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

19 May 2012

A Great Day In San Francisco - Ray & Rea @ The Fillmore West, Unabridged (1971)

King Curtis, Aretha, Ray, Billy.
This video - in my perception truly the Holy Grail in the History of Soul Music - suddenly popped up in my inbox yesterday. This morning I was informed* that, since a few months, it can also be watched online. (I keep on wondering how some uploads, although they are properly titled, can be so hard to track down on Youtube).
It's the unabridged in-house video of Ray's surprise guest appearance at Aretha Franklin's concert at the Fillmore West, on March 7, 1971 (the only footage missing from this copy is the last 3 feet of Ray's walk-off at the end; there's also a split second black out at 15:20, probably because of a tape change).
The 2005 4-CD re-release.
I wrote earlier articles about the live album, the discovery of the unabridged audio recording, and the discovery of the second part of this same video.

For me the biggest surprise while watching the (first part of the) video footage that's new to me, is in the fact that The Genius delivered it standing up, holding a microphone - I don't know of any other instance at a live concert where he did that, before or after '71.

Photo by Jim Marshall.
In a 1971 interview Ray declared, "That live recording by Aretha Franklin that I joined in on recently? It was a true accident. I just happened to be in a club in San Francisco, and somebody said to me: 'Hey, Ray, Aretha's working at Basin Street West' or wherever it was, and I said: 'I didn't know that. So why don't we go by and catch her?' So we all went by, and I was sitting out there. Evidently somebody told her, and before I knew it she'd left the stage and come up and snatched me. I mean, I can't argue with a woman - it's very difficult for me! She said: 'Come on up and do something'. but I didn't know what to do. I'm sure, if you listen to the song we did, the Spirit In The Dark, you could tell I don't even know the thing. I'd heard her sing it, but I think when Aretha sings something, after that everybody else should forget about it. You know nothing else can be done to it. So I didn't know it, but I figured: okay, since I'm here we might as well fake it the best we can. And the thing wound up selling over a million records."

Personnel:
King Curtis (ts, band leader) and The Kingpins (Bernard Purdie - d; Cornell Dupree -g; Jerry Jemmott - b; Truman Thomas - ep [he stepped back when Ray came on stage]; Pancho Morales - congas; the Memphis Horns (Wayne Jackson, Roger Hobbs - tp; Jack Hale - tb; Lou Collins, Andrew Love - ts; Jimmy Mitchell - bs), The Sweethearts Of Soul (Brenda Bryant, Margaret Branch, Pat Smith) - backing vocals; special guest Billy Preston - Hammond organ.



Some things more about the recording (circumstances) from Mitch Meyers' liner notes:
"How do you top that? Trust Aretha to receive some divine intervention on the road to pop's promised land. 'I discovered Ray Charles!' she exclaims. In a spontaneous moment, Aretha brought gospel-soul icon Ray Charles onstage for a reprise of Spirit In The Dark. Their ecstatic duet is surely a moment to remember but according to Jerry Wexler, the two golden voices were surrounded by chaos when they came together on the bandstand. 'Yeah, that was an accident,' Wexler remembers. 'Nobody knew Ray Charles was there and when he came out onstage it was one big ball of confusion. They started to vamp on the Spirit In The Dark and couldn't get it together. Finally it had a semblance of agreement, but it was an unplanned mess and we had to do some very careful editing.'
Ray, Aretha.
Billy, Aretha, Ray.
Brother Ray's singing and electric piano playing lends something extra to the live record, but his special appearance barely made it onto the finished product. 'Because Ray remembered the difficulties [onstage] I had a very difficult job getting his okay to release the record with his voice on it," says Wexler. 'It took a lot of persuasion and argument, and Ray Charles is not amenable to persuasion once he makes up his mind. So that was a difficult part.' [...]
Jerry Wexler felt there was one more noteworthy thing regarding the making of this record: [...] 'In live gigs, the horns and the background voices almost always sound out of tune, but they're not. That's because certain voices in the group and certain voices in the horns are too prominent and you can't change it on a live broadcast. So we redid the horns and the voices in the studio using the same people. That what's important, all they did was replicate their parts. We laid it over and it came out perfectly, there were no intonation problems but the trick was to use the Memphis Horns and the Sweethearts of Soul. So we called them back in, that's why it came out as good as it did.'"
Here's the integral concert:



* A special thank you to Hector Tarín.

15 May 2012

When Ray Charles Met Ray Charles (1961)

From The Milwaukee
Sentinel, Feb. 22, 1961.
Video still from the show.
 ...and when The Raelettes met The Ray Charles Chorus.

