Ral Donner – Burned! – The Ral Donner Anthology

Image: 1587243 It is, of course, wholly impossible to discuss Ral Donner without at least a passing nod to Elvis… let’s face it, Ral has long been acknowledged as the all-time finest Presley ‘soundalike’. He famously registered his breakthrough hit in 1961 with ‘Girl Of My Best Friend’, the song from Elvis Is Back which had been a massive hit for The King in the UK and Europe, but was never issued as a single in the US. Both versions were so aurally alike that when Ral’s disc first began to break, its success was propelled by strong rumours that ‘Ral Donner’ was actually Elvis, singing under a pseudonym. But although his subsequent releases certainly confirmed the similarity between their voices, Ral turned out to be a great singer in his own right - indeed, his very next release, ‘You Don’t Know What You’ve Got’, was a million seller. He went on to carve out both a significant career and a big reputation and ironically, rarely recorded other material associated with Elvis until many years later. Moreover, Ral enjoyed legendary status among discerning R&R collectors, whilst not vast, his recorded legacy is of an exceptional standard and by the 70s, he’d become one of the most heavily-bootlegged artists of his era.

He always insisted that he’d never set out to copy Presley. But, as he readily admitted, Ral - like just about every other singer of his generation - was both inspired and heavily influenced by Elvis, whilst there can be no real doubt that the people he worked with fully exploited the uncanny similarity in their voices. This was readily evident in much of the material he was asked to record, and the arrangements and production of those songs. Paradoxically, during the early 1960s, as Elvis descended into his own dodgy B-movie hell, many of The King’s increasingly disenchanted fans were of the belief that Ral was cutting better records than their idol, certainly, although it was only a regional hit, ‘I Got Burned’ knocked Presley’s then-current A-side, ‘One Broken Heart For Sale’, into a cocked hat.

Born Ralph Stuart Emanuel Donner in Norwood Park, Chicago, Illinois, on February 10th 1943, he was the youngest of four children. His father (of German descent) and his mother (of Italian extraction) both loved music and encouraged him from infancy: “I was very lucky... I was born into a family with a keen appreciation for good music, which influenced me from a very early age. I was around three or four when I began imitating Al Jolson for my family & friends... between years eight through eleven it was all pretty much sacred music... the church choir, as a soloist, some local television. A highlight was singing at Orchestra Hall in Chicago, on a radio broadcast... I sang ‘It Is No Secret’, by Stuart Hamblen, the C&W singer who’d performed it there the previous week.” Erhältlich ab 07.03.2014

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