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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Cream of The Crate: Album Review # 160 – Ray Brown And The Whispers: Hits & More 1965 – 1968



cream of the crate: album review # 160 – ray brown and the whispers: hits & more 1965 – 1968
CD Cover – [CLICK to enlarge]


  This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.



"One of Australia's hottest bands of the mid-60's." - (Album liner notes) . . . "With his good looks and boyish charm, Ray Brown was up there with Billy Thorpe and Normie Rowe as one of Australia's top pop stars." - (100 Greatest Australian Singles of the '60s - Pepperell & Talbot)

This is album retro-review number 160 in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl and Cd albums in my collection.

The series is called
“Cream of The Crate” and each review represents an album that I believe is of significant musical value, either because of it’s rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.

Links to the previous 150 reviews can be found at the bottom of this review.

Time for another wonderful Australian artist, and I dig deep into the 1960’s to bring out an album that never eventuated while the band existed, but here it is now and it’s full of the hits and in fact, all their releases.

The group is Ray Brown And The Whispers and the album is titled – Hits & More 1965 – 1968.

This CD album was only released in 2012 on the Raven label and it has the identifying code of RVCD-350.

cream of the crate: album review # 160 – ray brown and the whispers: hits & more 1965 – 1968
CD Label – [CLICK to enlarge]


It is another of the fantastic releases by Raven that capture the music of a period that was instrumental in Australian music formation.

The album never existed before Raven produced it but it has all of the group’s hits, key tracks from albums, singles A & B sides and a rare EP cut. Altogether there are an impressive 29 tracks.

By the early to mid 1960’s, thanks to the British Invasion led by The Beatles, existing musicians started growing their hair, and existing bands started changing their names.

The Mustangs became The Masters Apprentices, the Vibratones mutated into The Aztecs and shortly after, Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs and a Sydney group called the Nocturnes became Ray Brown and The Whispers.

Now, Ray Brown was born in Hutsville, Sydney, New South Wales in 1946.

Although having almost no music experience before being taken into the Whispers, he then becoming their front man.

The young Ray Brown had two things going for him. First he had real stage presence and secondly, a fine tenor voice with a nasally twang that gave him, and thus the group, an instantly recognisable sound.

He also had a “boyish” look, that gave him the same appeal at the time as contemporaries such as Normie Rowe and Stevie Wright.

By late 1964 Ray Brown and The Whispers had gained a gig as the resident band at the very popular Surf City, in Kings Cross.

That residency was taken up following the departure of Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs and, was a big ask!

Quite probably most other groups of the day would not have filled such big shoes – but with weekend crowds of up to 2,000 teens, the sound and energy of the group soon made them immensely popular.

When ray joined The Whispers were still falling back on their early stage act – that is doing their “Shadows – styled steps” on stage.

Brown was having non of that and quickly established himself as an exciting front man.

By 1965 recording contracts came their way and they had at that time what we can call, their classic lineup, consisting of:

  • Ray Brown [Vocals]
  • Lawrie Barclay [Rhythm guitar]
  • Al Jackson [Lead guitar]
  • John Manners [Bass]
  • Pat Jeffery [Drums]
cream of the crate: album review # 160 – ray brown and the whispers: hits & more 1965 – 1968
Inside CD Case label – [CLICK to enlarge]


In that one year of 1965 they released four charting singles.
20 Miles (a cover of a Chubby Checker release) backed with Devoted To You, reached number1 In January;
– Brent Edward’s track Pride which reached number 1 in April;
Fool, Fool, Fool (released a year previously by Roosevelt Grier) which reached the number 1 position in July, and,
Midnight Hour ( made a hit by Wilson Pickett) that reached a very respectable number 2 in October.

Not a bad start for any group and although all their hits were covers, Brown and the group had sufficient power and individuality to take those tracks and give them the Ray Brown and The Whispers sound.

It was a sound that was very popular with audiences whether listening to the group live, or listening on records.

In fact their popularity and their reputation as hard workers saw them bring out three albums in the year 1965 – and that was something that big artists Billy Thorpe or The Easybeats were unable to do.

cream of the crate: album review # 160 – ray brown and the whispers: hits & more 1965 – 1968
Everybodies Magazine: March 1965 – [CLICK to enlarge]


The album “Heading For The Top” featured some very good eclectic covers with tracks such as Dimples, by John Lee Hooker, to George Gershwin’sSummertime“, and even a very good original track penned by Aztec Tony Barber, called “That’s Evil“.

1966 saw visits to Melbourne and many, many TV appearances and a few more singles such as Tennessee Waltz Song, which came in at number 4. This can now be seen as a period of consolidation.

But nothing lasts forever and for one reason or another band members began to leave and in early 1967 Ray Brown had a ‘New Whispers’ on the road. This version featured Dave Russell from Ray Columbus and The Invaders, on guitar; Missing Links bassist, Ronnie Peel and Steve Hardy on drums.

