In a recent piece about big band songbird Helen O’Connell I included a video of her performing with a guy who was her usual partner, crooner Bob Eberly. I also noted that the clip seemed to be mislabeled because it identified the singer as Ray Eberle, Bob’s lookalike younger brother. I based my opinion on the fact that the singer is shown performing with Helen in front of Jimmy Dorsey and his orchestra, and Bob did that for many years. On the other hand, Ray was mostly associated with Glenn Miller and doesn’t seem to have ever performed with Dorsey. (Note: the video was eventually re-titled and I amended the post.)
But it’s easy to get mixed up when considering the brothers, who both pointed toward musical careers as they grew to adulthood in upstate New York. Bob was the older by three years, and he began to attract notice in the mid-1930s by singing on radio. It was during this period that he changed the spelling of his last name to Eberly after it was mispronounced by an announcer. He would eventually land a job singing with the Dorsey Brothers orchestra, and when the volatile siblings split into separate bands he stayed with Jimmy. It would turn into a long-lasting job.
Ray came along a couple of years later and got his big break when Glenn Miller asked Bob whether there were any more at home like him. After Ray was hired many felt that Miller had made a mistake, but he stuck with his choice and over the next few years the young singer would become a fixture with the band — not only as a solo but also as part of the Modernaires.
Ray’s tenure with Miller came to an end in 1942 when he was abruptly dismissed, reportedly because he was stuck in traffic and late to rehearsal. He managed to catch on with Gene Krupa’s band, and in later years would even lead his own group. Brother Bob mostly stayed with Dorsey and for a while was one of the most popular crooners around, but as the big band era began to disappear both brothers found their careers winding down. Ray died in 1979 and Bob a couple of years later.