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23 February 2013

Ray Charles Ft. In Hallmarks Commercial (1997)

In February 1997 Hallmark Cards launched a 30-second TV commercial featuring Ray Charles giving Valentine's Day greetings to three beauties who "sneak a peek" at Hallmark's logo on the back of the cards he gave them.
The campaign promoted a new Say It With Music line of cards with song clips, stored on a digital chip with an internal miniature speaker. The media campaign also entailed a direct mail piece - a booklet with full-page shots of Ray Charles, Willy Nelson and Mama Cass - urging consumers to use music ("new cards, great sounds") to make birthdays rock.

The account was handled by Leo Burnett, Chicago.

17 February 2013

The Ray Charles BBC-2 Spectacular (1968)

I've posted before about a mythical TV performance by Ray Charles, his band and The Raelettes in London, in the autumn of 1968.
The evidence that the performance actually took place only consisted of a hardly informative little squib from New Musical Express and a set of frequently published photos by David Redfern.
The bad news is that the content of the show still hasn't surfaced - I haven't found a trace of proof that any of the footage is still around; the BBC Archive certainly doesn't have it.
The good news is that a kind spirit last week provided me with access to an archive with old issues of Melody Maker, which turned out to be unusually informative about Ray's 1968 UK tour.* Below, I've put the available puzzle pieces together.

After landing in London on 20 September, the group went straight to the BBC Centre to record a "BBC-2 spectacular", in color. One of the articles in MM, mysteriously, even called it "a double show" [perhaps to be broadcast in two parts? BS].
During the flight, they had found out that they missed tenorist Buddy Terry, who "[had been seen] at the airport just before departure. His luggage got to London but he didn't." British tenor player Pete King then "was telephoned [...] to come down as soon as possible to the BBC TV Centre in order to record the Ray Charles show programme. He joined the sax section for this and the four British concerts."
King "[...] turned up too late for more than a few minutes' rehearsal but did an admirable job on the TV recording and concerts." Ray offered him a permanent place in the band. But King turned that down.**

According to the critic of Melody Maker, the band was "a gutty, bluesy and propulsive outfit, with good sections all round and quite a high level of solo power [...] At first rehearsal in the BBC's London TV Centre, when the band played an opening blues of unspecified title, [he] thought the brass created a pretty healthy noise."
"The band, sparked by the excellent drumming of Roger Humphries [who had joined the Orchestra on July 1, BS] (last seen here with the Horace Silver Quintet) is by far the best Charles has brought here. Good arrangements, good soloists (especially Virgil Johnson on flugelhorn) [...]."
"Later, at one of the concerts, they played Blowing The Blues Away and Soft Winds - the latter featuring some tasty flugelhorn playing. Virgil Jones and Phil Guilbeau were the principal brass soloists and Gerry Elliott and, I think, Glen Childress contributed the trombone solos."

Clippings from Melody Maker,
Sep./Oct. 1968.
"Much credit for the [trumpet] section must go to Wallace Davenport [...]."
"Preston, Cooper, Miller, Willis, Robinson and Dan Jackson were other soloists."

Looking at the photos (cf. below), the BBC program was a static in-studio concert, without audience. The setlist may have been similar to anything between the Ed Sullivan Show's (on August 4, 1968), and the La Pleyel concert's (on October 8, 1968).

Virgil Jones, 1939 - 2012
(Oct. '68, Paris; video still).
The line-up of the band in London was:
Wallace Davenport, David [Philips], Virgil Jones (fh), Phil Guilbeau - trumpets; Henry Coker, [J]erry Elliott, Glen Childress, Maurice Spears - trombones, Floyd [aka Jay Clyde a/o Jay Cloyd?] Miller, Fred Jackson Jr. - alto saxophones; Daniel Jackson, Peter King - tenor saxophones; Leroy Cooper - baritone saxophone; Roger Humphries - drums; Fred Robinson (aka Abu Talib) - guitar; Edgar Willis - bass; Billy Preston - piano, organ, voc.***
The Raelettes were: Susaye Greene, Barbara [Nell Terrault], [Beverly Ann] Lesure and [Verlyn] Flenaugh.

*I have used 7 MM articles from September 21 and 28 and October 5, 1968. **I remember that the band also had to find a sub on 5 October, when they played in Amsterdam, and in Oslo on September 25th; the shortage in brass has also been associated with the walk-out of a number of musicians after the bad ending of a conflict with The Raelettes during the stint at the Cocoanut Grove, in July '68. ***A few chairs in this personnel list differ from the known line-up at the La Pleyel concert in Paris.
From New Musical Express, Sep. 21, 1968.

Mirrored b/w version of one of the photos above.
From sleeve Impulse single Moanin'.

Ray, flying in a '69 newspaper clipping from Leeuwarder Courant.
From  Leidsch Dagblad, 1968.

