Written by
Bob Stumpel

January 11

Ray Charles In Concert In Tampa (1991)

'91 LC Tampa NMConcert 1991 Tampa NM

On April 28, 1990, Ray Charles received an honorary doctorate of Fine Arts from the University of South Florida, at the Sun Dome in Tampa. “When Charles, in cap and gown, was officially awarded his degree, the crowd again erupted,” a local newspaper wrote. The next year, on February 15, 1991*, Ray came back at the USF Sun Dome, to perform a big show with the USF Jazz Ensemble, the USF Symphony Orchestra conducted by H.B. Barnum and the USF Gospel Choir. He also brought his own rhythm section. “The 1 1/2-hour production was impeccable throughout. Despite such massive accompaniment, Charles remained the focal point, his soulful voice always pushed to the forefront. Much of this was due to a superb sound mix and the deft hand of Charles’ conductor […]” (source).

Update 21-12-2023 I was sent this video by Fred Salaff who co produced and edited this video
He also worked with Ray at his L.A. studio during post production and the final online edit was done in Las Vegas.

Thank you so much, Fred!

Pic captured from an interview that was shot this same day for WUSF TV

Drummer David Rokeach shared an interesting story with me, regarding a pro video recording:


“It was unique in that Ray wanted to do something nice for the University that gave him [the] honorary degree. There was no money to be made [for him, but we] got paid. Ray donated this performance. He brought H.B. Barnum to conduct, and his rhythm section of me, Kenny Carr, and Ben[oît] Grey. We rehearsed with a student big band, symphony orchestra, and a very young Gospel choir. Then played a show with all three groups. It was the longest Ray Charles show that I ever did. He played a lot of material including Old Man River which he didn’t bring out very often.
He paid for the concert (and maybe some rehearsals too) to be videotaped and recorded professionally. He was going to donate the video to the University. I stayed in touch with some University folks for a year or so afterwards. They said, at the time, that they never received the video. I saw Ray a few years later and asked him about it. He said that he might put it out as part of a package.”

The tapes most proably still are in the vaults of RPM, at the Ray Charles Foundation in Los Angeles.

* My sources are not entirely clear on the dates mentioned in this article; I have reconstructed the most probable timeline.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *