AAAAHHH. MY CALIFONE! IT’S BROKEN!
What the hell man. Tonight it just wouldn’t spin. The sound works, the light works, but it never makes the shift from “standby” to “play.” I opened it up and all wires are secure and fuse is fine, etc. So I guess the motor died or something. How infuriating. And sad. So.. no ‘party record’ tonight.
Instead, something that’s actually funnier, yet also more substantial. I have no idea how I got this record. Well I know how I got it. I bought it online because it contained two of my favorite themes – burlesque and drag queens. But I have no idea how I got it for ten dollars. On the back of this record sleeve it lists 9 other Ray “Rae” Bourbon releases, which I just looked up on ebay and are for sale at around $50 each.
Why are these such collectors items? Well, Rae Bourbon is a pretty special character. The best information can be found in this tribute site.
Rae Bourbon was a female impersonator and gay icon, performing from the 1930s up until his imprisonment in the late 1960s. He’d been convicted of “Accomplice to Murder with Malice,” against a man who had disposed of dogs that Rae had put in his care. He died in prison in 1971.
He appeared in a few silent films in the 1920s after entering his photo (as a female) in a Photoplay contest. In the early 1930′s he performed in the “pansy shows”, gay and mainstream nightclubs, and vaudeville.
Another bit of his story from this site offers some enlightenment regarding party records:
From 1935 through the early forties, Ray would record with Bob and Chet, Howard, and other musicians in a series of sides released under various small labels such as “Bourbana”, “Liberty Music Shop” and “Imperial” (not related to the R&B label of the fifties). Like other “blue” party records of the period, they were sold at Ray’s shows, through mail order, and “under the counter” by discrete record dealers. A surprising number of Ray’s records were pirated under anonymous labels and many were pressed in small quantities for use in jukeboxes in adult establishments such as bars and nightclubs.
Rae seems to be an expert about vaudeville, burlesque, and Mae West. Now there’s a broad after my own heart.
Seriously, I urge you to read this life story.
Ladies of Burlsque
Hey. For extra fun here’s a wav of me singing into an answering machine a few years ago.
If you have any 78 player recommendations, let me know. I’m mostly likely to just get another Califone exactly like the one I have.