Times were changing and music and styles were changing – rapidly, and the band began to fall out of favour.

So Ray bought out an album called “Same Old Song – Brand New Beat“, which actually featured Max Merritt and The Meteors on four tracks. It also covered Ray’s final Sydney hit song – The Same Old Song, which had climbed to number 6, and stalled.

At loose ends as 1967 came to an end, Ray headed for the USA where had an unsuccessful dalliance with Capitol Records that resulted in a terrible album called “Just Ray Brown“.  Here he played around with an eight piece jazz group but further success eluded him.

He was back in Australia in 1974 and he reformed the Whispers with Mick Liber on guitar, David Bentley on organ, Yuk Harrison on bass, Roger Felice-Andrew on drums and a young Wilbur Wilde on sax.

This was an exceptionally good line up and they did the club circuit for a year before Ray left to follow his passion for Aboriginal culture. This resulted in him leaving the scene ato travel throughout the outback.

Into the 1980’s he formed various line-ups of the Whispers, and in 1983 he had a particularly good year, and was put on a package tour with legends like Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Herman’s Hermits.

cream of the crate: album review # 160 – ray brown and the whispers: hits & more 1965 – 1968


Sadly, Ray passed away at the all too young age of fifty one, on the 16th August 1996, from a heart attack.

So now let’s look at this album!

It does come with a full gloss booklet with six double sided pages that consists of a short discussion on the group, and short discussions on each track.

It is accompanied by a few coloured plates and two sides of track lists and credits.

The presentation is good, the information reasonable, so it is hard to be critical and I would rate it in the mid to mid-high range of quality/usability.

Let’s give of a rating of 7.5/10!

cream of the crate: album review # 160 – ray brown and the whispers: hits & more 1965 – 1968
Booklet plate – [CLICK to enlarge]


Track Listing:

1. 20 MILES
20. TENNESSEE WALTZ SONG (Tennessee Waltz)
23. (Ain’t It) STRANGE

cream of the crate: album review # 160 – ray brown and the whispers: hits & more 1965 – 1968
Rear cover of the CD: Including track listing – [CLICK to enlarge]


With 29 tracks to choose from there is pretty much no logical way to pick a handful as being representative. So, I’m going to take the first and last tracks, choose a “hit”, and two tracks which may have received little or no airplay.

This way we might get some sort of idea of the breadth of his work.

cream of the crate: album review # 160 – ray brown and the whispers: hits & more 1965 – 1968
Rear page of the booklet – [CLICK to enlarge]


Track 1, is 20 Miles.

As mentioned previously the track was a cover of a Chubby Checker recording, but Ray did it better!

It was also his first number 1 (making it in Sydney), but nationally it still reached a very respectable number 11.

It does represent some very good playing by the group and it showcases that nasality I spoke of. While today it may be regarded as pretty basic, it really clicked with many people in the day, and was a great “calling card” for the group.

20 Miles

Both tracks number 3 and 6 charted very well and both reached the number 3 position nationally, that being the highest any Ray Brown and The Whispers track reached.

Out of these two, I believe Pride (track 3) is the better.

But I have to say, track 6Fool, Fool Fool is still a damn fine number – so I have featured it in the video replay section of this retro-review.

Originally recorded by the British outfit Billy J. Kramer and the Dakota’s, while that original version forever remained obscure, when Ray and the Whispers got hold of it, they upped the tempo, put some swing into it and really energised the track.

The end result was, what can be argued, their best singles release, coming out late in 1965.

It peaked at number 1 in Sydney and Adelaide and charted well elsewhere. It certainly was a track where Ray effectively used his upper vocal register to amazing effect and along with some rockin’ guitar work, it became a favourite on radio and live.

The track has 4 line verse and 3 line chorus which allows for some interesting guitar work, not complicated, but tasteful and effective.

Oh! when, you go out with, another guy, how it hurts my pride
Oh! you’ll never know how it, hurts me so, way down deep inside
I feel so bad, but, I don’t feel mad,
what can I do, I love only you~

and so I, swallowed up, swallowed, swallowed my pride
and kept it, yes, kept it inside, because I’ve heard~
that pride is such a little word

I took you out just the other night, to a movie show
Oh! right at the end you saw a friend and said you’d have to go~
you walked away and, left me alone,
what could I say, when he walked you home~

I had to, swallow up, swallow, swallow my pride
and kept it, yes, kept it inside, because I’ve heard~
that pride is such a little word

Oh! each night I pray for the, day you’ll say that you really care
Oh! I’m sure you’ll find that, we’ll love in time look around I’ll be there
The day will come, we’ll be as one, and I’ll go to her, but until then

I had to, swallow up, swallow, swallow my pride

and kept it, yes, kept it inside, because I’ve heard~
that pride is such a little word
[to fade]
pride is such a little word

The 2/4 rhythm pattern gives it a real galloping feel – and it works so well.


