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20 August 2010

Ray Charles Is In Town - Chronology 1954

With Little Willie John at the 5-4 Ballroom.
With Madlyn Glover, two of her brothers and Little Willie John.

Year and provenance of this photo are unknown.
The year that Ray abandoned his imitative style and freed his own voice.
Forms his own band in Dallas, featuring the Texas saxophonist David Fathead Newman ("[...] Ray used to sleep on the stage of the Empire Room, the club Howard [Lewis] owned [...] and where Howard set Ray up with Jeff Brown, Ray's first manager"; source here). Convinces Atlantic to let him record with his touring band, playing arrangements that have been road-tested on the rhythm-and-blues circuit.
It Should've Been Me will peak at #5 on the Billboard R&B chart, Don't You Know at #10. 

1 January 1954
Sam Houston Coliseum, Houston TX, with T-Bone Walker and Amos Milburn; tickets at $1.25 pre-sale, $1.50 at the door.

Early 1954
Guest at the King Bee Show on radio WCOH in Houston, hosted by DJ Clifton Smith.
Della Beatrice Howard, Della Bee, listens to the show; they meet a few days later.

13 February 1954
Billboard Records to Watch, Rhythm & Blues reviews It Should've Been Me / A Sinner's Prayer ("This is without doubt Charles' hottest disking to date. [... T]he warbler sings his heart out").
From Cashbox, May 13, 1954.

From Cashbox, Feb. 20, 1954.

Review in Billboard, Feb.20 (note the "Ork").
20 February 1954
Billboard review - It Should've Been Me / Sinner's Prayer (“Ray Charles is strictly a smash here").
Atlantic ad in Billboard calls Ray “The Great Blues Stylist".

5 - 7 March 1954
5-4 Ballroom in Los Angeles CA, co-billed with Joe Liggins and his Honeydrippers. The Los Angeles Sentinel called this gig Ray's "first appearance in the Angel City".

20 March 1954
Billboard, This Week's Best Buys reviews It Should've Been Me ("Record broke nationally this past week, appearing on the Los Angeles and Chicago territorial charts, and reported strong in Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Nashville and St. Louis as well. Disk was also rated good in New York, Cleveland, Detroit, Durham and Atlanta").

April 1954
Release of the Guitar Slim single Story Of My Life / Letter To My Girlfriend.

3 April 1954
Billboard, news: "Atlantic Hits 5 Out Of 10" on the best-selling national retail r&b chart. Ray’s It Should've Been Me is 10th.
Ad in Billboard, March 6, 1954.
7 to 20 April 1954
Arie Crown Theater, Chicago IL, announced as "sensational blind vocalist and pianist"; co-billed with Don Bexley, Pete Diggs and Sax Mallard's Band.
Ad from Chicago Defender, Apr, 10, as collected by Franz Hoffmann, in: Jazz Advertised.
*conflicting with:*
17 April 1954
The Pershing, with Guitar Slim, Chuck Willis.
18 April 1954
Attendance record for The Palm in Miami (at fixed 50c admission charge, for average of 5,000 people) when Ray Charles supported by Faye Adams, draws close to 10,000 people.

24 April 1954
Billboard, in an article desribing the "Status Quo In R&B" mentions Ray as the first of the "male singers who have been the top sellers this year".
Ad in Billboard, 24 April 1954.
26 April - ?2 May? 1954
May Parade at Pep's Musical Bar, Philadelphia PA.

Early May 1954
Ray decides to form his own band.
Gig in Atlanta with Paul Hucklebuck Williams Orchestra, The Orioles and Dizzy Gillespie.

12 May 1954
"All-Star Variety Show" at City Auditorium in Atlanta GA; with Joe Morris, The Orioles, Dizzy Gillespie, Faye Adams, Paul Williams, Margie Day, The Blue Dots.
From Atlanta Daily World, May 6.

15 May 1954
Gig paying $100 at Clemson College, Clemson SC, annual Block C Club dance at recreation center in Anderson, with Paul Hucklebuck Williams & His Orchestra.

Mid May - June 1954
One nighters in the East, then the Midwest, playing the Sunset Terrace in Indianapolis.

4 June 1954
Billboard Review Spotlight on A Fool For You / This Little Girl Of Mine ("Records like this don't come along often. Charles, who wields an incredible spell over his live audiences, gets much of that commanding quality across on these almost gospel-styled disks of his. [...] In both, Charles' feeling and his great musician-ship emanate from every bar of the vocal and arrangement").

