March 20, 1922
Lowell, Massachusetts, United States
March 24, 1990
Manhasset, New York, United States
Comedian, Actor, Writer, Radio producer
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As one-half of the legendary comedy team Bob and Ray, comedian Ray Goulding influenced several generations of comic talent with four decades of gently offbeat and satiric routines for radio and television, all delivered in deadpan style with his partner, Bob Elliott. Born March 20, 1922 in Lowell, Massachusetts, Raymond Walter Goulding was the fourth of five children by Thomas Goulding, an overseer in a textile mill, and his wife, Mary. He began his career in radio shortly after graduating from high school in 1939, earning $15 a week as announcer for Lowell-area station WLLH. A year later, Goulding was hired by WEEI in Boston, but put his career on hold in 1942 to serve in the United States Army. After completing four years as an instructor in the officers' candidate school in Fort Knox, Kentucky, Goulding returned to Boston, where he joined the on-air staff at WHDH. There, he began delivering newscasts during a morning show hosted by disc jockey Bob Elliott. The pair's humorous banter between records soon developed a fan base, which prompted WHDH to give them their own daily show, "Matinee with Bob and Ray," in 1946, which was soon followed by a morning timeslot. The broadcasts established Bob and Ray's unique brand of humor, which skewered the conventions of radio drama and news with dry, intelligent humor. Soap operas, mysteries, quiz shows, man-on-the-street interviews and homemaker segments were all spun into quiet exercises in verbal surrealism by Bob and Ray's routines, as were self-professed experts of all stripes, who invariably revealed their own ineptitude while attempting to convince listeners of their superior talents. Both performers also essayed numerous recurring characters: among Goulding's stable of eccentrics was marble-mouthed book reviewer Webley Webster, hapless reporter Artie Schermerhorn, and Mary Margaret McGoon, a home economics "expert" who dispensed recipes for "ginger ale salad," among other inedible items. Despite his hearty baritone voice, Goulding also played nearly all of the female characters on the show, using variations on McGoon's quavering falsetto. As McGoon, he recorded a novelty record, "I'd Like to Be a Cow in Switzerland," which became a hit on Boston airwaves. The popularity of Bob and Ray's Boston-area show led to a show in New York for NBC's national network, as well as occasional forays into television, most notably the 15-minute "Bob & Ray" (NBC, 1951-53) which also featured Cloris Leachman and Audrey Meadows. They received greater exposure during this period as the voices of two animated pitchmen for Piels Beer, which led to the pair's own advertising voice-over company, Goulding Elliott Greybar. In the 1970s, Bob and Ray were introduced to a whole new audience through animated segments for "The Electric Company" (PBS, 1971-77) and a 1979 TV special for NBC that teamed them with Jane Curtin, Laraine Newman and Gilda Radner from "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ). They also made their Broadway debut with "The Two and Only" in 1970 and a 1984 follow-up, "A Night of Two Stars," in 1984. Their final radio show was a 1987 stint with National Public Radio. Goulding succumbed to kidney failure at his home in Manhasset, New York on March 24, 1990.