The Ray-O-Vacs

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The Ray-O-Vacs were a New Jersey R&B vocal group of the 1940s and 50s which recorded for Jubilee Records and Decca,[1] among others. The name was after a battery brand.

Group members included Lester Harris (vocals) later replaced by Herb Milliner, Jackson "Flap" McQueen (bass, leader), Joe Crump (piano) and saxophonist Leoparte "Chink" Kinney,[2] [3] whose typical style highly contributed to the group's sound. In their song Party Time vocal is done by Bill Walker.

Their first four releases were for the Coleman label in 1949, and in 1950 the still unknown group signed with Decca where they got some releases on their 48000 Rhythm & Blues series. Of these, their version of the originally Mexican pop standard Besame mucho is most remembered, not in the least due to a 1989 re-issue album on the Danish Official label with the same title.

Despite their contract with a major record label their records didn't sell, and in the end of 1952 Decca dropped the group. They moved to Jubilee records. Their failure to sell records contrasted with a readers poll in the Pittsburg Courier, a respected African American newspaper, in May 1953, where the Ray-O-Vacs were picked out as best small combo, beating out competition of Paul Gayten and Louis Jordan.[4]

Their last releases were in 1957 with the Kaiser label.[2]


  1. ^ Billboard - 24 Dec 1949 - Page 20 "Decca Records this week continued to fortify the redevelopment of its blues and rhythm department with the addition of the Ray-O-Vacs, a New Jersey Vocal group which had a hit waxing, I'll Always Be in Love With You, some months ago.
  2. ^ a b Steven C. Probes, Liner notes on LP Besame Mucho, Copenhagen, Official, 1989
  3. ^ Barbara J. Kukla. Swing City : Newark nightlife 1925-50. - Rutgers University Press, 2002. ISBN 978-0813531168
  4. ^ J.C. Marion The Life and Times of The Ray-O-Vacs Retrieved Nov. 27, 2014