Ray Evans, the songwriter of such enduring standards as “Mona Lisa”, “Silver Bells”, “Que Sera, Sera” and “Buttons and Bows,” was born in Salamanca, New York on February 4, 1915.
After graduating from high school, Evans enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania (he would also graduate from the Wharton School of Business). While there, he met a fellow student named Jay Livingston who had formed a college dance band. Evans joined the band playing reed instruments. The band played for various Penn functions and eventually played in local nightclubs and cruise ships. During this time, Evans and Livingston began writing novelty songs and after their graduation from Penn in 1937, they moved to New York City to work on Tin Pan Alley.
Writing special material for Olsen and Johnson Broadway productions, Evans and Livingston had their first hit song “G’bye Now.” They also worked on songs that were included in the Olsen and Johnson show Son’s O’ Run. The team moved to Hollywood in 1945 under contract with Paramount Pictures, where they stayed fro the next ten years. After 1955, the team free-lanced for different Hollywood studios, contribution individual songs and complete scores.
Returning to New York in 1958, Livingston and Evans produced their first Broadway score, Oh Captain, a stage adaptation of the film The Captain’s Paradise. They had stage success again in 1961 with Let It Ride!, a musical comedy adaptation of Three Men On a Horse.
Often described in the late 1990’s as the “last great of the great songwriters of Hollywood,” Livingston and Evans were the recipient of three Academy Awards for Best Song in a Motion Picture for “Que Sera Sera”, “Mona Lisa” and “Buttons and Bows” and received 4 other Oscar nominations. Their filmography includes My Friend Irma, Here Come the Girls, Red Garters, All Hands on Deck, The Stork Club, Monsier Beaucaire, Sorrowful Jones, The Lemon Drop Kid, Fancy Pants, Here Comes the Groom, Somebody Loves Me, Son of Paleface and The Man Who Knew Too Much. For their incredible contribution to Hollywood Films, Livingston and Evans were presented with a star on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame in 1995.
The team also produced the theme and title songs for TV shows such as Bonanza, Ed and Mr. Lucky and in collaboration with singers such Betty Hutton, Joel Gray, Polly Bergren, Cyd Charisse and Mitzi Gaynor, wrote special material for night club acts and TV specials. The act with the longest relationship was Bob Hope’s, for whom Livingston and Evans wrote all the material for his personal appearances beginning in 1947.
Other hit songs from the Evans catalog include “Stuff Like That There”, “A Square in the Social Circle”, “My Love Loves Me”, “A Thousand Violins”, “I’ll Always Love You”, “Misto Cristofo Columbo”, “Marshmallow Moon”, “My Beloved”, “Love Him”, “The Ruby and the Peal”, “Never Too Late”, “Almost in You Arms”, “Dear Heart”, “Love, Let Me Know”, “On My Way”, “Just and Honest Mistake” and “Dreamsville”.
In 1996 the Motion Picture Academy honored Livingston and Evans with an evening of their songs and accomplishments, including film clips and live performances at the Sam Goldwyn Theatre. That same year, the City of Los Angeles dedicated their annual Music Week to Livingston and Evans, along with Peggy Lee and Joe Williams.
According to the official website for the duo, quesera-sera.com, Livingston and Evans have had twenty-six songs that have sold over a million records or more, and the total record sales of their songs has exceeded 400 million. Ray Evans currently resides in California.