Tuesday, November 08, 2011


Even if only half the things said about Ray Bourbon are true, he was still one of the strangest figures in American entertainment. He:

- ran guns for Pancho Villa in drag
- was working full time as a drag queen performer as far back as 1932
- staged a media hoax claiming to have had a sex-change operation...but may have actually had the operation
- was mixed up in a Soviet gay spy caper
- put on a show featuring dogs with dyed colored fur who could urinate on cue
- was carrying a trailerful of animals when his car caught fire; when he gave his animals to a shelter for safekeeping, the animals were sold for medical experiments; Bourbon then put a hit out on the shelter owner, who was, in fact, killed, and Bourbon was sent to prison!

"Ray Bourbon had a show business career as a comedian and female impersonator that spanned over fifty years, well into an era when Gay liberation would take shape. He was perhaps the most well-known and well-traveled performer in Gay venues during the last century, but he remains largely forgotten today, his comedy both a glimpse into and a relic of another time.... His stage persona was complex and layered in many subtle ways; Ray is at once a gossipy drag queen, a bitchy diva, a butcher of sacred cows, and a keen observer of human nature. Ray would perform and record some of the same routines in the 1930’s, the ‘40’s and later in the ‘60’s; his quick patter and skills at improvisation keep the material fresh and the listener on edge."

Lots of free listening/downloading here:

15 Ray Bourbon albums

I haven't heard all of the albums linked to above, but what I have heard is plenty fun, replete with naughty double-entendre tunes like "My First Piece." Much of it replicates his low-budget nightclub show - campy, funny songs usually minimally backed by piano. These recordings range from scratchy old 78s to mid-60s hi-fi albums, but he/she keeps a pretty consistent style throughout,
remaking some songs and routines several times over the years/decades.

Kudos to
Randy A. Riddle aka coolcatdaddy for his extensive research and preservation work.

1 comment:

JWDen said...

Wonderful post - I've downloaded most of the Internet Archive stuff and am properly impressed. Thank you so much for turning me on to this.

J. Wheeler