R&B singer’s life cut short too soon The tale of Johnny Ace starts in the late 1940s as a young man returns from the Navy to his hometown of Memphis to try and figure out what to do with his 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.
Along the way, he’ll cross paths with musical giants such as B.B. King, Ike Turner, Bobby Bland, Roscoe Gordon, Johnny Otis, Junior Parker, Rufus Thomas and Big Mama Thornton.
Eventually Johnny Ace works his way to the fateful concert in the 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?
The Death of Johnny Ace is based on the life of a real person, rhythm & blues singer Johnny Ace, whose meteoric career was cut short by his unexpected death. He allegedly blew his brains out playing Russian roulette just before he was to appear on stage at a Christmas concert in 1954. Although largely forgotten now, Johnny Ace was the biggest star in R&B, a teen idol, in the early 1950s.