6 June 1954
"Big Show and Dance" or 'the 1954 Rhythm 'n' Blues Parade' at the Sunset Terrace dancery in Indianapolis IN, with Mantan Moreland, Bud Harris, Sammy Dyer's 'world famous' Dyerettes ("the most beautiful and dancingest girls in the world'), The Spiders, tap dancer Flash Ford, Tanya and her exotic dance, and Floyd Dixon & band.
From Indianapolis Reporter, May 29.

19 June 1954
Woodlake Country Club, San Antonio ("double attraction" with Guitar Slim).

20 June 1954
Civic Auditorium in Houston TX, with The Clovers and Guitar Slim.

Late June - early July 1954
Gigs in Dallas and Austin.
Band rehearsals at Club Matinee in Houston, where Jef Brown approaches Renald Richard to play in the band. Cf. this.
Ray hires Jimmy Bell on bass, A.D. Norris on tenor, Renald Richard and Charles 'Chunky' Whitely on trumpet, Bill Peeples on drums (Leroy Cooper joins about one month later).

Mid-July 1954
Two weeks of one-nighters with Ruth Brown in Texas, starting in El Paso - the first gig of the 8-man 'small big band'.
Then gig in Alexandria.

10 and 17 July 1954
Billboard reviews of Don’t You Know (“fine performance”, “potent cutting”) / Losing Hand ("sung mighty smoothly by the chanter").
Ad in Billboard, July 10, 1954.
24 July 1954
Trianon Ballroom, Chicago IL; with Charles Brown.
First known ads to promote Ray's band. Both ads from Chicago Defender, Jul. 17, and Jul. 24, as collected by Franz Hoffmann, in: Jazz Advertised.

2 - 8 August 1954
Ruth Brown joins "the Ray Charles combo" ("heading up his own fine little orchestra", the Cleveland Call and Post, wrote. "This Charles boy is a quite a lad. He appeared at Jack's Musical Bar last year and stood the people on their heads") for an engagement at Gleason's Musical Bar in Cleveland OH, and after that a string of appearances in the Midwest; cover below from c 1955:

13 - 15 August 1954
Announced as "the highly bleated blind musician" at the 5-4 Ballroom, LA; co-billed with Dinah Washington, the "Queen of the Juke Boxes"  and, according to the Los Angeles Sentinel, also backing her with his "sensational 6-piece orchestra"). Also see this.
David Fathead Newman joins the band, on baritone. 

Mid August - End of September 1954
The band goes East, a.o. working the Magnolia Ballroom in Atlanta.

20 August 1954
5-4 Ballroom, Los Angeles. Changed to September 10th.
21 August 1954
Billboard R&B Retail chart: Don't You Know #10 after "climbing at a steady, slow pace", "particularly strong down South".

4 September 1954
Billboard news: It Should've Been Me covered by Groove and Cadence (first song penned by Ray that’s covered).

10 September 1954
5-4 Ballroom, Los Angeles.

17 - 19 September 1954
At 5-4 Ballroom in Los Angeles, co-billed with Guitar Slim. "Charles and his 6-oiece band are favorites with dancing Angelinos and will gladly play and sing request numbers".

October 1954
One-nighters in Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana.

15 October 1954
Library Auditorium, San Antonio (with T-Bone Walker, Lowell Fulson, Faye Adams, Memphis Slim).

1 November 1954
Starting series of dates through the Southwestern territory with T-Bone Walker and Lowell Fulson.

13 November 1954
Billboard Poll: Ray scores #13 on list of DJ's favorite Rhythm & Blues recording artists.

16 November 1954
At Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium, Chattanooga TN. With Ruth Brown, Charles Brown, Lowell Fulson and Muddy Waters.

18 November 1954
Recording session  for Atlantic in Atlanta.

December 1954
Release of the single I've Got a Woman / Come Back, Baby.
c 1954: Jesse Stone and The Cookies.
E.A. Kernshaw (Florida Star, 11 August 1956) remembers how about 2 years before Ruth Brown performed at the Kozy Korner in Talahasee, backed by Ray Charles.
12 - 13 December 1954
Royal Peacock, Atlanta (GA); with The Charms, Zilla Mays, Eunice ' The Body', Austell Allen and Band.

Jerry Wexler wrote: "In November [sic?!] of 1954, Ray called us to Atlanta to dig his new band. We got with him in the afternoon at the Peacock nightclub, where he had his band set to play for us. Except for Ray and the band, the place was empty, and as soon as we walked in Ray counted off and they hit into I've Got A Woman and that was it." (The song was taped soon after at a local radio studio).
 From Atlanta Daily World, Dec. 12.
31 December 1954
Library Auditorium, San Antonio (with Amos Milburn, T-Bone Walker, Choker Campbell).

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