don't call me madam

the life and work of ray bourbon


Current News

Ray's recordings at
I've uploaded most of Ray's known recordings to  They're arranged by the original lp releases and in a collection of 78 recordings.  You can see a full listing here. (October 2009)

Novel by Ray discovered
In 1932, Ray published a novel called "Hookers" under the pseudonum "Richard F. Mann".  You can read about it here.  (October 2009)

Ray declared bankruptcy and lost a personal injury lawsuit
The November 18, 1944 edition of Billboard magazine, available through Google Books, has an item noting that Ray declared bankruptcy in New York when he was appearing in Mae West's "Catherine was Great".  The reason for the bankruptcy filing was that Ray had lost a personal injury lawsuit in California in 1939 and owed $50,000 on the judgement.  Anyone run into an article on the 1939 lawsuit? (September 2009)

Ray Bourbon appearances on radio verified
Some new appearances by Ray on radio have been verified.  A program under his name is listed in the Los Angeles Times listings for a fifteen minute show broadcast over KTMR on November 23, November 30, and December 7, 1938.  KTMR was one of the smaller stations in the LA area and sold blocks of time for programming, so Ray may have bought the time himself to promote his nightclub work.  It's doubtful any recordings were made.  (September 2009)

Ray Bourbon trip to Europe verified
Don Romesburg has verified that Ray did visit England and perhaps other countries in Europe in the mid-1930s.  Don has been looking at ships manifests from the era to track Bourbon's travels. (September 2009)

New 78 Discovered
In September 2009, a reader of this site sent me a 12" vinyl test pressing made at Allied Recording, Los Angeles.  This one-sided disc with a blank label and matrix number 117A contained a recording of "The New Neighbor".  Handwritten on the label was "A Real Blonde - Ray Bourbon".  Based on the matrix number, this would appear to be from Ray's Imperial 78 series.  Anyone have an actual pressing of the full, two-sided disc or the test pressing of the second side? (September 2009)

Great blog post about Ray's "Daddy Was a Lady"
Cartoonist and artist Skip Williamson has posted a fascinating post on his blog at OpenSalon about his experiences in 1965 working as a publicity agent for Ray's stage show, "Daddy Was a Lady", when it played in Colorado.  A surreal time was had by all!  (April 2009)

Ray Bourbon short found
Jonathan Sanders discovered this website about Ray and forwarded me a disc containing "Hip Zip Hooray!" a 1934 RKO comedy short featuring Ray. It may be one of the series of comedy shorts Ray refers to in his autobiography. Jonathan recorded the short off of BBC television in the 1980s; RKO's shorts aren't very well documented, so this is a lucky find! (February 2008)

Ray's friend Robert Wright passes
Composer Robert Wright, a close friend of Ray's for many years, passed away  with many news outlets publishing his obituary.  He is survived by his partner Chet Forrest.  (July 2005)

Susan Bell filmscript on Ray
In 2002, Susan Bell, who is related to the lawyer that defended Ray during the murder trial, was a semifinalist in the prestigious Chesterfield Screenwriting competition with a screenplay based on Ray's last days. She is currently an MFA student in film at Florida State University. Her web site is at 2005)

Bart Howard passes
The New York Times reported on Feb 23rd, 2004 reported the passing of Bart Howard, composer of "Fly Me to the Moon" and mainstay on the New York cabaret scene. Howard was an accompanist for Ray Bourbon in the mid-1930's. (February 2004)

More on the Ray Bourbon Sandwich
Steve Puckett and Steve Harris owners of Steves' Market and Deli in Brownwood, Texas reported that they named a sandwich after Ray in their restaurant. In honor of Ray's place in the local town's history, they have put together the Ray Bourbon Club, consisting of toasted focaccia, sliced ham, swiss cheese, bacon, and a charred pineapple bourbon sauce. Of course, it would have to include ham ... (October 2001) Update: Steve and Steve sent along two photos (here and here) showing the front of their restaurant, featuring a smiling Ray, welcoming customers to the establishment.

Article on Ray Nominated for Canadian Award
An article on Ray from the Nov 21, 2002 edition of Toronto's Fab magazine has been nominated for a National Magazine Award, a top Canadian journalism prize. Congratulations (and good luck!) to John Bently Mays. (February 2003)

Article on Ray in Fab magazine (Toronto)
John Bentley Mays discusses Ray's life and career and reviews the CD collection in the Nov. 21, 2002 edition of Fab magazine. (January 2003).

