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23 December 2016

Ray Charles Performs An Unidentified Song In Hee Haw (1970)

On September 29, 1970 Ray Charles guested on Hee Haw (season 2, episode 3) for the first time. Half way the show he played a brief jam-ish interlude with the house band (Buck Owens' Buckaneers). It sounds like a ditty which Ray wrote for just this occasion, but if anyone can give a title to it, please let me know. 

18 December 2016

Ray Charles And The Florida Playboys, A Short Adventure

Ray Charles loved to reminisce about his earliest endeavors in country music. Shortly after his seventreenth birthday, in 1947, he landed a gig with the Florida Playboys. In Michael Lydon's biography, Ray Charles - Man And Music, the story is that "[o]ne audition convinced the Playboys that RC could play country music with a genuine flavor, and they hired him, no questions asked about race. For several months he gigged with the band, playing current country hits like Kentucky Waltz in white honky-tonks in and around Tampa, learning to yodel, and singing Waiting For You as his featured number. [...]. RC's interlude with the Playboys, though brief, planted a seed in Ray Charles' music that would lie dormant for a decade before sprouting. Yet this important event has left barely a trace in any but Charles' own memory. Gossie McKee and Manzy Harris [...] nor Ray remembered any names. [...]. The histories of some bands, however, are written on the wind, and the other Playboys may have forgotten the nights with RC [...]."
Of course, it were not the Playboys who were crucial for Charles' love for country music. That came from listening to the radio, especially to WSM's Grand Ole Opry shows, ever since he was a toddler.

The Florida Playboys, not too long after Ray left. This photo, with guest
Hank Williams, was made at WJHP.
Up until recently, all efforts to corroborate Ray's vague memories with contemporary sources have failed (including mine, miserably). But in 2013 Marshal Rowland, a former steel guitar player and an owner of radio stations in Georgia and Florida, published his memoirs, Fertilizer 'tween my toes, a true story about a country boy finding his success and happiness in country music and owning radio stations.*
Rowland remembers how he was a fan of "Tiny Grier and the Florida Playboys on the radio on a station [WJHP] out of Jacksonville. [...] They came on [live] twelve thirty every day". After finishing highschool, he decided to contact Grier. "The band had hired a young black fellow named Ray Charles [...]. He had tried out and played with them for a few days and then abruptly left. About the same time he left, two others, PeeWee Jenkins and Cliff Austin, also left. [Grier] told me he needed musicians to keep his band going and the radio program alive and well."
"A few days" is a better match with Ray's early career timeline than the "several months"-reconstruction by Lydon. Obviously, his adventures with the Playboys were limited to a part of October 1947.

In this interview Ray shared a few more memories.

The daily Playboys radio show on Jacksonville's WJHP is a new detail in Brother Ray's Playboys legend. It's highly probable that Ray participated in at least a few of these broadcasts.
Rowland described the show's format as it was during his membership of the band: "In a typical thirty-minute program, usually the leader Sleepy Gibbs would sing two or three songs and Marvin Phillips, Tiny Griers son-in-law, would also sing two or three songs. The steel-guitar player and the fiddle player, Luther Moore, would each play one or two numbers [...]".

*Many thanks to Joël Dufour for sharing this information.

10 December 2016

Ray Charles Ft In AFL Commercial

Between 1994 and 1999 the Australian Football League (AFL) ran a hugely successful TV campaign that was built on celebreties delivering the cynical catchline, "I'd Like To See That".
Ray delivered it with a winning variation: "Aussie rules. I'd Like To See That." I have a still, but the footage hasn't resurfaced yet.

More examples:

Ray Charles Interviewed In Houston (1977)

Kenneth R. Petrucci, MSW is a psychotherapist who hosted The Creative Connection, a self-development talk show for four years on KPFT 90.1 FM in Houston, Texas. Ken’s guests included "leaders in human potential and self-improvement".
Petrucci’s "legendary interview" with Ray Charles" was conducted at Jones Hall in Houston, on June 5, 1977. It is registered in the United States Copyright Office in the Library of Congress.


In NBC Salutes The 25th Anniversary Of The Wonderful World Of Disney, first aired on 13 September 1978. Ray Charles contributed a line to a multi-star performance of the Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs-song Heigh-Ho (starts at 1:45):

14 June 2016

Ray Charles Live In Wantagh (1992)

On June 22, 1992 Ray Charles, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Dr. John and The Fabulous Thunderbirds were found jamming at the Downtime Bar in New York City, where they announced their Blues Festival '92 Tour. As far as I know the plans only materialized in a limited series of concerts in June and September.
On September 2 the group played the Jones Beach Amphitheater in Wantagh (NY). Ray's show was taped from the audience (in a reasonably good quality)*. The setlist was:
  1. Intro show
  2. Woody 'n' Bu (Ray Charles Orchestra)
  3. Intro Ray Charles 
  4. Then We'll Be Home (Sadies Tune)
  5. Busted
  6. Georgia On My Mind
  7. Come Rain Or Come Shine
  8. Teardrops From My Eyes
  9. Ellie, My Love
  10. The Good Life
  11. The Brightest Smile in Town
  12. Intro Raelettes
  13. I Want Your Love (ft Estella Yarbrough)
  14. I Can't Stop Loving You
  15. I Believe To My Soul
  16. What'd I Say
  17. Outro
The line-up must have came close to this: 
Ted Murdock, Ken Scharf, David Hoffman, Chuck Parrish - trumpets; Wayne Coniglio, Marc Fields, Mike Guerrier, Steve Sigmund - trombones; Steve Elliott, Al Jackson, Al Waters, Rudy Johnson, Jim Farnsworth - saxophones; Peter Turre - drums; Kenny Carr - guitar; Benoît Grey - bass; Ernest Vantrease - keyboards; The Raelettes: Trudy Cohran, Pamela Diggs, Paula Moye, AngieWorkman, Estella Yarbrough.
* Special thanks to George Rue.

