The night David Bowie sang Space Oddity on cruise

A Fylde coast man has looked back on his Golden Years in showbusiness and recalled the time he spent four days with David Bowie.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 12th January 2016, 3:12 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th January 2016, 3:14 pm
David Bowie on stage in  Leeds
David Bowie on stage in Leeds

Bowie, who died on Monday aged 69 from cancer, met St Annes man Ronnie Ray when he was heading to the USA for a prestigious appearance at Radio City.

Ronnie, 81, of Clifton Gardens, was working as cruise director for P&O and Bowie spent four days on his liner the Canberra in 1973 just after his first big hit Space Oddity had been released.

Ronnie said: “He was a lovely man, no airs or graces and very friendly.

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Ronnie Ray who met David Bowie while working as cruise director for P&O.

“We got chatting and then one day I asked him if he would come along to our sing-along night in one of the bars.

“He said he was thinking of going to the cinema, but I told him the film was rubbish and he laughed and said he would think about it.

“We used to do a classic songbook sing-along and it was popular with the passengers.

“It got to about 10.30pm and people had started going to their cabins when David Bowie came in with his briefcase.

The photograph he had taken in 1973 with David Bowie.

“He sang a couple of standards, one was Lily Marlene, and then he sang Space Oddity.

“People were coming in in their night clothes to hear him. It was great.

“I have always admired him throughout his career and that song was amazing. I can hear him singing, ‘This is ground control to Major Tom,’ it was a great memory.

“It was a big shock when he died, as big as for any famous person.”

Ronnie Ray who met David Bowie while working as cruise director for P&O.

He said he had met many famous people during his career including British actress Merle Oberon and the famous Hollywood actress Jane Mansfield when she was appearing in Blackpool at the Sands Cassino and Norbreck Hydro.

“Jane was a wonderful woman and she asked me once to go to America with her to work for her. But she was killed in a motoring accident and it was shortly after that that I decided to go and work on the cruise liners.

“I did four round the world trips and lots of other cruises – around 300. I only finished working about nine months ago.

“David Bowie’s death was a terrible shock. I had my photograph taken with him during the cruise and I have had it on the table in front of me all day.”

The photograph he had taken in 1973 with David Bowie.

Ronnie met Bowie just as his career began to take off after years of working with a variety of bands in the swinging sixties.

In one of his bands, David Bowie and the Buzz, he played a show in Blackpool.

The date was May 29, 1966 and the band played at the theatre on South Pier.

In the book Bowie and Hutch written by guitarist John Hutchinson, it states that the band were supporting Crispian St Peters who had a hit with a song called Pied Piper.

John Hutchinson said: “At the Summer Beach Spectacular (or something very similar) Crispian packed them in and David Bowie and the Buzz bathed on the pier in the sunshine and the reflected glory.”

He said that the band used to travel to gigs with their equipment in an old ambulance, which was handy as it allowed them easy access through the crowds to the stage door.