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25 February 2010

Ray Charles At Newport (1958)

Another photo made during
the concert is here.
  1. (Night Time Is) The Right Time* (with Margie Hendricks)
  2. In A Little Spanish Town
  3. I've Got A Woman
  4. Blues Waltz
  5. Hot Rod (aka The Spirit-Feel) (alto solo by Ray Charles)
  6. Talkin' 'Bout You (with Raelettes) 
  7. Sherry
  8. A Fool For You
Musicians, where the pic is dated in
1956. But watch the microphone!
F.l.t.r.: Pat, Mary Ann, Gwen.
The 1958 Newport Jazz Festival was Ray's first well planned live platform for recognition as a jazz musician (although he was booked for Newport's first Blues Night**). The live recording of the concert, on 5 July 1958, and then the successful release of the album did the rest. At the end of 1958 Downbeat Magazine named Ray Charles the Best Male Star – New Singer.

Musicians: David Newman – tenor saxophone; Hank Crawford – baritone saxophone; Marcus Belgrave, Lee Harper – trumpet; Edgar Willis – bass; Richie Goldberg – drums.
Raelettes: according to the liner notes of the Pure Genius box set the line-up was: "Mary Ann Fisher & the Raelets (Margie Hendricks, Priscilla 'Pat' Moseley Lyles, Ethel 'Darlene' McCrea)”. But if attributing the photo at the left to the Newport 1958 concert is correct, then Gwen Berry was there, and Darlene McCrea most probably was not.***

Atlantic 1289, 1958-10.

Soundclip (whole album):

Read this article about a radio broadcast of Ray's concert (and about an obscure bootleg of same).
*Atlantic gutted the middle part of the song; cf. this. ** Ray was booked that night - along with 'non-jazz' artists such as Chuck Berry, Big Joe Turner and Big Maybelle - by the legendary jazz impresario John Hammond. ***This conjecture was proposed by Joël Dufour.

I've written here before about the treasures of the Voice of America Music Library, now in the Library of Congress. There are a few hurdles preventing me from thoroughly harvesting their collections. Firstly, the Library's sound recordings are roughly, at this point in time, only 50% cataloged. Secondly, the LoC uses several - sometimes confusing a/o otherwise non-intuitive - search  interfaces and several quite complicated search technologies to help people browse their databases. The third hurdle, of course, is the distance between Amsterdam and Washington.

Today however, I stumbled upon yet another intriguing page describing the tapes and contents of a CBS radio program that was "Recorded at the Newport Jazz Festival in Newport, Rhode Island on Friday evening, July 5, 1958" (LoC Shelf no. RGA 0061 - 0062; RWD 5736 A--5737 A). The catalog's summary specifies that it was a "Radio broadcast preceding the festival concert", but that of course can't be taken literally.

The program entailed four segments:
  • 3 tunes "Performed by Maynard Ferguson Orchestra".
  • 4 tunes "Performed by Ray Charles, vocalist; Raylets [sic!]; Ray Charles Sextet".
  • 4 tunes "Performed by Big Joe Turner, vocalist; Pete Johnson, pianist".
  • 3 tunes "Performed by Raylets; Ray Charles Sextet" + 1 tune "Performed by Ray Charles, vocalist; Raylets; Ray Charles Sextet".
An article in the Newport Daily News of 7 July 1958 makes clear that the Blues Night program was indeed wrapped around the radio broadcast. Conover had a double role as the evening's MC and as radio presenter. Some of the artists - including Ray - first played their parts in the 1-hour broadcast, and later returned on stage to perform the remainders of their sets.
The essence from the clipping below is in the following quotes [including spelling errors]:
Continuing the hour-long presentation for radio [the] Ray Charles sextet was introduced. [...] The ensemble set the 'blues' tone of the evening, presenting perfectly rehearsed, complex arrangements of 'rhythm 'n blues' numbers in a modernistic vein.
The Charles version of 'In a Little Spanish Town' could perhaps have been styled 'Perez Prado Plays Dixieland'. It was a combination of some very intricate Latin rhythms with a blues wail.
Willis Conover, Voice of America jazz impresario and master of ceremonies for the entire festival, gave a brief, sensible talk about blues and how teenagers have found some answer to their basic needs in the rhythm 'n blues idiom. [...]
The Ray Charles group returned to offer 'Hot Rod', a fiery piece that made the sextet sound like a 17-instrument band. Immense vitality came to the fore as the group turned to 'Cheri' and 'The Blues Waltz'. The Raylettes followed with 'The Night Time is the Right Time' and other blues arrangements."

