Written by
Bob Stumpel

October 27

Ray Charles Live In Antibes (1961)

'61 LC AntibesAlbum 1961 AntibesConcert 1961 Antibes

The 1961 Festival

French Ray Charles fans (video still).

The 1961 edition of the Antibes Jazz Festival, in later years also known as Jazz à Juan, was the second in its history. It had Ray Charles, Count Basie, and Les McCann as headliners, but Ray was given a super star treatment, and actually fulfilled the role of – what we would now call – the artist in residence. Charles, his Orchestra (i.e. his ‘small big band’) and The Raelettes performed (at least) four times, and Ray was invited to  all or most official receptions and gala meetings.

The concert series
The 2me Festival International Du Jazz, was first announced to be held from 17 to 23 July 1963 (“avec le Concours de la Radiodiffusion Television Française”), but the festival actually took place from the 18th until the 24th. The magazine Jazz Hot announced 3 sets by Ray Charles on the 20th, the 21st and the 23d (all scheduled at 9.30 p.m. at the Pinède Gould), and implied a possible 4th performance at the “Closing Gala at the Casino of Juan-les-Pins” on July 24th.

Poster (or program cover?)
of the 1961 festival,
with wrong date
range, as reproduced
by the magazine Jazz Hot.

In fact, there were four concert dates: 18, 19, 21 and 22 July – if Ray performed during the closing gala, the show was not taped, or the recording(s) didn’t survive.
The four shows were taped for radio, and filmed for TV. All radio recordings have survived; the filmed performances that stil exist made it to the 2011 DVD discussed below.

TV recordings
According to the liner notes of the 2011 DVD (see below), four concerts were filmed for ORTF television, all  directed by Jean-Christophe Averty (who, until the early 1990s, would be involved in many more of Ray’s concert tapings in France). The same concerts were also taped for radio broadcasts. The latter, of course in a remastered version, were used for the audio part of the 2011 DVD.
The producers of the DVD-set Ray Charles Live In France 1961 (Eagle Vision DVD EREDV904) discovered that the footage from the festival was originally edited into nine different Best of the Antibes Jazz Festival programs, broadcast by RTF from the summer of 1961 to the spring of 1962. “This Ray Charles footage was never intended to be shown as a full-length project,” explained Reelin’ In The Years‘ David Peck, “But […] we found the radio recordings of the full sets, giving us a way to edit everything together to become this seamless experience and amazing document of Ray Charles.”

The part of the Ina archive that I have access to has databased several TV items. It’s not yet clear to me how these items relate to the series of 9 programs mentioned in the paragraph above, and/or if (some of?) the contents of these programs were used for the 2011 DVD:

  • Interview Ray Charles and Count Basie (’61 DM Antibes)First aired on TF 1 News on 18 July 1961. Contents: Airport of Orly; Ray Charles comes from plane; Ray Charles carrying a Bible in Braille under his arm; interviews by François de La Maisonneuve with Ray Charles and Count Basie. (Ina ID CAF91038028).
  • Festival 1961: Ray Charles. First aired on 21 July 1961 by TF 1. Contents a.o.: 1. Doodlin’ (Ray Charles Orchestra), Let The Good Times Roll, Georgia On My Mind, Sticks And Stones (Ina ID CPF86644253); 2. Georgia On My Mind (Ina ID CPF86644253). 
  • Festival 1961: Count Basie – Ray Charles. First aired on TF 1 on 21 October 1961. Contents: 1. Festival overview with clips from concerts by Ray Charles and Count Basie (Ina ID CPF86644255); 2. What’d I Say (Ina ID CPF86644255).

Bootleg CD

The bootleggish Italian audio CD titled Rock + Soul = Genius (Jazz Music Yesterday, CD HMY1009-2) has all tunes from the first concert on 18 July 1961, plus “Ruby” from the concert on 21 July. The materials  at one time have been part of an exchange program between French radio and the Italian public radio station RAI. For more information on the EBU exchange program, also see this post.
It’s highly probable that Rock + Soul = Genius was bootlegged from tape copies of the original French RTF recordings, that were used by RAI.
One of the tracks on the CD has an erroneous title, Hot Rod. The correct title is ‎Popo (the tune penned by Shorty Rogers, here with a nice tenor/alto battle between David Newman and Hank Crawford). For Shorty’s original, see and hear this.

Bootleg DVD (DVD1)
The bootleg DVD Jazz à Juan (a while ago on sale via Ebay), seemed to represent all film footage stored at Ina, the French national radio and tv archive. It presented the setlists of a Première Partie, a Deuxième Partie (this numbering was fictional), and five Bonus items. But the bootleg missed two tracks, namely the versions of I Wonder and Sticks And Stones from the last two concerts in the series.