It all happened at The Perry Como Kraft Music Hall Show, telecast from the NBC Studios (in color; prod. no. 61-380) in Brooklyn, N.Y., on February 22, 1961. The program was directed by Dwight Hemion. The other guest stars were Jimmy Durante, Anne Bancroft, and Renée Taylor. The footage is licensed by Research Video Inc. I've seen a B/W copy, but the TV page of a contemporary newspaper (see clipping, right) announced the show as a color cast.

1961 was no doubt the most hectic year in The Genius' career. There were five album releases (that all charted), one  single (Hit The Road Jack) that reached the #1 position both on the R&B and Pop charts, an instrumental (One Mint Julep) that scored #1 R&B and #8 Pop, and several more singles that charted well. In the spring he "augmented" his small big band to a real BIG band, flew his small band to France for his European debut and a triumph in Antibes, later in the year returned to France with his big band for another triumph in Paris, and made his debut in a feature movie (Swingin' Along).
But, on the downside, early in the year several concerts ended in riots, at other gigs (including the infamous one in Augusta) he refused to perform for a segregated audience, and was sued for it, and everybody in show business was gossiping about his drug abuse. Worse, he was arrested twice in the course of the year.
In the light of all his success, though, it was only logical that NBC invited him to perform at their biggest variety show. In the light of all controversial stories surrounding Ray, it must also have been an act of courage.

It was Charles' debut on national network TV. He performed Georgia On My Mind (with David Newman on flute) and What'd I Say (with Ray's septet, The Raelettes, and the Ray Charles Chorus).

Personnel:
Ray was accompanied by: Phil Guilbeau, John Hunt - trumpets; Hank Crawford - alto saxophone, David Newman - tenor saxophone, flute; Leroy Cooper - baritone saxophone, Edgar Willis - bass; Bruno Carr - drums. The Raelettes were: Gwen Berry, Margie Hendricks, Darlene McCrea, and Mae Saunders. With the Ray Charles Chorus and the Mitchell Ayres Orchestra.

Ray Charles meets Ray Charles
Credits Muppets' 30th Anniversary.
Watching Brother Ray's contribution to this Perry Como Show for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised by a brief intermission between the two tunes, where choral director, composer and arranger Ray Charles Offenberg - a long time contributor to Como's shows - introduced himself to Ray Charles Robinson, and played out that Como had asked him to submit a request for What'd I Say:

Ray Charles Singers & Raelettes

The confusion about the two Ray Charles'es already started in the 1950s, and for Offenberg it even lasts till today. But the subjects of the confusion never worried about it. Offenberg soon submitted to being called The Other Ray Charles, and even insisted that he was credited with that 'name' for his contributions to the Muppets' A Celebration Of 30 Years Show (1986).
The performance of What'd I Say got some extra (and odd looking) production value when, at the end, the Ray Charles Chorus stepped in to support The Raelettes (who, though very rarely, by some media were also called The Ray Charles Singers) in the call-and-response part of the tune.


I didn't see the remainder of the show, but found one of the cross talks between Como, Durante and Bancroft quoted like this:
- "Ray Charles, he's really something," said Como.
- "A real genius," said Bancroft.
- "He studied with me for years," wisecracked Durante.

A tribute video to the other Ray Charles:

14 May 2012

Ray Charles' UGC From The Wyndham Estate (2002)

Nowadays, whenever a musician picks up his instrument, people flip on their mobile phone cams, tape it, and share the footage on the Interweb. The phenomenon of audience-taped, web-shared concert recordings really took off in 2005, with the launch of YouTube. Just a bit too late for Ray.
Of Ray Charles' concerts I only know (writing from the top of my head) audience tapings from shows in Stockholm, Milan, Oulo, Antibes and - since today - a show at the Wyndham Winery in Australia. It's a partial, 22-minute taping of a symphony gig with:
  1. Intro
  2. They Can't Take That Away From Me
  3. Your Cheating Heart
  4. All I Ever Need Is You (alto sax solo by Ray Charles)
  5. Yesterday (intro: piano teacher story, with bits of Chopin and Schumann)
  6. What'd I Say
  7. Outro


The concert took place on February 23, 2002. The videographer's hand was not overly steady, and the sound quality is just bearable. The symphony orchestra, enhanced by The Ray Charles Trio (I recognized Tom Fowler, Brad Rabuchin and Peter Turre), was conducted by Victor Vanacore (who also plays a few notes on the piano during #6). Only the tracks #2 and #6 were taped completely.
The day before Ray played at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne (possibly with the same symphony orchestra). The review of that concert also seems to describe the gig at the Wyndham Estate quite adequately:


By the way - here you can still make reservations for the Wyndham concert;-!

