Deep Dive: Ray Charles, RAY CHARLES IN PERSON
56 years ago today, Ray Charles was at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 with “Georgia on My Mind,” which is certainly an anniversary worth celebrating, but since we don’t actually have that track within our catalog, we decided to pay tribute in a different way: by taking a deep dive into the material by Brother Ray that we do have and spotlight something you might not have heard.
If you never had a chance to hear Ray Charles in person, you can still do the next best thing and listen to his 1960 live album, RAY CHARLES IN PERSON, which was mostly recorded on May 28, 1959 at Morris Brown College’s Herndon Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. You can thank Atlanta radio station WAOK for the fact that it exists at all, as it was one of their DJs – Zenas “Daddy” Sears – who stood in the audience with a microphone and recorded the show, but you’ll want to thank them profusely once you’ve heard it, as it’s a delightful historical document of a Charles concert before he became a big mainstream success.
You may have noted the use of the word “mostly” when describing the album earlier. That’s because only six of the album’s seven tracks were recorded in Atlanta. The seventh – “Yes, Indeed,” the third song on the album – was actually recorded at the Newport Jazz Festival on July 5, 1958. It’s still a top-notch performance, however, and it’s a seamless enough blend that you’d likely never know it was from a different show if it wasn’t credited as such.
It’s worth noting that you may also have heard the material from this album as part of a set called RAY CHARLES LIVE! Interestingly, the set takes the seven songs from RAY CHARLES IN PERSON, adds the eight tracks on his 1958 live album, RAY CHARLES AT NEWPORT, and adds one additional Newport track, “Swanee River Rock.” It’s a great compilation, to be sure, but hearing the individual albums first is probably the best way to go, just to get the original experience that fans of that era had.