Written by
Bob Stumpel

September 3

Ray Charles Co-Billed With Louis Armstrong At Kent State Gig (1967)

'67 RI Kent NM

(c) Kent Stater

With his special talent to get the most out of duets and other forms of collaboration, Ray Charles has recorded with an impressive longlist of other stars – singers as well as instrumentalists (also see the “With”-labels in the sidebar of this page). And in the almost sixty years of his career, Ray Charles has shared the stage with a representative sample of other contemporary, American blues, jazz, rock, country, and pop stars. Nevertheless, only a fraction of these events has been documented in a meaningful way.

(c) KSU Chestnut Burr Yearbook..

Therefore it’s great fun to find a richly illustrated article like this: Ray Charles and Louis Armstrong Co-Headline a 1967 Homecoming Extravaganza on Kent’s Campus, by Jason Prufer. It describes the programming by the Kent State University Homecoming committee in 1967 (accidentally the year that I have paid quite some attention to; see a.o. this and this article), that must have been generally considered – also by contemporaries – as highly peculiar.~

(c) KSU Chestnut Burr Yearbook..

The article quotes a newspaper review which provides a lot of details about the Ray Charles Show. First there was the Ray Charles Orchestra, playing a choice of tunes, from Walk On By* to Willow Weep For Me**,  interspersed by Billy Preston doing Agent Double O Soul and Shotgun*, and The Raelettes performing Respect*. After the intermission, Ray did an expected set with Georgia, Hit The Road and Can’t Stop, promoted his recent albums through renditions of Crying Time and Here We Go Again, and plugged his newest single, Yesterday. He also threw in his piano solos on Premium Stuff***.
The Kent Stater wrote, “The lengthy applause which followed was acknowledged by the perfomer’s comments, ‘Go ahead! I appreciate it! Ain’t no harm to it!'”
Ray and Louis were interviewed for WKSU-FM. The taping seems to be lost, but Prufer has reconstructed some of the contents with the help of deejay Rich Phoenix.

~ Prufer understandably ignores the third co-billed artist,Mitch Ryder, who certainly was a star at the time, and may have brought his Detroit Wheels to Kent State.* Never recorded. I think the writer meant to refer to the very similar tune Goin’ Out Of My Head, which was on the playlists of the other ’67 tours.** Never recorded live. *** Never recorded; also mentioned in this 1967 review, with the remark “here you had the comedian, exploring the possibilities of humor in music”.


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