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

29 September 2010

Ray Charles In An American Pageant Of The Arts (1962)

"President and Mrs. Kennedy are shown as they film a
nationwide closed circuit television show, "An American
Pageant of the Arts," to boost a National Culture
Center [at] the National Guard Armory."
On 29 November 1962 Ray Charles contributed to An American Pageant Of The Arts, a closed-circuit TV show from Carnegie Hall, staged to raise funds for the National Cultural Center. It was "beamed into ballrooms, music halls and theaters coast to coast". Tickets were sold at $2 to $100. The show featured "an eclectic mix of musical and comedy acts from the 'serious' conductor (and host) Leonard Bernstein, the poet Robert Frost, and 'legitamate' actors like Colleen Dewherst to the likes of popular entertainers like Danny Kaye, Gene Kelly, Tammy Grimes, Benny Goodman and Harry Belefonte".
President John F. Kennedy had designated the week of November 26 to 2 December 1962 as National Cultural Center Week. The television gala was the highlight of the week. But the effort netted a measly $500,000. "By June 1963, three months before the deadline, only one-third of the money needed had been raised, and that compelled Kennedy [...] to extend the deadline. Three months later, he was assassinated, and the name of the proposed center was then changed to create a living memorial to the slain president." As a - belated - consequence, since 1978 the yearly Kennedy Center Honors are organized. Also cf. this article.

The Many Worlds Of Ray Charles (1983)

On 19 September 1983 ABC aired The Many Worlds Of Ray Charles.
"The winner of ten Grammy Awards is joined by a star-studded cast", the Kentucky New Era announced in its tv guide section.

Who knows more?

26 September 2010

Ray Charles - Music That Matters To Him

Ray Charles - Music That Matters To Him was an album in Hear's Artist's Choice serieswhere he made a selection of the artists and songs that influenced and inspired him. It's always hard to assess to what degree rights clearing has been a restriction in a selection like this, but the result really seems consistent with Charles' known preferences (also cf. this review).
Hear Music [= Rhino Special Products, distributed by Starbucks], 1 January 2003, ASIN: B000282OJA.
  1. Boo woo (Harry James with The Boogie Woogie Trio)
  2. Solitude (Duke Ellington)
  3. Stardust (Artie Shaw)
  4. Sweet Lorraine (Nat King Cole)
  5. How High The Moon [live] (Art Tatum)
  6. Driftin' Blues (Charles Brown)
  7. My Melancholy Baby (Charlie Parker & Dizzy Gillespie)
  8. Sent For You Yesterday And Here You Come Today (Jimmy Rushing)
  9. We're All Together (Hank Jones)  
  10. My Funny Valentine (Miles Davis)
  11. Mack The Knife (Ella Fitzgerald)
  12. Moanin' (Quincy Jones)
  13. Brotherhood Of Man (Oscar Peterson)
  14. Mary, Don't You Weep (Swan Silvertones)
  15. Respect (Aretha Franklin)
  16. Always On My Mind (Willie Nelson)
Below I've linked to clips that are identical with or come closest to Ray's selection. Only missing track #9, and offering a documentary clip about #14, YouTube once again proofs what an incredible resource it has become.

Boo woo (Harry James, Pete Johnson; The Boogie Woogie Trio):
Solitude (Duke Ellington):
Stardust (Artie Shaw):
Sweet Lorraine (Nat King Cole):
How Hight The Moon (Art Tatum, 3 versions!):
Driftin' Blues (Charles Brown):
My Melancholy Baby (Charlie Parker & Dizzy Gillespie):
Sent For You Yesterday And Here You Come Today (Jimmy Rushing with Count Basie Orchestra):
My Funny Valentine (Miles Davis):
Mack The Knife (Ella Fitzgerald):
Moanin' (Quincy Jones, with Clark Terry):
Brotherhood Of Man (Oscar Peterson, with Clark Terry):
[About] Mary, Don't You Weep (Swan Silvertones):
Respect (Aretha Franklin, live 1968):
Always On My Mind (Willie Nelson):

25 September 2010

Ray Charles Memorial Library Opens Doors (2010)

The Ray Charles Memorial Library, in the studio and office building Charles built in South LA in the early 1960s, officially opened its doors in 2010. The library features interactive exhibits about Charles' life and career. Read article (for the first time revealing that Ray not only left all of his intellectual property but also $50 million in cash to continue the Ray Charles Foundation's efforts) and photo slideshow here.
The Ray Charles Memorial Library's website was launched in January 2011. It's here. Demos of multimedia exhibits are on this site.