Variety of July 9, 1958 had this review of the CBS radio coverage of the festival:

According to the LoC catalog, Ray's first segment encompassed (I'll give the correct titles between square brackets):
  1. Nobody But You [= Talkin' 'Bout You]
  2. Way Down Upon The Swanee River [= Swanee River Rock (Talkin' 'Bout That River)]
  3. Mambo [= In A Little Spanish Town?]
  4. The Blues [= A Fool For You?]
Ray's second segment had:
  1. Hot Rod [= (Spirit Feel) Hot Rod]
  2. Cherie [= Sherry]
  3. The Blues Waltz [= Blues Waltz]
  4. Yes, Indeed [= Yes Indeed]
Compared to the Atlantic session list, (Night Time Is) The Right Time was left out of the broadcast. The order of the songs differs completely from that same source, and also from the live album, Ray Charles At Newport.
Some of these tapes have versions (or: edits) that are different from the (edited) releases by Atlantic.

The Paley Center describes a 57:06 CBS radio recording titled Newport Jazz Festival with Mitch Miller and Willis Conover (ID RB:14117) with Ray Charles, [Big] Joe Turner and Maynard Ferguson, dated (incorrectly) in 1956...

The live Newport versions of Yes Indeed and Swanee River Rock (Talkin' 'Bout That River) - the latter in an edited variant version - were first released on the album Yes Indeed (1958).

Finding the description of this radio program solves a lot of questions I had about a hard-to-get bootleg, titled Newport Jazz Festival 1958, July 3rd-6th. Vol. IV, Blues In The Night, No. 2, on the Phontastic label, from 1992 (UPC: 7319200021245). The incredibly corrupt liner notes quoted in descriptions of that release clearly originate from the tapes in the Library of Congress. E.g. compare these sources: 1, 2.
Joël Dufour informed me that the version of  (Night Time Is) The Right Time on the Phontastic album (5:21) is longer than all known Atlantic releases (4:04): they cut out the middle part! This most probably means that the tune was in fact taped by CBS Radio. It may also imply that Phontastic did not use the program copies archived by the Library of Congress for their release, but another source...

In October 1958 a few tunes from the radio recording were broadcast by French radio (INA ID PHZ08015970). In July 1959 (parts of?) this program was (were?) re-broadcast by The American Forces Radio Network in a 55-minute program titled Newport Jazz Festival, hosted by Mitch Miller.

Rare photo (half of it) by Lee Friedlander of Ray Charles playing ("Hot Rod [The Spirit Feel]"?) at the Newport Jazz Festival on July 5, 1958; the hand is David Newman's, leading Ray to (or from?) the mic. Clipped from this Turkish magazine. More here.

Photo by Ted Williams.
I found this complete FC version later....

Photos by Bob Parent, from a contemporary book.
This photo from the same series was used for the cover of the album 
The Genius Of Ray Charles (1959).


  1. This is the concert that's available in the "Pure Genius" boxset and initially broadcast on Voice of America. "I'll Never Let You Go" is the title that the show host called it, but it is actually "Sticks and Stones." Also, the show host mis-announced "Blues Waltz" as "I'm Gonna Go Fishing." The DVD does not include any "Willie The Lion Smith" instrumental and only includes "Let The Good Times Roll" once, in slot 3.

  2. Thank you very much for this clarification.
    I guess that the Pure Genius boxset (which I do not own!) only comes with an audio/radio version, and that the tape databased by Historic Films then must be an entirely separate recording on film. Agree?

  3. The box set comes with a DVD of the television broadcast of this performance, not an audio version. I just pulled out my DVD and the beginning of it actually carries the "Historic Films" logo, so I guess it's the exact same thing. It was shown on a Voice of America program called "Jazz USA." The box set might be mostly superfluous for the die-hard fan, but the DVD, the bonus disc (most of which, but not all, was previously floating around in unauthorized fashion), the sound, the utter completeness of the set, and the packaging made it a worthwhile purchase for me. When I want to listen to Atlantic-era Ray, I don't tend to pull out the Birth of Soul set too much anymore...I enjoy getting his Jazz recordings mixed in there too.

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  5. How (what) do you know of Newborn's part? At least one release's notes have no mention of him ( ), nor do the press coverage from your other post on the concert. Plus, I really can't hear a piano in the song (but i'm not a professional listener).

  6. After listening to "Hot Rod" again and again, I'm also sceptical, but I'm still researching it.

    The (erroneous!) liner notes of the original U.S. album release don't mention Newborn either.
    There are a few sources if you Google for it (this appears to be a strong one: [but hey, it's from the interwebs!]).

  7. The Pure Genius box-set has a DVD with the film of Ray Charles' 1960 concert at Newport. Cf.