Ray Charles Video Museum

Mediagraphy - Discography - Trackography - Videography - Gigography - Biography - Chronology

15 January 2017

Ray Charles' 1979 Austin City Limits Concert Released (Audio Only)

Complete digital audio bootlegs of Ray Charles' Austin City Limits TV concert, originally taped on October 23, 1979, have been circulating on the web since the late 1990s. For free, in a very decent quality. It's still easily and freely available through torrent websites.
Nevertheless, Hi Hat, an obscure British-Cypriot record label, found a reason to issue the concert on CD (announced as a "remastered, unofficial release"). For an indiscernible reason, the majestic version of Oh, What A Beautiful Morning was mutilated.* The least essential information I aggregated in this article and on this page was used for the liner notes.**

Ray Charles - Live Austin Texas '79. Hi Hat HHCD3059, July 22, 2016. In Europe also streamed on Deezer.
A second release, its text-less cover illustrated by a moron, also from last year is: Ray Charles - Live At Klru Studios, FM Broadcast, Austin Tx, 23rd October 1979 (Remastered). Groove Dust, November 15, 2016.

*According to Joël Dufour in Soul Bag #225. **Special thanks to André Monnot for sharing a copy of the CD booklet.

14 January 2017

Ray Charles' Zurich 1961 Concert Released

Cover CD booklet.
A while ago my inquiries at the Swiss Radio archives resulted in the discovery of a set of 2 edited tapes with parts of a Jazzkonzert by the Ray Charles Big Band at the Kongresshaus in Zürich, on October 18, 1961.
This concert is now part of an abundant "Swiss Radio Days Jazz" CD-series with post-WWII radio concerts, issued by TCB, "the Montreux Jazz Label", a sub label of Challenge Records.

Any new album with Ray Charles materials is good news (especially when the songs originate from the early 1960s), and this was an excellent concert. But... well, let's say that this one is far from perfect as a CD release because, unfortunately and without due respect, an awful mistake was made, and the liner notes are crap.

From the concert's souvenir
Why is the CD-title presenting the Ray Charles Orchestra, where it should be Ray Charles (or Ray Charles, the Ray Charles Orchestra and the Raelettes)?
And WHY in Genius' name was the excellent rendition of My Bonnie omitted (listen to the Youtube file below)?

The notes lack any relevant historical context (but you can go here to compensate that). They include nonsense, for instance a complaint about the quality of the original recording not doing "full justice to [Ray Charles'] piano playing, at times strangely behind in the mix of the time..." - pointing at the instrumentals where Ray, as per usual, simply didn't participate. And they include many factual mistakes (like attributing the arrangement of Come Rain Or Come Shine to Quincy Jones; a similar attribution i.c. Ray Minor Ray is questionable at least).

Ray Charles Orchestra - Zurich 1961. TCB (Swiss Radio Days Jazz Series #41), [2016]. The CD is also streamed by Deezer (probably only in Europe).
For sale through most European music webshops and, as long as the rights owners allow it, also via Amazon USA.

My Bonnie (tenor solo by Don Wilkerson):

23 December 2016

Ray Charles Performs An Unidentified Song In Hee Haw (1970)

On September 29, 1970 Ray Charles guested on Hee Haw (season 2, episode 3) for the first time. Half way the show he played a brief jam-ish interlude with the house band (Buck Owens' Buckaneers). It sounds like a ditty which Ray wrote for just this occasion, but if anyone can give a title to it, please let me know. 

18 December 2016

Ray Charles And The Florida Playboys, A Short Adventure

Ray Charles loved to reminisce about his earliest endeavors in country music. Shortly after his seventreenth birthday, in 1947, he landed a gig with the Florida Playboys. In Michael Lydon's biography, Ray Charles - Man And Music, the story is that "[o]ne audition convinced the Playboys that RC could play country music with a genuine flavor, and they hired him, no questions asked about race. For several months he gigged with the band, playing current country hits like Kentucky Waltz in white honky-tonks in and around Tampa, learning to yodel, and singing Waiting For You as his featured number. [...]. RC's interlude with the Playboys, though brief, planted a seed in Ray Charles' music that would lie dormant for a decade before sprouting. Yet this important event has left barely a trace in any but Charles' own memory. Gossie McKee and Manzy Harris [...] nor Ray remembered any names. [...]. The histories of some bands, however, are written on the wind, and the other Playboys may have forgotten the nights with RC [...]."
Of course, it were not the Playboys who were crucial for Charles' love for country music. That came from listening to the radio, especially to WSM's Grand Ole Opry shows, ever since he was a toddler.