L-R: Barbara Nel Terrault, Susaye Greene, Verlyn Flenaugh, Beverley Ann Lesure.

Update 27 April 2018:
This clip with Eleanor Rigby may well be originating from this same show:

Update 29 June 2019:
Here is Understanding:

And this may have been how the set was dressed for yet another song:

14 February 2013

Ray Charles Sings America In Lake Placid (1980)

The 13th Olympic Winter Games were held from 13 February through 24 February 1980 in Lake Placid.

Ray Charles performed America The Beautiful at the end of the closing ceremony. In the U.S. the show was televized by ABC.

13 February 2013

Ray Charles Interviewed By Russian Boy Band Na-Na (2001)

When Ray Charles played his last concert in Moscow, in the autumn of 2000, he had the popular Russian boy band Na-Na in the audience, where, they confessed to Ray, they tried to respond to his music as 'black' as they could.
Not too long after that, in 2001, the boys paid the old man a visit at RPM, in Los Angeles, acompanied by their founder and manager, Bari Albasov, who also acted as a producer of this documentary footage. Their charming Q&A was uploaded to YouTube (in no less than 22 parts; part #5 still missing), entitled Great Ray Charles and Russian groep Na-Na.

After delighting The Genius with an a capella rendition of a Russian folk song, Brother Ray paid them back with a bit of Georgia:

12 February 2013

Ray Charles On The Ken Hawkins Show (c 1967)

Ken Hawkins (c. 1975).
The Ken Hawkins Show was a second-tier dance show, produced by WEWS-TV, an ABC outlet in Cleveland. Billboard (Sep. 2, 1967) wrote that in the first show, "rocking across the screen were the Big K Dancers in mini skirts". Host and driving force Ken Hawkins promised, "We'll be integrated. We will have white dancers in the line-up in future shows."
In a feature story about their first anniversary by the Cleveland Call and Post (Sep. 14, 1968), Hawkins looked back on the show's achievements: "You name the star and he was there, like Ray Charles and the [Raelettes], the Miracles, Dionne Warwick, James Brown and Al Hirt."
The reporter added that "The popularity of the show [had] spread all over the country as it was viewed in over 195 cities. [...] Ken has become a real TV personality [...], being the only Negro to have his own show of this type on a regular basis."
The program was launched for Friday nights, but later found a fixed spot on Saturday mornings. It thrived on R&B acts that were coming through Cleveland. Ray Charles played in Cleveland from 25 August to 3 September 1967, 25 September 1967, and 12 May 1968.

I haven't found any proof of a continuation of the show after September 1968. In May 1970 Kennard "Ken" Hawkins was appointed general manager of the afilliated radio station WJMO, making him the first black GM in Cleveland radio history.

Who remembers something about Ray's performance on the show?

Ray Charles On The Rosey Grier Show (c 1970)

Contemporary article about the show.
Football card, 1965.
To call the  actor, singer, minister, writer, macrame artist and former professional football player Rosey Grier a colorful personality, is an understatement.
After his sports career he worked as a bodyguard for Robert Kennedy. Grier took control of the gun and subdued the shooter, Sirhan Sirhan. He is known for his serious pursuit of hobbies not traditionally associated with football players, such as macrame and needlepoint.
As a singer, Grier released singles on the A label in 1960, and over the following 25 years on Liberty, Ric, MGM and A&M.

For an even more unexpected connection between Charles and Grier, listen to this:

This great clip is from 1965:

In 1969 and 1970 he hosted the Rosey Grier Show on KABC-TV in Los Angeles a weekly half-hour television program, aired on Saturday nights, featuring community affairs, interviews, music, and variety. The show was also aired in other cities. When it was launched on Channel 7 in Atlanta, the Atlanta Daily World (on 28 June 1970) specified that celebrities such as Bob Hope, Della Reese, Cassius Clay, Glen Campbell and Ray Charles had guested in earlier episodes.

Who knows more about what Brother Ray did when he appeared in the show?

Ray Charles On The Steel Pier Show (1971)

The TV stations new logo, in 1971.
According to the Philadelphia Tribune of 14 August 1971, The Steel Pier Show had a "star-studded bill that includes Ray Charles, B.B. King and Cab Calloway highlights". Also featured were Chuck Berry, Hugh Masekela and The Union of South Africa, plus three vocal groups, The Main Ingredient, The Duprees and the Dovells.

The program was aired on a Saturday afternoon, August 14th, by the local ABC outfit WPVI TV (Channel 6; cf. 1, 2, 3). The "variety show" was hosted by Ed Hurst. WFIL Radio DJ George Michael hosted the dancing-to-recorded music session on the program.

The big question, of course, is if Ray really appeared in the show, or if the format was just a group of extras from the audience, dancing to one of his records.

Who knows more?

