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20 August 2010

Ray Charles Is In Town - Chronology 1955


This picture might be from 1955.

 


Guitar Shorty (David Kearny, b. 1939) remembering how he was hired by Ray Charles when he was only 15 (interview by KJazz 88.1 FM, 2013).

1955
I've Got A Woman will peak at #1 on Billboard R&B chart, Come Back Baby at #4, This Little Girl Of Mine at #9, Blackjack at #8, Greenbacks at #5, A Fool For You at #1.
Some time this year, Ray may have performed on The Johnny Otis Show. See this.

January 1955
Touring in Georgia.

1 January 1955
Billboard Review Spotlight on I've Got A Woman ("one of the most infectuous blues sides to come out on any lable since the summer. It has a rocking, driving beat and a sensational vocal by the chanter") / Come Back Baby ("a slow, meaningful ballad, and it also features a wonderful vocal. Both sides are outstanding").

8 January 1955
Billboard This Week's Best Buys mentions I've Got A Woman ("took towns like Durham, Atlanta, Nashville and others by storm").

2/1 page ad from Billboard, January 29.
13 January 1955
Magnolia Ballroom, Atlanta GA; with Roy Milton and his Solid Senders, Camille Howard, Mickey Champion.
 From Atlanta Daily World, Jan. 12.

21 - 22 January 1955
Royal Peacock in Atlanta; billed with vibe player Peter Diggs and Tangula, the exotic snake dancer.
*and*
Magnolia Ballroom, Atlanta ("limited to under 22-age groups"); with Eddie Whitchead and his Orchestra.

25 January 1955
City Armory, Danville VA; with The Charms and Lowell Fulson.
From Danville Bee Jan.17. 
26 January 1955
At the Guilford Tobacco Warehouse in Greensboro, with Lowell Fulson, and The Charms.
Ad in Greensboro Daily News.
February 1955
Touring through the Midwest.

3 February 1955
With Lowell Fulson and The Charms at Petite Ballroom in Norfolk VA.

13 February 1955
Sharing the bill with the Five Keys (also with The Copperettes, Prince Dumarr, local tap dance star Doris Smart and comedian Foster Johnson) at Circle Theater, Cleveland OH.

April 1955
Gig with Faye Adams at Palm in Miami.

5 April 1955
Ray Charles marries Della Bea Howard in Dallas, Texas.

“Dallas at that time was very rich in R&B. He was able to replenish the roots of his artistry there.'I [i.e. David Ritz] asked him one time, `Why Dallas?’ and he said he was traveling all the time and it was right in the middle of the country,' Ritz said.
[Charles had] found the house through David “Fathead” Newman. [...] Newman said he, Charles and a bass player would practice in the living room of the Eugene Street home. Charles kept an electric piano there, which he used to practice and to compose music. 'The importance of that home is where it was,' said John Bryant, a drummer in Charles’ band in the mid-1970s. 'Fathead Newman lived in the neighborhood, Leroy Cooper lived there, James Clay lived there.
Literally within walking distance were Woodman Hall and the Arandas Club, places that were famous for their jam sessions.”

[...] When he was not on the road, Charles would play with pick-up bands in Dallas. He joined the jam sessions at Woodman Hall and performed in the Empire Room."


 7 April 1955
 "Jam With Sam" dance (held by WGES DJ Sam Evans) at the Madison Rink; others on the bill were The KoolGents, The Moroccos, the Daps, The Diablos, Lou Mac, and Eddie Johnson's Orchestra.

Mid April 1955
Starting a new tour.
Gig at Army base at Fort Knox, Kentucky, meeting and ‘live auditioning’ Mary Ann Fisher.

18 - c 24 April 1955
The (open air) Palm club in Hallandale had a record week "when the headliner was Ray Charles, supported by Faye Adams. The Atlantic artist drew close to 10,000 people [per night] for his stint"; see this.

23 April 1955
Recording session for Atlantic in Miami, at WQAM Radio Station.

26 April 1955
City Auditorium, Atlanta GA; with Ruth Brown, The Midnighters, Lowell Fulson, Arnett Cobb and Band, J.J. Jones and Band, Glenn Covington, Hortense Allen Dancers.
From Atlanta Daily World, Apr. 24.

27 April 1955
Avondale High School in Atlanta GA ("a precedent-shattering event when the blues-singing, piano-playing maestro plays [...] the first time that a 'name' attraction has played the facility").

1 May 1955
Labor Union (New Music) Hall, New Orleans (with Fats Domino headlining).

Then a tour of one-nighters, a.o. at City Auditorium in Atlanta, with Ruth Brown and Lowell Fulson.
Then Southwest, back to New Orleans for a gala bill at the New Orleans Auditorium, with Fats Domino.

15 May 1955
City Auditorium, Houston TX.

Mid-May 1955 
One-nighters in Texas.
Then back North, picking up Mary Ann Fisher in Fort Knox, and heading for Dayton, Ohio.

23 May 1955
Recording in Miami.

24 May 1955
Woodlake Country Club, San Antonio ("double attraction" with James Moody).

25 May 1955
Born: Ray Charles Robinson, Jr. (to Della Robinson).

 June 1955
Release of the single A Fool For You / This Little Girl Of Mine.

Billboard, Jun. 11 and 26, 1955.
Billboard, Jul. 30, 1955.
 Summer 1955
Touring Florida.

Early July 1955
1-week gig at Week's Tavern in Norfolk.

2 July 1955
Sewickley Legion, Pittsburgh PA.

18 July 1955
Ebony Lounge, Cleveland OH.

20 July 1955
Rainbow Ballroom, Welton.

3 to 8 or 9 August 1955
Crown Propeller Lounge in Chicago IL for a week, with Mabel Hunter.
Ad from Chicago Defender, Jul. 23, as collected by Franz Hoffmann, in: Jazz Advertised.

