John Alvin Ray was an American singer, songwriter, and pianist. Popular for most of the 1950s, Ray has been cited by critics as a major precursor of what would become rock and roll, for his jazz and blues-influenced music and his animated stage persona.
Ray was born in Hopewell, Oregon, spending part of his childhood on a farm, eventually moving to Portland, Oregon. Ray was of Native American origin; his great-grandmother was a full-blooded Native American and his great-grandfather was Oregon pioneer George Kirby Gay of Berkeley, Gloucestershire, England. He became deaf in his right ear at age 13 after an accident during a Boy Scout event.
It was his participation in the “blanket toss,” a sort of variation of the trampoline,
that traumatized the youngster’s inner ear. Ray later performed wearing a hearing aid. Surgery performed in New York in 1958 left him almost completely deaf in both ears, although hearing aids helped his condition.