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Johnny Ace

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Biography

Johnny Ace (June 9, 1929 – December 25, 1954), born John Marshall Alexander, Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of a preacher. He was one of the stars of U.S. rhythm and blues singing.

Career
After serving in the navy during WWII, Alexander joined Adolph Duncan’s Band as a pianist. He then joined the B. B. King band. Soon King departed for Los Angeles and Bobby Bland joined the army. Alexander took over vocal duties and renamed the band The Beale Streeters,[1] also taking over King’s WDIA radio show.

Becoming “Johnny Ace”, he signed to Duke Records (originally a Memphis label associated with WDIA) in 1952 . My Song, his first recording, topped the R&B charts for 9 weeks in September. (My Song was covered in 1968 by Aretha Franklin.)

Ace began heavy touring, often with Willa Mae “Big Mama” Thornton. In the next two years, he had eight hits in a row, including “Cross My Heart,” “Please Forgive Me,” “The Clock,” “Yes, Baby.” and “Never Let Me Go.” In December, 1954 he was named the Most Programmed Artist Of 1954 after a national DJ poll organized by U.S. trade weekly Cash Box.

Ace’s recordings sold very well for those times. Early in 1955, Duke Records announced that the three 1954 Johnny Ace recordings, along with Thornton’s “Hound Dog”, had sold more than 1,750,000 records.


Death
After touring for a year, Ace had been performing at the City Auditorium in Houston, Texas on Christmas 1954.

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