American rhythm and blues singer. He scored a string of hit singles in the mid-1950s before dying of an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound.
After touring for a year, Ace had been performing at the City Auditorium in Houston, Texas on Christmas Day 1954. During a break between sets, he was playing with a .22 caliber revolver. Members of his band said he did this often, sometimes shooting at roadside signs from their car.
It was widely reported that Ace killed himself playing Russian roulette. Big Mama Thornton's bass player Curtis Tillman, however, who witnessed the event, said, "I will tell you exactly what happened! Johnny Ace had been drinking and he had this little pistol he was waving around the table and someone said ‘Be careful with that thing…’ and he said ‘It’s okay! Gun’s not loaded…see?’ and pointed it at himself with a smile on his face and ‘Bang!’ – sad, sad thing. Big Mama ran out of the dressing room yelling ‘Johnny Ace just killed himself!"
Thornton said in a written statement (included in the book The Late Great Johnny Ace) that Ace had been playing with the gun, but not playing Russian roulette. According to Thornton, Ace pointed the gun at his girlfriend and another woman who were sitting nearby, but did not fire. He then pointed the gun toward himself, bragging that he knew which chamber was loaded. The gun went off, shooting him in the side of the head.
According to Nick Tosches, Ace actually shot himself with a .32 pistol, not a .22, and it happened little more than an hour after he had bought a brand new 1955 Oldsmobile.
Ace's funeral was on January 9, 1955, at Memphis' Clayborn Temple AME church. It was attended by an estimated 5,000 people