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16 June 2018

When Did Ray Sing His First Blues?


Nothing much has been written about the publisher of Rock And Roll Roundup. All I know is his first name, Barry. He obviously had an ecclectic taste for contemporary music directed at 'teenagers', and he didn't discriminate between 'white' rock and roll and 'black' (rhythm and) blues. Although most articles seem to have been produced in coordination with record labels, it's clear that Barry liked decent copy and good photography. 
The quality didn't really help to survive on the market. I've found only two editions, from February and April 1957.
The latter issue had an intriguing article about Adam Timon, whose name scores 0 (zero!!!) hits on Google, YouTube and Discogs, and a two page spread about Ray Charles

Until 1960 Ray's story was hardly covered by the music press or the mainstream press. This rare article from February 1957 was clearly based on input by Atlantic Records. A few details are inconsistent with their usual PR talking points.
Publicity photo (mirrored) by James J. Kriegsman c. 1955.
Fifteen years old, after leaving the school for the blind in St Augustine, 
"[...] for two years [Ray] kicked around Florida with a variety of bands and combinations. [...] During this two-year period, Ray picked up a good deal of his knowledge of writing and arranging. [...] And somewhere along the line, he 'learned' to sing the blues. This singing came almost accidentally for Ray; he had to hum parts of his arrangements and ideas to express them to other musicians." 
I've never seen writing charts and humming mentioned as the accidental origin of Ray's blues singing, and it doesn't seem very probable to me. It raises a good question, though: when did Ray start singing in public as a professional?
"After two years of breaking in, as it were, Ray organized his own trio: bass and guitar to augment his piano and sax."
Up until today I have thought that Ray Charles started playing his alto saxophone in public when he started working with his small band, but I don't find it difficult to envision him also playing sax sometimes while working with the Maxin Trio, or - more incidentally - with the likes of Lowell Fulson, Big Joe Turner, or Joe Morris in the early 1950s. The repertoire of the Maxin Trio must have been broader than just the songs we know from the 45" records - did it also entail danceable r&b, and jazz?

14 June 2018

Ray Charles, Playing A ???Hammond??? (Early 1960s)

I don't know of a Hammond with three keyboards... is this in a church or theatre? Location and photographer unknown.


07 March 2018

A Peggy Lee & Ray Charles Time Capsule From 1961


1. Intro; 2. I Got A (Wo)Man; 3. You Won't Let Me Go; 4. Just For A Thrill; 5. Yes, Indeed.

Peggy Lee was a huge fan of Ray Charles, who called her "Sister Peggy". She studio-recorded some of his tunes as early as 1959. A few years later she embedded an extensive Tribute To Ray Charles in her club show. At least two* of these shows, at the Basin Street East club in February 1961, were live-recorded: the February 9 "supper show" Basin Street East Proudly Presents Miss Peggy Lee Recorded At The Fabulous New York Club (Capitol T1520, 1961), and the February 8 "dinner show" Peggy At Basin Street East (Collectors' Choice CCM 2942, 2002).

Ray at that time was living in New York for a part of the year, and was a participant in Peggy's late night party entourage - probably thanks to Quincy "Brother Gump" Jones. Q wrote some charts for her, conducted her band when she returned to the Basin Street East in November 1961, and had a wild love affair with her.

Not too long before this second stint at the club, the three of them were part of a dinner event at the Backstreet Restaurant. One of the participants was a Dr. Robert Walters. For some reason, all guests were asked to sign the menu for him. This menu was auctioned in early March, 2018.
RR Auction House decribed the "Ray Charles" doodle (below) as a genuine signature, but that's a highly questionable authentication. Everybody who knew the Genius, also knew that he never signed anything. Nevertheless, seven or eight similar "signatures" from the years 1961 - 1964 have popped up over the past years.** My best guess is that this pseudo signature was routinely jotted down by Ray's personal assistant (or "valet" as he was often called), Duke Wade.
The "Mrs" added to the name may have been another result of Wade's discreet fantasy. It's much more feasible that the lady was Ray's current NYC girlfriend (or just one of them).


Peggy Lee writes, "Happy Birthday, with deep love always, Doctor Darlin," and  Quincy Jones adds, "To my wonderful district attorney — may all your days be as beautiful as you are." 

Program for the "Gala Premiere Dinner of Peggy Lee" at the Basin Street East nightclub on October 30, 1961.
It lists Quincy Jones as musical director.
Basin Street East photo holder: Jones posing with four people at the dinner event, one of whom was the recipient of the Back Street menu above, Dr. Robert Walter.

These memories, from Phoebe Jacobs, Peggy's closest friend, may glue all the information above together.
From: Peter Richmond,
Fever: The Life and Music of Miss Peggy Lee (New York, Picador, 2007).

* The February 9 dinner show remains unissued. **For some fascinating discussions. see the Autograph Magazine forum.