In 1966 the group released I Can’t Get Enough, which is a little strange in some ways.

cream of the crate: album review # 160 – ray brown and the whispers: hits & more 1965 – 1968
[CLICK to enlarge]
First it is, compared to earlier releases, a “rough and ready” release. certainly it lacks polish, but, it does have a brass backing, and it does have female backing singers, and more than a half decent fuzzed guitar lead break.

So while it isn’t as sophisticated musically as previous tracks, it has a decent groove, and at times has some jazz overtones.

Ray’s delivery style is markedly different from previous releases and I guess its a personal taste thing as to whether you like it or not. It certainly is different and, it reached into the top 40, peaking at number 38.

I Can’t Get Enough

Down to track number 27Same Old Song.

A fantastic track by the Motown favs The Four Tops, it is worth reflecting upon in regard to Ray as it does show that he tried, and quite successfully, a range of styles and Motown music was certainly in his repertoire.

In 1967 the group released the track and they upped the tempo and while it doesn’t have the same feel that the Four Tops did so well, I guess what the group did was to make it a good dance track while still keeping it recognisable.

Yet to my ears, the very same high register nasality that resulted in some very fine pieces of singing in early tracks, doesn’t quite work in this track.

But, check it out for yourself, you might just disagree with my beliefs.

Same Old Song

It is fitting to examine the last track, That’s It – I Quit – I’m Movin’ On.

While not the last single released by Ray and the group, that goes to the track Don’t Fall In Love, in 1969, this track – That’s It . . . was released late in 1967.

It was actually the B-Side to the track written by The WhoIvor The Engine Driver.

Now the less said about that track the better. However the other side was That’s It I Quit. Now recorded with handclaps and “crowd” noises to give it the appearance of a live performance, it is a good track!

Mind you it probably needed a little “beefing up” with crowd sounds as by now the group had reduced down to just three members:
Ray Brown (vocals, guitar)
Ronnie Peel (bass)
Steve Hardy (drums)

This meant that except for Ray, by now there were no original members left in the group.

The track has a Motown feel about it and unlike Same Old Song it is in a better register for Ray and he handles the track well.

The problem was, the end was in sight. The group, including Ray, really failed to keep pace with the rapidly changing musical styles and the demands from audiences.

I guess they might have stayed around as a “novelty” club act, but thankfully they didn’t.

That’s It – I Quit – I’m Movin’ On

This CD album – Hits & More 1965 – 1968, is jammed packed full of tracks and represents great value for money. It provides us not only with the best tracks Ray and the Whispers ever released, but tracks we may have forgotten and in some cases, never heard before.

One of the failings of the group was that they never wrote their own music, they were always was a cover band.

Now for a while in the mid 1960’s, their covers were excellent, and best still the originals they covered were not all that well known.

So it is fair to say that the group had talent and skill and Ray had a good voice and charisma and as a result popular, and that really sums up Ray Brown and The Whispers.



cream of the crate: album review # 160 – ray brown and the whispers: hits & more 1965 – 1968
[CLICK to enlarge]


There is no doubt they earned their right to be remembered, and fondly. They certainly deserve to have a honoured place in the “history of Australian music of the 1960’s”.

I know my opinion would be shared by many, and in a recent publication called “100 Greatest Australian Singles of the ’60s“, by David Pepperell (aka Dr. Pepper) and Colin Talbot, they certainly have agreed in as much as they have nominated both Fool, Fool, Fool and Pride among that 100.

That really says a lot.

This CD album secondhand can be obtained from Discogs or there may still be new copies from Sanity Records, and there is Ebay.

I believe if you have not got any Ray Brown and The Whispers in your collection, then this is the best album to represent them in your collection.


As usual, Youtube provides us with some classic performances.


Fool Fool Fool


Midnight Hour



Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:


To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –

cream of the crate cd review #2 : robert johnson – the complete recordings


To view/listen the first 50 Cd album reviews just click the image below –


To view/listen album reviews 101 – 150 just click the image below –


Click to open the following reviews covering #’s 151 onward.

#151.  The Shaggs – Philosophy of the World

#152.  The Animals – The Animals

#153. Omah Khorshid & His Group  – Live In Australia 1981

#154. Alan Parsons Project – Tales of Mystery and Imagination: Edgar Allan Poe

#155. Billy Thorpe – Tangier

#156. Aretha Franklin – The Best Of

#157. Big Bill Broonzy – Big Bill’s Blues

#158. The Supremes – Where Did Our Love Go 

#159. The Band – Stage Fright


Rob Greaves
I have been with the Toorak Times since April 2012. I work as Senior Editor of the Toorak Times, but I also think of myself as senior contributor. I've been in the Australian music scene as a musician since 1964, and have worked in radio and TV and newspapers (when they were paper ), serious experience in audio editing, and a lot of video editing experience. Currently I'm working as a radio program producer for a national interview program as well as my work with the Toorak Times