Ray Charles On The Pop Chronicles (1969)

The radio rockumentary The Pop Chronicles was conceptualized by John Gilliland in 1967. It traces the history of popular music from the 1950’s through the 1960’s. Gilliland wrote, narrated and produced 55 hours of radio broadcasting, first airing at KRLA in Pasadena in February 1969. He interviewed Ray Charles on 3 August 1968, in Los Angeles.
All these 55 hours are available through the website of the UNT (University of North Texas) Digital Library.
Two shows, numbers 15 and 16, were especially dedicated to Charles' contributions to pop history: The Soul Reformation: More On The Evolution Of Rhythm And Blues, Part 1 and Part 2.
Nothing really new was added to Ray's biography, but in this documentary his statements still sounded fresh, not yet following the more sentimental (born poor - brother drowned - lost sight etc.) mantras we know so well since his Brother Ray autobiography.
Totally unique are the precious comments and testimonials by the people directly involved in the music scene of the day: Lou Rawls, Johnny Mathis, Bo Diddley, Bill Medley, Buck Ram, Howlin' Wolf, Count Basie, George Shearing, Stevie Wonder, Steve Winwood, Eric Burdon, Little Richard, Martha Reeves, Janis Joplin, Diana Ross, Marvin Gay, Bill Matlin, Hank Williams Jr., Johnny Cash, and Ernie Ford.
Ray also featured in shows #3 and #4, The Tribal Drum: The Rise Of Rhythm And Blues, Part 1 and Part 2, and in show #55, Crammer: A Lively Cram Course On The History Of Rock And Some Other Things (listen here).
For the index of all Pop Chronicles episodes, watch this. A clickable list of all shows starts here.

21 September 2010

Ray Charles America (2010)

Ray Charles America is a 90-minute documentary, directed by Alexis Manya Spraic, "examining the social and political context of Ray Charles' work, and how he changed the cultural landscape". It contains rare and never-before released music and footage (the recording of It Hurts To Be In Love; the performance of Ring Of Fire on The Johnny Cash Show; a tour of Ray's private recording studio in LA, "and an interview at his studio just years before his death"). Featured interviewees are Quincy Jones, Mable John, Susaye Greene, Bill Cosby, Clint Eastwood, BB King, Tom Waits, and Fran Drescher.

The official World Premiere was at the Woodstock Film Festival, on 3 October 2010 in the Bearsville Theater; the first broadcast was on 20 October 2010 on the BIO Channel. The trailer can be watched here.

The quality of the documentary is disappointing. The story line has nothing new or surprising, the interviewees have nothing memorable to add to it (WTF are Waits and Drescher doing here?!), and the video and picture research hasn't lead to anything really new.

My conjecture is that this production is largely based on a shelved project from 1999; it was probably revived after Joe Adams stepped back from the daily management of the Ray Charles Foundation*.
Michael Lydon in his extended Ray Charles biography (Ray Charles: Man And Music, Updated Commemorative Edition; Routledge, 2004) revealed that in early 1999 cable network Arts and Entertainment had decided to produce a biography on Ray Charles, to be edited by Morgan Neville. Several interviews were filmed at RPM, and Neville found "rare photos and footage", and traveled to Greenfield and St. Augustine for fresh footage on Ray's childhood. But when Joe Adams returned from hospital after a heart surgery, he shut down everything he hadn't improved. A & E shelved the film, "although a final cut was edited for a legally allowed onetime broadcast as Ray's obituary."
The ingredients are about the same, BIO Channel is an A & E company, and the new documentary was produced by... Morgan Neville.

* Adams is currently back on the board (Aug. 2014).

Anti-AIDS Campaign With Ray Charles Rejected (1992)

In April 1992 a series of proposed anti-AIDS ads starring Whoopi Goldberg, George Burns and Ray Charles was rejected by the Centers for Disease Control as "the wrong approach". In the ads, the stars urged condom use with such pleas as: "I wouldn't be seen without one" (Charles), and "Ain't no making Whoopi without one" (Goldberg).

Someone must have kept the tapes. Who knows more?

20 September 2010

Ray Charles On Telethon For Arthritis Foundation (1995)

On 2 or 9 April 1995 Ray Charles participated in the yearly Arthritis Foundation Telethon, in Fiesta, Texas, the first national telethon ever to originate from San Antonio. The event was produced by KENS-TV. Crystal Gayle was the telethon's national host; she was assisted by John Davidson and Fred Travalena. The other stars were a.o. Lee Greenwood, B.J. Thomas, Amy Grant, Gladys Knight and the Righteous Brothers.

