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Ray Lamar

Producer Ray Lamar was the second husband of the Softly, Softly singing star Ruby Murray. During the early fifties he and his first wife, Madge Nichols, were a popular acrobatic tap dancing act who toured in variety throughout the UK.

The son of an army captain, Ray Lamar was born in Leeds on December 2, 1917. At 16 he joined a Pierrot group called Harry Gold’s Yachtsmen, who performed on the beach at Ramsgate, Kent.

“We did three shows a day,” he recalled later. “Between the acts we took it in turns to go round with the bottle, persuading the audience to part with their loose change to pay the artists.”

When the season ended, Lamar, a dancer and saxophonist, toured in variety and revue. During the Second World War, he was a captain in the Tank Corps and took part in the D-Day landings.

He married Madge Nichols in 1947 and together the formed the act Ray and Madge Lamar.

They played every variety theatre in the country, including the London Palladium, and supported both Winifred Atwell and Christine Nordern.

In 1956 the couple divorced and Lamar married secondly Betty Bushell, the daughter of a Lewisham publican, by whom he had two sons and a daughter. This second marriage also ended in divorce.

In the late fifties, Lamar moved into theatrical management and presented tours of revivals of musicals starring John Hanson. The Desert Song proved so successful that it was staged at the Palace Theatre in London. Lamar also managed British tours of several American stars such as Johnny Ray, Guy Mitchell and Judy Garland.

At the peak of her career in the mid-fifties, Lamar fell in love with singer Ruby Murray. But he lacked the confidence to propose to her and she married instead Bernie Burgess of The Jones Boys pop group.

In 1961 Lamar joined the Bernard Delfont Organisation and was sent by Delfont to open the Princess Theatre, Torquay and to manage a summer season at the Torquay Pavilion, starring Jessie Matthews and Arthur Askey. He was so successful that Delfont suggested that Lamar should move permanently to the area and look after his two theatres in Torquay. He did so, also running seasons at the Babbacombe Theatre with Max Bygraves’ son Anthony.

When Ruby Murray was booked to star in a show in Paignton, she and Lamar were reunited. Her marriage to Burgess had ended and Lamar was divorced from his second wife Betty. He and Murray married in 1993. A chronic alcoholic, Murray died from liver cancer in 1996, aged 61.

He died in Torquay on August 3, aged 88. After Ruby Murray’s death, he received the royalties from all her recordings. He was estranged from his two sons and daughter by his second marriage and also from his stepchildren, Murray’s son and daughter, all of whom survive him.

Patrick Newley

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