Ray O'Connor (aka Rory Calhoun) was a saxophonist from South Australia.
Biography[edit | edit source]
Ray O'Connor was encouraged by his piano playing father and subsequently took an early interest in music. When his family moved to Adelaide in 1943 Ray joined the drum and fife band at Thebarton Primary School. At the age of 18 he became an avid fan of Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw and bought his first clarinet. He took lessons, first from Adelaide band leader Maurie Le Duff, and then at the Elder Conservatorium. Ray formed his first band in 1955, a "50-50" jazz combo, the Ray O'Connor Quintet. They had a regular gig at the Burnside Town Hall in Adelaide.
A meeting with Bill Haley and Slick Osborne in 1957 inspired Ray to join the rock 'n' roll revolution. Ray's combo became the basis of The Penny Rockets. This band, through various evolutions, has entertained Adelaide for over forty years with its raunchy '50's rock 'n' roll. In that time the Penny Rockets have had more comebacks than Nellie Melba. At last count some 40 musicians have worked in the Penny Rockets, always with Ray on sax and sharing the vocals. Despite the success of the Penny Rockets, Ray always kept a jazz combo going on the side. Jazz was very much his first love.
With the advent of the Beatles and the Rolling Stone's, the Penny Rockets' brand of rock went into decline for a while, so Ray freelanced in television, hotel bands, country tours and as a support musician for visiting overseas acts. One of his fondest memories is a long conversation with Eartha Kitt, when working in her support band at the Adelaide Tivoli in 1963. He was smitten. Somewhere along the way, Ray met up with Tommy Richardson, and they became firm friends. Ray has been a regular in Tommy's band over the years, and joined Tommy in his last visit to Ireland and the UK. After Tommy's passing, Ray assumed leadership of the Adelaide Stompers. The early influences that shaped Ray's love of music; Ellington, Goodman, Shaw and Haley are clearly evidenced in his work with the Stompers; from the lyrical clarinet solos to the raunchy saxophone licks.