Wednesday, September 16, 2015

SINGER SPOTLIGHT: RAY EBERLE

One of the best vocalists that the memorable Glenn Miller Orchestra ever had was Ray Eberle. Eberle was born on January 19, 1919 in New York. His father, John A. Eberle, was a local policeman, sign-painter, and publican (tavern-keeper). His elder brother was Big Band singer, Bob Eberly, who sang with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra. Ray started singing in his teens, with no formal training. In 1938, Glenn Miller, who was looking for a male vocalist for his big band, asked Eberly if he had any siblings at home who could sing. Bob said "yes", and Ray was hired on the spot. Eberle recalled walking by a table when his similar looking brother was performing, and being stopped by Miller and invited to audition. Music critics and Miller's musicians were reportedly unhappy with Eberle's vocal style but Miller stuck with him.

Ray Eberle went on to find success with Miller, deeming the songs for Orchestra Wives, such as the jazz standard "At Last", to be among his favorites as there were songs he could "sink my teeth into, and make a story out of".

He appeared in the Twentieth Century Fox movies, Sun Valley Serenade (1941) and Orchestra Wives (1942).

He made several Universal films, including Mister Big, making a cameo appearance as himself. Eberle mostly sang ballads. From 1940-43 he did well on Billboard (magazine)'s "College Poll" for male vocalist. He also appeared on numerous television variety shows in the 1950s and 1960s.


Ray Eberle sang lead on "Sometime", composed by Glenn Miller in 1939, "Polka Dots and Moonbeams", "At Last", a number 9 chart hit on Billboard in 1942, and "To You", but Miller ran a tight ship and often fired people after one negative incident. Eberle was stuck in traffic one day during a Chicago engagement, and was late for a rehearsal. Miller fired him on the spot, and replaced him in June 1942 with Skip Nelson. Eberle responded by blasting Miller in a trade paper. An angry Miller retorted with his own version of Eberle's firing.

After his departure from Miller, Eberle briefly joined Gene Krupa's band before launching a solo career. He later joined former Miller bandmate Tex Beneke's orchestra in 1970 for a national tour, and reformed his own orchestra later in the decade.

Ray and his wife, Janet (née Young), had two children, Jan and Laurie Eberle. Janet's daughter Nancy Atchison became Nancy Eberle when she married Ray. He had two sons from his second marriage to Joanne Eberle (née Genthon), Ray Eberle Jr. and John Eberle. He also had a grandson, named Tray. Ray Eberle died of a  sudden heart attack in Douglasville, Georgia on August 25, 1979, aged 60. He was largely forgotten in 1979, but his big band contributions should never be forgotten...


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