Ray Charles Video Museum

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28 June 2018

A Message From The People, Revisited By Band Of Heathens

Quincy Jones himself has endorsed it?! WTF? It sounds as if Michael Bolton produced it!
The Band of Heathens have announced their remarkable new album, A Message From The People, to be released in September 2018. It entails a complete re-interpretation of Ray Charles‘ 1972 album with the same title.
Their vision is okay and relevant: the band said they were motivated to re-record the elpee "because of its moving commentary on social justice, abuse-of-power, and its vision for a stronger, more-unified America". Their teaser, a version of America The Beautiful can be listened to below. I fear this horror can't be compensated by the remaining tracks. Also read this and this.


16 June 2018

When Did Ray Sing His First Blues?


Nothing much has been written about the publisher of Rock And Roll Roundup. All I know is his first name, Barry. He obviously had an ecclectic taste for contemporary music directed at 'teenagers', and he didn't discriminate between 'white' rock and roll and 'black' (rhythm and) blues. Although most articles seem to have been produced in coordination with record labels, it's clear that Barry liked decent copy and good photography. 
The quality didn't really help to survive on the market. I've found only two editions, from February and April 1957.
The latter issue had an intriguing article about Adam Timon, whose name scores 0 (zero!!!) hits on Google, YouTube and Discogs, and a two page spread about Ray Charles

Until 1960 Ray's story was hardly covered by the music press or the mainstream press. This rare article from February 1957 was clearly based on input by Atlantic Records. A few details are inconsistent with their usual PR talking points.
Publicity photo (mirrored) by James J. Kriegsman c. 1955.
Fifteen years old, after leaving the school for the blind in St Augustine, 
"[...] for two years [Ray] kicked around Florida with a variety of bands and combinations. [...] During this two-year period, Ray picked up a good deal of his knowledge of writing and arranging. [...] And somewhere along the line, he 'learned' to sing the blues. This singing came almost accidentally for Ray; he had to hum parts of his arrangements and ideas to express them to other musicians." 
I've never seen writing charts and humming mentioned as the accidental origin of Ray's blues singing, and it doesn't seem very probable to me. It raises a good question, though: when did Ray start singing in public as a professional?
"After two years of breaking in, as it were, Ray organized his own trio: bass and guitar to augment his piano and sax."
Up until today I have thought that Ray Charles started playing his alto saxophone in public when he started working with his small band, but I don't find it difficult to envision him also playing sax sometimes while working with the Maxin Trio, or - more incidentally - with the likes of Lowell Fulson, Big Joe Turner, or Joe Morris in the early 1950s. The repertoire of the Maxin Trio must have been broader than just the songs we know from the 45" records - did it also entail danceable r&b, and jazz?

14 June 2018

07 March 2018

A Peggy Lee & Ray Charles Time Capsule From 1961


1. Intro; 2. I Got A (Wo)Man; 3. You Won't Let Me Go; 4. Just For A Thrill; 5. Yes, Indeed.

Peggy Lee was a huge fan of Ray Charles, who called her "Sister Peggy". She studio-recorded some of his tunes as early as 1959. A few years later she embedded an extensive Tribute To Ray Charles in her club show. At least two* of these shows, at the Basin Street East club in February 1961, were live-recorded: the February 9 "supper show" Basin Street East Proudly Presents Miss Peggy Lee Recorded At The Fabulous New York Club (Capitol T1520, 1961), and the February 8 "dinner show" Peggy At Basin Street East (Collectors' Choice CCM 2942, 2002).

Ray at that time was living in New York for a part of the year, and was a participant in Peggy's late night party entourage - probably thanks to Quincy "Brother Gump" Jones. Q wrote some charts for her, conducted her band when she returned to the Basin Street East in November 1961, and had a wild love affair with her.

