We seem to be going back over 50 years tonight. This is an artist appealed to a lot of people. I really disliked his “tragedy” song but it became a huge hit. To his credit, however, he did enlist the help of one of the greatest record producers of my time, Phil Spector…
Corrina, Corrina/ 1965 Hollywood A-Go-Go
Ray T. Peterson was born in Denton, Texas. As a boy he had to overcome polio. Blessed with a four-octave singing voice, Peterson moved to Los Angeles, California, where he was signed to a recording contract by RCA Victor Records in 1958. He recorded several songs that were minor hits until “The Wonder of You” made it into the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart on June 15, 1959. The song would later be recorded by Elvis Presley, with whom Peterson became friends.
In 1960, Peterson created his own record label with his manager Stan Shulman, called Dunes Records, and enlisted the help of record producer Phil Spector. Peterson scored a Top 10 hit with the teenage tragedy song, “Tell Laura I Love Her“, and followed that success with “Corrina, Corrina“. Peterson’s dramatic ballad, “I Could Have Loved You So Well“, written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil and produced by Spector, only reached #57 on the U.S. chart. He then tried another death disc, “Give Us Your Blessing“, but this time nobody was interested.
His last charting hit was “Missing You“. By the mid 1960s he had become something of a phenomenon on the west coast of the United States, appearing live in numerous concerts with Paul McCartney lookalike Keith Allison.
His performances at the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium, produced by Fred Vail, beginning in 1963 helped fuel a revival of “The Wonder of You,” as well as launching his new relationship with MGM Records, an alliance that produced two albums: The Very Best of Ray Peterson which featured most of the Dunes singles, and The Other Side of Ray Peterson, which included many of his nightclub songs.
He later moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and by the 1970s when the hit records stopped coming, Peterson became a Baptist Church minister and occasionally played the oldies music circuit.
Peterson was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
Peterson died of cancer in 2005, in Smyrna, Tennessee, aged 65. He left a widow and four sons and three daughters. He was interred in the Roselawn Memorial Gardens cemetery in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.