11 May 2012

Ray Charles On The Joey Bishop Show (1968, 1969)

Ray with Joey Bishop.
The Joey Bishop Show had a few runs, in different formats - first as a sitcom broadcast by NBC (1961–64) and CBS (1964–65), then as a late night talkshow aired from April 1967 to December 1969, taped at the ABC Studios in Hollywood. Ray Charles guested at least four times in the 1968 and 1969 seasons.
I don't know if the shows have survived on video, but a friend recently send me an audio tape (with an acceptable sound quality) with Ray's contributions to the first three shows listed below.

1. In the show of  March 26, 1968 (the Atlanta Daily World announced the show for March 21), Ray played two rare medleys, and he accompanied George Burns on 2 tunes:
  1. I've Got A Woman (with Für Elise intro)/Hallelujah I love Her So/What’d I Say
  2. I Can’t Stop Loving You/Georgia On My Mind 
  3. Ain’t Misbehavin’ – George Burns with Ray Charles (p)
  4. Willie The Weeper – George Burns with Ray Charles (p)
For the medleys he was backed by Herb Ellis on guitar, Ray Brown on bass, and Jack Sterling on drums. George Burns' renditions of the 3d and 4th tune were part of a not-so-funny stand-up; Charles had a minor role, both talking and playing the piano.

2. On July 18, 1968 Ray performed:
  1. You Made Me Love You
  2. The Bright Lights And You Girl
  3. I Can’t Stop Loving You (with Joey Bishop)
He was backed by the Johnny Mann orchestra, again with Ellis, Brown, and Sterling as the rhythm section. 

3. On February 20, 1969 Brother Ray came back to play:
  1. Sweet Lorraine
  2. Jazz jam (with Johnny Mann band and trio w. Ray Brown)
Sweet Lorraine got an extremely delicate treatment in Ray's best Nat Cole mode, again supported by the Johnny Mann orchestra, Ellis and Brown, but this time with Louie Bellson on drums. The Genius then, to his obvious pleasant surprise, was lured into a great jazz jam with the orchestra and the trio.
The rendition of Lorraine is a hapax in Ray's oeuvre. If the video mother tape of the show still exists, it certainly deserves a record release.

4. The precise contents of the show on August 26, 1969 are unknown to me, except for the guest list, with Steve Allen, Jayne Meadows and Billy Preston. I suppose Ray performed (something) together with the latter. I doubt if any footage of this show has survived.

10 May 2012

Ray Charles Live In Copenhagen (1964)

Photos by Jan Person.

I've listened to an obviously partial copy from a Ray Charles concert in Copenhagen in 1964. I don't know the exact date of the show, but overseeing the little we know of the '64 Europe Tour, late July or mid August are the most feasible bets.

The tracks were:
  1. Birth Of A Band (with Ray Charles Orchestra)
  2. Hallelujah I love Her So
  3. Makin' Whoopee
  4. Baby Don't You Cry
  5. You Don't Know Me
  6. Hardhearted Hannah
  7. That Lucky Old Sun
  8. Hide Nor Hair
  9. Hit The Road Jack
The hidden treasure is in #8: the only known live version of Hardhearted Hanna (originally the B-side from an August 1960 single, and also released on the January 1961 album Dedicated To You).
Remarkably, the Danish audience seemed to be more appreciative of the jokes in Whoopee (#3) than the crowd witnessing the 1964 concert in Britain. That Lucky Old Sun (#7) this time got a regular treatment, without bass & bow.
The duration of all tunes together is a little over 30 minutes. Georgia, Can't Stop and What'd I Say were clearly omitted, but to come to a minimum duration of a regular concert, we can probably add up 2 or 3 more missing songs.

