Written by
Bob Stumpel

December 14

Ray Charles Camera-Shy In Molde (1999)

'99 DM Molde NM

On- and off-stage, Ray Charles hated photo cameras. “What’s all that damn click-click-clickin’?!” Ray’s tour management always maintained very strict rules regarding photography (later also: videography) during concerts, but for instance also when Ray arrived at airports, hotels and concert venues.
At concerts, taking photos was usually just allowed during the first and the last song. Security people were briefed to act against camera owners breaking these rules. This often led to irritation, and sometimes to small riots in front of the stage. Or even on stage, when Ray refused to go on as long as photographers were shooting.

On 15 July 1999 Ray Charles performed at the Molde Jazz Festival in Norway. The next day Dagbladet reported that “quarrelsome security guards were about to destroy the entire concert with soul legend Ray Charles” when a camera man from NRK, a tv station, filmed during the “wrong” song, at which Ray  threatened to walk off the stage if the videotape wasn’t handed over to the security people. “There’s an asshole out there who likes making movies when I play. As long as he continues, I do not play,” Ray said from the stage, and sat with his arms crossed.
He resumed his performance when the NRK camera man gave the tape to one of the festival organizers, “who had the choice to either give the tape to one of Ray Charles’ managers, or to get 7,500 spectators in his neck”. During the concert, the organizer “made several vain attempts to persuade Charles’ management to return the tape”. A team from a competing tv station (TV2) managed barely to escape with their shooting materials – “with security forces in pursuit”.
At the end of the concert the scandal continued: “When the photographers took some shots at the closing number, the security guards went almost crazy. The photographers were thrown out of the area […]”. When they protested, a guy in the entourage of Ray cried out. “See you in court in Los Angeles!”

As usual, before the concert a number of journalists had been invited to meet the legend at the airport, but when Charles’ people discovered the camera press, they were furious. “Get away! The man will not be filmed!” bellowed Charles’ staff. “The legend himself, tired and exhausted, did not come out before the press found itself at a distance.”
The “circus” continued when the press was pushed and threatened by local security guards when Charles arrived at his hotel. “If I see a flash, I take the camera and step on it,” roared a production manager from the jazz festival, and pushed several photographers.

Who knows more about any footage surviving from these scrimmages? 


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