Ray Charles Playing Some Blues At The Sunset Terrace (1951)
This newspaper article, from the Indianapolis Recorder of March 3, 1951, is one of the oldest print publications about Ray Charles that I’ve found so far.
The story announces a dance gig with Lowell Fulson at the Sunset Terrace in Indianapolis, describing Ray as an “added attraction”, a “song stylist”, and a “sensational songbird”, “who’ll give with” (i.e. ‘will be performing’ or ‘will be backing Fulson on’?) “such numbers as Everyday I Have The Blues, Blue Shadow, Sinner’s Progress and Old Time Shuffle“.
Looking closer at this little ‘setlist’ it becomes clear that Ray was only playing the piano:
Every Day I Have the Blues
Ray never put the song out on a regular record, but we have a special version from More Music From Ray, the follow-up to the soundtrack of the biopic Ray, where Charles dubbed in his piano playing (watch here how it landed in the film). For Fulson’s 1949 version, listen to this.
I don’t know of any song with that title, but it can almost certainly be identified with Fulson’s Blue Shadows, from 1950.
Any tune with this title is unknown to me, but it’s highly probable that this is a corruption for Sinner’s Prayer, a song penned by Lowell Fulson and Lloyd Glenn, and recorded by Fulson in early 1950. Ray recorded his famous version in 1954.
Old Time Shuffle
Old Time Shuffle Blues is another (instrumental) song composed by Lloyd Glenn; he recorded it in November 1950. Fulson released it as the flip side of his Sinner’s Prayer in early 1950.
In the 1950s Ray developed a strong fan base in Indianapolis, performing there several times a year, at several venues. Some girls even started a local, socially very active, Ray Charles fanclub. After his drugs arrest in ’61 he stayed away from the city for 5 or 6 years.
After reading the article above, Ray Charles expert Joel Dufour shared some valuable bits of information with me:
- Renald Richard told Joel (about Ray Charles) that the common practice for a singer in the 1950s was to begin his show by singing covers of current hits and to finish the set with his own most successful songs.
- It is just impossible that Fulson would have let Ray perform his own songs in his place on his show – especially as Blue Shadows and Everyday I Have The Blues were his biggest hits (#1 and #3 in the Billboard charts). Those probably constituted Lowell’s climax songs by which he closed his performances. While Sinner’s Prayer wasn’t a smash for Lowell, and Ray would record it later on, it is also extremely unlikely that Lowell would have allowed Ray to sing it on his show.
- It could be that Lowell let Ray play Old Time Shuffle Blues during his solo spot in the show, since it wasn’t a Fulson record, but a Lloyd Glenn hit release. (Although the label indicated “Lloyd Glenn with Th’ Fulson Unit”, Lowell himself did not play on Glenn’s record).
Many years ago Dick Shurman shared a few interesting anecdotes about the early days of the Lowell/Ray relationship with Dufour:
- Joel recalls the first of Shurman’s stories as follows. “[…] One day while Lowell Fulson was singing and playing, backed by his band including Ray (who had played his own set earlier), he spotted a young attractive woman in the audience whose attitude was making it very clear that she had a crush on him. So much so, that Lowell suddenly put down his guitar and left the stage to get better acquainted with her, leaving his band to go on with the show… Thus Ray took over while Lowell was busy buzzing around his new conquest… Only to have to (angrily) run back to the bandstand, as Ray was breaking the house down, stealing the show.”
- Lloyd Glenn himself was Shurman’s direct source for the following story, as retold to me by Dufour. “Lloyd played with Lowell Fulson in the studio, but he didn’t like to travel, and thus scarcely played with him on stage. This is why Jack Lauderdale [the boss of Down Beat/Swing Time Records] eventually suggested that Ray Charles should fill Lloyd’s chair when Lowell was touring. On one of those rare occasions when Lloyd did perform live with Lowell Fulson (the posters outside were announcing “Lowell Fulson & his orchestra featuring Lloyd Glenn”), a woman in the audience started yelling at Lloyd, “You are NOT Lloyd Glenn! Lloyd Glenn is a blind man!” This is how Lloyd discovered that Lowell had Ray pass for him…”
- Lloyd Glenn told Shurman that Ray Charles had ‘stolen’ two tunes from him: Blues Hangover and Rockhouse. “While it is evident that [Ray’s Atlantic recording] A Bit Of Soul is Blues Hangover, I never actually heard any Lloyd Glenn tune which sounded exactly like Rockhouse – even if that tune is obviously in the Lloyd Glenn style. As for the wrong title and writer credits for Blues Hangover, the Atlantic people, rather than Ray, are probably responsible for them […].”