Not too long before this second stint at the club, the three of them were part of a dinner event at the Backstreet Restaurant. One of the participants was a Dr. Robert Walters. For some reason, all guests were asked to sign the menu for him. This menu was auctioned in early March, 2018.
RR Auction House decribed the "Ray Charles" doodle (below) as a genuine signature, but that's a highly questionable authentication. Everybody who knew the Genius, also knew that he never signed anything. Nevertheless, seven or eight similar "signatures" from the years 1961 - 1964 have popped up over the past years.** My best guess is that this pseudo signature was routinely jotted down by Ray's personal assistant (or "valet" as he was often called), Duke Wade.
The "Mrs" added to the name may have been another result of Wade's discreet fantasy. It's much more feasible that the lady was Ray's current NYC girlfriend (or just one of them).


Peggy Lee writes, "Happy Birthday, with deep love always, Doctor Darlin," and  Quincy Jones adds, "To my wonderful district attorney — may all your days be as beautiful as you are." 

Program for the "Gala Premiere Dinner of Peggy Lee" at the Basin Street East nightclub on October 30, 1961.
It lists Quincy Jones as musical director.
Basin Street East photo holder: Jones posing with four people at the dinner event, one of whom was the recipient of the Back Street menu above, Dr. Robert Walter.

These memories, from Phoebe Jacobs, Peggy's closest friend, may glue all the information above together.
From: Peter Richmond,
Fever: The Life and Music of Miss Peggy Lee (New York, Picador, 2007).

* The February 9 dinner show remains unissued. **For some fascinating discussions. see the Autograph Magazine forum.

23 December 2017

Uroš Perić Shines On Have A Merry Christmas!

Within a year or so after Ray Charles passed away, two things happened that would help a lot to soften the pain and fill the emptiness his death left behind in the hearts and souls of his fans. Firstly, YouTube was founded, slowly but surely opening up a plethora of Brother Ray's live performances - over the past years 250 TV performances and close to 200 of his live concerts have emerged.
Secondly, Uroš Perić, a singer / songwriter / keyboardist / arranger from Slovenia, couldn't suppress his urge to keep the Genius' music alive in the 21st century. Not by imitating Brother Ray, but by meticulously studying all these live materials, and by re-interpreting Ray's own re-interpretations of the American Songbook and the Ray Charles Songbook.
Listening to Uroš newest album, Have A Merry Christmas, your first realization of course will be that the similarities between Ray’s and Uroš’ voices are indeed downright stunning. But that shouldn’t close your ears for how Uroš has mastered the idioms of the jazz and blues piano. And how, just like Ray, Perić is consistently collaborating with great musicians - in combos, small bands, big bands and symphony orchestras - reconstructing or recreating the best possible arrangements, and thus becoming one of the very few modern balladeers to keep alive a broad spectrum from the 20th century's orchestral traditions of jazz, rhythm and blues and pop ballads.
A lush live TV-show aired by RTV Slovenia in 2016* was so successful that they decided to invite Perić, his Pearlettes, the RTV symphony orchestra, RTV big band, RTV youth choir and the Pearlettes back to their audio studio in Ljubljana, to record this CD, showcasing (mostly) the same repertoire.
In his lifetime Ray Charles performed many of the tunes on this CD (but the Genius never studio-recorded his magnificent rendition of Merry Christmas Baby). Perić also included three of his own songs, and a great version of Heaven Help Us All.
It’s easy to imagine what Brother Ray's own comment would have been after hearing this great new Christmas album:  "Uroš has taken some of the things that he has heard over the years from me and put himself into it. He made it fresh. I like that! And by the way, that rendition of Merry Christmas Baby may be better than Charles Brown's original; and it certainly is better than mine!"**

Uroš Perić, Have A Merry Christmas (RTV SLO 114816, 2017).
For sale through this webshop (11 euro); also available soon via iTunes and other streaming services.

Merry Christmas Baby (CD):


Merry Christmas Baby (2016, live):


Heaven Help Us All (2016, live):


______
I've contributed parts of the text above to the liner notes of Have A Merry Christmas. *All or most video tracks are currently on Youtube.**The first part of this 'quote' actually is an almost literal paraphrase of what Ray once said about Joe Cocker.

