Ray Evans papers
Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Ray Evans (4 February 1915-15 February 2007) was the lyricist of the songwriting team Livingston & Evans. They composed more than 700 songs, most of which were written for movies and TV shows. They won Oscars for the songs "Buttons and bows," "Mona Lisa," and "Que sera, sera." They also composed "Silver bells," as well as the theme songs for the television series Bonanza and Mr. Ed.
Ray Evans was born and grew up in Salamanca, New York. His parents were Philip and Frances (Lisitz) Evans; he had one sister, Doris, who was married to Alexander Feinberg. Evans graduated first from his high school. His eloquence and affinity for words was noticed early on. The Seneca High School yearbook from 1931 states: "His original themes and brilliant oral talks are the despair of his classmates. Ray's quite a humorist, too. At times, his satire is positively killing."
In 1931 Evans enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business (W'36). His songwriting partner Jay Livingston entered the University one year later to study journalism (C'37). They met at the Beta Sigma Rho fraternity and at the University's college dance orchestra, "The Continentals." This orchestra was engaged by international cruise ships during vacation times. Evans played the clarinet and the saxophone; Livingston played the piano and conducted. They started improvising songs together. After graduating, Livingston and Evans continued their musical endeavors and aimed for a career as a songwriting team on New York's Tin Pan Alley.
Their first success came with an audition for the comedians Olsen and Johnson in 1939. Livingston and Evans's song "G'Bye now," copyrighted in 1940, made it into the successful Broadway show Hellzapoppin'. The song became a hit in 1941 and proved to be the starting point of a successful songwriting career. Hollywood followed. After a temporary interruption due to the war, Livingston and Evans moved to Los Angeles in 1944. They signed a contract with Paramount Studios in 1945 and wrote songs for movies, such as To each his own ("To each his own," 1946), The paleface ("Buttons and bows," 1948), The lemon drop kid ("Silver bells," 1950), Captain Carey, U.S.A. ("Mona Lisa," 1950), and The man who knew too much ("Que sera, sera," 1956). They later worked for Universal Studios, Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, and Universal International. They also collaborated on two Broadway musicals, Oh, captain! and Let it ride!. Oh, captain! opened on Broadway on 4 February 1958, and closed after five months. Let it ride! opened October 1961 and closed after 68 performances in December of the same year.
Ray Evans and Jay Livingston, who died in 2001, were a song-writing team for life. They continuously received honors and awards, among which were three Oscars and four more nominations for the Academy Award. About twenty-six of their songs sold over one million copies. Livingston and Evans were honored with the prestigious Aggie Award. Their song "Mona Lisa," as performed by Nat "King" Cole, was voted into The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame. For "Silver bells" and "Mona Lisa" they received special awards by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Livingston and Evans each received a star on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame. The Young Musicians Foundation presented them with "A Lifetime Achievement Award." Many more honors and awards were given to them, including the key to the city of Los Angeles.
On a personal level, probably in 1945, Evans met his wife Wyn Ritchie. Wyn was the daughter of English musical actors. She worked in the film industry, acted, and was interested in the arts and in writing. Wyn and Ray were married 19 April 1947. In the early 1950s the couple built a house; it received much attention in the press and earned them and the architect William Sutherland Beckett an "Architectural Record Award of Excellence for House Design." Wyn was fourteen years older than Ray. The childless couple was married for fifty-six years until Wyn's death in 2003. Ray Evans died in Los Angeles in 2007.
The Ray Evans papers comprise a variety of materials dating from circa 1921 to 2007. Most documents span the years 1940 to 2007 and reflect his professional life as a songwriter. The papers were part of Evans's legacy as preserved by the Ray and Wyn Ritchie Evans Foundation. The University of Pennsylvania acquired them in 2011. Researchers should consult the Ray Evans Resource Guide which contain online access to selected material.
