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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.


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