15 December 2017

Ray Charles In Skellefteå

On June 29, 1999 Ray Charles performed with "FunkFilharmonik" (a group formed for the occasion, led by U.S. trombonist Ozzie Melendez, husband of the local business woman who organized the concert), the Skellefteå Orkesterförening, and the Skellefteå Chamber Choir at The Old Driving Range of the Rönnbäcken golf course, near Skellefteå.
Here's an amateur video with some funny storytelling in the titles, presenting a few sequences of the show, including parts of If You Go Away, It Hurts To Be In Love, and (well, kind of) a choral rendition of Georgia On My Mind. Despite the video's story line, I don't think it was all that badly prepared - those strings sound as if they were rehearsed by Victor Vanacore, Ray's own conductor.

(Not so funny: the event organizer went bankrupt after the event (and possibly because of it). Most of the free lance musicians were not or only partially paid. Ray, uncharacteristically, let a handful of gigs in the U.S. slip to take on this one. He no doubt got his money - he always did).

12 October 2017

Ray Charles & The Raelettes Playbacking Crying Time At Grammy Show

Probably a set photo from this show.
Ray Charles after the ceremony where he
accepted his Grammy for Crying Time.
With Ray Conniff and Joanie Sommers.
This awkward clip (see how The Raelettes appear to have sunk into the studio floor) looks like a(n extremely rare) example of Ray Charles and the girls playbacking a song. It comes from The Best On Record, a TV special produced for the 9th Grammy Awards, taped on 2 March 1967, and broadcast the next day. The Grammy website describes Ray's part in the show as "After singing a few bars of I Can’t Stop Loving You, Frankie Avalon and Buddy Greco joked that anyone who sings like Ray Charles was 'Italian, whether he wants to be or not.' They then introduced Charles as 'one of the greatest Italian singers,' before the Genius of Soul performed his classic version of Crying Time for which he had won the Grammys for Best Rhythm & Blues Recording and Best R&B Solo Vocal Performance, Male or Female."




Contact sheet; Ray Charles bottom left & right during the award ceremonies; (c) Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images.

* The line-up in this show is: Alex Brown, Merry Clayton, Gwen Berry, Clydie King. The lead vocal on the original recording was delivered by Lillie Fort.

07 October 2017

This Time (I’ll Be the Fool) - Ft. Madelyn Quebec

A substantial part (i.e. about half) of Ray Charles' 1st concert at the Northsea Jazz Festival on July 13, 1980, has just emerged on YouTube for the first time.

The cameras caught The Genius in excellent condition, and in a playful mood (watch him fool with his rhythm section, and hear him deliver some rare scatting in the final!), but the big and pleasant surprise is the rendition of This Time (I'll Be The Fool), starring Madelyn Quebec.

The newly found footage, starting with Madelyn:


Ray Charles - vocals, piano, el. piano; Mitch Manker, Doug Crescimano, Tom Swayzee, Doug Martin - trumpets; Art Velasco, Dan Marcus, Papo Vázquez, Steve Davis - trombones; Ricky Woodard, Clifford Solomon, Ira Weinstein, Rudy Johnson, Mark Roland - saxophones; Tony Matthews - guitar; Curtis Ohlson - bass; Peter Turre - drums; James Polk - keyboards. Raelettes: Estella Yarbrough, Pat Peterson, Madelyn Quebec, Trudy Cohran, Avis Harrell.

06. Don't You Love Me Anymore
07. Intro Raelettes (by RC)
08. Love Is What We Need (ft. Estella Yarbrough)
09. Knock On Wood (ft. Trudy Cohran)
10. I Can't Stop Loving You
11. I Can See Clearly Now
12. This Time (I'll Be The Fool) (ft. Madelyn Quebec)
13. I'm Gonna Keep On Singin'
14. What'd I Say
15. Outro

In 1975 Ray had produced and co-engineered a recording of This Time by Darrow Fletcher for his Crossover label (the B-side of CR-983, 1975, b/w We've Got To Get An Understanding); the song was also released on the compilation album Darrow Fletcher ‎– Crossover Records 1975-79 - Soul Sessions (Kent Soul - CDKEND 382, 2012).*

Darrow's 1975 recording:


* Many thanks to Joël Dufour.