Bootleg Ray à Juan

Official DVD (DVD2) 
The contents of the ‘official’ DVD, Ray Charles – Live in France 1961 are very similar to the bootleg, but of course the new release presents the film footage and the audio in optimized, remastered versions. The producers’ notes of Ray Charles Live In France 1961 go deeper into some of the provenance and production details:

“It is from these [9 RTF] programs that we culled 105 minutes of Ray Charles’ various performances and tried to reassemble them into the original order of the sets. It is important to note that the footage included in this [DVD] was never originally intended to be broadcast as a full-length program.”

“In 1961, long before the digital age, films were edited by physically cutting and splicing segments together and discarding the rest (on the famed “cutting room floor.”) Unfortunately, this is why only 105 minutes exist from the four sets Ray and the band performed in July 1961. The biggest task for us was how to put the 25 songs that were spread out across the various programs back together into a seamless Ray Charles concert experience. To make matters worse, the individual songs were often missing the first and last notes. Fortunately, the full sets existed as radio recordings. This allowed us to (for the most part) rearrange the clips into their original running order, fix all of the missing heads and tails of the performances, and as a bonus, gave the whole project far superior sound! This still left us with the challenge of creating the visual bridges between the songs; our solution to this was to insert audience shots culled from the over 20 hours of footage filmed at the festival that year.”

The audio mastering was done by Joe Palmaccio. “He took our damaged 50-year-old radio tapes that were less than ideally recorded and brought out a brilliant, fully rounded sonic clarity that we could have only hoped was somehow buried in those tapes.”

The video quality of the DVD is superior as compared to the bootleg, but less good than I hoped for (the video remastering is sub-optimal). The audience shots (also taken from concerts by other artists) are no clear improvement (the editor made an awkward mistake when he combined one of the later concerts with a telelens shot from one of the earlier RC concerts).
In the reconstruction of the footage, Eagle Vision must have followed the editors of the bootleg DVD, thus also copying the mistake of attributing 3 tunes from the 21 July-concert to the concert on the 22nd.

The DVD-film’s “worldwide premiere” took place on 20 October 2011, presented by the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles. The screening was followed by “a panel discussion, moderated by biographer David Ritz, that included director David Peck, one of the film’s producers Tom Gulotta, Ray Charles catalog authority James Austin and Rob Bowman, associate professor of Ethnomusicology at Toronto’s York University, whose incisive liner notes are part of the Ray Charles – Live In France 1961 package”.  The complete DVD can be watched here:

Official 2011 DVD Trailer:

Table with all releases
A few handfuls of the recorded tunes remain unreleased. In a table the battlefield looks as follows (Radio = INA Radio archive, CD1 = JMY 1009-2, CD2 = FA 5643 [details to follow, BS], DVD = EREDV904):

A. 18 July 1961 Radio CD1 CD2 DVD
1. Doodlin’  X X X
2. The Story  X X X
3. Lil’ Darlin’ X X
4. One Mint Julep  X X X
5. Let the Good Times Roll   X X X
6. Georgia On My Mind   X X X
7. My Bonnie X X
8. (Night Time Is) The Right Time* X X
9. Sticks And Stones   X X X
10 Hallelujah, I Love Her So  X X X
11 What’d I Say   X X X
* INA: Night Time is The Right Times
B. 19 July 1961 Radio CD1 CD2 DVD
1. The Story   X X
2. In A Little Spanish Town X
3. Lil Darlin’ X
4. Popo*  X
5. Let The Good Times Roll X
6. Georgia On My Mind X
7. Sticks And Stones   X X
8. My Baby (I Love Her, Yes I Do) X
9. Yes Indeed   X X
10 I Believe To My Soul   X X
11 What’d I Say  X X
* INA: Hup Beat?? Up Beat?? 
C. 21 July 1961 Radio CD1 CD2 DVD
1. Popo* X X
2. Lil Darlin’ X X
3. Let The Good Times Roll  X
4. Ruby**  X X X
5. My Bonnie** X X
6. With You On My Mind**    X X
7. Sticks And Stones X
8. I Wonder  X X
9. What’d I Say  X
* INA: Hot Road. ** Indicated as being from 22 July on DVD.
D. 22 July 1961 Radio CD1 CD2 DVD
1. Popo* X
2. Lil Darlin’ X
3. Hornful Soul** X X
4. Let The Good Time Roll  X X
5. Georgia On My Mind X X
6. My Bonnie*** X
7. With You On My Mind X
8. Tell The Truth X X
9. I Wonder  X X
10 Sticks And Stones X X
11 I Believe To My Soul X X
12 What’d I Say  X X
* INA: Hot Road. ** INA: Hip Beat?? Up Beat?? *** INA: Yes Indeed.

