I have had many” pinch me” moments in a rich and varied musical life, sun studios, where Elvis sang mystery train, in the studio with Keith Richards, hanging with jack Nicholson and bill Murray, but NONE compare to opening for Ray Charles!
The first time I heard the opening piano for what’d I say and that rhumba beat and finally that voice, oh that VOICE. Later came fingertips pt 1&2 by Stevie Wonder and land of 1,000 dances by cannibal and the headhunters , and Gary u s bonds, new Orleans.
The drive and energy could not be denied, and I became a huge Ray fan. It wouldn’t have dawned on me as a suburban kid in small town Franklin Massachusetts I would have ever met Gary, or Stevie, but I would have never dreamed I would open a show for Ray Charles!
It all happened on marthas vineyard island where I summered with my best friend jeff Simmons. The roads me back to the hot tin roof, a night club owned partly by Carly Simon, and where that weekend we were percy sledges band, also the same weekend John f Kennedy jr chose us for his secret wedding. Bill Johnson, an acquaintance, of mine asked if we would like to do a charity show at the center for the arts on the vineyard and open for Ray Charles? That was it……a sold out performance, and Bellevue Cadillac got the chance of a lifetime.
To warm up the audience for RAY. We had a great show too, I still have the article which gave Bellevue half the review, and it was a rave! R u kidding me? After our show my road manager and my wife crawled up above the cat walk and watched Ray Charles from above. He was enamored of his kurzweil computer keyboard and sat kicking his feet, and singing as only Ray could, his body lurching back and fourth, smiling and becoming each and every song, body and soul!
Backstage I had Bill Johnson introduce me so I could ask him a favor. We were doing a series of celebrity chaffeur photos and videos, and if he thought it would be funny to be our chaffer, and he said yes!! Bill Johnson drove his vintage red caddie around to the front just like we had done the night before with Percy sledge, and waited like little kids, and soon our hopes were dashed by his handler/mgr/ walker, who said mr Charles has to go now, no time for photos, and it hit me, shit…… I should have slid that guy a cnote…..aahh you idiot!
Well, I have the poster, the photos, the memory and the thrill of meeting the man who wove deep soul and R&B into my tapestry. Songs like night time, unchain my heart,Georgia,you don’t know me,hi the road jack, hallelujah I just love her so, I can’t stop loving you, and you don’t know me. The last song having a VERY different meaning at the time of civil rights. Ray Charles will always be the pinnacle “pinch me” moment of my entire life, he never sang a false note, EVER, God bless you Ray Robinson.Share
Filed Under: Pinch Me Moments