Ray Charles In The Mitch Thomas Show (c 1955 - 1958)

The rise to mass popularity of Rhythm & Blues music was a long and bumpy one. Since it emerged as a genre, it took all of the late 1940s and most of the '50s to generate true mass appeal among black audiences. A substantial cross over to white audiences didn't even start before the early 1960s.
What you first needed as a black artist was some local recognition as a live performer. If you were really good, such local success caught the eyes and ears of promoters or agents who could book your regional gigs outside your home town, or even on the then emerging wider (mostly Southern) chitlin' circuit. And if you were really lucky, you got the attention of one of the few small, independent record companies that were (almost always: exclusively) catering to the black market.
These record companies had very few channels they could work on to promote and sell their releases. Of course, they first concentrated on getting sufficient shelf space at specialized record stores in black neighborhoods and on placing their disks into juke boxes in black bars and hangouts. They could try and get some free publicity in the black (newspaper) press, and if they were good they could generate air play at the scarce radio shows that paid serious attention to black music. Many excellent records broke out and hit in only one or two cities, simply because "national black media" didn't exist, and promotional success was largely dependent on the good ears and the good will of individual station owners or (more importantly:) popular deejays.
Ray Charles was one of the first artists to go through all these steps. From small-town and regional recognition in Florida, to local fame in Seattle, to a record company that soon went bankrupt, to growing fame in the chitlin' circuit, to a real record contract with Atlantic, to a first national hit (be it in the black market only, with I've Got A Woman), to generating some frantic support from a few local deejays, to scoring a first Pop chart hit (with a slightly sanitized version of What'd I Say), in 1959. It took him 12 years.
This is a screen shot of photo made during the telecast of the Mitch Thomas Show (date unknown to me) as shown in the documentary  Black Philadelphia Memories: with the host and a very young Ray Charles. My best guess is that the photo was shot at a show in 1955 or 1956. 
According to this contract,
Ray performed at two broadcasts
of Dick Clark's
Bandstand,
on 10 and 12 April 1957.

Update: this contract was signed
by "the other" Ray Charles
Offenberg.
A promotion channel that's only poorly described, is the television of the 1950s. In my own research I've come across a few facts relating to Charles' earliest experiences with 'music television'. Ray himself, with his Maxin Trio, pioneered a format on KRSC TV in Seattle, in the late 1940s, where he had to pay for his exposure. He also may have been on the Johnny Otis Show (LA) in 1955, possibly was on Swing Street On TV (LA) in 1955 or 1956, and also on American Bandstand in 1957 (when it was not yet widely syndicated).

But recently I had an excellent time clicking through the pages of the The Nicest Kid In Town, the website of an impressively well researched multimedia project by Matt Delmont, a professor of Americans Studies at Scripps College (a gorgeous book is the basis for his project). His story features American Bandstand, one of the most popular and influential shows in the history of television, stating that counter to Dick Clark’s claim that he integrated the program in 1957, it became racially segregated and continued to discriminate against black teenagers during the years 1952 - 1964...
Part of his evidence is in the story of Mitch Thomas, who in 1952 started playing music by black R&B artists on WILM, and by early 1955 also had a radio show on Philadelphia’s WDAS. When a television opportunity opened up in Thomas’s home market of Wilmington, Thomas got the hosting job. The first Mitch Thomas Show aired on August 13, 1955, on WPFH, an unaffiliated television station that broadcast to Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley from Wilmington. What made it special was that it was hosted by a black deejay and featured a studio audience of (dancing) black teenagers. Delmont writes that "WPFH’s decision to provide airtime for this groundbreaking show was influenced more by economics than by a concern for racial equality. Eager to compete with Bandstand and the afternoon offerings on the other network-affiliated stations, WPFH hoped that Thomas’s show would appeal to both black and white youth in the same way as black-oriented radio. The station’s bet on Thomas was part of a larger strategy that included hiring white disc jockeys [...]".
Among the stars that were featured in Thomas show were of course vocal harmony groups from the Philadelphia area, but also stars like Little Richard, The Moonglows, Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers, and... Ray Charles. In a later interview Thomas recalled how he "[...] brought Ray Charles in there on a Sunday night, and it was just beautiful to look out there and see everything just nice."
Thomas’s show stayed on television for three years, from 1955 to 1958. Delmont: "Thomas’s short-lived television career resembled the experiences of African-American entertainers who hosted music and variety shows in this era. The Nat King Cole Show (1956-57) failed to attract national advertisers and lasted only a year. Before Nat King Cole, shows hosted by black singers Lorenzo Fuller (1947) and Billy Daniels (1952) and the variety program Sugar Hill Times (1949) also fared poorly. Among local programs, the Al Benson Show and Richard Stamz’s Open the Door Richard, both had brief periods of success in 1950s Chicago. Two other local dance programs featuring black teens proved more successful than The Mitch Thomas Show. Teenage Frolics, hosted by Raleigh, North Carolina deejay J.D. Lewis, aired on Saturdays from 1958 to 1983, and Washington D.C.’s Teenarama Dance Party, hosted by Bob King, aired from 1963 to 1970. Most famously, Soul Train started broadcasting locally from Chicago in 1970 before being picked up for national syndication from 1971 to 2006. Fifteen years before Soul Train, however, Mitch Thomas brought the creative talents of black teenagers to television."
More clippings here.
Delmont concludes that "The music and dance styles on his show also appealed to the white teenagers who danced on American Bandstand. Because the show influenced American Bandstand during its first year as a national program, teenagers across the country learned dances popularized by The Mitch Thomas Show."

