When Fay was 12 years old, she hopped a freight train and left her home and a hard life in Louisiana. She joined a show on the vaudeville circuit and never looked back. There she learned how to tap dance with some of the best dancers of the day. When she was 16, she set out on her own, performing as a solo act at theaters throughout the country. In the 1940's, she made her way to New York and joined the chorus lines, where she found steady work at such venues as the Café Zanzibar, Club Ebony and the 845.
During WWII she detoured briefly to become a certified welder, building ships for the Navy. When the chorus dancing work finally slowed in the 1950's, Fay went abroad to dance in Europe, Asia and the Far East. She traveled with USO tours through the 1960's, singing, tap dancing and telling jokes, "wherever we had troops, I was there, Beirut, Japan, Viet Nam, you name it." Not until she was 50 did she stop. She then earned her living driving a taxi in New York City, and working on the pipeline in Alaska.These days, at 85, Fay considers herself lucky to have at last found "true love" with an older man (in his 90s). She is thinking about putting together another act, doing some stand-up comedy, and a bit of tap dancing.
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Fay Ray (center) with her friend and mentor Pearl Bailey (far left).
Fay Ray on tour, circa 1940s.