Ray Charles On The Chevy Show? (1956)
In 1956, Dinah Shore began a one hour program on NBC, The Dinah Shore Chevy Show. The program was extremely popular, and its theme song See The USA In Your Chevrolet…, always ending with Shore’s farewell kiss to the television audience, remain television icons. The line-up usually contained two or three guests drawn from the worlds of music, sports, and movies. The show was produced in Burbank, California by Bob Banner who also directed all episodes.
The ad above, inserted in the newspaper The Kingston Daily Freeman of 13 July 1956, at first sight seems to be the earliest documented proof of Ray Charles’ TV career. But none of the 5 or 6 contemporary newspaper sourcesthat wrote something about the show, mentioned Ray specifically. Also suspect, is that Ray nor his biographers ever mentioned this program.
It may seem an uncomfortably early date for a ‘black orchestra’ to be on a ‘white show’ (Ray was still working the Chitlin’ Circuit), but, Dinah also had Count Basie and Nat Cole on her show in these years…
If this was Ray Charles’ “Orchestra”, it would have been the ‘small big band’ (probably in a sextet formation). But objectively speaking, this of course also may have been ‘the other Ray Charles’(Offenberg), although that musician has built his fame as a musical director, and as the leader of the eponymous Singers, but not exactly as an orchestra leader…
However, seven years later, when both Dinah and Ray were much more famous, Ray appeared on The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, this time after securing a cheque (worth $ 15,000) that made headlines.
To give you an idea on Gisele MacKenzie’s repertoire, see her horror take on Heartbreak Hotel (also from 1956):