Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ray Charles - St. Augustine

Ray Charles was born eighty years ago today in Albany, Georgia. His family moved to Greenville, Florida (near Tallahassee) when Ray was just an infant. Ray started to go blind when he was five years old and was totally blind by age seven. He attended the St. Augustine School for the Deaf & Blind from 1937 to 1945.

Charles played piano at the School and also worked a couple of summer breaks with relatives in Frenchtown, in Tallahassee. After his mother died and at the ripe age of 15, Charles also lived for awhile in Jacksonville and for over a year, he played the piano for bands at the Ritz Theatre in LaVilla, earning $4 a night.

Charles then moved to Orlando and later Tampa, where he played with a southern band called The Florida Playboys. This is where he began his habit of always wearing sunglasses, made by designer Billy Stickles.

Ray Charles left Florida and moved to Seattle and the rest is history. Ray Charles went on to pioneer soul music and rhythym and blues and also was instrumental in breaking down racial barriers not only in music but in theatres and concert halls across the South. For years his own homestate of Georgia banned him from performing there because he refused to play desegregated venues.

Ray Charles played music right up to the end of his life until he died June 10, 2004 from liver cancer at the age of 73.Thank You , Ray Charles.

Note: In the clip ...that looks like Chet Atkins on guitar behind Ray. Also notice the "white boys" in the audience just sittin' there, in the presence of musical genius, some with their arms folded, while the girls in the audience are boogying away.

"I'm not one to interpret my own songs, but if you can't figure out 'What I Say', then something's wrong. Either that, or you're not accustomed to the sweet sounds of love."—Ray Charles

"What'd I Say" was banned by many black and white radio stations because of, as one critic noted, "the dialogue between himself and his backing singers that started in church and ended up in the bedroom".

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