Who knows more about the content of Ray's contribution to the show?

17 September 2010

Ray Charles Live In Transylvania (1994)

On 5 September 1994 Ray Charles performed at the 7th Golden Stag International Music Festival, on Sfatului Square in the Transylvanian town of Brasov, Romania. The festival was broadcast by the Canadian, Spanish, and Japanese television. The live audience of more than 7,000 people and more than 18 million viewers were served  every night with a two and a half hour live broadcast. Other stars were Paul Young, David Palmer, Boy George, The Commodores, James Brown, as well as Romanian artists like Silvia Dumitrescu, Loredana Groza, and Monica Anghel.

Who knows more about the precise contents of Ray's performance?

16 September 2010

Ray Charles In 5 for $5 Arby's Commercial (1997)

In 1997 Ray made a commercial for the fast-food chain Arby's. The few traces that still can be found on the web indicate that the TV commercial with Charles was highly irritating. The commercial also ran in 1999. In 2000 "Guy Incognito" remembered:
"I believe I've seen the first sign of the apocalypse. It's in the form of a commercial for Arby's, the fast-food chain. The voice of Ray Charles is going on about his love for their roast beef sandwich and his passion for horsey sauce. This is the one where Ray Charles talks about his tremendous sense of smell and raves about the smell of Arby's roast beef sandwiches.
Two or three times during the commercial he sniffs loudly and says what kind of sauce is on the sandwiches based on their smell. I swear, they must have jammed the microphone halfway up his sinus passages when he sniffs. You can almost hear the wind whistling through his nostril hairs."
Advertising Age (Nov. 10, 1997) had the whole story. The Arby's fast-food chain was banking on a new $50 million TV campaign spotlighting taste and quality to set it apart from bigger-spending competitors such as McDonald's Corp. and Burger King Corp. The campaign featured celebrity voices over luscious close-ups of sandwiches being assembled, and a new tagline, "Love food? Think Arby's."
The celebrity lineup included Ray Charles, Barry White and Dr. Ruth Westheimer. W.B. Doner & Co., Baltimore, created the campaign, which included 14 spots.
It was a calculated move to use celebrity voices only, noted Scott Lippitt, exec VP-group account director at Doner, and not one of economy. "If we used the on-camera celebrity, it would overwhelm the food and the superior taste message. By only using the voice and the name, the food is center stage," he said. "There are probably 21 or 22 seconds on food photography in these spots."

Also read this.

Here, at 6:43 is a 10-second sample of Ray's contribution to the campaign (not a whole lot of sniffin' going on):

13 September 2010

Love And Peace (1978)

  1. You 20th-Century Fox (James Gadson on drums)
  2. Take Off That Dress
  3. She Knows
  4. Riding Thumb
  5. We Had It All
  6. No Achievement Showing
  7. A Peace That We Never Before Could Enjoy
  8. Is There Anyone Out There
  9. Give The Poor Man A Break
Love And Peace was the first Ray Charles album produced on 24 tracks, at RPM. Ray used them all.

The musicians remained uncredited. As usual in these years, Ray worked with The Raelettes, members of his Orchestra and session musicians.
Peter Turre, Ray's drummer for many years, informed me that Steve Beskrone (bass) played on a lot of the tracks, with studio ace Paul Humphries and funkmaster supreme James Gadson on drums. Drummer Scott von Ravensberg recalls re-recording the drum tracks on #2, 4, 7 and 9. I guess that means that Paul Humphries can still be heard on on She Knows, We Had It All, No Achievement Showing and Is There Anyone Out There.

Crossover/Atlantic 19199, 1978-09.

Complete album (audio only):

10 September 2010

Rare Genius – The Undiscovered Masters (2010)

Rare Genius was yet another post mortem album, released on 26 October 2010. The album was announced as a "treasure trove of newly discovered recordings", "culled from four decades worth of demos and other previously unreleased material", from the '70s, '80s and '90s. According to the press release, "Adding a little sweetening to some of the sparse, stripped-down tracks was a team of top-notch musicians and artists: guitarists Keb' Mo' and George Doering, organist Bobby Sparks, trumpeter Gary Grant, trombonist Alan Kaplan, bassists Trey Henry and Chuck Berghofer, drummers Gregg Field and Ray Brinker and background vocalist Eric Benet." 

