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14 July 2010

Ray Charles Has Eugene 'Big Bubba' Ross Removed From Stage (1983)

Eugene Ross, c 1980.
Below, at the bullet point, is a link to an outtake of a cassette tape that has been circulating amongst (ex-) members of the Ray Charles Orchestra for almost 30 years. The full, quite funny, story is in Michael Lydon's biography, Ray Charles: Man And Music (1990).
During the 1983 tour, Ray was grumpier than ever. (This probably mostly had to do with Ray's fear that he was losing his hearing).
"The tour wore hardest on guitarist Eugene Ross, nicknamed 'Big Bubba', a four-hundred-pound Texas bluesman who drank, carried a knife, and had a wooden leg. Big Bubba was always hungry; the tour never stopped long enough for what Bubba called a real meal. His wooden leg gave him trouble sitting cramped on the bus; it also meant he had a hard time attracting women. As the tour ground on, Bubba got more and more discontented. Night after night Ray yelled that his guitar was too loud, and the nagging made him angry. [...]
Back from the second European trip, the gang played a gig in Omaha the night before Thanksgiving [at the Orpheum Theatre, on November 23, BS]. Ray flew to Los Angeles on the holiday, leaving the fellows in a dumpy hotel in Omaha's deserted downtown. The company did buy them dinner, but when Bubba looked down at his plate at a skimpy portion of canned turkey, he dropped his knife. 'Ray's got $ 40 million,' he announced, 'and he doesn't have the decency to give us a real turkey dinner.' At the next stop, the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas, Bubba came into the band room the first night and slapped his guitar case on a shelf where James Polk had stashed a couple of drinks, knocking them over. 'What's wrong with you, man?' asked Polk. 'I've been pissed off all day at fucking Ray Charles,' said Bubba. 'If he says one thing to me tonight, I'm gonna tell him to kiss my ass.'
As the show began, bassist Roger [Hines], as he often did, turned on a cassette recorder to tape the show. The band was blurring through Busted [...], when Bubba's guitar started to come through too loud. Ray turned to him and said, 'Cut it out.' That was the last straw."
  • You can listen to it here.
Afterwards, "[Ray] laughed it off, even said he'd pay Bubba's salary for the rest of the week and buy his ticket home to Texas. 'You guys shoulda chipped in and bought Bubba some pussy,' Ray told his band leader. 'The man's crazy, but he sure could play.'"

NOTE 2: also read this.

Eugene has some prominent seconds in this clip from Austin City Limits (1979); go to 1:35.

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