28 September 2017

February 22, 1968 - RPM Studio, Los Angeles

Session No: Liberty 1426.
Period: The ABC / Tangerine Years (1959 – 1972).
Location: RPM Studio, Los Angeles.
Artist: Clydie King.
Album (compilation): Clydie King ‎- The Imperial & Minit Years.
Label: Liberty Records; Stateside 5099950958122.

Personnel:
Clydie King (vocals); Jimmy Holiday (2nd lead vocals); Bobby Bryant, Mike Akopoff, Melvin Moore, Roy Burrows (trumpet); Bobby Knight, Tommy Shepard, Streamline Ewing, Dick "Slyde" Hyde (trombone); Georgie Auld, Charles Miller (alto saxophone); Plas Johnson, Jay Migliori (tenor saxophone); Leroy Cooper (baritone saxophone); Donald R. Stolz (unid. instrument); Ray Charles (piano); Cecil Womack, Terry Evans (guitar); Ronald Brown (electric bass); Jim Gordon, Teddy Robinson (drums); Unidentified mixed singers (background vocals).

Jim Gordon, Ray Charles (arranger); Dave Pell (producer).

Master # Titles Dur. Writers Releases
NA Ode To Billy Joe (4:31) Bobbie Gentry Stateside

NA (omit piano - RC; add choir - background vocals)
Good Kind Of Hurt

(2:16) Mickey Newbury Stateside
NA Something To Remember You By

(2:22) Arthur Schwarts, Howard Dietz Stateside
NA (2nd lead vocals - JH)
We Got A Good Thing Goin' On

(2:20) Jimmy Holiday Stateside
NA (omit JH, choir; add piano - RC)
If You Love Me Like You Say
(2:40) Little Johnny Taylor Stateside

Remarks:
  1. Source: AFM (Local 47) recording contract #479705 (dated 26 February; 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM, 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM).
  2. Clydie King was a Raelett from March 1966 to July 1968. She was Ray's duet partner when he recorded Sweet Memories, and during concerts she was 2nd lead on Baby, It's Cold Outside, and solo'ed in If You Love Me Like You Say and Ode To Billie Joe. In this session, which was assigned by Liberty records and took place at RPM, she sang two of these songs. In an interview Ray Charles had already declared that the final piano chord on You Love Me Like You Say was his. When these tracks, after almost 40 years, were first issued by Stateside, Clydie said in the liner notes that Ode To Billy Joe had been arranged by Ray Charles. Listening to this recording, it becomes clear that he subtly contributed to it as well. At 0:25 you can vaguely, in the background, hear him respond to Clydie's call (just as he did in the live version that was captured at the Blues Thing concert), and the final piano chord is unmistakably his also: he plays Pop Goes The Weasel!
  3. In the line-up above, instruments were inferred based on what these musicians were best known for. Jim Gordon, a multi-instrumentalist, may also have played reeds, flute or clarinet. The attribution of the alto to Charles W. Miller is uncertain. Regrettably, I haven't found anything on Robert L. Stolz. Dick "Slyde" Hyde was credited for "1 Dbl", i.e. he either played a second instrument (in his case that may have been any kind of horn), or he was paid double as a 'first call'-session musician.
  4. The Stateside release credited Ike Turner (who recorded it in 1972) for writing the song. Taylor's own original is from 1964. Ray Charles was mentioned in the notes to Taylor's compilation CD The Galaxy Years: "Members of the Ray Charles band are said to be present on some selections and indeed [a few tunes from this period] have a strong Charles flavour". Any contributions by band members (or maybe even the song being recorded - at RPM??) may explain how Ray got to know the song, which wasn't a hit.