As the curtains went up, the cheering and whistling of the crowd rose in a wave, encompassing the entire venue, just like the harmonies of Ray Peterson’s songs. The year was 1960, and the singer was at the peak of his career. Aged 21, Peterson’s captivating voice had already brought him a string of hits, such as “The Wonder of You” and “Answer Me.” However, the 1960 release “Tell Laura I Love Her” would become one of his most famous and enduring songs.
Peterson’s early life was challenging, with a polio diagnosis leading to extended stays in a hospital. During one of those stays, he began performing for fellow patients. As he regained his health, he performed in local clubs before relocating to Los Angeles, where he was discovered by manager Stan Shulman, eventually signing with RCA in 1958. Initially, he found little success, but by 1959, he had a Top 30 hit in the U.S. and the U.K. with “The Wonder of You.”
A year later, Peterson released “Tell Laura I Love Her,” an epic car-crash melodrama, which was an instant hit, peaking at #9 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, #10 on the Australian charts, and #41 in the U.K. Singles Chart. The song was so successful that it allowed Peterson to create his label, Dunes, and sign the legendary Phil Spector to helm his next project, a rendition of the traditional “Corrina Corrina.” Peterson also recruited singer Curtis Lee, and together with Spector’s producing skills, they produced the hit songs “Pretty Little Angel Eyes” and “Under the Moon of Love.”
The upbeat trivia from the year of Peterson’s performance includes that a gallon of milk costs $0.49, a dozen eggs cost $0.53, and a gallon of gas costs $0.31. In addition, Dwight D. Eisenhower was serving his last year in office, and the presidential race was heating up between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy.
The YouTube comments, which feature people worldwide, attest to Peterson’s enduring legacy. One commenter fondly recalls the emotional power of “Tell Laura I Love Her,” saying it had them and their friends in tears. Another fan lists it as one of their favorite songs from the era. Meanwhile, a third commenter states that they still love Peterson’s two classic hit songs, “Corinna Corinna” and “Tell Laura I Love Her.” Finally, a Spanish commenter bids farewell to Ray Peterson, calling him “another great from my time.”
Ray Peterson’s music has stood the test of time and continues to be appreciated by new and old fans alike. If you want to experience the magic of his performance and join the cheering crowds, watch his videos on YouTube and share them with your friends because Ray Peterson’s music deserves to be celebrated.