The core of the papers revolves around Ray Evans's lyrics in the form of sheet music, recordings, press clippings, awards, and correspondence. The collection of sheet music is truly comprehensive; it consists of individual printed scores and copies of each score bound in several volumes. The theme song for "Bonanza," "Que sera, sera," "Silver bells," "Tammy," and other works are available in different arrangements, varying editions, and multiple languages.
Evans collected more than 600 commercial recordings featuring his songs, the earliest dating from 1945. They include original-cast albums and feature singers such as Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Betty Hutton, Dinah Shore, Sophia Loren, among others. Most of the recordings are analog sound discs, including 10-inch 78s, 7-inch "singles" and "extended play" records, and 12-inch vinyl records. There are also some cassette tapes and digital sound discs.
Non-commercial audio and visual recordings are made up of unpublished and pre-published commercial recordings, studio recordings, radio airchecks, concert and event recordings, and interviews as well as copies of commercial recordings. They date from 1944-2012 and are comprised of analog sound discs, compact discs, tape reels, sound cassettes (analog and digital), video cassettes, digital video discs, a film reel, and a hard disk drive of audio files.
Evans kept numerous press clippings pertaining to his songs. They fill several scrapbooks and 234 folders and include reviews, announcements, hit-parade charts, and other articles. Most of the original clippings have been replaced by laminated photocopies.
While the collection contains many awards—among them the Aggie Award, gold records, Academy Award nomination certificates, and honorary plaques—it does not include any Oscars. They remain at the Ray and Wyn Ritchie Evans Foundation.
The correspondence is another important source shedding light on Ray Evans's professional life. Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney, Bob Hope, Betty Hutton, Jay Livingston, Henry Mancini, and Paramount Pictures Corporation are among the correspondents. Yet, considering that most of his songs were written for movies, the correspondence with major film production companies is scarce. Also, many letters and telegrams are only available in the form of photocopies. Only a few letters reflect his correspondence with family members.
Not all of his lyrics are preserved in their original form in this collection. Only one Academy Award nominated song is included: "Tammy." Evans wrote most of his lyrics in typescript and annotated them by hand in ink or pencil; some of his lyrics, however, are autographs. The collection includes the typescript of "Silver bells" with the originally title, "Tinkle bells." Evans changed the first word after he was made aware of its double meaning.
The papers also include memorabilia, such as diaries, Evans's birth certificate, his clarinet, his high school yearbook, the senior thesis he wrote for the University of Pennsylvania, his marriage license, and his eye-glasses. There are no financial records preserved in this collection, except for some incomplete lists of song earning statements.
The Ray Evans papers also include a large amount of photographs. They fill 29 boxes. A few photographs are from Paramount Studios and from early cruises where Evans played in the band. There are also a few pictures from his childhood and of his mother. Most of the pictures are travel photographs that he and his wife took. The couple completed several world-wide trips. In addition to traveling they also enjoyed modern art and designs. Some of the artwork they acquired can be found in this collection. Items include works by Jean Charlot, by Herman Sachs, and by Georg Schrimpf.
Gift, Ray and Wyn Ritchie Evans Foundation, 2011.
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Juliette L. Appold; additions and editing by John F. Anderies
- Finding Aid Date
- Processing of the collection and preparation of the register were made possible through a grant from the Ray and Wyn Ritchie Evans Foundation.
- Access Restrictions
The bulk of this collection is open for research use; however, access to original audio/visual materials and computer files (located in Series X and Xa) is restricted. The Kislak Center will provide access to the information on these materials from duplicate master files. If the original does not already have a copy, it will be sent to an outside vendor for copying. Patrons are financially responsible for the cost. The turnaround time from request to delivery of digital items is about two weeks for up to five items and three to seven weeks for more than five items. Please contact Reprographic Services (firstname.lastname@example.org) for cost estimates and ordering. Once digital items are received, researchers will have access to the files on a dedicated computer in the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center. Researchers should be aware of specifics of copyright law and act accordingly.
Much of the audio is freely available via the Ray and Wyn Ritchie Evans Foundation.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.