Ral Donner

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Ral Donner (February 10, 1943 – April 6, 1984)[1] was an early American rock and roll musician. He scored several pop hits in the US in the early 1960s, and had a voice similar to Elvis Presley's. His best known song is his 1961 top ten hit, "You Don't Know What You've Got (Until You Lose It)".


Ralph Stuart Emanuel Donner was born in Norwood Park, Chicago[2] and sang in church as a child. He sang in local talent shows as a teen, and formed two of his own bands, the Rockin' Five and the Gents, in high school. The Rockin' Five played with Sammy Davis, Jr. on Chicago television at one point in the late 1950s. In 1959, he appeared on Alan Freed's Big Beat program, and released a single with the Gents; soon after, the Gents toured with The Sparkletones.

Donner recorded a cover of Presley's "The Girl of My Best Friend", along with a backing band called the Starfires. After being picked up by Gone Records, Donner re-recorded and rereleased the tune, which became a nationwide hit; some listeners even thought that the cover was in fact Elvis himself.[3] His next single, "You Don't Know What You've Got (Until You Lose It)", became his biggest, and only Top Ten, hit on the Billboard chart in the United States, peaking at #4. The track peaked at #25 in the UK Singles Chart in 1961.[1] He managed a few more hits, the last of which was in 1962.

In the mid-1960s, Donner recorded for Reprise Records and Red Bird Records, but saw little further success. He played little in the 1970s, recording occasionally, but saw some rekindled interest in his music after Presley's death.[3] In 1981, he provided voice-over narration (in the voice of Elvis) in the film This Is Elvis.

Donner died of lung cancer on April 6, 1984.[4]

Donner was cited by Robert Plant as an influence at the 1995 induction of Led Zeppelin into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.



List of singles, with selected chart positions
Year Title Peak chart positions Certifications Album
1961 "The Girl of My Best Friend" b/w "It's Been A Long Long Time" (Gone Records 5102) 19
"You Don't Know What You've Got (Until You Lose It)" b/w "So Close To Heaven" (Gone Records 5108) 4 25
"Please Don't Go" b/w "I Didn't Figure On Him (To Come Back)" (Gone Records 5114) 39
"School Of The Heartbreakers" b/w "Because We're Young" (Gone Records 5119)
"She's Everything (I Wanted You to Be)" b/w "I Don't Need You" (Gone Records 5121) 18
1962 "(What a Sad Way) To Love Somebody" b/w "Will You Love Me In Heaven" (Gone Records 5125) 74
"Loveless Life"[A] b/w "Bells Of Love" (Gone Records 5129) 117
"To Love" b/w "Sweetheart" (Gone Records 5133)
1963 "I Got Burned"[B] b/w "A Tear In My Eye" (Reprise Records 141) 124
"—" denotes releases that did not chart.


  • A ^ "Loveless Life" did not enter the Billboard Hot 100 but peaked on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart at number seventeen.[6]
  • B ^ "I Got Burned" did not enter the Billboard Hot 100 but peaked on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart at number twenty-four.[6]


  1. ^ a b c Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 165. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  2. ^ [1] Archived January 26, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ a b Bruce Eder, Ral Donner at Allmusic
  4. ^ Thedeadrockstarsclub.com - accessed May 2011
  5. ^ Billboard Singles, Allmusic.com. Passim.
  6. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (2010). Top Pop Singles 1955–2010 (PDF). Billboard Books. p. 237. 

External links[edit]