By now most people know that Ray Charles died last week. I find this much more sad than the death of the other person last week that got more frequent flyer miles after his death than in the last ten years of his life.
I will share two Ray Charles stories: The first I cannot verify as I wasn’t there but my high school music teacher used to play first trumpet for Ray and he told me this story. One day at rehearsal Ray got super pissed because the band wasn’t playing too hot or they couldn’t get some part or change or something. He got so pissed that he stood up and lifted up the end of his grand piano and just let it drop. First of all, grand pianos are heavy as hell. The were amazed that Ray was so strong and could just lift up a fucking piano. Second of all if you so much as move one across a room it might have to be retuned. Ray fucked up the piano so bad they had to order him a new one and have it ready the next day. On the next day the new piano was there and Ray was in a much better mood. As the musicians were showing up he asked one of them, “Hey man, did you see my new piano?” “Uh, no Ray I didn’t”. “Neither did I. Ha Ha Ha.”
The next story is true because I was there. In 1998 or 1999 at the Chicago Bluesfest I saw Ray Charles play with his big band. There were a few thousand people there and about 10 seconds into some song when he stopped the band and berated the sound engineer in front of God and everybody for not having the monitors on and not turning up the “Raylettes”, Ray’s backup singers. He said something like, “What the hell is going on out there? I can’t hear the Raylettes. Why can’t you do your damn job? I ain’t got nothing in the monitors either. Get it together! I didn’t bring the Raylettes out here just cause they look good. They can sing too.” After that there were lots of cat calls and wolf whistles from the audience. Then Ray said, “Well, I heard that they look good. I ain’t never seen ’em myself. Ha Ha Ha.”