Ray Peterson Died
January 26, 2005
In 1958 Stan Schulman heard him singing in a club and became his manager. RCA was looking for new talent as Elvis Presley was serving in the US Army and the label wanted some new teen idols. Rod Lauren, Johnny Restivo and Ray Peterson were all signed to RCA, but only Peterson had any real success. His first single was a revival of Little Willie John's "Fever", but his record was to be eclipsed by Peggy Lee's interpretation. Further singles - "Let's Try Romance", "Tail Light" and "Shirley Purly" - did little, although it was clear that Peterson had a strong voice.
The songwriter Baker Knight had written The Wonder of You for one of RCA's top artists, Perry Como, but Como's producer did not think it suitable. As he left the office, Knight met Peterson and offered him the song. "The Wonder of You" became a Top Thirty US hit, though in the UK Peterson's version was overshadowed by a cover from Ronnie Hilton.
Elvis Presley's pianist and arranger Glen D. Hardin recalls that, when Presley returned to live performance in 1969. Elvis called and said to me, "Do you remember that old song, 'The Wonder of You'? I want to do it tomorrow night on the first show." I just said "OK" and worked through the night on the arrangement.
Presley recorded the song live and then rang Peterson to say that he was releasing it. "You don't have to ask me, you're Elvis Presley," said Peterson. "Yes, I do," said Presley, "You're Ray Peterson."
Ray Peterson & Elvis
Ray Peterson told me a story about how, on one of his many appearances on the hit music variety television show, "Shindig," in the mid 60s, Elvis Presley telephoned him. It seems that it was the 10th anniversary of Elvis Presley being in the music business & on that special "Shindig," broadcast, Ray Peterson had performed 4 of Elvis Presley's songs. Well, the phone rang & it was Elvis Presley. The "King Of Rock & Roll," was in town filming a movie & he had seen the show. Elvis asked Ray if he could possibly have lunch with him that day. Well when "The King Of Rock & Roll," summoned you to lunch, you didn't exactly turn him down.
Over lunch Elvis told Ray how much he had enjoyed Ray's performances of his songs and he wanted to know if it would be alright with Ray, If he recorded one of Rays songs, "The Wonder of You," on his next album.
"Can you believe that. Here's Elvis Presley asking permission to record one of my songs. Of course he didn't need my permission, but it was just a great gesture, by a great guy".
"The Wonder of You," went on to become Elvis Presley's biggest selling ballad. Elvis & Ray became very good friends & remained so, until Elvis' untimely death in 1977.
Ray Peterson, singer of 'Tell Laura I Love Her' died Smyrna, TN, 25 Jan. 2005.
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