The All New Ray Charles Show 1968 In Fresno
|Poster for the “The All New!
Ray Charles Show ’68”,
Munich, Sep. 30.
|The “Revue” gig, with
the John Bishop Trio
and comedian Billy
Between 1967 and 1969 Ray Charles Enterprises experimented a lot with packaging evening-filling shows, not only bringing The Genius himself, his Orchestra and The Raelettes on stage, but also other singers, instrumentalists, and variety acts. These Ray Charles Shows could keep an audience busy for up to 2.5 or 3 hours.
Documentation of the content of these shows is fragmentary at best – in promotion materials it was always The Genius himself who was highlighted, and it often were The Raelettes and the Orchestra who were specifically mentioned, but the secondary acts were rarely credited, or reviewed. The best known side-man of this period was of course Billy Preston, who not only filled in his own part in many of these shows, but after intermission often came back as the band’s organ player, accompanying Ray during his part of the concert.
It’s hard to say whether these shows entirely covered Ray’s ideas on how to stage a full evening of music entertainment, or if they were a more trivial business-based reaction to the the competition of a growing number of “soul revues” which toured the world in these years, often initiated by record labels like Motown and Stax, sometimes also centered around celebrity acts (like Ike & Tina, Sam & Dave, Otis).
Anyhow, Ray showed that he could answer any request. Often he only flew in his basic package with the band and the girls, but if necessary he extended the show with Preston (clearly his preferred second-liner), or, more occasionally, with other acts from his Tangerine label, with dance acts (who, one newspaper reviewer remarked with admiration, changed their costumes up to 3 times during the show), or with a comedian like Billy Wallace.
In the autumn of 1968, for instance, he not only filled a few gigs with Billy Preston, but – at least once – also brought the Tangerine act The John Bishop Trio on stage, and – on at least two occasions – singer Andy Butler.
Ray may have overdone it a bit. In one press announcement the promoter found it necessary to guarantee that the Genius would be on stage for at least half of the show.
| “All New Ray Charles
Show” in Vancouver.
I recently learned that one of these full-package shows, in Fresno, on October 25, 1968, was actually taped (“from the audience”, but with an audio quality that’s just acceptable). The taping is sliced up in separate tunes, but what makes it unique is that not only the instrumentals by the Ray Charles Orchestra have survived, but also the three tunes contributed by Andy Butler (all accompanied by Ray’s band). If there were any additional variety acts (from dancers or a comedian), these – unfortunately – didn’t make it to the audio copy that I’ve heard.
Joe Adams announced the concert as “The Ray Charles Show 1968”. The setlist was:
- Blowing The Blues Away (Ray Charles Orchestra)
- Satin Doll (Ray Charles Orchestra)
- Ray Minor Ray (Ray Charles Orchestra)
- Take Me (voc. Andy Butler with Ray Charles Orchestra)
- Shake A Tail Feather (voc. Andy Butler with Ray Charles Orchestra)
- By the Time I Get to Phoenix (voc. Andy Butler with Ray Charles Orchestra)
- Going Home (Ray Charles Orchestra)
- Unidentified instrumental (Ray Charles Orchestra)
- Swing A Little Taste
- The Bright Lights And You Girl
- Georgia On My Mind
- Born To Lose
- You Made Me Love You (I Didn’t Want To Do It)
- Come Rain Or Come Shine
- My Soul
- Soft Winds
- I Don’t Need No Doctor
- Crying Time
- Tell All The World About You
- Soul Serenade (ft. Susaye Greene)
- I Only Have Eyes For You (ft. Verlyn Flenaugh)
- One Hurt Deserves Another (ft. Barbara Nell Terrault)
- Eleanor Rigby
- Sweet Young Thing Like You
- What’d I Say
#2. Only known version of Satin Doll apart from the one supposedly played by Ray (without his Orchestra) at the Sold On Soul tribute to Duke Ellington in 1970.
#4. Take Me is the Andy Butler tune originally released as the flipside of the Tangerine single TRC 985 (1967).
|Photo shot at a concert the
night before Fresno, in
San Luis Obispo.
#5. Shake A Tail Feather is performed in an arrangement that’s very different from Ray’s famous rendition in The Blues Brothers.
#7. Going Home: rare live version of this tune from the album Jazz Number II.
The usual introduction on stage of Ray Charles is between #8 and #9.
#16. My Soul: this Ray Charles tune was never released, and its copyrights may not even have been secured; this is the third version that I know of. Read this article for more background.
#22. Soul Serenade: the song made famous by Aretha Franklin; Susaye’s version is excellent.
#23. Understanding: one of my personal favorites in Ray’s entire oeuvre; the response of the audience on the bawdy lyrics is as funny as I expected. This is one of the few known live versions.
#24. I Only Have Eyes For You: I don’t know of any other recording of this song.
#28. What’d I Say got a (variation on) the outrageous 12-minute version with a “Spanish intro”, that I also know from a recording by the French radio station Europe-1 (at an unknown venue and date, but possibly from one of the concerts in 1968 at La Salle Pleyel in Paris).
The line-up of the band – led by Wallace Davenport – must have been highly similar to the personnel that less than 3 weeks before backed Ray during the concert at La Salle Pleyel (with the sure exception of Billy Preston). Recently a photo of the band during the same October tour in the U.S. has popped up; although slightly out of focus, it will help to reconstruct the line-up.
Ray brought his rather new line-up of Raelettes (the “old” group had left after a dispute in the Summer) also to both concerts. During the Fresno concert Ray calls out the names of Susaye [Greene], Verlyn [Flanaugh] and Barbara [Nell Terrault]. The fourth Raelette in this line-up was Beverly Ann Lesure.