Ruby Florence Murray was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1935 – the youngest child in a Protestant family.
She began working in Northern Ireland as a child singer from a young age (her unique and husky voice was said to be the result of glandular surgery when she was just six weeks old) and first appeared on television at the age of 12. Murray joined an English touring revue in 1954 and was offered the position of resident singer on the BBC’s Quite Contrary television show.
Signing to Columbia Records, her first single, Heartbeat, reached #3 in the UK in December 1954. The follow-up, Softly, Softly, reached #1 early the following year.
Murray set a pop chart record in 1954 by having five hits in the Top Twenty in a single week.
She was given her own television show, starred at the London Palladium with Norman Wisdom, appeared in the 1955 Royal Command Performance and toured the world.
Between December 1954 and November 1955, Murray constantly had at least one single in the UK Top 20.
Murray appeared in her only film role in A Touch of the Sun, a 1956 farce with Frankie Howerd and Dennis Price.
Goodbye Jimmy, Goodbye (a #10 hit in 1959) was her final appearance in the charts, but she continued performing until close to the end of her life. Having struggled with alcoholism for most of her life, she died of liver cancer on 17 December 1996, aged 61.
Ruby Murray’s popularity led to her name being adopted in Cockney rhyming slang as a rhyme for curry, and “going for a Ruby” became such a common expression that many Indian restaurants in the UK even took the name ‘The Ruby’.