin who it seems helped her to sign a recording contract with Columbia Records. This opportunity brought her in to contact the label’s Artiste and Repertoire Manager, the incomparable Norrie Paramor, leading to the release of her first single, in December 1954, ‘Heartbeat’. This song flew up the U.K. charts and its success brought Richard Afton into her career again.
Richard asked Ruby to replace Joan Regan, (a fine singer in her own right, who was moving on with her career) as the resident singer on the BBC’s ‘Quite Contrary Show’. Very quickly another hit came along ‘Softly, Softly’, quite simply a wonderful song.
Ruby quickly went on to do something that no other female artiste has ever surpassed, she had five hits in the top twenty at the same time. Phenomenal!
Throughout the 1950’s Ruby enjoyed great success, not only did she have her own TV show, but she also appeared with another of our dear friends, Norman Wisdom at The London Palladium.
In 1956, Ruby made an appearance at the Royal Command Performance. It may seem unbelievable now, but Ruby’s recording success was so great that she achieved 52 consecutive weeks in the top 20 between December 1954 and November 1955. In the same year, Ruby appeared in a film with comedian, Frankie Howerd. It was called ‘A Touch of the Sun’. Sadly, it was Ruby’s only film, perhaps the fact that she was touring the world singing to packed halls meant there was no opportunity to make films.
Ruby’s last chart success, 1959’s ‘Goodbye, Jimmy, Goodbye peaked at number 10. Her records it would seem were not for the 1960’s market. EMI did release three CD’s between 1989 and 2005, the last being a four CD set to celebrate her remarkable recording success, 50 years previously.
Ruby was married twice, first to Bernie Burgess and then in 1991 to Ray Lamar. Both her husbands supported her career and I believe that at different times in her life both made her happy.
I was blessed to meet Ruby in the 1980’s and we formed a friendship straight away, I introduced her to Margaret and the three of us remained friends to the end.
I had the honour to compere shows for Ruby. She liked me to take her by the arm and take her on stage, after she sang those lovely songs with her marvellous voice, she would link me again.
My last appearance with her was at the Northwick Theatre, Ombersley Road, Worcester.
One amusing memory that comes to mind is Ruby’s China tea service that she always brought to gigs with her. Ruby always liked a drop of vodka to relax with before going on stage. She had it in the teapot and would pour a quarter of a cup, no more, no less. Ruby would smile sweetly and say, “this is our secret isn’t it Dave?” I always said, “yes,” even though all the people on the show knew. Ruby told me that Norrie Paramor told her that it. was okay to have a little drink, but never to have a bottle on show in the dressing room. She stuck with that advice throughout her career.
Happy memories of a beautiful, talented lady!
- Dave Lodge is the author of Have Gravel, Will Travel, The Official Biography of Tommy Bruce, available to purchase from Amazon.