Written by
Bob Stumpel

April 22

Ray Charles’ Early Iconography

Off topic

1. This photo has been used in several documentaries, always suggesting that it shows Ray with his mother Aretha. The picture reproduced here is a still from The Genius of Soul. If the photo is authentic, and if the woman is Aretha, the picture should be dated as ‘circa 1944’.

2. In early 1948 Ray moved to Seattle, soon playing gigs with Gossie McKee (guitar) at the Black and Tan. In the Summer they scored the one-to-five-a.m. gig at The Rocking Chair, also pulling in Milton S. Garret on bass. They called themselves the McSon Trio. In December 1948 they first met Jack Lauderdale of Down Beat Records. Without any contract in place, they recorded I Love You, I Love You / Confession Blues.
The photo above was probably shot around that same time. The caption to it was typed by Jack Lauderdale himself, who thought that Ray was born in 1932 (this erroneous birth year was to be consistently communicated until well into the 1950s)*. (Collection Joel Dufour).
* Ray at the time may have thought that he was born in 1932, and therefore was only 16 in 1948; he almost certainly was the source for this biographical detail; Quincy Jones, when talking about this period, still states that Ray was 16 when they met in Seattle.

The same photo in an odd reworking (obviously for some publicity printwork) with hand-retouche of Ray’s glasses and clumsy illustrated elements in background and Garret’s bass. Source here.

3. Photo from the same shooting.

4. Photo from the same shooting, probably a partial blow-up taken from another photo with the complete Trio, like the pics above.

 5. In early Down Beat promotion materials cut-outs from one of the photos from this same shooting were used to depict the members of the Maxin Trio. In it Ray’s head received hand-retouched glasses. This ad appeared in Billboard on March 12, 1949.

6. In November 1949 the “Maxim” Trio was signed on by booking agent Ben Waller. This contract was taken over by Shaw Artists in Mid April of 1951. This photo was distributed by Shaw. 

The shooting of this photo was either instigated by Lauderdale, or by Waller, or by Shaw, and must have taken place between late 1949 and the Summer of 1951. (Collection Joël Dufour).

 7. Ray’s “first professional” portrait, from the same shooting as photo 6. (Collection Joël Dufour).

8.a. I supposed that this publicity photo was first used by Shaw Artists, but this reproduction shows that it was already applied as a promotion item in the Waller/Swingtime days.

 8.b. The first known application in promotion materials of this publicity portrait is in a poster for a concert at the Sunset Terrace in Indianapolis, on 4 March 1951. Shaw artists distributed it through the remainder of 1951 and 1952; from 1952 to 1955 Atlantic used it too. (Collection Joël Dufour).


 9. With girlfriend Madlyn Glover, two of her brothers, Little Willie John and some fans/girlfriends at the 5-4 Ballroom in LA, in 1954.


10. With Madlyn Glover. at the 5-4 Ballroom in LA, in 1954.

11. With Little Willie John at the 5-4 Ballroom in LA, in 1954. First photo with “real” RC shades (though the glasses seem to be semi transparent).

 12. This photo probably comes from a separate shooting (circa 1954?). (Collection Joël Dufour).

13. This is a reproduction of a Ray Charles Biography Press Kit, distributed by Atlantic Records, from c. 1956. This was the second year that pics from this James J. Kriegsman publicity photo shoot were used; I assume the shoot took place somewhere between July and October1955.

14. and 15. The two Kriegsman photos above have been applied in ads, press articles and cover artwork many times (also by ABC-Paramount), even well into the 1970s; they are still widely sold as postcards. #15 was often cropped in a way that made him seem more upright (cf. #16).



Sepia effect added to this cover of the CD, “Sitting On Top Of The World” (Pegasus/Pinnacle).

17/18. From the same shooting, but rarely applied.

19. This photo is even more famous than #14; it is also attributed to Kriegsman, but it’s difficult to place on a timeline. The setting with the white piano seems to be identical to the photos above, but Ray wears other shades, and a dark tie, and his hair seems to be a bit shorter.

18. The photo used in this playing card may be from the same shooting as #17.


-------------- — 2012-04-23 09:01:52

De très belles , superbes et rares photos !! andré

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