Ray Charles Guesting In A Steve Allen Program (c 1962)

Ad from 1962.
Steve Allen (1921 - 2000) was a brilliant TV maker, and one of the pioneers of the talk show phenomenon. He became the first host of the Tonight Show. After that, he hosted numerous game and variety shows, including - in the 1960s - The Steve Allen Show, The New Steve Allen Show, and The Steve Allen Playhouse.

The New Steve Allen Show (1961 - 1965), taped in Hollywood at the Vine Street Theater, featured plenty of jazz and is the most probable environment for a guest appearance by Ray Charles, as it was mentioned in the Atlanta Daily World of 17 October 1963.

Who knows more about Ray's contribution to the program?

Ray Charles On The Arthur Godfrey Show (c 1961)

From Billboard, Oct. 15, 1963;
the caption calls Godfrey one of
Ray's "peforming friends".
Photo from same event, watermarked by
Ray Charles Foundation.
Arthur Godfrey (1903 - 1983) was a one-man TV and radio powerhouse in the 1950s. Presenting several popular daily and weekly live show formats for CBS made him about as unavoidable as Ed Sullivan and Johnny Carson in later decades.

In the early 1960s his career was declining, but in 1961 and 1962 he was still presenting The Arthur Godfrey Show. Ray probably guested in one of the episodes of this program.

Who knows more?

11 February 2013

Ray Charles Ft In McDonalds Jingles (1976, 1979)

In January 1976 Ray Charles completed the musical portion of a 60-second bicentennial themed commercial for McDonalds. The spot was part of a "Special Black Bicentennial Radio" promotion entitled Soul of a Nation, narrated by Bill Cosby, with free brochures dealing with "the monumental contribution Black Americans have made to our country's overall development", distributed through McDonalds outlets.
In the Los Angeles area the radio campaign was launched on 1580-KDAY, on February 9. The introduction ad reproduced here was published in the Los Angeles Sentinel on February 5.

The Paley Center has a reel (ID: AT88:0997) of McDonalds commercials from 1979. In one of them Ray sings the jingle Nobody Can Do It Like McDonald's Can. The "[...] commercial shows that McDonalds is the best fast-food restaurant for quality, service and value. Scenes of daybreak on a farm are shown in counterpoint to the busy staff preparing breakfast at McDonalds." I haven't found any footage yet, but YouTube has a bunch of variations from the same campaign, with other singers.

In the late '80s McDonalds' agency developed a commercial character, nicknamed Mac Daddy (or McDaddy), that bears a strong resemblance to Ray. If he refused to collaborate on this one, I can see why. If they got away without paying him for this, I want to hire their lawyer.
(As a matter of fact, the Bobby Darin estate sued McDonalds for more than 10 million dollar for the resemblance with Bobby's tuxedo and singing style).

YouTube shows a series of variations, from all corners of the world:

The briefing for the singer of this commercial's theme song may also have been to "sound like Ray":

And McDonalds' marketing department in the Philippines doesn't behave much better (see comments on YouTube page):

Ray Charles In Dinah! (1979)

Copy from a microfilm
of the Daily World article.
The Atlanta Daily World of 19 April 1979 showed a photo of Ray Charles and Dinah Shore sitting together for a studio interview. The TV program was "to be seen in the near future".

From the comments:
"This was an episode of Dinah & Friends, which aired in late May 1979 in most markets. Other guests included Kenny Rogers and Debby Boone. The theme was 'Dinah and the Hitmakers'."

Update 20 February 2019:
It turns out that Dinah seduced Ray into an impromptu musical conversation with Kenny Rogers. Ray hit some notes of Georgia, Take These Chains From My Heart and some boogies, and did a little duet on Crying Time with Kenny.
The TV shows they briefly discussed were this and that one.

Ray Charles Performing In Atlanta PBS Program (1979)

On 8 February 1979 the Atlanta Daily World reported on a week-long series of programs about black culture, aired by the PBS station WETV-Channel 30 (nowadays WPBA TV). On the 10th they televized "a performance by pianist-singer Ray Charles".

Who knows more about the content of that show?

07 February 2013

Ray Charles At The Beacon Theatre (1982)

From New York
Times, Oct. 15.
Boycott scene, from
New York Amsterdam
News, Oct. 30, 1982.
One of Ray Charles' two concerts on October 23, 1982 at the Beacon Theatre in New York was partially taped by someone in the audience. The sound quality is bad, but a YouTube user took the trouble to submit a number of tunes, one-by-one.
The string of ten songs starts with this clip. A probable setlist was: Riding Thumb, Busted, Georgia On My Mind, Then We'll Be Home (Sadies Tune), Just Because, Some Enchanted Evening, You Don't Know Me, Intro Raelettes + Love Is What We Need (with The Raelettes), Don't Change On Me (with The Raelettes), and All I Need (ft. Trudy Cohran).
Ray's evergreens I Can't Stop Loving You and What'd I Say are obviously missing.