Monday, November 17, 2014

Clem Bray's Orchestra

Clement Elliott Bray, Jr. was born on 27 Jul 1896 in Brooklyn, New York, to Clement Elliott and Benna Bray. His father was a newspaperman and his mother taught piano.

Based on a 25 February 1914 article in the Cumberland Evening Times, Clement was a classically trained musician, who performed along with his mother at the Second Annual Concert of the G Clef Club:

"The club was assisted by Miss Ernestine Wittig, Mrs. A. K. Rarig, Miss Beatrice Holmes, Mr. Clement E. Bray, Jr., Mrs. Clement E. Bray and a string quintette, composed of Dr. S. Lua Sykes, Mr. Clarence Spitnas, Mr. Russell Paupe, Mr. Lloyd Rawlings and Mr. Robert Colony. The work of this quintette was most excellent and was a most enjoyable part of the program." During Part I of the concert, Clement played two violin solos -- "Inconstancy" written by Chadwick and "The Elephant and Chimpanzee," an arrangement by Lyons.

"Inconstancy" was written in 1910 by George Whitefield Chadwick. It is in the first set of Four Choruses. In that chorus Chadwick set the text "Sigh no More Ladies" from Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing to music he composed.

Fascinating, isn't it? But I digress...

Clement married Della Virginia Jennings, my third cousin once removed on 21 May 1918 in Lynchburgh, Virginia. Her father had killed her mother and them himself in Toledo, Ohio, five years before. At the time of their marriage, Clement was an orchestra leader and his band played at several venues throughout the mid-Atlantic states. By 1920 Clem and Della were living in Easton, Maryland, on 19 Glenmore Avenue, not far from his parents. His occupation was listed as bookkeeper, which surprised me greatly. I have often wondered if Della wanted a less nomadic life, or if work had merely dried up for the time being.

On 23 March 1923, Clem was in Cumberland, Maryland, presenting Cliff Hosken's Orchestra at the Great Easter Festival and Bazaar at the State Armory.

As published in the Cumberland Evening Times

On 11 July 1924, Clem and his orchestra were in Garrett, Maryland, making their second appearance at the Old Trails Inn. They were fresh off B. F. Keith's vaudeville in New York City.

In 1925 Clem and Della were living at 324 South Water in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

On 22 November 1927 Clem was back in Cumberland, Maryland, directing an orchestra that performed at the Police and Fireman's Annual Dance. He was described as a well known orchestra leader.

In 1927 he and Della were living in Fairmont, West Virginia on 609 Jamison and Clem was the leader of the Fairmont Theatre orchestra.

On 22 December 1928, Clem and the Fairmont Theatre orchestra participated in the historic inaugural broadcast of WMMN radio station. According to the Fairmont Times, "Robin Hood of this city sent a wire from far Hot Springs, Arkansas, announcing unequaled receptivity and asking that Clem Bray and his Fairmont Theatre Orchestra play 'Hail West Virginia'."

But perhaps trouble was brewing already in 1929. The city directory listed Clem Bray as still living in Fairmont, West Virginia, but for the first time Della was not listed. And in 1931 Clem was living in Tampa, Florida, with a new wife named Inez R.

A little digging revealed that Inez R was in fact Ruhamer Inez Bosserman. She was the daughter of Walker Greenleaf and Helen (Burruss) Bosserman and was born in Fairmont, West Virginia. At the time she must have met Clem, she was married to Clarence R Kuner.

Article and photograph of Clem Bray
published in the Harrisburgh Telegraph

In 1934 Clem and Ruhamer were living in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where he managed Club Lido and led their in-house orchestra. In 1935 they were living in Baltimore and in 1940, they were living in Washington, DC, with a daughter named Jo Clare Bray, who I believe but have not yet proved was actually the daughter of Clarence and Ruhamer Kuner.

A photograph that was published in the Harrisburg Telegraph; Ruhamer
is on the far left

In 1930 Clem and Ruhamer received a copyright for "Living in the World of Tomorrow." He also wrote "Ruhamer," which the Harrisburg Telegraph described as "distinctive."

I lost track of Clem in Ruhamer after 1940. And so I have yet another mystery on my hands. But I wonder if this is my Clem:

As published in the Upper Des Moines Algona

If so, he was performing, along with his Jolly Lumber Jacks at Iowa's Wonder Show Place in Cedar Lake, Iowa, on 25 May 1973!

I would so like to find the sheet music for his songs, but as yet have been unable to find them. Any suggestions?

Finding Della...Again (The Power of Offline Records)
Yet More Woe for Della (Your Family Tree, Autumn 2014)
Wordless Wednesday: I'm Published!
Finding Della (The Power of Social Media)
I'm Published
Murder-Suicide in Toledo

1 comment:

  1. That would be Clear Lake, Iowa. the same place Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper played their last gig. It's possible there might be more information in the "museum" part of the Surf. Clear Lake is also filled with antique shops, some have a lot of Surf Ballroom memorabilia. Also eBay.