He claimed, at various times, to have been born Hal Wadell in Texarkana, TX in 1892, Ramon Icarez in or near Chihuahua, TX in 1898, and the son of Franz Joseph of Austria and Louisa Bourbon. Such is the elusive Ray Bourbon. Many "facts" regarding Bourbon's early life­his birth of Bourbon royalty, his education at Tulane Medical School in New Orleans, his claim to have been Pancho Villa's notorious "Señora Diablo"­are unsubstantiated and probably products of Bourbon's own active imagination. He claimed to have begun in the theatre in England in 1913, and this may well be true. He returned to the US by 1917 and, as Rae Bourbon, supposedly won a Photoplay contest and was awarded a studio contract as first prize. He would say later that he worked in several silent films, and it is reported that he appeared under the name Ramon Icarez as a fire dancer at the opening of the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1923. By the mid-20's he was working with Bert Sherry as the vaudeville team of "Bourbon and Sherry" and later toured with the Martin Sisters.

In 1932, he was working full-time as a female impersonator at such clubs as Jimmy's Back Yard in Hollywood and Tait's in San Francisco. (At this last club, in May 1933, his "Boys Will Be Girls" review was raided by police during a live radio broadcast.) In the later 30's and early 40's he headlined at the Rendezvous in Los Angeles and starred in his own revue, "Don't Call Me Madam."

His "Insults of 1944", which began at the Playtime Theatre in Los Angeles in January of that year, caught the attention of Mae West during its New York production in May, 1944 at La Vie Parisienne. She cast him in her 1944 production of 'Catherine Was Great" and in her 1948 production of "Diamond Lil".

Throughout the 50's and 60's Bourbon entertained at hundreds of clubs throughout the US and released dozens of albums, certainly the most prolific female impersonator to have done the latter. Despite his knack for publicity (such as faking a sex change in 1956), by the late 1960's Bourbon had fallen on hard times. In 1968 while traveling through Texas with trailer containing over 70 dogs, his car burst into flames and he was forced to lodge the animals with kennel keeper A. D. Blount. He eventually found work at the Jewel Box Revue in Kansas City, but by then Blount had sold the dogs to a research facility since Bourbon was unable to pay for their keep. Bourbon hired two young men­ Bobby Eugene Chrisco and Randall Crane­to work Blount over, but they panicked and killed the kennel-keeper. Chrisco, Crane and Bourbon were all convicted as murder conspirators; as the mastermind, the 78 year old Bourbon was given a 99 year sentence. He died a short time later, on January 19, 1971 in the Howard County Texas prison.

Early Unreleased Recordings

Bourbana 78's

Liberty Music Shop 78's

Imperial 78's

New Bourbon 78's

Miscellaneous 78's

Redubbed 78's

New Bourbon LP's


Lasses 45's

Jewel Box LP

Late Unreleased Recording


Check out this link to Randy Riddle's excellent Ray Bourbon site!