Johnny Ace (Born 09/06/1929, Died 25/12/1954)
|Born John Marshall Alexander, Johnny Ace was throughout his lifetime a popular but not particularly revered R&B balladeer. After his death, and more particularly because of its circumstances, he became a tragic and romantic icon for teenagers of the time and one of the first casualties of the rock and roll era.
At the end of the second world war, where he had served in the navy after enlisting under age, he returned to Memphis and played piano in Adolph Duncan's band; he then joined up with B.B. King and the Beale Street Boys, who had their own show on the WDIA radio station. When King and Bobby Bland left, Ace renamed the group and took over the show.
Having taken over lead vocal responsibilities, he joined Don Robey's Duke label in 1952 and had a No:1 R&B hit with his first release 'My Song'. He then had a string of successes, many of which allowed Ace to become one of the first artists to break out of what was then known rather ingloriously as the race market with hits such as 'Cross My Heart', 'The Clock', 'Never Let Me Go', 'Saving My Love For You' and 'Please Forgive Me'.
Not surprisingly, the posthumous release of 'Pledging My Love' became a massive R&B hit and even made No.17 on the pop charts. This is the song for which Ace is remembered and it remains a staple of oldies radio programmes and compilation albums all around the world. There was one other single release ('Anymore') and that was it because Duke had literally no other recordings left to release.
Apart from the ubiquitous 'Pledging My Love' Johnny Ace's output has been particularly poorly served over the years. The "Johnny Ace Memorial Album" is still available and has 12 tracks on it, including most of the hits with the exception of 'Please Forgive Me'. Ace recorded 10 singles for the Duke label, usually coupling a ballad with a jump blues on the flip side - it seems the time is right for these to be repackaged with proper liner notes giving session details and an overview of Ace's tragically short life.