Peck, Raymond W.

Raymond PeckRaymond W. Peck (July 3, 1876-March 15, 1950) served The Lambs as Librarian, Recording Secretary, Councilor, Boy, and the 25th Shepherd. He was a successful lyricist and writer for vaudeville and Broadway musicals. Peck was elected to The Lambs in 1910 and was a member for 40 years.

He retired to East Islip, Long Island, where he was managing director of the Percy Williams Memorial Home for Actors from 1940 until his death. A humanitarian and benefactor, he contributed generously to the Fold, and is a member of the Immortal Lambs.

From The Lambs Script, March-April 1950, July-August 1953

Raymond, or Ray, as he was affectionately known to those in the theatrical profession was born in Jackson, Michigan, July 3, 1876, and often observed that he had “picked up” his education hither and yon. Being smitten with the stage bug, at an early age he joined a minstrel show. For several seasons, he divided his time, as an actor, barker, writer, general factotum between black-face and patent medicine shows.

Subsequently, Ray became a reporter–in between seasons–on the Detroit News, assigned to the Bay City. Soon, he was promoted to the city desk on the Bay City Tribune.

In 1894, at age 17, he joined the Detroit Free Press, owned by E. D. Stair (Stair & Havelin circuit), who operated theatres and booked shows. Ray’s leaning toward things theatrical fanned into flame while occupied as a reporter on Stair’s paper, and soon he began to write travesties, from which occupation he became interested in writing books for musical comedies.

He worked at newspaper editing and reporting until he went to Chicago at the turn of the century. Ray accepted a position as a mail order manager for one of the large department stores which carried on a great volume of business through catalog sales. It was in Chicago that Ray’s first shows were produced locally.

Many will remember that he wrote The Paraders (probably a throwback from his minstrel parading days) and Tom-Tom, both of which shows played the LaSalle Theatre, Chicago, with music by that youngster of the entertainment world, Joseph E. Howard, who wrote “I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now?”. Robert Hood Bowers’ music accompanied Ray’s libretto for The Rubes and the Roses, which also appeared at the LaSalle Theatre.

Ray Peck moved to New York soon afterwards. His first opportunity as a librettist in Manhattan was book and lyrics for The Vanderbilt Cup in 1906, starring 17-year-old Elsie Janis. It ran for three years. The music was by Bowers.

Peck’s Rose Maid (1912), again with Bowers’ tunes, ran for a season at Charles Dilligham’s Globe Theatre, and still another season on tour. He followed it with another hit. In 1918 he wrote the book lyrics for The Right Girl. This time, however, the composer was Percy Wenrich, another Immortal Lamb, and the musical played the Times Square Theatre on Forty-second Street.

In 1926 came Castles in the Air, with Wenrich again acting as composer. This one opened in Chicago and had a year’s run before essaying New York. This won Ray his greatest recognition, but unfortunately this was the last of his contributions to musical comedy.

It was in 1910 that Ray Peck joined The Lambs. He was a faithful and diligent worker on almost every committee. Two years after joining the Club, he was elected Librarian, which office he held for five terms. He was then elected recording secretary and served three terms; then “Boy” (vice president) for three terms, and in October 1945, when he was 69, he was elected Shepherd and served two years. Among his other activities for The Lambs was serving as chairman of the House Committee.

After serving as Shepherd, Ray was made a Director For Life. He was a Life member of The Lambs, Life member and trustee of the Actors Fund, an early member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, and a member of the Actors’ Guild.

In his passing, the theatre world lost not only a great friend, but a fine and understanding humanitarian. At the time of his death, March 15, 1950, he was the Managing Director of the Percy Williams Home for Actors in East Islip, Long Island. He had served the home–and retired to live there–since 1940. He always looked forward to the annual Wash, which the Lambs have held at the home each summer for some years. This event was one of his most cherished projects, and he helped make it a success.

His funeral services were held at the Church of the Transfiguration, the famous Little Church Around the Corner, where numerous Lambs have worshipped. Dr. Randolph Ray, pastor officiated. The Fred Waring Singers performed vocal arrangements as a paen of appreciation of Ray Peck’s warm fellowship and kindly spirit. A bronze memorial plaque was dedicated in Ray’s honor on November 5, 1950.

Ray was interred in the Actor’s Plot of Kensico Cemetery, in Westchester County, surrounded by many other actors and friends from his past. A myriad of Lambs, Actors’ Equity Association members, The Players, the Actors Fund, in fact, players, both men and women, came to offer silent prayers for Ray.

Ray Peck had never amassed a great fortune, but he left the bulk of what worldly goods he had to The Lambs, together with the memory of a hard worker and staunch supporter of his fraternity. He well deserves the honor of being designated an Immortal Lamb.

A Grand Guy. A pal of the actor.