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26 August 2010

A Show From Which Ray Charles Probably Escaped (1974)

In early 1974 Billboard reported several times that Ray Charles would be one of the "name performers" on the second day of the 3-day First Annual American Song Festival, from 30 August to 1 September 1974.
After a long series of articles paying attention to things that went wrong in the preparation phase, Billboard of 14 September placed an article under the header "U.S. Song Fest In Anemic Start", reporting a "skimmy attendance" of only 12,781 paying spectators, "talent cancellations, cold, rain, weather, and lengthy television taping delays", that "took much of the magic out of the victories", "a small electric fire" that "held up sound checks", and "the illness of special guest host Paul Williams who finally had to leave before the taping ended", "several of the performers threaten[ing] to pull out" [Rev. James Cleveland did], the show ending at "7 a.m. the next morning", by which time "the crowd had dwindled to less than 100", inevitably leading to "a projected loss of $400.000-$500.000".
The show (either 60 or 90 minutes) nevertheless was broadcast, on 18 or 19 October 1974, on ABC-TV's Wide World Of Entertainment, but I haven't found any trace of Ray being on it. I suppose he didn't even contribute to the actual show.
The event organizers didn't despair. In Billboard of 26 October they announced a 1975 edition, and an agreement with Yamaha Music of Japan, who would even "arrange for the telecast of the 1974 festival in Japan".

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