Ray Charles In Q&A With UCLA Students (1983)

On May 10, 1983 Ray Charles received the UCLA Distinguished Humanitarian Award. The event was "attended by nearly 1,000 students who gave him a standing ovation" after an extensive Q&A where Ray tried to avoid his usual answers.
He was well aware of the challenge of reaching 1,000 people with just his speaking voice. The audio was recently digitized by the UCLA Communications Studies Department.

06 June 2016

Ray Charles And Wiley Pitman, His Protector

This remarkable commercial was made for TrustE's Tracker (protection) software.
Uroš Perić - vocals; John Fresk - piano; Graham Currie - bass; Peter Auret - drums.

The song, in Ray Charles' late '40s style (actually, borrowing some late '50s grunts), was written and arranged by Adam Howard. Recording date: April/May 2016; Adam Howard - sound engineer.

Ad Title: Wiley Pitman and Five Notes That Changed a Life. Client: Tracker South Africa. Director: Kevin Fitzgerald. Creative Agency: House of Brave. Executive Creative Director: Vanessa Pearson. Writer: Dan Parmenter / Stefanus Nel / Conan Green. Art Director: Thereza Norton. Production Company: 0307 Films. Recording Studio: Produce Sound. Executive Producer: Jo Barber.

21 May 2016

The Ray Charles Songbook

A worthy and fun tribute to Brother Ray (finally, after all these years!).

The show was staged twice, on May 20 and 21, 2016. Both programs were recorded on video and audio. The 20 May concert was broadcast by PBS (live on TV and on the web on the 20th; a few days later parts of the show were interwoven with interviews in a radio program). The audio can be listened to here:

Personnel: Chuck Parrish - lead trumpet; Kenny Rampton - trumpet, music director; Jim Seeley - trumpet; Elliot Mason - lead trombone; DuPor D Georges -trombone; Wayne Coniglio - bass trombone, arrangements, orchestrations; Sherman Irby - lead alto saxophone; Patrick Alexander Bartley Jr. - alto saxophone; Andy Farber - Tenor saxophone; Lauren "El Boogie" Sevian; Baritone saxophone; Ernest Vantrease - organ/keyboards; Roger W. Hines - acoustic and electric bass; Bill Sims - guitar, vocals; Jamison Ross - drums, vocals; Diane Schuur - vocals; Angela Workman, Renee Collins Georges, Katrina Harper - vocals, background vocals.

23 January 2016

Ray Charles Live In Geneva (1970)

On October 23, 1970 the Ray Charles Band played a concert at the Victoria Hall in Geneva. Don't miss the remarkable version of Going Down Slow, which included a solo on (muted) trumpet by Johnny Coles and some bone chilling notes added by Joe Randazzo on bass trombone (he even got a reprise) - I guess both to kill the off-beat clapping from the audience. Rather special is also Games People Play (so far only known from a performance with Andy Williams and Mama Cass), featuring Vernita Moss and Susaye Greene.
The concert was taped from the audience; the audio quality is reasonable. The setlist was:

  1. Unidentified instrumental
  2. Hallelujah I Love Her So
  3. Georgia On My Mind
  4. Marie
  5. Yesterday
  6. The Bright Lights And You Girl
  7. Going Down Slow
  8. Intro Raelettes + If You Were Mine
  9. I Can't Stop Loving You
  10. Show Me The Sunshine
  11. Eleanor Rigby
  12. Games People Play
  13. What'd I Say + Outro

Unidentified instrumental (with Genius Shout!):

Hallelujah I Love Her So:

Georgia On My Mind:



The Bright Lights And You Girl:

Going Down Slow:

Intro Raelettes + If You Were Mine:

I Can't Stop Loving You:

Show Me The Sunshine:

Eleanor Rigby:

Games People Play:

What'd I Say, Outro:

The line-up was probably identical to the personnel performing earlier that month, in Paris:
Johnny Coles, Bill King, Blue Mitchell - trumpets; Glenn Childress, Henry Coker, Fred Murrell, Joe Randazzo - trombones; Jay Cloyd Miller, Curtis Peagler - alto saxophones; Andy Ennis, David Newman - tenor saxophones; Leroy Cooper - baritone saxophone, band leader; Ernie Elly - drums; Ben Martin - guitar; Edgar Willis - bass; Truman Thomas - organ. The Raelettes: Susaye Greene, Mable John, Vernita Moss, Estella Yarbrough.

* Special thanks to Uroš Perić.