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*On this date in 1929, Johnny Ace was born. He was a Black rhythm and blues (R&B) singer.
John Marshall Alexander, Jr. (his name at birth) was from Memphis, Tennessee. In his youth, he was a member in good standing of the Beale Streeters, a loosely knit crew of Memphis young bloods that at one time included B.B. King, Bobby Bland, and Earl Forest. Signing with Duke records in 1952, Ace made it to the top of the R&B charts with his very first song, the mellow ballad My Song. From then on, Ace could do no musical wrong, scoring hit after hit in the same smooth, elegant style.
Cross My Heart, The Clock, Saving My Love for You, Please Forgive Me, and Never Let Me Go all broke into the highest reaches of the R&B charts. Ace had his biggest hit of all posthumously. His haunting Pledging My Love (recorded with the Johnny Otis orchestra as backup) remained atop Billboard's R&B lists for ten weeks in early 1955. His last release was Anymore. The senseless death of young pianist Johnny Ace while playing (and losing) in a round of Russian roulette backstage at Houston's City Auditorium on Christmas Day of 1954 overshadow his brief but illustrious recording career.
Ace's gentle, plaintive vocal balladry deserves reverence on its own merit. Johnny Ace died December 25, 1954, in Houston, Texas.
Heart & Soul
A Celebration of Black Music Style in America 1930-1975
by Merlis Davin Seay, Forward by Etta James
Copyright 2002, Billboard Books