This album is good news, of course. I wonder about the selection criteria. Ray was one of the inventors of thematic albums...; do we have a theme here? Why these tracks, and what more can we expect to come from the RPM Vaults in the foreseeable future? "The Undiscovered Masters" is an odd contradictio in terminis, and I really hope that "The" doesn't mean that the discovery adventures of Concord and the Ray Charles Foundation are over now. I certainly hope that we, ever, also get the opportunity to listen to the pure original, Genius-mastered takes, without the "sweetening" make-over additions. 
  1. Love's Gonna Bite You Back
  2. It Hurts To Be In Love
  3. Wheel Of Fortune
  4. I’m Gonna Keep On Singin'
  5. There'll Be Some Changes Made
  6. Isn't It Wonderful
  7. I Don’t Want No One But You
  8. A Little Bitty Tear
  9. She’s Gone
  10. Why Me, Lord (with Johnny Cash) 
Album: Concord Records, 25 October 2010, ASIN: B003ZDZ1Y4.

#1 - Love’s Gonna Bite You Back (recorded in March 1980):

#2 - We know  It Hurts To Be In Love from a number of recorded concerts. See this. Free download here.

#3 - Hear Kay Starr's version of Wheel Of Fortune here; soundclip of Ray's version:

#4 - Since the 1970s Ray used this tune frequently as an intro (in 10- to 60-second versions) to What'd I Say, but to my knowledge never performed a complete version. See this.

#5 - Ray played There’ll Be Some Changes Made once at the Tonight Show and once at the Ear International 2nd Annual Ray Charles Birthday Celebration. Also see this.

#7 - I Don't Want No One But You (soundclip): 

#8 - A Little Bitty Tear (Hear Burl Ives' version here); soundclip:

#9 - She's Gone (soundclip):  

#10 - Why Me, Lord was discovered in the Sony vaults; the Kristofferson song was produced by Billy Sherrill in Nashville in 1981 for a Johnny Cash CBS album - which never was released. Hear this Johnny Cash version, or Kris Kristofferson's live version here. More here.


Track-by-track walk-through with john Burk, producer:

The Making of Rare Genius (1): 

The Making of Rare Genius (2):  

Rare Genius - Goin' Country: 

Ray Charles and Johnny Cash:  

06 September 2010

Joe Adam's Restroom Memo (1989)

They're known in every organization of any size, in every part of the world: Restroom Memos. Unavoidable ingredients: musings about a few people spoiling things for the majority of employees, and lots of text typed in uppercase.
The clipping comes from Darren Solomon's website.

05 September 2010

Ray Charles Was In Town - Chronology 2004>

Late 2003 or Early 2004
At RPM Studio. Photo by Patrik Anderson.

Interviewed for Tom Dowd And The Language Of Music (DVD released in August 2004). See this

Contributing to a PSA for, with Quincy Jones. See this.
Genius Loves Company peaks at #1 on Pop Album Chart.
Release of Ellis Hall's album Straight Ahead (Cross Over Records, ENM-4005), produced by Hall and Charles.

9 January 2004
Press release:
"Plans his comeback: Ray is on the mend and you see him in your hometown this year. The legendary singer/pianist had to cancel his tour last year to undergo hip replacement surgery. Charles will give his first performance in eight months on March 2nd in New York. The singer told the press that performing music is as important to him as oxygen and he's thrilled to be back."

10 January 2004
With Toledo Sympony - canceled.

19 January 2004:
Learning to work on a "music reading" computer (at RPM?):

23 January 2004
Benayora Hall, Seattle - canceled.

25 January 2004
Ray's very last performance at the Skirball Cultural Center, LA, with Ray Charles Trio. (Many thanks to Brad Rabuchin for corrections). The concert was titled 'Hope, Healing and Humanity', a benefit for research.

30 January 2004
Gets Grammy President's Merit Award at RPM/Ray Charles Enterprises, LA. Photo series here.

6 February 2004
Named A Cultural Treasure on behalf of the City of Los Angeles, kicking off the city's African American Heritage Month festivities; the mayor also announced that the area in central Los Angeles where Charles built his offices and studios in 1960, will be renamed Ray Charles Square.

21 or 22 February 2004
Interviewed in Waiting In The Wings: African Americans In Country Music (air date). See this.

24 February 2004
Recording with Johnny Mathis, at RPM.

25 February 2004
Press release:
"Ray Charles was hoping to get back on the road next week but his aching body spoke louder than his urge to tour. Charles who underwent hip replacement surgery has had to cancel his comeback concert in New York next Tuesday. The legendary singer has also canceled all shows until mid June. Charles says he's not recovering as fast as he had hoped."