Matt Delmont on his website also presents an attractive screenshot, featuring The Genius, from The Mitch Thomas Show, which seemingly indicates that some footage of it has survived. But it turns out to be a screenshot of a photo that was part of a documentary.*
In the period that the show was on, Ray Charles performed frequently in the Philadelphia area. I've found proof for the following gigs (but there surely were more):
  • On 17 November 1955 (Town Hall Ballroom, with The Sensations; whole band; chauffeur, band members and "a girl vocalist" arrested after concert for possession of marijuana, pills, "needles and other dope equipment"). 
  • In April 1957 (Uptown Theater, headlining a double bill with Ruth Brown).
  • 29 March - 4 April 1958 (Nixon Theater at 52nd and Chestnut, em-ceed by Cannonball, "sensational disc jockey at Radio Station WDAS", also featuring Chuck Willis, Robert and Johnny, The Moonglows, Jo Ann Campbell, The Mello Kings and The Chuckies; "more than 40,000 persons, the majority of them teenagers are expected to visit [...] during the seven-day run [...]; source: Philadelphia Tribune, Mar. 29, 1958).**
Looking at Ray's picture, my best guess is that his performance on the show must be placed in 1955 or 1956.

* Matt Delmont informed me in an email that the picture "with Ray Charles is a screen shot of a documentary which used a still image. The documentary is Black Philadelphia Memories, dir[ected by] Trudi Brown (WHYY-TV12, 1999).  I contacted Mrs. Brown, but she did not have a current address for Thomas's children, so I wasn't able to find the original photo."
** Quotes from clippings kindly shared with me by Matt Delmont.

06 May 2012

Ray Charles Live In Comblain-La-Tour (1964)



These photos were made by David Redfern, who later remembered the conditions at Comblain-la-Tour as "a mud bath".

With Joe Napoli.
The International Jazz Festival in Comblain-La-Tour, in the Belgian Ardennes, built a huge international reputation in the years between 1959 and 1966 (its tradition was revived in 2009).
Ray Charles first performed here in 1961, on July 29 or 30, shortly after his - now famous - first Antibes concerts, i.e. accompanied by his 'small big band'.
Festival leaflet.
On August 9, 1964 Ray returned with his full big band entourage, headlining the festival. The concert started late because of "une pluie battante" (pouring rain), but according to the history pages of the festival's website no one in the audience complained. The Genius finally reached the stage "enveloppé de gendarmes" (surrounded by police men). It may be my imagination, but it's as if I could hear the rain falling during all tracks of the concert's 50-minute audio recording (the taping appears to be complete, but note that Georgia is missing!):







  1. Moanin' (with Ray Charles Orchestra)
  2. Busted
  3. I've Got A Woman
  4. Margie
  5. Hide Nor Hair
  6. Just For A Thrill
  7. Just A Little Lovin'
  8. Baby Don't You Cry
  9. In The Evening
  10. Hallelujah I Love Her So
  11. Hit The Road Jack
  12. Don't Set Me Free (with Lillie Fort)
  13. What'd I Say (+ outro on Pop Goes The Weasel)
Interviewed by Benoît Querson, before the concert.
During its first existence, the festival worked closely together with the French-language Belgian public radio station RTB - more specifically with the makers of their show Jazz Pour Tous (Jazz For All), Nicolas Dor and Jean-Marie Peterken, but the audio that I listened to sounded more like a (rather mediocre, muffled) board mix.
The Raelettes, in their new line-up, only appeared for the three last tunes.

On August 14, 1964 the Belgian public TV station BRT looked back on the festival (and the rain) with a 2m22s  item, featuring Ray Charles and Memphis Slim.

