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

29 August 2012

Al Hall's Times With The Ray Charles Orchestra (1971)

(Sanifu) Al Hall, Jr. was a trombonist in the Ray Charles Band in 1971 and 1972. Today he shared the first of his memories of this period in a great blog article, My times with the Ray Charles Orchestra. Recommended reading!

Ray Charles Live In San Carlos (1971)

In my last post I wrote about a recording of a Ray Charles & B.B. King concert at the Circle Star Theater in San Carlos, in late November of 1972. A reader remembered that a similar (audience) audio recording was made at the same location about a year earlier (the precise date is not known), this time just with the Ray Charles Group. The audio quality of the copy that I've listened to is reasonable.

The concert entailed quite a number of rare tunes.
  1. Golden Boy (Ray Charles Orchestra)
  2. The Sandblaster (intro; with Ray Charles Orchestra)
  3. The Bright Lights And You Girl
  4. Georgia On My Mind
  5. Feel So Bad
  6. The Long And Winding Road
  7. Intro Raelettes
  8. Bad Water (ft Mable John)
  9. Intro Booty Butt
  10. Booty Butt (with Ray Charles Orchestra and The Raelettes, tenor sax solo by Andy Ennis)
  11. I Can't Stop Loving You
  12. Intro to Leave My Man...
  13. Leave My Man Alone (with The Raelettes, ft Vernita Moss)
  14. Don't Change On Me
  15. Chain Of Fools (The Raelettes, ft Estella Yarbrough)
  16. Look What They've Done To My Song, Ma
  17. You Have A Way With Me (The Raelettes, ft Susaye Greene)
  18. So Soon
  19. What'd I Say
The Ray Charles Band at a concert
in San Francisco, in December 1971
(photo by Robert Altman).
Ray was in one of his funny, talkative, moods that night. Golden Boy (#1) is the only known live recording of this instrumental from My Kind Of Jazz (released in April 1970). The Genius' introduction (#2) was accompanied by the usual tones, but this time in a full-length version. The tunes' title appears to be The Sandblaster, and it was written by Roger Neumann.*
Feel So Bad (#5) had an unusual sequence driven by audience hand clapping and drums. Uniquely, the four Raelettes were all introduced (#7) by their first name; Ray jokingly introduced their first song (#8) as Polluted Water. In the spoken intro to Booty Butt (#10) Ray mimicked a child asking his mother to pass on a special request: "I don't remember the name of the song, but it's something about your butt". It is the first known live version of this instrumental hit tune, which was first released on the My Kind Of Jazz album in April 1970, and was then brought out on a  45RPM in March 1971 (reaching #31 on the Billboard Pop Chart, and #13 on the R&B Chart).
Look What They've Done To My Song, Ma (#16) is also a first live version; this tune was part of the album A Message From The People (1972), making it a rare sample (i.e. after the 1950s) of a song that was performed on stage before it was released on vinyl. You Have A Way With Me (#18) is the first and only known live version of this song, released on the Raelettes album Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow (1971). So Soon (#18) got an excellent rendition from Ray; it was never released on vinyl, and is only known from a few concerts in 1972 - 1973, where Ray performed it together with keyboardist John Henderson (who almost certainly did not contribute to this San Carlos concert). 
* Many thanks to Tony Horowitz.

The Raelettes were Susaye Greene, Mable John, Vernita Moss, and Estella Yarbrough. The line-up of the band must have been very similar to the known personnel of the October 1971 concerts at La Salle Pleyel in Paris.

'71 LC San Carlos - The Sandblaster, the walk-on tune:

12 August 2012

Ray Charles And B.B. King Live In San Carlos (1972)

Photo from a 5-day early December 1972 stint at the
Valley Music Theater in Woodland Hills,
also co-billed with B.B. King.
A kind reader of this blog last week surprised me by sending me a cassette with an audience recording of a 1972 concert in San Carlos (CA). It has a decent audio quality, and - more importantly - it has B.B. King co-performing in the finale of the show.

Ray's second USA tour in '72 was booked from early November to mid December. It included B.B. King. They played the Circle Theatre in San Carlos from November 28 to December 2. At least at one documented occasion, Billy Preston (also) joined Ray during that tour.

B.B. King must have performed his solo part of the show before the (first?) intermission, accompanied by the Ray Charles Band.
The place of the first three Raelettes tunes (#2, 3, 4) is a bit unexpected, but from secondary sources we  know of other  Ray Charles concert programs in this period where the girls filled their own pre-intermission part of the show.

The order of the tunes on the cassette tape is:
  1. Our Suite (Ray Charles Orchestra)
  2. Hold On, I'm Coming (The Raelettes)
  3. Love Train (with The Raelettes, ft Dorothy Berry )
  4. Rock Steady (The Raelettes, ft Estella Yarbrough)
  5. Intro Ray Charles
  6. Blues For Big Scotia
  7. Marie
  8. Georgia On My Mind
  9. Feel So Bad
  10. Yours
  11. Intro Raelettes
  12. Look What They've Done To My Song, Ma
  13. Over The Rainbow (ft Susaye Greene)
  14. Don't Change On Me
  15. I Can't Stop Loving You
  16. Shake (with B.B. King and The Raelettes)
  17. Laughin' And Clownin' (with B.B. King and The Raelettes)
  18. What'd I Say (with B.B. King and The Raelettes)
  19. Outro: Unidentified blues (with B.B. King and The Raelettes)
Our Suite (#1) is the first known live recording of the tune, that was first released (in January '73) as part of the album Jazz Number II. The version of Love Train (#3), first released on the Raelettes' 1970 album Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, is also a first known live taping. Blues For Big Scotia (#6) is an earliest known concert rendition. Over The Rainbow (#13) is a (quite over the top) solo interpretation by Susaye Greene, very much in the operatic vein of her solo versions of My Funny Valentine (e.g. at the 1968 Paris concert). Yours (#10) and Don't Change On Me (#14) are earliest known concert versions. Laughin' And Clownin' (#17) is one of my favorite Ray Charles songs, who - unfortunately - only very rarely played it live. This concert at Salinas, however, is the second (documented) time he played it together with B.B. King (the first time was during the Sold On Soul concert in 1970).

