Filmation composer Ray Ellis, 85, used wife's name
Ray Ellis, who used the name of his wife Yvette Blais as a pseudonym to compose almost all of the background music for Filmation Associates cartoon series from 1968 to 1982, died Monday in Encino, California at 85.
The cause of death was complications from melanoma, said his son Marc, with whom he co-composed the score for the 2002 Adam Sandler animated feature film Eight Crazy Nights.
Ellis arranged such classic pop tunes as "Chances Are," "Come To Me" and "That Certain Smile" by Johnny Mathis, "Splish Splash" and "Dream Lover" by Bobby Darin, and "Standing on the Corner" and "Moments to Remember" by the Four Lads. The Philadelphia native also arranged for such acts as Doris Day ("Everybody Loves a Lover"), Tony Bennett, The Drifters, Connie Francis, Judy Garland and Ray Price during a career of nearly 65 years.
Working with his son, he wrote original music for the original Spider-Man cartoon series.
Some of Ellis' earlier Filmation work appeared under the name of his son Marc, or under the pseudonyms "George Blais" or "Spencer Raymond." He was "Spencer Raymond" on the 1968 series Fantastic Voyage, "George Blais" on some of Filmation's early 1970s series and its feature films, and Marc Ellis -- then a teenager -- on the 1969 series The Hardy Boys. But he was credited under his own name for background music for The Archie Show and Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
As Yvette Blais, he co-wrote the music for Star Trek: The Animated Series with Norm Prescott (credited as "Jeff Michael").
He also provided music for such Filmation shows as Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, Lassie's Rescue Rangers, The Brady Kids, My Favorite Martians, Shazam!, The New Adventures of Gilligan, The Ghost Busters, Ark II, The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse, The New Animated Adventures of Flash Gordon and The New Adventures of Tom and Jerry.
His son Marc aided his father without credit on later Filmation scores, getting onscreen credit for co-composing the theme music to 1979's Flash Gordon cartoon.
Born on July 28, 1923, Ellis played tenor sax in the Gene Krupa Band and the Paul Whiteman Band in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He also performed live with jazz combos on Philadelphia TV station WCAU.
In 1955, Columbia Records A&R man Mitch Miller discovered him. Aided by bandleader Miller, Ellis arranged numerous Top 10 records for such acts as the Four Lads, Mathis, Bennett, Darin and Chris Connor. For the Columbia and RCA labels, he recorded instrumental albums under the Ray Ellis and His Orchestra name.
Working at Atlantic Records with Jerry Wexler, Ellis turned to R&B, arranging hits for the Drifters ("Under the Boardwalk"), Brook Benton ("There Goes My Baby"), Ben E. King ("Spanish Harlem") and Etta James ("C.C. Rider"). He did arrangements for Lady in Satin (1958), Billie Holiday's final album.
In 1959, Ellis became A&R director at MGM Records. There, he made hits for Connie Francis ("Where the Boys Are"), Clyde McPhatter ("Lover's Question") and Frankie Laine. He later worked with such artists as Maurice Chevalier, Judy Garland, Lena Horne, Michelle Lee, Liza Minnelli, Anthony Newley and Barbra Streisand.
Ellis' work with his son Marc extended writing music for The NBC Nightly News and The Today Show. The two created music for Sale of the Century, Catch Phrase, Scrabble and other game shows.
In recent years, Ellis worked on projects with Barry Manilow and Bette Midler. He helped raise funds for the Ojai Music Festival in his retirement years.
Besides his son Marc, Ellis is survived by Yvette, his wife of more than 60 years, and Jeffrey, a Los Angeles attorney.
Ray Ellis with Chris Emery, drummer for the Winnipeg band Volume. Ellis gave permission and support for Volume to release The Amazing Spider-Band, a CD of re-creations of tunes from the 1960s Spider-Man cartoon series.
(This post was edited by eminovitz on Nov 1, 2008, 11:22 PM)
Re: Filmation composer Ray Ellis, 85, used wife's name
[In reply to]
I couldn't find an explanation, but am guessing that Ray might have been moonlighting elsewhere.
A number of music composers used pseudonyms for moonlighting purposes during the early rock and roll era. And in the 1920s, many singers and bandleaders who had contractual obligations to a particular label would use other names elsewhere in order to get some extra cash.
Piano great Fletcher Henderson led a jazz band in the 1920s that recorded with dozens of record companies under many pseudonyms, including The Dixie Stompers, Louisiana Stompers, the Connie's Inn Orchestra and the Seven Brown Babies. Future famous jazzmen in his outfit included Louis Armstrong (trumpet), Coleman Hawkins (tenor sax), Buster Bailey (clarinet) and Don Redman (alto sax).
(This post was edited by eminovitz on Nov 3, 2008, 10:49 PM)