  

Ray Charles Live In England (1964)

AFN* Stars Of Jazz
Come in, come in, come in, Ray Charles
Come in, the high priest

In the days before rock 'n' roll
From Ballad in Blue.
Some of Van Morrison's song lyrics remind us that rhythm & blues music first reached the ears of audiences in Europe over the radio. Voice of America's programs for the American forces in Germany (with lots of jazz, but towards the end of the 1950s also including blues and 'soul jazz') probably were the first to let Europeans listen in to the new wave of contemporary American 'black' music, and the first 'white' rock 'n' roll, but not much later the English language programming of Radio Luxembourg became the #1 source for all these exciting new sounds from the U.S. for the Brits (and for music lovers in much of the rest of Europe!).
Every pop music historian since the late 1960s has explained that the British Invasion, the UK bands which conquered the American charts in the mid 1960s, were in fact just returning the favor - combining R&B, R&R and a few British music traditions into a new blend of 'beat' music.
In this light I've always found it remarkable that Ray Charles in the early 1960s seemed to have been so much better - and so much sooner - received in France than in the UK. But since the English are aeons behind in making their media archives accessible over the Web, it's almost impossible for me, as a non-Brit, to even begin assessing if this impression was correct, or - if so - to start analyzing why this has been the case.
Until late last week, that is, when a friend of this blog provided me with a delicious set of contemporary clippings of Ray Charles-articles from the New Musical Express (NME, 1959 - 1974) and the Record Mirror (RM, 1962 - 1978).
The picture that arises from these articles is, as expected, that the American chart success of What'd I Say (1959) sparked the first interest in the UK, but that the mass appeal and local #1 success of I Can't Stop Loving You was necessary to create something of an English hype around the Genius. The same happened all over Europe.

 *In some parts of Europe AFN's radio stations scored high as well (read these interesting memories of a UK listener). Van Morrison's lyrics for In The Days Before Rock 'n' Roll are always quoted erroneously, with the line "AFM stars of jazz". After writing this post, I found this excellent contemporary article from The Jazz Review, shedding a lot more light on the UK 'jazz radio' situation around 1960. For a good story about 'Northern Soul' and the early appreciation of soul music in the UK, read this.

1961, 1962 cancellations
What appears to be special, is that an awkwardly big number of NME articles in 1961, 1962 and 1963 were announcements of planned British concert tours by Brother Ray, and... of their rescheduling, and - ultimately - of their cancellations.
For one reason or the other local promoters simply didn't succeed in signing Ray on before the chaotic string of British concerts in May and June 1963 (and even in that year Ray toured Germany, Belgium and Holland first).
All over the world, Ray's fame, and all excitement surrounding him, had climaxed in 1961. Can it be that UK audiences were simply a bit too late in witnessing the novelty of Ray's thrilling live concerts?

1963, 1964 Raelettes problems
One of the last photos of  The Raelettes with
(clockwise from top:) Darlene McCrea, Pat Lyles,
Gwen Berry, Margie Hendricks.
Or were Ray's concerts in 1963 and 1964 simply not good enough to maintain or even further fuel the hype in Britain? On May 14, 1963, Margie Hendricks missed the concert at the Hammersmith Odeon in London "through illness but was able to rejoin the show the following night". "That wasn't the real Ray Charles," said Ray Charles. "With Maggie ill, no one could sing her part. So I had to leave out a lot of the wilder things..." (source: NME from May 10, 17 and 24, 1963).

In 1964 the "Raelettes situation" was even worse. "Owing to the indisposition of two of the Raelets, the first night did not, unfortunately, produce anything like a classic Ray Charles concert", and "Margie [Hendricks], and Darlene [McCrea] (the two remaining original Raelets) were ill in London, victims of the English climate", the NME reported.
The girls didn't return on stage during this tour: in the concert on July 18 (and probably also on some of the other shows) "There was a big surprise halfway through when the two fit Raelets came on stage bringing two 'understudies' with them and joined in." The two fit girls probably were Gwen Berry and Pat Lyles, the two understudies* were Lillie Fort and Bobbie Pierce. The story about the "indisposition" probably was a PR cover-up of Ray's conflict with Margie. It looks as if this was the occasion where Margie left Ray for good, and as if Darlene went with her.

England 1963
More from '63 here.
London 1963.
For the 1963 Britain tour I've found proof of concerts in London (Finsbury Park, May 12), London (Hammersmith Odeon, May 13 a/o 14), London (New Victoria, May 15), Birmingham (May 16), Leeds (May 17), Manchester (May 18), London (Hammersmith Odeon, May 19), London (unidentified venue, May 21), and finally - after a tour in France - again London (Hammersmith Odeon, June 1 and 2).