Michael Lydon wrote about the San Carlos gig in Boogie Lightning (1974): "The Ray Charles show was at the Circle Star for six days, one show nightly Tuesday through Friday, two on Saturday night, and a Sunday matinee and evening show”. This makes it possible to define 28 November as the datum ante quem and 3 December as the datum post quem. The audio cassettes that have been circulating among collectors always carried "November 1972" as a date, which means that this concert was taped between 28 and 30 November 1972.* 
The line-up of the band included Mike Conlon, Dave Kelly - trumpets; Steve Turre - trombone; Don Garcia, James Clay - alto saxophones, Andy Ennis - tenor saxophone, flute; Leroy Cooper - baritone saxophone, bandleader; John Perrett - drums; Edgar Willis - bass; John Henderson - organ, piano, vocals. The Raelettes were Dorothy Berry,  Susaye Greene, Mable John, Vernita Moss, and Estella Yarbough.  Regarding the remaining personnel, I guess there were many similarities with the personnel known from concerts in Paris in October 1972, the still largely unknown personnel of the Holy Land tour in late December of 1972, and the musicians contributing to the recording of the Jazz Number II album.
* The infomation on the venue and the named musicians is based on intelligence kindly provided by Joël Dufour.

08 August 2012

Ray Charles On A Pre-Produced Promo Radio Show (1985)

In 1985 Columbia (#39415) released Friendship, a parade of country stars joining Ray in a string of duets.
If my interpretation of the pictures above (I found them on Ebay) is correct, Columbia promoted the album with a pre-produced "radio show", where they let Ray introduce each tune. I guess DJs were invited to use the recording to spice up their own shows. Materials from this promo were probably re-used in this clip from the Country Music Hall Of Fame.
Anyhow, the album went to #1 on the country charts and spun off four Top 20 country singles, including a #1 hit for Ray and Willie Nelson on Seven Spanish Angels.

Ray & Raita, A Cover Story (1961 - 1962)

Ray Charles and the Finnish journalist Raita Johnson (birth name Raita Outinen; a.k.a. Raita Outisen, Greta Johnson) started their affair soon after she interviewed him at the Jazz Festival in Antibes, in July 1961. Photo (c) Rancurel.

Ray and Raita were seen and photographed together at a concert by Count Basie at the same jazz fest. (Photo probably by Jean-Pierre Leloir).
Another photo, taken by Jean-Pierre Leloir at the same Count Basie concert, was used in 1962 by Vega - Atlantic's French distributor - as artwork for the cover of the album Bye Bye Love, the French release of Ray's first Modern Sounds album. When Ray learned about this he went apeshit, and made Vega withdraw the already distributed records.
Vega obeyed.
That same year, however, Raita revealed many details of her affair with The Genius in a feature story that appeared in the June '62 edition of Ciné Télé-Revue. I don't know how Brother Ray responded on this indiscretion, but the Chronology pages for the early 1960s (cf. 1, 2, 3, 4) show that they continued their affair well into 1964 - and that they didn't do too much to keep it a secret. Many non-U.S. media - including even French and Swiss public television stations - frequently reported openly about the couples' whereabouts.
If you're confident in Finnish, you can read Raita's full story about the affair in her book Kasvoton morsian - Elämäni Ray Charlesin kanssa ("Faceless bride - My Life with Ray Charles"), from 2003.
I wonder about her interpretation of that word "faceless".

Many thanks to Joël Dufour, who, once again, was extremely generous with his insights, and with source materials.

06 August 2012

Ray Charles Arriving In Lyon (1961)

At the Gare des Brotteaux in Lyon (video still).
On October 19, 1961 Ray Charles performed twice in Lyon, at the Palais des Congrès. The French TV archive, INA, still has the news clip announcing his arrival by train on that same day, at the Gare des Brotteaux. It can be watched here.

The clip was broadcast on October 21st (when Ray was in the middle of his famous 3-day stint in Paris).

In the clip you can see Ray, smoking heavily, in the company of his girlfriend Raita Johnson, a few staff members and musicians, and what must be local promotors and agents. And there is some footage of fans, waiting at the Lyon concert venue.

05 August 2012

Ray Charles In Nancy (1973)

Still from the interview.
On October 10, 1973 Ray Charles headlined the first jazz festival in Nancy. I've just seen the raw materials and a rough first edited version of an interview related to this gig.

There were two shows, but the first one obviously was marred by sound problems. Ray was still full of that when, sitting in a bus between the concerts, he was interviewed by French TV: "I will play any place, if what I'm selling comes off. I will play in a factory. I will play in a toilet. [...]. If my sound is right [...] I will play anywhere."

The edited version also has a few very rare seconds of color concert footage (the only 'live' coverage from 1973 that I know of), with the Ray Charles introduction, and the first notes of Let The Good Times Roll.