2 March 2004
Lincoln Center, New York - canceled.

3 March 2016
Hearing Is Believing is a documentary  about the life of Rachel Flowers, a blind keyboardist/composer, performing and writing both classical music and jazz.
On March 3, 2004, just 3 months before he died, she met and played for Ray Charles at his RPM studio in Los Angeles. The film, produced and directed by Lorenzo DeStefano, premiered in June 2017 in theatres in California.

6 March 2004
Inducted into the NAACP Image Awards’ Hall of Fame at a ceremony televised from the Universal Amphitheater in Universal City, Hollywood. See this.
Photos by Frank Micelotta and Kevin Winter:

12 and 13 March 2004
Booked for Pacific Symphony Orchestra Pops series at Orange County Performing Arts Center - canceled.

9 and 10 April 2004
Pacific Symphony Pops, Orange County - canceled.

25 April 2004
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival - canceled.

30 April 2004
Last public appearance at RPM: Los Angeles grants RPM landmark status. See this.

10 June 2004
Photo: Rick Francis. I think this pic was shot in 2004 [BS].
Passes away at his home in Beverly Hills, California. See this.
First time in the history of Le Monde that they opened with an obituary on a not-politician.
Also see these U.S. front pages.
18 June 2004
Funeral services at the First A.M.E. Church in Los Angeles; laid to rest at Inglewood Park Cemetery. See this

27 or 28 June 2004
Freihofer's Jazz festival at Saratoga Performing Arts Center... canceled.

August 2004 
Release of album Genius Loves Company. See this.

September 2004
Release of Ray Charles Celebrates A Gospel Christmas. See this.

19 October 2004
Hollywood premiere of Ray. See this.

22 October 2004
Ray - Genius: A Night For Ray Charles; A Tribute Concert (air date). See this

29 October 2004
Release of soundtrack Ray. See this. For additional track see this.

1 November 2004
Charles' children bring out story that Ray gave them $ 1 million each in 2002. Read this.

December 2004
60 Minutes - Remembering Ray Charles. See this

Genius & Friends peaks at #36, and Ray Charles Celebrates A Gospel Christmas at #144 on Pop Album Chart.
Ray Charles Narrates Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (release date). See this
Subject of yet unfinalized documentary, Ray Charles - Genius At Work. See this

20 January 2005
Benaroya Hall, Seattle... canceled.

25 February 2005
Concert with Omaha Symphony... canceled.

7 May 2005
The Birth Of Soul (Pt 1 Of Soul Deep: The Story Of Black Popular Music; release date). See this

4 August 2005
Some big bands have survived after their founder died. You can replace a founding pianist with another pianist, and still, more or less, sound the same. But a Ray Charles Orchestra without Ray Charles is a very odd concept. 
Joe Adams nevertheless tried it out in 2005. On August 4th he gathered a group of musicians (none of whom had ever played with Ray, except for Craig Bailey, who acted as the band's leader), a few girls acting as Raelettes, and Billy Osborne as the singer, in the Blue Note, in New York.
  The Raelettes in the photos are Andromeda Turre (who was hired in 2003, when concerts started to be canceled and therefore never performed live with Ray), Joy Styles and Shalaine Adams.   
Adams invited some booking agents from abroad and some journalists. But nobody booked the act, and nobody wrote about it...
This sad documentary footage popped up on YouTube, in April 2013.

September 2005
Release of album Genius And Friends. See this. Will peak at #36 on Pop Album Chart. 

Release of Ray Sings, Basie Swings. See this. Will peak at #23 on Pop Album Chart.

28 June 2006
American Routes broadcasts Visions of Genius: Remembering Ray Charles. See this.

October 2009
Web documentary series: Ray Charles, Genius. See this.

20 October 2010
First broadcast of Ray Charles America, on BIO. See this.

26 October 2010
Release of album Rare Genius – The Undiscovered Masters.

April 2011
Release of the extended edition of Ray Charles Live In Concert. See this.

25 October 2011
Release of the DVD Ray Charles - Live in France 1961. See this.

15 November 2011
Release of the ABC singles box set Singular Genius. See this.

23 September 2013
Induction into the Music Icons Forever Stamp Series by U.S. Postal Service (combined in several packages with a CD/DVD release carrying the same title).
Design by Ethel Kessler and Neal Ashby, based on photo by Yves Carrère. 
7 July 2018
Joe Adams dies.