Britsh Isles 1964
In 1964 Ray's British tour calendar even looked messier, but this time that also had to do with the fact that much of June and July was dedicated to sound recordings and film shoots for Ballad In Blue, in Dublin, London and Paris. Looking at the schedule, it seems as if Ray's management simply asked local promoters in Europe to fill the dots between the shootings.
Ticket for Astoria, Jun. 18.
After finishing the U.S. spring tour on May 3 at Carnegie Hall, the Ray Charles Group took off for Europe. I've found traces of two possible concerts in London, on May 5 (Hammersmith Odeon) and 14 (Carling Apollo Hammersmith), but haven't been able to confirm these in trustworthy sources.
Driving a dodgem car.
On June 1 Ray was seen driving dodgem cars at the Battersea Fun Fair, one of the key scenes in Ballad In Blue. On June 18 Ray gave a concert at the Astoria Theater in London. According to film promotion materials, the Dublin shootings of Ballad In Blue took place at the end of June and in early July.
From July 7 (i.e. after finishing the shooting of Ballad In Blue) to mid September the band was on a tour that not only covered the British Isles, but also Copenhagen, Stockholm, Holland, Paris, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Algeria, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, and Hawaii.
(It almost looks as if Ray did everything to avoid performing in the U.S. in that period - and this may in effect have been his intention, thus avoiding some pending paternity cases, and a certain eagerness of American law enforcers to check Ray and his band on the possession of illegal substances).

The July 1964 Britain tour brought Ray to Liverpool (Odeon, 8 or 9), Leeds (Odeon, 10), Manchester (Free Trade Hall, 11), London (Hammersmith Odeon, 12), Bristol (Colston, 14), Croydon (20) and Southend (22). There may have been more concerts in between and after these dates; also see below.
Ticket for Leeds concert, Jul. 10.
The Croydon concert was Ray Charles' debut on British TV, "telerecorded by Rediffusion for transmission in October. The entire second house of Charles' public performance with the orchestra [was to be] filmed, and subsequently edited to a 45-minute TV showcase" (source: Record Mirror, August 1, 1964). Charlie Watts, Keith Richards, and Brian Wilson were in the audience. The TV program eventually aired in August, not in October, and unfortunately the footage - as far as I know - has not survived.

The 1964 UK Concert
The same friend who send me the NME and RM clippings provided me with a further surprise by sending me a copy of a thus far unknown 53-minute audio recording of a concert that was taped during the 1964 Britain tour. The concert was sliced up in 15 separate tracks of reasonable sound quality:
  1. Ticket for Manchester concert, Jul. 11.
    Swing A Little Taste (with Ray Charles Orchestra)
  2. Doodlin' (with Ray Charles Orchestra)
  3. Makin' Whoopee
  4. You Don't Know Me
  5. Just A Little Lovin'
  6. Georgia On My Mind
  7. Baby Don't You Cry
  8. Careless Love
  9. Hide Nor Hair
  10. Hallelujah I Love Her So
  11. In The Evening (solos by Sonny Forriest - g; Phil Guilbeau - tp)
  12. That Lucky Old Sun (Edgar Willis - b)
  13. Margie
  14. Born To Lose
  15. Busted
Ed 'Lemon' Willis (still from Ballad In Blue).
Six of the tracks (#1, 3, 7, 9, 14 and 15) are first known live recordings. Two of the tunes (#8, 12) were only preceded by their album recordings, and by the pseudo-live renditions in Ballad In Blue.
It's a pity that the audience was very quiet (or that their response was suppressed at the mixing board) at this concert. The rendition of Makin' Whoopee (#3) was less bawdy, but a bit jazzier, than the famous one at the Shrine Auditorium in September '64. The Swingova arrangement of Baby Don't You Cry (#7) in my ears sounded as if injected with some more Bossa Nova than the version we know from the Shrine live album. In The Evening (#11) got another fantastic rendition here, with great solos by Sonny Forriest and Phil Guilbeau. The biggest musical surprise was in That Lucky Old Sun, where Ed "Lemon" Willis beautifully played his bass with a bow to produce the sonorous tones required for this piece.
The original set order was probably different. It seems more than feasible that What'd I Say was omitted from this audio copy.
The most remarkable aspect, though, of the whole recording is that there isn't a trace of The Raelettes in any of the songs.