Musicians: Phil Guilbeau, John Hunt – trumpets, Hank Crawford – alto saxophone;  David Newman – tenor saxophone, flute; Leroy Cooper – baritone saxophone; Edgar Willis – bass; Bruno Carr – drums. The Raelettes: Pat Lyles,  Margie Hendricks, Gwen Berry, Darlene McCrea.

Other footage
The INA archive also shelved a brief (and not very interesting) interview with Ray Charles and Count Basie at their arrival on Orly Airport, and a fragment of one of Count Basie’s concerts, with Ray standing in the audience.

Frank Ténot, referring to a concert at the Washington Howard Theater that he recently witnessed [probably one of the series of concerts in early November of 1960], compiled an audio portrait of Ray, with fragments from his records, for the audio magazine Sonorama (July – August 1961).

Photos, documents

Poster in Antibes, “Celui que l’Amérique appelle ‘le genie'” (collection J.P. Verger).

Article (i.e. most of it) by R. Langel in Tribune de Lausanne (Oct. 27) with a review and unique photos.

From Cinémonde, 17 October 1961.

One of the infamous Antibes kitchen chairs from the first concert. The festival organizers obviously didn’t expect the band to read music.

The Raelettes (L-R Pat Lyles, Margie Hendrix, Gwen Berry, Darlene McCrea), from 1963 UK Tour brochure) , probably at Antibes Jazz fest (from 1963 UK tour brochure).

David Newman, Hank Crawford, John Hunt, and the kitchen chairs (collection J.P. Verger).

The band on the 18th: Edgar Willis, Leroy Cooper, Bruno Carr, David Newman, Hank Crawford, John Hunt, Phil Guilbeau (still or photo?).

Photo by René Vital/Paris Match.

Photo by René Vital/Paris Match.

Photo by René Vital/Paris Match.

From Rallye Jeunesse. Nov. 1961 (courtesy of André Monnot).

The Raelettes (collection J.P. Verger).

From Swiss 1961 souvenir brochure.

From 1962 concert souvenir brochure.

From Swiss 1961 souvenir brochure.


Photo by Jean-Pierre Leloir.
Coll. J.P. Verger.
Ray’s exit at one of the later concerts (collection J.P. Verger).
On stage with mayor Dumas; Joe Adams left, Phil Guilbeau right (collection J.P. Verger).

Photo by Jean-Pierre Leloir.

Reception a/o press conference, with mr. Dumas, the mayor of Antibes/Juan-les-Pins, Count Basie and Ray Charles.
“Three greats get together as the mayor of a French city honors, left to right, Count Basie and Ray Charles in a museum over 400 years old at a reception given by the city. The painting in the background is an original Picsasso”; from 1962 concert souvenir brochure.
“Ray Charles, Jeff Brown, Joe Adams, Henry Godgran as Ray ‘watches’ the latest Parisian styles on the Riviera in France”; from 1962 concert souvenir brochure.
 Ray Charles and Raita Johnson attending a Count Basie concert.
 EP released by Vega in early 1960s; the cover photo, showing Ray attending a Count Basie concert in Antibes, was taken by Jean-Pierre Leloir. Also see this.
Prob. part of the same photo series.

(Collection J.P. Verger).
Article in Disco Revue (Oct. 12, 1961). Ray promises the interviewer to take language courses, to get beyond the stage of the ‘merci beaucoups’, Then he asks her to scout a 20 acre terrain for him in France, big enough to build a house and to land his plane.

Photo by by René Vital/Paris Match.

Photo by Jacques Chenard.

Ray Charles’ love affair with the blonde Finnish journalist Raita Johnson started with an interview in Antibes. Photos (c) Rancurel.

No paragraph of this article could have been written without the limitless knowledge and generosity of Joël Dufour.


Bob Stumpel — 2011-10-28 14:18:40

Very similar to gig placed in Chronology 1959, so I've inserted it right there.

Bob Stumpel — 2011-10-28 10:19:29

You're right, certainly not Antibes.

Anonymous — 2011-10-28 04:58:17

Bonjour Bob Je pense que la photo des raelettes avec Ray au piano electrique et Leroy Cooper en arriere plan a ete prise aux Etats Unis . Bien amicalement.JPV

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