The Florida Playboys, not too long after Ray left. This photo, with guest
Hank Williams, was made at WJHP.
Up until recently, all efforts to corroborate Ray's vague memories with contemporary sources have failed (including mine, miserably). But in 2013 Marshal Rowland, a former steel guitar player and an owner of radio stations in Georgia and Florida, published his memoirs, Fertilizer 'tween my toes, a true story about a country boy finding his success and happiness in country music and owning radio stations.*
Rowland remembers how he was a fan of "Tiny Grier and the Florida Playboys on the radio on a station [WJHP] out of Jacksonville. [...] They came on [live] twelve thirty every day". After finishing highschool, he decided to contact Grier. "The band had hired a young black fellow named Ray Charles [...]. He had tried out and played with them for a few days and then abruptly left. About the same time he left, two others, PeeWee Jenkins and Cliff Austin, also left. [Grier] told me he needed musicians to keep his band going and the radio program alive and well."
"A few days" is a better match with Ray's early career timeline than the "several months"-reconstruction by Lydon. Obviously, his adventures with the Playboys were limited to a part of October 1947.

The daily Playboys radio show on Jacksonville's WJHP is a new detail in Brother Ray's Playboys legend. It's highly probable that Ray participated in at least a few of these broadcasts.
Rowland described the show's format as it was during his membership of the band: "In a typical thirty-minute program, usually the leader Sleepy Gibbs would sing two or three songs and Marvin Phillips, Tiny Griers son-in-law, would also sing two or three songs. The steel-guitar player and the fiddle player, Luther Moore, would each play one or two numbers [...]".

*Many thanks to Joël Dufour for sharing this information.

10 December 2016

Ray Charles Ft In AFL Commercial

Between 1994 and 1999 the Australian Football League (AFL) ran a hugely successful TV campaign that was built on celebreties delivering the cynical catchline, "I'd Like To See That".
Ray delivered it with a winning variation: "Aussie rules. I'd Like To See That." I have a still, but the footage hasn't resurfaced yet.

More examples:

Ray Charles Interviewed In Houston (1977)

Kenneth R. Petrucci, MSW is a psychotherapist who hosted The Creative Connection, a self-development talk show for four years on KPFT 90.1 FM in Houston, Texas. Ken’s guests included "leaders in human potential and self-improvement".
Petrucci’s "legendary interview" with Ray Charles" was conducted at Jones Hall in Houston, on June 5, 1977. It is registered in the United States Copyright Office in the Library of Congress.


In NBC Salutes The 25th Anniversary Of The Wonderful World Of Disney, first aired on 13 September 1978. Ray Charles contributed a line to a multi-star performance of the Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs-song Heigh-Ho (starts at 1:45):

14 June 2016

Ray Charles Live In Wantagh (1992)

On June 22, 1992 Ray Charles, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Dr. John and The Fabulous Thunderbirds were found jamming at the Downtime Bar in New York City, where they announced their Blues Festival '92 Tour. As far as I know the plans only materialized in a limited series of concerts in June and September.
On September 2 the group played the Jones Beach Amphitheater in Wantagh (NY). Ray's show was taped from the audience (in a reasonably good quality)*. The setlist was:
  1. Intro show
  2. Woody 'n' Bu (Ray Charles Orchestra)
  3. Intro Ray Charles 
  4. Then We'll Be Home (Sadies Tune)
  5. Busted
  6. Georgia On My Mind
  7. Come Rain Or Come Shine
  8. Teardrops From My Eyes
  9. Ellie, My Love
  10. The Good Life
  11. The Brightest Smile in Town
  12. Intro Raelettes
  13. I Want Your Love (ft Estella Yarbrough)
  14. I Can't Stop Loving You
  15. I Believe To My Soul
  16. What'd I Say
  17. Outro
The line-up must have came close to this: 
Ted Murdock, Ken Scharf, David Hoffman, Chuck Parrish - trumpets; Wayne Coniglio, Marc Fields, Mike Guerrier, Steve Sigmund - trombones; Steve Elliott, Al Jackson, Al Waters, Rudy Johnson, Jim Farnsworth - saxophones; Peter Turre - drums; Kenny Carr - guitar; Benoît Grey - bass; Ernest Vantrease - keyboards; The Raelettes: Trudy Cohran, Pamela Diggs, Paula Moye, AngieWorkman, Estella Yarbrough.
* Special thanks to George Rue.

Ray Charles In Q&A With UCLA Students (1983)

On May 10, 1983 Ray Charles received the UCLA Distinguished Humanitarian Award. The event was "attended by nearly 1,000 students who gave him a standing ovation" after an extensive Q&A where Ray tried to avoid his usual answers.
He was well aware of the challenge of reaching 1,000 people with just his speaking voice. The audio was recently digitized by the UCLA Communications Studies Department.

06 June 2016

Ray Charles And Wiley Pitman, His Protector

This remarkable commercial was made for TrustE's Tracker (protection) software.
Uroš Perić - vocals; John Fresk - piano; Graham Currie - bass; Peter Auret - drums.

The song, in Ray Charles' late '40s style (actually, borrowing some late '50s grunts), was written and arranged by Adam Howard. Recording date: April/May 2016; Adam Howard - sound engineer.

Ad Title: Wiley Pitman and Five Notes That Changed a Life. Client: Tracker South Africa. Director: Kevin Fitzgerald. Creative Agency: House of Brave. Executive Creative Director: Vanessa Pearson. Writer: Dan Parmenter / Stefanus Nel / Conan Green. Art Director: Thereza Norton. Production Company: 0307 Films. Recording Studio: Produce Sound. Executive Producer: Jo Barber.