My song today is ‘Just Walking in The Rain’. This popular song was written in 1952 by Johnny Bragg and Robert Riley, two prisoners at ‘Tennessee State Prison’ in Nashville, after a comment made by Bragg as the pair crossed the courtyard while it was raining. Bragg allegedly said, "Here we are just walking in the rain, and wondering what the girls are doing." Riley suggested that this would make a good basis for a song, and within a few minutes, Bragg had composed two verses. However, because Bragg was unable to read and write, he asked Riley to write the lyrics down in exchange for being credited as one of the song's writers.
Bragg and his band, the ‘Prisonaires’ later recorded the song for ‘Sun Records’ and it became a hit on the US ‘Billboard R&B ‘chart in 1953. However, the best-known version of the song was recorded by Johnnie Ray in July 16, 1956. It reached Number 2 on the US ‘Billboard Hot 100’, and Number 1 on the ‘UK Singles Chart’ for seven weeks. It became a gold record. Johnnie Ray initially disliked the song but decided to record it. The record featured the backup male vocals of the ‘Ray Conniff Singers’ as well as a whistler.
I was 10 years old when this song first came out and 14 years old when Johnnie Ray released his version of the song. I attended ‘St Patrick’s Roman Catholic School’ in Heckmondwike at the time. I had just resumed my schooling following a 30-month absence (due to a serious traffic accident at the age of 11 years, followed by a nine-month stay in Batley Hospital, followed by a few years of being unable to walk). Each morning after I alighted from the bus at Heckmondwike park, while my mates would carry on walking up to school, which was five minutes away, I would always call into the park toilets first where I would spend five minutes. My purpose was to sing the latest Johnnie Ray song in the toilet building. I was a good enough singer then to win most talent contests I ever entered. I would choose the park toilets to practise my singing of the latest hit song, as its tiled walls and floor created an echo chamber (just like a recording studio). The only other place I knew which produced the same echo was the Heckmondwike swimming baths, and that was too public to rehearse.
I also recall dating a young woman when I was 16 years old and serenading her as we walked home in the rain with this song. I even found a nearby lamp post and did my Gene Kelly lap-dancing pole twist as I sang. It was our first date. She loved the song, and when she said she also loved me after three dates, I considered it to be time to call a halt to our relationship as I was looking for fun in my relationships with young women; not emotional involvement. I loved the experience of ‘falling in love’, but was wary of the responsibilities of ‘being in love’. The last thing I wanted as a teenager was to settle down into marriage before I had done all my travelling abroad when I was 21 years old. Thirty seemed to me to be the ideal age before I was prepared to be invited back to their parent’s home for afternoon tea of salmon and cucumber sandwiches with any young woman I courted. So, I considered it wise to end our relationship before It became more serious and I started to love her too.
Love and peace Bill xxx