Ray Ellis

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Ray Ellis (July 28, 1923 – October 27, 2008[1]) was an American record producer, arranger and conductor. The orchestration for Billie Holiday's Lady in Satin (1958) is probably his best known work in the jazz vein.


Raymond Spencer Ellis was born in Philadelphia.[1] He arranged many hit records in the 1950s and 1960s. Included are classics such as "A Certain Smile" by Johnny Mathis, "Broken Hearted Melody" by Sarah Vaughan, and "Standing on the Corner" by the Four Lads. In 1970, he produced Emmylou Harris' debut LP Gliding Bird.

Ellis' work encompassed all areas of music, from records to film, commercials, and television. In the early 1960s, Ellis had a contract to produce his own easy listening record albums with RCA Victor, MGM, and Columbia, the most popular probably being Ellis in Wonderland. His television credits include theme music for NBC News At Sunrise with Connie Chung and the background and incidental music for the original Spider-Man cartoons.

NBC News Today[edit]

Ellis also composed two extended themes for The Today Show, the first in 1971. It was used as the Friday closing theme (and eventually the show's full-time theme) until the end of the decade.[1] However, in Herald Square Music v. Living Music, the District Court of the Southern District of New York "found the instrumental arrangement and harmonization of defendant's melody to be substantially similar to that of 'Day by Day,'" a Stephen Schwartz song from the musical Godspell.[2] As a result, Ellis composed a second Today Show theme based on the trademark NBC chimes. That theme was the NBC show's signature from 1978 to 1985 and has appeared irregularly on the morning program ever since.[1]

His work with Filmation[edit]

Using the name of his wife Yvette Blais as a pseudonym, Ellis (along with Norm Prescott, who used the pseudonym Jeff Michael, in reference to his sons Jeff and Michael) composed nearly all of the background music for cartoon studio Filmation from 1968 to 1982, according to the booklets for many of the DVDs for the studio's shows, such as Ark II, Space Academy, and Jason of Star Command.[3] Before adopting the Yvette Blais pseudonym, Ellis used the pseudonym Spencer Raymond on 1968's Fantastic Voyage, George Blais on some of Filmation's early '70s output and its feature films, and even the name of his then-teenaged son, Marc Ellis, on 1969's The Hardy Boys. (Marc would later become a composer in his own right, assisting his father without credit on later Filmation scores, and even receiving onscreen credit for co-composing the theme music to the 1979 Flash Gordon cartoon.) On 1978's Fabulous Funnies, Ellis was credited as Mark Jeffrey (opposite Lou Scheimer under the pseudonym David Jeffrey, which he occasionally used in the 70s). Ray Ellis was directly credited, however, for The Archie Show and Sabrina the Teenage Witch background music.

Game-show music[edit]

Ellis, who resided in Los Angeles, also composed the music for the 1980s US edition of Sale of the Century theme, along with Hot Streak, Scrabble, Scattergories and Time Machine with his son Marc that includes the Jack Grimsley's score from 1980 and the famed Reg Grundy Productions fanfare at the end of each broadcast; he also composed the theme from the short-lived US version of Catch Phrase.

His death[edit]

Ellis died of complications from melanoma on October 27, 2008 at an assisted-living facility in Encino, California. He was survived by sons Marc and Jeffrey. [1][4]

Selected discography[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e  [dead link] Barnes, Mike (October 31, 2008). "Composer Ray Ellis dies at 85". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2015-09-24. 
  2. ^ Herald Square Music v. Living Music, 205 U.S.P.Q. 1241, No. 77 Civ. 0008 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 4, 1978).
  3. ^ Mangels, Andy; booklets for Space Sentinels/The Freedom Force, Hero High, The Ghost Busters, Ark II, Space Academy, Jason of Star Command, and The Secrets of Isis.
  4. ^ Thurber, Jon (2008-11-05). "Ray Ellis Dies At 85". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-11-09. 

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