When I saw this recording land in my inbox, my first thought was that this must be an audio copy of the Rediffusion/ARTV telecast of The Man They Call Genius, i.e. the Croydon concert of July 20 (which, as it looks now, hasn't survived on film or video). An American Ray Charles discographer, however, informed my friend  that it was taped at the Hammersmith Odeon in London on July 25 or 26, 1964...
Not only haven't I found any documented proof of concerts on these dates, this information also seems to be conflicting with a statement by Lillie Fort, who remembered that she first joined the Ray Charles Troupe in London*. To me it seems more probable that it was taped, for a radio broadcast, during any of the concerts in Liverpool (July 8th or 9th), Leeds (10), or Manchester (11). London on July 12 must probably be excluded since a review in the Record Mirror (dated July 18) specified that I've Got A Woman was part of this show (but... if there was a double concert in London on July 12, the Hammersmith Odeon is still a candidate).

Personnel
The line-up at this concert almost certainly was identical to the one for Ballad in Blue.
Musicians: Oliver Beener, Roy Burrows, Floyd Jones, Phil Guilbeau - trumpets; Fred Murrell, Jim Harbert, ?Curtis Miller?, Keg Johnson - trombones; David Newman, James Clay - tenor saxophones; Dan Turner, Harold Minerve - alto saxophones; Leroy Cooper - baritone saxophone; Wilbert Hogan - drums; Sonny Forriest - guitar; Edgar Willis - bass. The Raelettes: Pat Moseley Lyles, Margie Hendricks, Gwen Berry, Darlene McCrea.

More from the UK?
The "live recording" history of Ray Charles in the UK must be richer than the few samples that have emerged so far. Who knows more?!

* Information i.c. Lillie Fort kindly provided to me by Joël Dufour.

02 May 2012

Ray Charles Live In Osaka (1989)

Cover of the Japan 1989 tour brochure.
At a concert in Osaka, on December 27, 1989 a board mix was recorded*. The setlist was:
  1. Woody 'n' Bu (Jeff Helgesen - tp; Rudy Johnson - ts; Ernest Vantrease - p)
  2. Samba De Elencia
  3. Easy Living (Jeff Helgesen - fl, Scott Frillman - bs; Ted Murdock - tp)
  4. Ray Minor Ray (Mike Karn, Rudy Johnson - ts; Jeff Kaye, Jeff Helgesen - tp)
  5. Intro RC
  6. Riding Thumb
  7. Busted
  8. Georgia On My Mind
  9. Mississippi Mud
  10. How Long Has This Been Going On
  11. Stranger In My Own Home Town (Kenny Carr - g)
  12. Yours
  13. Intro Raelettes
  14. Love Is What We Need
  15. All I Need (ft Trudy Cohran)
  16. Don't Change On Me
  17. I Can't Stop Loving You
  18. I Can See Clearly Now
  19. Baby It's Cold Outside
  20. Lay Around And Love On You (All I Wanna Do Is --)
  21. What'd I Say
  22. Fast send-off/outro
  23. Ellie, My Love
  24. Outro (I Can't Stop Loving You-theme)
The documentary value is mainly in the taping of the instrumentals - all got excellent, inspired treatments from the Orchestra. Woody 'n' Bu (#1) so far was only known from one of the concerts at the 1984 Warsaw Jazz Jamboree, and from the 1988 Oklahoma concert. Samba De Elencia (#2) was recorded on My Kind Of Jazz Part III, but I know of only one recorded live version (the Madrid concert, also from 1975). I knew Easy Living (#3) only from the 1992 Antibes concert. Ray Minor Ray was first released on My Kind Of Jazz Part III, and is e.g. also known from concert versions in 1961 (Paris) and 1979 (Antibes). Another special treat was All You Need (#15), in a great rendition by Trudy Cohran.

Personnel:
The line-up was probably pretty similar to the one that was documented for the concert in Bari, on December 8 (but there may have been "a sub or two", as Jeff Helgesen states).
Musicians: Chuck Parrish, Jeff Helgesen (fl), Ted Murdock, Jeff Kaye - trumpets; Steve Sigmund, Mike Guerrier, Marc Fields, Wayne Coniglio - tombones; Craig Baily, Al Jackson - alto saxophones; Mike Karn, Rudy Johnson - tenor saxophones; Scott Frillman - baritone saxophone; Ernest Vantrease - piano, keyboards; Kenny Carr - guitar; Darren Solomon - bass; Jeff Ballard - drums. The Raelettes: Anita Brooks,  Trudy Cohran, Kathryn Collier, Angie Workman, Estella Yarbrough.

* Special thanks to Jeff Helgesen for sharing & for attributing the solos.