Funkiest Jam: Johnnie Ray "Just Walkin In The Rain"
Johnnie Ray may have "moved a million hearts in mono" (according to Dexy's Midnight Runners' "Come On Eileen"), but in his spare time he liked to "get cool" in gay bars (according to the Detroit Police Department, who arrested him twice in the '50s for soliciting undercover vice officers), making him sort of a proto-George Michael.
One of the last great pop singers of the pre-Rock 'n' Roll era, Ray was also notable for being deaf in one ear and performing with a hearing aid. When he tried to have the condition corrected in the late '50s, the surgery nearly cost him his hearing altogether. Still, his popularity and influence were vast, even as his career has become little more than a footnote for modern music fans.
In addition to his namecheck by the Runners, Ray has been referenced in song by artists as varied as Billy Idol, Billy Joel, Van Morrison and, yes, Tom Jones. Ray was the true white pioneer—predating and heavily influencing Elvis and getting heavy play on black radio. What's funkier than that?