New Conference Papers on Ray
Don Romesburg sent news of two other conference presentations he has made on Ray. “Ray Bourbon: Queer and Loathing in Texas,” was presented at the Western Historical Association 40th Annual Conference, San Antonio, TX, October 2000. “To Hell with the Range: Ray Bourbon and Queer Dread of Wide-Open Spaces, 1930-1970,” was presented at the American Society for Environmental History Annual Meeting, Denver, CO, March 2002. (August 2002).

Ray Bourbon's Autobiography Unearthed
I have been contacted by the current owner of Ray's long-lost autobiographical manuscript, written while Ray was in prison shortly before his death. I have contracted with the owner of the manuscript to edit the material for possible publication. For more information, see The Autobiography section of the web site. (November 2001)

"Golddiggers of 1937" on Turner Classic Movies in January
In his autobiography, Ray mentions that he has a part in the musical "Golddigers of 1937", about half-way through the film. In the book, he talks about going to see the film with his accompanist, Duke. This rarely seen movie will be shown on Turner Classic Movies on Tuesday, January 30th at 6:00 am. (December 2001).

Ray Mentioned on Brownwood, Texas Website
Brownwood, Texas, the small town where Ray spent the last few months of his life in prison as he wrote his autobiography, has put up a web site about the town. The site includes some notes on local history and refers to Ray as the town's "most famous" resident. The prison where Ray died is now the town's historial museum. (December 2001)

Unreleased live recordings, 1961, Chicago (Roslyn Records)
Ray was booked for ten weeks beginning in October, 1961 at "The Talk of the Town" in Chicago. The owner of the club, D.W. Summers, arranged to have several of Ray's shows recorded for release on Summer's record lable, Roslyn. T.C. Jones was also booked during this time under a similar arrangment. Shortly after making the recordings of Ray and T.C., Williams exposed the "Payola" scandals in a radio interview. He was profiled in "Time" magazine and called before Congress to testify. But, his record label went under and the live recordings of Ray and T.C. were put aside. He contacted me recently indicating that he has unearthed the recordings and is arranging for their release on compact disc in 2002. (November 2001)

Another New Bourbon Recording Documented
Ethan Minovitz verifies the existence of another New Bourbon release on 78 listed as number 102. This one features a recording of "Irma's Week End". (October 2001)

UTC Box Set Found
JD Doyle sent a scan of a flyer for the first six UTC LP releases by Ray and an item not previously seen -- a box set containing all six of the first UTC releases.  A collector has forwarded a scan of the cover of the only known copy of the set, personnaly signed by Ray.  (June 2000)

Passing of Ray's Friend, Avery Willard
I just found a web page that noted the passing of Avery Willard, a friend of Ray's who photographed Ray and other female impersonators in the 1960's. (January 2000)

Another New Live Recording Reported
Charles C. Cage has unearthed Ray's last recording, an impromtu performance recorded at a party in New Orleans in 1965.  Charles has graciously provided a copy of this fascinating tape to the project.  (August, 1999)

New Live Recording Reported
Dr. Demento, after seeing these pages on Ray Bourbon, reports another live LP by Ray, a curious pressing on the New Bourbon Records label pressed in red vinyl.  (July, 1999)

New Publications on Ray
Elin Woodger has completed a biography of composers George "Chet" Forrest and Robert Wright that will include a chapter on Ray's friendship with the songwriting team.  More information on publication of the book will be posted here when it is available.

Don Romesburg, a graduate student at the University of Colorado at Boulder, presented the paper "I Was the Bitch That Pulled the Switch":  Reading Ray/e Bourbon and the Formation of Western Regional and National Homosexual Identity, 1930-60 at the Lambda Rising Queer Studies Conference in April, 1999.

Research Contacts

If you have any information on Ray that might be useful for this web resource -- perhaps you saw him perform, have seen a local newspaper or magazine article that we may have missed, or have recordings or photos and memorabilia that are undocumented -- please send an email to the webmaster, Randy A. Riddle.

Researchers interested in the venues in which Ray and other female impersonators performed and their impact on the Queer community before Stonewall can contact Don Romesburg.  Don is researching a thesis on Ray at the University of Colorado.  Charles C. Cage is working on a stage play based on Ray's life and is also interested in hearing from other researchers or individuals interested in his efforts with the play.