Richard Ernest May (22 November 1943 – 1 June 1988) was a New Zealand-born jazz singer and musician, best known for singing cover versions of numerous pop songs or jazz standards. He moved to Australia in 1962 where he worked mainly in theatre and cabaret and had TV appearances on The Don Lane Show, The Midday Show and Hey Hey It's Saturday, as well as hosting his own show, Ten on the Town (1966).
|Birth name||Richard Ernest May|
|Born||22 November 1943|
Onehunga, Auckland, New Zealand
|Died||1 June 1988 (aged 44)|
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
May was born as Richard Ernest May in New Zealand in Onehunga, Auckland of Māori descent. His father, Keith May, was a jazz band leader and played alto saxophone. May grew up with siblings and from the age of 15 he performed at Picasso, a café, night club in Auckland. Apart from vocals, May played drums and piano but generally worked as a variety entertainer. He would introduce unconventional vocalisations, improvisation and the spoken-word into performance.
In 1961 jazz pianist, Ronnie Smith, set up a group to play at the Sorrento Club, Wellington. Smith's group had Tommy Tamati on bass guitar and May joined on drums and backing vocals. May become a regular with the group and sometimes provided lead vocals. Bruno Lawrence, an English-born jazz musician, who was regularly in the audience, often got up to play the drums when May sang lead. The group worked for about a year and toured southern North Island.
At the end of 1961 May returned to Auckland and signed with Harry M. Miller's La Gloria label, which released his debut single in 1961, a cover version of Chubby Checker hit "Let's Twist Again". He followed with "I Could Have Danced All Night" in 1962. During that year he relocated to Sydney and primarily worked in cabaret. He recorded compositions of Nat King Cole and appeared on Australian TV shows The Don Lane Show, Farnham and Byrne (co-hosted by John Farnham and Debra Byrne), and regular appearances on The Midday Show.
In 1966 May released another single, "This Little Boy's Gone Rockin'", via RCA (Bluebird Records). From March of that year he hosted the Sydney teen pop music TV series, Ten on the Town, on TEN-10. It ran in direct competition with Bandstand on TCN-9 and Col Joye on ATN-7. Walter Learning of The Canberra Times compared the three shows, which "vie for the younger audience" and found that "Bandstand must win hands down" as Col Joye "has no life" and May's show, "suffers from over effort on the part of all concerned."
He issued no further recordings until 1973: a double album, with the Julian Lee Orchestra, Fats Enough, on ABC records. In 1974 ABC decided to release a second double album, Just Foolin' Around – A Tribute to Louis Armstrong. In 1983 the first half of this album was re-released on CD, as A Tribute to the Greats. 1981 saw the J&B release an album, Ricky May, while ABC records issued a compilation, The Best of Ricky May on CD. He issued a duet single with Jonathan Coleman, "Built for Comfort (I Ain't Built for Speed)"/"Off the Record", as the Big Boys in 1983. In 1986 RCA released a Christmas album, It's the Christmas Man. Beyond this he concentrated on live cabaret performances and television work. He later appeared regularly on Hey Hey It's Saturday.
On 1 June 1988 Ricky May had a fatal heart attack at the Regent Hotel, Sydney, after getting a standing ovation on the opening night of a new cabaret show. He was pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital. He was 44 years of age. His wife, Colleen Ann May, died on 17 August 2017, aged 75.
- "Let's Twist Again"/"Hucklebuck" La Gloria (1961)
- "I Could Have Danced All Night"/"Ballin' the Jack" La Gloria (1962)
- "This Little Boy's Gone Rockin' "/"Spanish Harlem" RCA (1966)
- "Built for Comfort (I Ain't Built for Speed)"/"Off the Record" WEA 7-259903 (1983)
- Ricky May J&B JB-057 (1980)
- Fats Enough ABC L-60011/12 (1983)
- It's the Christmas Man Festival L-38686 (1986)
- Just Foolin' Around – A Tribute to Louis Armstrong ABC L-60027 (1987)
- Lady Caroline (29 July 2013). "Ricky May". Awesome Entertainment Magazine. Archived from the original on 9 July 2015. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
- Sergent, Bruce. "Ricky May". New Zealand Music of the 60's, 70's and a bit of 80's. Archived from the original on 25 October 2009. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
- "Ricky May – Entertainer one in a million"
- "Record Labels – Bluebird", Singles/ Cat. #101643 /Date:1965/ Artist:/Ricky May with Latin Quarter Discotheque Combo under direction of Jimmy Sloggett / Title(s):"This Little Boy's Gone Rockin'" (Darin-Curtis) "Spanish Harlem" (Leiber-Stoller), Australasian Music & Popular Culture 1964-1975, MILESAGO
- Ten on the Town, 10 Network / x30m-e / 1965-66 black and white/Producer/Director: Kevin Ryder/Teen themed pop music show hosted by Mike Walsh and then for season two Ricky May.
- Learning, Walter (25 March 1966). "Television: A 'pill' worth sugarcoating". The Canberra Times. 40 (11, 425). p. 15. Retrieved 3 April 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
- "Variety Artists Club of NZ Benny Award Recipients". Archived from the original on 16 October 2013.
- "Ricky May; Australian Jazz Singer". Los Angeles Times. 3 June 1988. Archived from the original on 24 October 2012. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
Ricky May, 44, a leading Australian jazz singer. The New Zealand-born performer was stricken with what appeared to be a heart attack Wednesday minutes after being given a standing ovation at the opening night of his new show at the Regent Hotel in Sydney. He was pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital
- Love, Colin W (21 June 1995). "Legal Notices: Estate of Richard Ernest May". The Sydney Morning Herald. p. 40. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
- "The Ryerson Index". Ryerson Index Inc. Retrieved 8 December 2017.. Note: User must add 'May' into the Surname search parameter and 'Colleen' into the Any Given Name(s) parameter.