He was born John Marshall Alexander Jr but he adopted the moniker Johnny Ace as his stage name. This Rhythm and Blues singer had massive hits in the 1950’s and etched his name on the list of legendary African American R&B singers.
Johnny Ace was a native of Memphis, Tennessee and spent most of his youth around the precincts of LeMoyne-Owen College. After a stint in the Navy during the Korean War he linked up with the Adolph Duncan Band where he featured as the band’s pianist. Later on he joined the much acclaimed B.B King Band. After a while B.B King relocated to Los Angeles and the the band’s vocalist enlisted with the army which gave Johnny Ace the chance to showcase his vocal skills. The band later changed its name to the Beale Streeters.
He first signed to a label as Johnny Ace in 1952 when Duke Records offered him a recording deal. His first commercial recording was a song titled ‘My Song’ which peaked on the R&B charts for close to ten weeks. Soon after his breakthrough hit he began touring. Two years after appearing on the scene he had recorded a string of hits including ‘Please Forgive Me’, Cross My Heart and The Clock. In 1954 Johnny Ace was officially named as the most programmed artist which is sufficient proof of his influence in the entertainment industry at the time. Further proof of his popularity was highlighted by Duke Records which revealed that Johnny Ace had sold close to 2 million records by 1954.
After about a year on tour Ace had a Christmas show in Houston, Texas and during one of the breaks he shot himself with a revolver. According to his bandmates Ace had been drinking alcohol and pointed the gun to his head claiming that he knew exactly which chamber the bullet was in. Unfortunately the gun went off and Johnny Ace succumbed to the gunshot wound. He was buried on January 9, 1955 in Memphis.