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

12 April 2010

Ray Charles On The Ed Sullivan Show (1961, 1967, 1968, 1970)

Photo from CBS Archives (Getty).
Ray Charles has been on the call list for The Ed Sullivan Show at least five times, but missed the first one.

19 November 1961 (season 15, episode 10): "Ray Charles (blues singer)" is among the "scheduled guests" that "probably did not appear" (Sullivan indeed canceled Ray because of his drugs arrest in Indianapolis, on 14 November; cf. this).

Singing Yesterday.
3 December 1967 (season 21, episode 13) - the content of the next show in this list is often attributed to this date; I don't know what date is correct.

4 August 1968 - Sullivan offered Charles a 15-minute slot, the second he ever gave (after the one for The Beatles). Ray appeared with his whole entourage - Raelettes, Orchestra and Preston. Billy (Ray on piano) performed his incredible Agent Double-O-Soul* act. Ray Charles (with Billy on organ and the Raelettes) performed Yesterday and What'd I Say.

Billy Preston performing Agent Double O Soul:

The video copies of Agent Double-O-Soul on YouTube, understandably, go viral every time they are posted in social networks.
Preston also sat in when Ray performed Yesterday (but I doubt if he produced a single note during that tune) and What'd I Say (especially contributing nicely to its intro).

It looks as if they performed What'd I Say (Billy Preston on organ) twice (or it was continued "under" the show's closing credits).

Another great Preston version of Agent Double-O-Soul from Shindig! (1965):

What'd I Say:

* I'm following the orthography of Edwin Starr's original single release. 

8 December 1968 (season 22, episode 8) - Ray Charles performed Marie, Eleanor Rigby and If It Weren't For Bad Luck, supported by The Raelettes and accompanied by Ray Bloch's Orchestra.
The other stars were: Liza Minnelli (singing Sweet Blindness, a.o.), Richard Pryor and Joan Sutherland. There is a complete reel of the show in the Historic Films archive (ID AS-337).

Eleanor Rigby:

Performing What'd I Say. 
9 March 1970 (season 23, episode 23) - had a filmed segment with Ray: showing a National Urban Coalition PSA promoting racial harmony, with 100 figures in entertainment, business, government and sports gathered together to sing Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In. The cast included Ralph Bunche, Ray Charles, Henry Fonda, Merv Griffin, Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme, Ali MacGraw, Leonard Nimoy, Leontyne Price, Ed Sullivan, Eli Wallach & Anne Jackson, Roy Wilkins, Flip Wilson, and the cast of Hair. Historic Films (AS-249) has archived the clip, and mentions more choir members: Mildred Dunnock, David Susskind, Bayard Rustin, Jim Bachus, Henry Fonda, Carlos Conde, Dina Merrill, John D. Rockefeller III, Debbie Offner, Cassandra Morgan, Arthur Goldberg, Mayor Richard Hatcher Of Gary, Indiana, Ossie Davis, Gwen Verdon, John W. Gardner, Pat Lambert, Jack Dempsey, Charles Lynch, Whitney Young, Ray Martel, Johnny Carson, Lillian Wong, Singer Williams, Dan Blocker, Chet Huntley, Myrna Loy, Cleveland Amory, Greg Morris, Ali Macgraw, Greg Morris, Steve Lawrence, Ryan O'neal, Ed Sullivan, Leonard Nimoy, Dinah Shore, Gordon Parks, Carl Reiner, Martin Landau, and Nipsy Russell.
Director Leonard Hirschfield used "a team of seven cinematographers" in the production. There's a 2 minute tape in the collection of the Paley Center (their database mentions Joshua Logan as the director), and another copy in the Historic Films archive (ID COM-19).

The spread above, from New York Magazine (January 26, 1970), adds some attractive juice to the story. The biggest charm, of course, is actually seeing these 100 contribuants together. The shooting of the PSA (and this photo) took place in New York, "one Sunday afternoon in December", i.e. in 1969.

The footage of the clip has survived (timecoded copy without audio here). Read this for context. 

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