The Death of Johnny Ace is based on rhythm & blues singer Johnny Ace, whose meteoric career was cut short by his unexpected death. Did he blow his brains out playing Russian roulette? Or was it just a tragic accident? More
The tale of Johnny Ace starts in the late 1940s as a young man returns from the Navy to his hometown of Memphis trying to figure out what to do in life. The man, Johnny Alexander, will eventually make his way to Beale Street, the epicenter of the blues culture in the United States; successfully launch his recording career as Johnny Ace; and battle against his record company, owned by African-American music mogul Don Robey.
His career saw him jamming with musical greats such as B.B. King, Ike Turner, Bobby Bland, Roscoe Gordon, Johnny Otis, Junior Parker, Rufus Thomas and Big Mama Thornton. Although largely forgotten now, Johnny Ace was the biggest star in R&B – a teen idol – in the early 1950s.
Eventually Johnny Ace works his way to the fateful concert in Houston Auditorium, where a moment of violence ends his life. Did Johnny Ace think he could beat Russian roulette one more time? Or, did something else happen in that backstage dressing room crowded with girlfriends, record people and a very angry Don Robey?