Johnny Ace was performing at the City Auditorium in Houston, Texas. It was Christmas day and during a break with his bandmates, he began playing with .22 caliber revolver. This was not uncommon for Johnny Ace as he often played with his gun and would shoot roadside signs while they were driving from place to place. The group was in a happy mood and Johnny Ace had even bought himself a new 1955 Oldsmobile just an hour earlier.
Johnny Ace was pointing the gun around the room, even at his girlfriend and another woman. He was told to be careful with it. Johnny Ace was cocky and laughed at the concern. He said that he knew which chamber was loaded and which was empty. He held the gun up to his head and said “It’s okay! Gun’s not loaded…see?” Unfortunately, what the people saw was the bullet entering the side of his head and killing the young singer.
“Big Mama” Thornton then ran out of the room screaming that Johnny Ace had killed himself. Even though it was widely reported that Johnny Ace died during a game of Russian Roulette his bandmates and others at the scene state that no one was playing Russian Roulette.
The funeral for Johnny Ace was held on January 2nd, 1955. An estimated 5,000 people attended the funeral and the singer was buried in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. After his death, people clamored for his music and “Pledging My Love” was released after his death on February 12th, 1955. All of his singles were then released as a full album called The Johnny Ace Memorial Album.
After his death numerous singers have written tributes and songs that tell the story of the famed R&B singer who killed himself on Christmas Day.
Johnny Ace Memorial Album (1955)
Johnny Ace: Pledging My Love (1986)
Johnny Ace: The Complete Duke Recordings (2004)
The Chronological Johnny Ace: 1951-1954 (2005)
Johnny Ace: Essential Masters (2008)
“My Song” / “Follow the Rule” (1952)
“Cross My Heart” / “Angel” (1953)
“Mid Night Hours Journey” (Johnny Ace) / “Trouble and Me” (Earl Forest) (1953)
“The Clock” / “Aces Wild” (1953)
“Saving My Love for You” / “Yes, Baby” (the B-side is a duet with Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton) (1954)
“Please Forgive Me” / “You’ve Been Gone So Long” (1954)
“Never Let Me Go” / “Burley Cutie” (instrumental) (1954)
“Pledging My Love” / “Anymore” / “No Money” (1955)
“Anymore”/ “How Can You Be So Mean” (1955)
“So Lonely” / “I’m So Crazy, Baby” (1956)
“Don’t You Know” / “I Still Love You So” (1956)