Ray Ellington (born Harry Pitts Brown, 17 March 1916 – 28 February 1985) was a popular English singer, drummer and bandleader. He is best known for his appearances on The Goon Show from 1951 to 1960. The Ray Ellington Quartet had a regular musical segment on the show, and Ellington also had a small speaking role in many episodes, often as a parodic African, Native American or Arab chieftain (but also often, with no attempt to change his normal accent, as a female secretary or a Scotsman).
Ellington was born at 155 Kennington Road, Kennington
, the youngest of four children. His father was Harry Pitts Brown (c.1877–1920), an African American music-hall comedian and entertainer, and his mother was Eva Stenkell Rosenthal (b. c.1879), a Russian Jew. His father died when Brown was four years old. He was brought up as a strictly Orthodox Jew. He attended South London Jewish School (1924–30), before entering show business at the age of twelve, when he appeared in an acting role on the London stage.
Ellington specialised in jazz
but experimented with many other genres throughout the show's history and his musical style was heavily influenced by the comedic jump blues of Louis Jordan
. Ellington's band was one of the first in the UK to feature the stripped-back guitar/bass/drums/piano format that became the basis of rock'n'roll
, as well as being one of the first groups in Britain to prominently feature the electric guitar
. They were also reputedly the very first jazz band in the UK to use an amplified
Early in the show's run, there were many jokes linking Ellington to the African nation of Ghana, thus leading Ellington to say that he came from Ghana.
Ray's son Lance Ellington is a singer who has recorded several jazz orientated albums. Lance has also appeared in tributes to Peter Sellers and in the movie The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, where he played his father. In May, 2001, Lance took part in
" Goon Again", a 50th anniversary celebration of the Goon Show.