Ruby Murray

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Ruby Murray
Birth name Ruby Florence Murray
Born (1935-03-29)29 March 1935
Donegall Road, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Died 17 December 1996(1996-12-17) (aged 61)
Torquay, Devon, England
Genres Traditional popular music
Occupation(s) Singer, actress
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1953–1996
Labels Columbia (EMI)

Ruby Florence Murray (29 March 1935 – 17 December 1996)[1] was one of the most popular singers in the United Kingdom and Ireland in the 1950s.[2] In 1955 alone, she secured seven Top 10 UK hit singles.[3]

Child star[edit]

Ruby Florence Murray was born on the Donegall Road in south Belfast, Northern Ireland.[4] Her voice's distinctive sound was partly the result of an operation on her throat in early childhood.[5] She toured as a child singer and first appeared on television at the age of 12, having been spotted by producer Richard Afton.[1] Owing to laws governing children performing, Murray had to delay her start in the entertainment industry.[1] She returned to Belfast and full-time education until she was 14.

Chart success[edit]

Again spotted by Afton, Murray was signed to Columbia and her first single, "Heartbeat", reached No. 3 in the UK Singles Chart in December 1954.[3] Afton had offered her the position of resident singer on the BBC's Quite Contrary television show, to replace Joan Regan.[6] "Softly, Softly", her second single, reached number one in early 1955.[3] That same year Murray set a pop-chart record by having five hits in the Top Twenty in one week, a feat unmatched for many years.[1][2]

The 1950s was a busy period for Murray, during which she had her own television show, starred at the London Palladium with Norman Wisdom, appeared in a Royal Command Performance (1955),[7] and toured the world.[1] In a period of 52 weeks, starting in 1955, Murray constantly had at least one single in the UK charts — this at a time when only a Top 20 was listed.

Murray appeared with Frankie Howerd and Dennis Price, in her only film role, as "Ruby" in a 1956 farce, A Touch of the Sun.[1] A couple of hits followed later in the decade; "Goodbye Jimmy, Goodbye", a No. 10 hit in 1959, was her final appearance in the charts.[1] EMI put together a compilation album of her hits on CD in 1989, including songs that regularly featured in her act; "Mr. Wonderful", "Scarlet Ribbons" and "It's the Irish in Me".[1] They updated this with the release of EMI Presents The Magic Of Ruby Murray in 1997 and a triple album, Anthology — The Golden Anniversary Collection, in 2005, the 50th anniversary of her peak successes on the charts.[1]


Murray's popularity led to her name being adopted in Cockney rhyming slang as a rhyme for "curry".[8] The reference to "having a ruby tonight" appears in the BBC TV comedy series Only Fools and Horses.[citation needed]

A play about Murray's life, Ruby, written by the Belfast playwright Marie Jones, opened at the Group Theatre in Belfast in April 2000.[1]

Personal life[edit]

In 1957, while working in Blackpool, Murray met Bernie Burgess, a member of a successful television and recording vocal quartet, the Four Jones Boys. Shortly afterwards she left Northern Ireland to marry him and live with him in England.[1] Burgess, contrary to press reports, didn't become her manager, but rather his role was that of a supporting husband. The couple included a song and dance segment in Ruby's act during the 1960s. After their marriage failed in 1974, she was granted a divorce in 1976. She married an old friend, Ray Lamar, in 1991 and lived in Torquay, Devon. She had two children from her marriage to Burgess.[1]

Although her days as a major star gradually diminished, Murray continued performing until close to the end of her life. She died of liver cancer, aged 61, in December 1996 in Torquay after a long struggle with alcoholism.[1]

Spending her last couple of years in Asprey's Nursing Home, she often delighted her carers with a song and was visited by her special friend, Max Bygraves.

Singles discography[edit]

  • "Heartbeat" (1954) — UK number 3
  • "Softly, Softly" (1955) — UK number 1
  • "Happy Days and Lonely Nights" (1955) — UK number 6
  • "Let Me Go Lover" (1955) — UK number 5
  • "If Anyone Finds This, I Love You" (1955) — UK number 4 †
  • "Evermore" (1955) — UK number 3
  • "I'll Come When You Call" (1955) — UK number 6
  • "The Very First Christmas Of All (1955) — UK number 9 (Record Mirror)
  • "You are My First Love" (1956) — UK number 16
  • "Real Love" (1958) — UK number 18
  • "Goodbye Jimmy, Goodbye" (1959) — UK number 10

† Ruby Murray with Anne Warren[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Biography by Sharon Mawer". Retrieved 20 February 2009. 
  2. ^ a b Vallance, Tom (18 December 1996). "Obituary". The Independent. Retrieved February 2009.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  3. ^ a b c d Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 384. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  4. ^ Culture Northern Ireland website.
  5. ^ Official website
  6. ^ "Singers of the Fabulous Fifties". CommuniGate. United Kingdom: This Is Sussex. Retrieved 24 September 2008. 
  7. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 20. CN 5585. 
  8. ^ "Ruby Murray rhyming slang". Webster's Online Dictionary. Retrieved 2007-12-15. 

External links[edit]