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Fay Ray

Fay Ray was born in 1919 in Louisiana. Life for Ray was not easy. At the age of eleven, Ray decided to leave a hard life of picking cotton. Dressed as a boy, she rode the train to Shreveport. There, she joined a Vaudeville circuit and traveled the nation. On the circuit, Ray learned to tap dance from some of the best dances of her day. At the age of sixteen, Ray left the vaudeville circuit to sing and dance solo.

In 1943, Ray moved to New York where she found steady work as a chorus line dancer. Ray performed at Café Zanzibar, Club Ebony, 845, the Cotton Club and the Apollo Theater. Ray’s chorus line performed with premiere bands like Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong and Jimmy Lunceford who wrote Just for Dancers for Ray’s chorus line.

During World War II, Ray stopped dancing for a time, moved to Providence, Rhode Island and became a certified welder at Walch Kaiser, welding ship seams for the navy. Ray danced in the first black USO show and traveled to Europe, the Middle East and the Far East. When she turned fifty years old, Ray retired from dancing, spent two years welding on the Alaskan Pipe Line and drove a New York taxi-cab.

In 1985, Ray joined a senior dance group with other former Harlem chorus girls, the Silver Belles. Managed by Geraldine Rhodes-Kennedy, the group began rehearsing at the Cotton Club, made their debut performance at the Latin Casino and have been performing ever since. The Silver Belles have appeared in Atlantic City and on Dan Rather’s 48 Hours. In 2006, the Silver Belles were featured in a documentary, Been Rich All My Life, about their lives, produced by filmmaker Heather Lynn MacDonald.

Ray passed away on September 14, 2013

Fay Ray was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 18, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.297

Sex

Female

Interview Date

10/18/2007

Last Name

Ray

Maker Category
Occupation
Search Occupation Category
First Name

Fay

Birth City, State, Country

Natchitoches

HM ID

RAY03

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

Mexico

Favorite Quote

Let's Have Fun.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

10/11/1919

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Beans (Red), Rice

Death Date

9/14/2013

Short Description

Dancer Fay Ray (1919 - 2013 ) was a member of the Silver Belles, a senior dance group of former Harlem chorus girls. Ray performed as a chorus girl at several New York City theaters, including the Apollo Theatre and performed with the bands of Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. She also danced in the first black USO show.

Employment

Triangle Records

The Cotton Club

B. Siegel Company

Café Zanzibar

Favorite Color

Blue

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Fay Ray's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Fay Ray lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Fay Ray describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Fay Ray remembers running away from home

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Fay Ray describes her relationship with her father

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Fay Ray talks about her parents' relationship

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Fay Ray describes her early education

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Fay Ray describes her travels in Italy

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Fay Ray remembers her guardian in Alexandria, Louisiana

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Fay Ray recalls being sexually abused as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Fay Ray remembers learning to play the piano

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Fay Ray recalls the influence of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and Shirley Temple

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Fay Ray remembers being abused by the police in Alexandria, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Fay Ray recalls hitchhiking to Winnfield, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Fay Ray remembers her guardian in Winnfield, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Fay Ray remembers joining a traveling vaudeville company

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Fay Ray talks about settling in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Fay Ray recalls how she earned a living in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Fay Ray remembers a recently deceased friend

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Fay Ray recalls joining a community of deaf mute entertainers in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Fay Ray talks about her life in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Fay Ray remembers moving to Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Fay Ray remembers Pearl Bailey

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Fay Ray recalls performing as a chorus girl on Broadway

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Fay Ray talks about the jazz nightclubs of New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Fay Ray describes the working conditions for chorus girls in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Fay Ray remembers New York City's Harlem neighborhood

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Fay Ray remembers working as a taxicab driver in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Fay Ray recalls her transition to a career as a welder

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Fay Ray remembers living in Providence, Rhode Island

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Fay Ray recalls her secretarial position at Triangle Records

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Fay Ray reflects upon her work ethic

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Fay Ray remembers her friendship with Joe Louis

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Fay Ray talks about her apartment building in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 13 - Fay Ray describes her travels in Europe

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Fay Ray recalls her return from Europe to New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Fay Ray talks about her role in the documentary 'Been Rich All My Life'

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Fay Ray recalls her Christmas vacation in Sweden

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Fay Ray describes her mentorship of young entertainers

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Fay Ray remembers joining the Silver Belles

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Fay Ray talks about performing with the Silver Belles

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Fay Ray reflects upon her experiences with the Silver Belles

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Fay Ray recalls the Silver Belles' performance at the Apollo Theater in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Fay Ray describes her plans for the future

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Fay Ray describes how she would like to be remembered, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Fay Ray describes how she would like to be remembered, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Fay Ray dances the shimmy sham with interviewer Adrienne Jones

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Fay Ray dances the shimmy sham