Ad from same source, Aug. 6.
 September 1955
Home in Dallas for a few days.
Touring Texas and Oklahoma with Fats Domino.

2 September 1955
St. Petersburg.

4 September 1955
Midnight to dawn dance at City Auditorium in Atlanta GA; with The Ravens, Anett Cobb, Chris Powell and Roy Brown.

1 October 1955
Billboard Review Spotlight on Greenbacks / Blackjack ("could have another two-sider with this one [...], and lots of sock music out of his great little band").

October 1955
Release of the single Blackjack / Greenbacks.
Billboard, Oct. 1, 1955.
Mid-October 1955
The Fats Domino and Ray Charles-bands playing joint engagements in Dallas, Houston, Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

12 November 1955
Billboard Poll: Ray scores #7 on DJs' Favorite Artists list; and #9, #11, #14 (Woman/Come Back/Fool in the Most-Played by DJs list; and #2 on Most-Played by Jockeys list.

13 November 1955
Rockland Palace, New York City NY with The Moonglows, The Cadillacs, The New Yorkers, The Five Crowns, Charlie and Ray, and Delores Ware. For WOV radio and promotor Thurman Ruth, read this.

17 November 1955
Town Hall Ballroom, Philadelphia PA, with The Sensations; whole band, "a girl vocalist" and chauffeur arrested after concert for possession of marijuana, pills, "needles and other dope equipment".
It turns out that DJ/MC Kae Willis had the band's dressing room raided:

"On November 17, Kae Williams had the Sensations open up for Ray Charles at Philadelphia’s Town Hall. The band was to be Rollie McGill and his Whippoorwills, riding high with their 1955 hit, “There Goes That Train”. Rollie had first recorded the song for Herman Gillespie’s Piney label but it soon found its way to Mercury. Rollie found his way to Kae William’s management.
Town Hall was divided into two sections; the theater and the cabaret. The Ray Charles show was scheduled for the cabaret. Excited about appearing with a major star like Charles, the Sensations settled into their dressing room and began preparing for the show. All of the sudden, the dressing room door burst open and Ray Charles entered with his entourage including band members David “Fathead” Newman, Jay [= Emmett] Dennis, James [= Jimmy] Sheffield, William Peoples [= Bill Peeples], John [= Jack] Willis, Joseph [= Joe] Bridgewater, Tommy Brown and vocalist Mary Ann Fisher. The Ray Charles band informed the Sensations that this was to be their dressing room and the Sensations must leave. While somewhat in awe of Ray Charles, the Sensations would not back down and give up their dressing room. They were Kae Williams’ group and Kae was producing and MC’ing the show.

If Kae wanted them to have the dressing room, they were staying put! In the middle of the ensuing argument, Kae Williams walked in.

“You don’t understand, I’m Ray Charles!” the famous entertainer proclaimed. Kae Williams had broken into radio a decade before, at a time when blacks were not welcomed in the business. His feisty nature had allowed him to fight back at prejudice and discrimination in the entertainment field. Where weaker men had been driven from radio, Kae had a reputation for not taking crap from anyone.“I don’t care who the @!*# you are!”, snapped the fiery dee jay defiantly. “I’m Kae Williams!”

The argument continued for a short while with much shouting. Ray Charles and his band succeeded in getting Kae and his group out of the dressing room and locked the door. Alphonso and the group watched as Kae Williams went to the hallway pay phone and made a call. Shortly thereafter, another commotion ensued. A team of Philadelphia police officers were banging on the door to Ray Charles’ dressing room, looking for drugs. People in the entertainment field knew that members of Ray Charles’ group had at times indulged in the use of illegal substances. But then, drug use was rampant in the business. According to the Philadelphia Tribune, the police found a burnt spoon, a needle and syringe, and a small quantity of marijuana in the dressing room. In addition, Charles and three of the band members were reported to have fresh needle marks in their arms. Ray and his band members were promptly placed under arrest. Fearing a riot, the police consented to allow the show to go on. But through the entire show, the stage was encircled with cops.

After the show, Ray and his entire band were taken downtown and arraigned. Ray Charles made the $2000 bail. The rest were jailed overnight. The Sensations, who had only wine in their possession, were not arrested. Ray Charles, who recalled the incident in his autobiography, Brother Ray, denied the reefer even belonged to his band. The newspapers promptly ran the headlines, “Disc Jockey Had Own Dance Raided For Dope”. After going through a lengthy legal process, the charges were finally dropped. Ray Charles vowed never again to perform in Philadelphia. But Kae Williams further enhanced his reputation that night as a person not to be messed with. And this Kae loved."



18 November 1955
Magistrate's hearing; band held on $2000 bail pending trial.
From Philadelphia Tribune, Nov. 22.
 
Ray, claiming he thought he was getting anti-flu shots, bailed out first, he then (after a week!) bailed out the rest of the band at $6,000.
A few late-November gigs were, of course, canceled.

30 November 1955
Recording session for Atlantic in New York.
  
December 1955
Rejoins with the band, playing the Howard Lewis circuit, then heads out for the West Coast.

21 December 1955
Grand Palladium Ballroom, San Diego CA. 
Ad in Aztec.

23 – 25 December 1955
 5-4 Ballroom in Los Ageles CA.

31 December 1955
 5-4 Ballroom in Los Ageles CA.

Atlantic Thank You-ad in Billboard, Nov. 12, 1955.
Ad (cut off at sides) from 1955, probably from Billboard.

Contract (detail) to Appear between Shaw Artists and a booker in Kansas, dated July 15, 1955. Ray was to be paid about $100.00 per show.

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