Tuesday, April 15, 2014

John Emmett Raitt ~ A Biography

John Emmett Raitt on Findagrave

Birth: Jan. 9, 1917
Santa Ana
Orange County
California, USA

Death: Feb. 20, 2005
Pacific Palisades
Los Angeles County
California, USA

Well-known baritone singer and father to blues musician Bonnie Raitt. Born John Emmett Raitt in Santa Ana, California. Raitt excelled in track in high school and won a scholarship to the University of Southern California. He then went on to finish college at the University of Redlands in 1940. His deep, resonant voice developed early, and he sang at service clubs and churches throughout Southern California. His professional debut came in 1940 as a chorus singer in "HMS Pinafore" with the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera, where he would be a frequent star in later years.. He created the role of Billy Bigelow in the original New York production of Carousel. He was well known on the West Coast for his voice when in 1944 he was asked to try out for the role of Curly in the road company of Oklahoma! in New York City. He auditioned for that role with Rodgers and Hammerstein. They concurred his voice was powerful but he was viewed to be too tall for the part. He argued that there was no reason for Curly not to be tall and he was given the part of Curly on the spot for the Chicago company of Oklahoma!. When the second collaboration of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Carousel, came about they chose Raitt for the role of the doomed hero Billy Bigelow. Hammerstein had been inspired to write the part when he heard Raitt sing his audition for the role of Curly. Thus the role was written just for him. He began that role in 1945. He also appeared on Broadway in "Magdalena," "Three Wishes for Jamie," and "Carnival in Flanders." An attempt to cross-over into film in 1954 in "The Pajama Game" was unsuccessful. The Bob Fosse choreographed numbers "Hey, There," "Steam Heat," and "Once a Year Day" received good reviews and the movie was successful but it was to be Raitts only starring role in motion pictures. Bonnie and her two brothers, Steven and David, were born to Raitt's first marriage to Marjorie Haydock. They divorced in 1971. A second marriage to Kathleen Smith Landry ended in divorce in 1981. That year, he learned from an old friend that Kathleen Kraemer, his high school sweetheart had recently been widowed. He called and invited himself to dinner and they were married in 1981. Bonnie sang "Safe in Your Arms" at the wedding. In 1991 when Bonnie married Michael O'Keefe John sang "My Hearts Darling" for them. He once said after his daughter became famous, "She used to be known as John Raitt's daughter, now I'm known as Bonnie Raitt's father." Bonnie and John appeared on several occasion singing duets with Bonnie's song "Blowing Away" and his song "Hey, There." Occassionally he would appear with his daughter at her concerts and he continued touring with a one-man show, "An Evening with John Raitt" well into his 80s. 

(bio by: Julie Karen Hancock (Cooper) Jackson) 

Cause of death: Pneumonia

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