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Ray Bourbon - Forbidden Broadcast

September 25th, 2009

Now we bring you a disc that isn't a radio broadcast, but is a bit of obscure radio-related memorabilia.

"Forbidden Broadcast" is a comedy record made by nightclub performer Ray Bourbon sometime in the 1930s.  Ray got his start in vaudeville, was a bit player in silent movies at Paramount and was friends with Rudolph Valentino and William Boyd, and made a name for himself with his outrageous improvised comedy.  He was also a sexually ambiguous "drag queen" that wasn't afraid to do gay humor at a time when homosexuality was illegal and gay clubs were regularly raided by police.

Ray Bourbon

Ray's career would extend from the 1920s until his death in 1971 in prison.  He was convicted of the murder of the owner of the Pet-A-Zoo, a business in Big Springs, Texas.  When Ray left his dogs with the owner, Roy Blount, and couldn't pay the bill, Blount sold the animals for medical research.  But, during Ray's storied life, he appeared on stage with such stars as Mae West and helped composers Chet Forrest and Robert Wright and actor Robert Taylor get started in the business.  Even Robert Mitchum, when he was breaking into the business, wrote songs for Ray's nightclub act to pick up a few dollars in the 1940s.  Ray travelled all over the US and Europe, performing well into his 70s.

Despite Ray's reputation as a "smutty" comedian, his material is rather tame and coy today and he did appear on radio a few times.  In May 1933, his San Francisco revue "Boys Will Be Girls", was carried live on the radio - and, in a twist that made headlines at the time, the show was raided by the police and the raid was carried live on the station.  I've also found documentation on program schedules that Ray appeared on radio three times in December 1938 on Los Angeles radio station KTMR in a 15 minute show.  Ray was regularly working in Los Angeles nightclubs during this period and may have bought the time to promote his stage act.

record label

Researching Ray's life and work and collecting his recordings and other memorabilia has been another one of my hobbies over the past decade.  I was lucky enough to obtain the original typed manuscript of Ray's incomplete memoirs that he was working on when he was in prison in Texas.  If you'd like to learn more about Ray's very strange life, check out my website on this unique performer.  Also, sixties underground cartoonist Skip Williamson had a fascinating blog post a few months ago on working as a publicist for one of Ray's productions.

"Forbidden Broadcast" is one of over 150 recordings Ray made from the 1930s to the 1960s.  He was a true "do it yourself" artist, contracting to have 78s and lps produced and selling them at his shows and via mail order.  Some were sold "under the counter" at record shops and the discs are well known to "party record" collectors today.

So, in this post, give a listen to "Forbidden Broadcast" by Ray Bourbon, originally released on Western Record Company Bourbana, matrix number WR-716-A.

My sincere thanks to collector Sara Hassan for providing a tape copy of this 78 used as the basis for this mp3 file.

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  • Erica

    What an odd but fascinating tidbit!

    Sep 25, 2009 at 7:13 pm
  • DavidinBerkeley

    I recall seeing a screening of some Irving Klaw films at a revival theater in LA. Stag films, really, since they featured were Tempest Storm, Lili St. Cyr, Bettie Page and, I think, this guy, who came on dressed as a woman and did a striptease.

    The audience were having great fun hooting at some things, and talking to the screen. During his number, though, the men were groaning, ’cause he was NOT pretty as a lady!

    Sep 30, 2009 at 4:43 pm
  • Kliph

    I have a couple of his LPs. Both have him billed as Rae Bourbon.

    Oct 18, 2009 at 8:46 am
  • Jim Stephenson

    I have this record as a later anonymous dub with the title “Cocktail Ray!”

    Nov 16, 2009 at 1:54 pm