Written by
Bob Stumpel

August 20

Ray’s Atlantic Contract (1952)

Off topic

In 2010 Warner Music Group announced the Sight Of Sound project, entailing the description and preservation of the non-vinyl (i.e. mainly photographic, typographic and administrative) contents of “[…] nearly 100,000 boxes from warehouses around the globe, whose accumulated […] memorabilia track popular music from the Edwardian and Victorian ages to disco and jazz, from Beethoven to Miles Davis”. The Atlantic archives are an important part of that huge heritage, and understandably play a central role in the PR activities that Warner has been developing around the project. And a juicy detail from that PR is the X-signature that Ray Charles supposedly used to sign his contract with Atlantic.
The full trailer of that documentary can be watched here. In the small outtake, above, and in the screen shots below, I’ve zoomed in on that contract.

Allen Saunders, mentioned as Ray’s agent at Shaw.

The story about the “X”-signature is nonsense, of course. The cross, as usual in legal document proceedings, just marked the place where the “employee” was supposed to sign. Ray had delegated Allen Saunders (his booking agent at Shaw Artists), acting as his fiduciary, to undersign the contract in his regard, as an “att[orne]y in fact”.
Looking at the readable part of the documentary footage, this document wasn’t much more than a reinforcement of the contract that Abramson and Ertegun had bought from Swingtime’s Jack Lauderdale (a transaction in which Charles did not have a formal voice). The option for one-sided prolongation was probably new – and was scratched out by the receiving party…
Eight days later Ray got to 234 West 56th Street for his first Atlantic recording session.


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