Ray Charles, sitting in the dark.

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Steve Hoffman, Jan 14, 2002.

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  1. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    I was asked this in an e-mail from the Phonogram LP list and I thought I would share with you:

    I originally stated in an earlier thread:

    > Ray Charles used to make me sit in the dark in the studio and try and
    engineer just
    > by feel. He said that it was what HE had to do, so I better get used to it
    > if I was going to work with him.

    Bill Spohn then asked:

    Uh, Steve...couldn't you have just TOLD him that the lights were out, and
    that you were working (with truly amazing dexterity) entirely by feel??

    I answered:

    Bill, this guy could feel the heat of the lights and know they were on.
    Amazing guy!
    He couldn't be fooled by anything like that. After all, he has been working
    in that same studio since 1964! He probably knows if someone is talking a
    bathroom break in the offices upstairs just by the change in the sound of
    the water pressure in the pipes.

    Funny story while I feel like typing:

    Ray one day wanted a little walkman (having broke his old one), so we piled
    in a limo and took him to some big chain stereo store (Circuit City, I
    think). We walked in the store, Engineer Terry Howard and I with Ray, his
    "man" and a few butt lickers that Ray had as "helpers". It must
    have been quite a scene in there when we walked in, but by that time I was
    so used to hanging out with Ray and his crowd I didn't realize it. Ray
    wanted to "feel" the quality of each of the machines before he put the
    headphones on, so he had to be there in person. (He loves gadgets).

    Well, they were so freaked out in Circuit City that Ray Charles just walked
    in the store like any normal slob would do that NO ONE would come over to
    help him. I mean, there is Ray standing pretty much in the middle of the
    store, and the sales people were shaking in their boots and whispering to
    each other. Terry and I tried in vain to get anyone to come over. Weird,
    huh? Ray could hear and sense this queer "change in the atmosphere" and
    finally after about 10 minutes, just YELLED out: "Is SOMEONE GONNA HELP ME
    OR NOT?"

    STILL, no one came over. So his man and I led him over to the gadgets and I
    acted like a sales guy while Ray tried everything. When he made his choice, I
    bought it for him while he walked out of the store shaking his head.

    Ah well; he CAN be very intimidating.

    Have a good day everyone!
    Hep Alien likes this.
  2. Sckott

    Sckott Hand Tighten Only.

    South Plymouth, Ma
    The blind can be *extremely* sensitive, it's VERY true. One of my ol' best friends had a blind dad, and he could tell exactly where you were in the room no matter HOW quiet you were, sense of smell is also quite baffeling. He could tell you had corn flakes for breakfast, even though it's past 3 in the afternoon, and you've long left the house!

    Personally, if I'd known that he was looking for help, I'd be more than happy to "volunteer". Heavens knows he woulnd't be looking for keyboards in there, so whatever he would buy would make it all the more interesting, even though I don't work there.

    Steve, what did he end up buying, do you remember? Just a Cass/FM deal, or did he buy something quite extravagant?

    My only story I have about Ray is quite boring, but when I was 20, my girlfriend at the time was working at a deli while she was going to school. She told me that someone called in for fried chicken, said that Ray Charles and his "helpers" would be in to pick it all up. She said it sounded quite sincere. Said "Ray loves a certain fried chicken", or something to that effect, as I remember.

    Alas, no Ray. Actually, if I met the gentleman, I would have just said "Thank you Ray. Thank you very much."
  3. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Hi Sckott! Glad you're here.

    I remember that Ray ended up with a Sony thing. I can't for the life of me remember if it was a CD Walkman, or just a cassette/FM stereo Walkman. This would have been in the early 1990's. Did they have CD Walkmans then?

    If so, that's what his was. The latest and greatest SOUND WISE, NOT EXPENSE WISE! He didn't care if it only cost three dollars or 500 dollars. He just wanted what sounded good to him! He thought that the Sony stuff sounded the best....
  4. Angel

    Angel New Member

    Hollywood, Ca.
    Great story about Ray buying a Walkman, Steve!

    I can just picture Ray Charles in Circuit City. Really must have thrown those guys for spin.

    You should write a book about this stuff.
  5. Larry

    Larry Member

    Ohio, USVI

    I just picked up The World of Ray Charles. I am sure glad you sat in the dark or whatever it took to remaster these disks. I am sure I speak for many when I say thanks a million for taking the time to make these and so many others sound "right".
  6. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Thanks, Larry! Glad you like it.

    It was really fun working on those songs. A once in a lifetime adventure, sitting in the dark for the cause!
  7. Sckott

    Sckott Hand Tighten Only.

    South Plymouth, Ma
    Mine is the double "Uh, Huh!" set soon after he did ads for Pepsi.

    The tube playback is where it makes an ALARMING difference. Almost like a decoder! The discs sound great.

    I had them on one of my Dynacos a while back and now with a dedicated set downstairs on a Bottlehead "Foreplay", I mean, this is one of the best examples of how the sound just throws you for a loop!
  8. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Funny. I'm listening to my copy of "Uh Huh" right now.

    Love those songs! His ABC-Paramount material is way under rated in my book.

    Every song on there, no, EVERY song Ray ever recorded from 1949 to 1972 (except one Atlantic track) was done live to tape, with orchestra, chorus and Ray. The exceptions, that song "I Believe" on Atlantic and two of the songs he sang harmony with himself on in 1963 (No Letter Today, Midnight). Truly neat!
  9. Sckott

    Sckott Hand Tighten Only.

    South Plymouth, Ma
    Steve, is there any history to the different version of "What I'd Say" where the middle "encore" sounds different to the one that's on the Atlantic compilations and your 2CD?

    I have it on the Atlantic R&B box. You can hear more guys than gals tell Ray to keep going. Ray seems to sound suprised.. etc. Know which one? Might be the Mono version.... Was one the single, or LP version, whole remake, etc....
  10. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Oh yeah, and it gets confusing.

    The song was recorded on 8-track first, early in 1959 by Tom Dowd, at the new Atlantic Studio.

    The MONO 2 PART 45 RPM VERSION, mixed by Tom Dowd, was released first. This used an edited down, shorter, mix of the 8-track tape, with NEW inserts to "bump the excitement up" as Ray said.

    When the single became a hit, an ALBUM version, still mono was created using the bumped up version that did not fade out, still the short version.

    Then, there was a special 45 RPM mono DJ version that used completely different edit parts, released to radio only in 1959. Why, I don't know. It stinks.

    Ray left the label in 1959. In 1961 ANOTHER mix of the song, still mono, was made from the 8-track by Tom Dowd. It was released on an obscure LP called "Twist With Ray Charles" or something like that. Although it was mono only, it was the LONG version, in other words, exactly what was on the 8-track master.

    In 1964, with Ray having so much luck at ABC-Paramount, Atlantic released a new STEREO ONLY LP called "The Great Hits Of Ray Charles In 8-Track Stereo", with 13 songs on it. The entire Ray Charles Atlantic Stereo output. Mixed in 1964 by Tom Dowd. THIS is the only stereo mix of the song, full-length. or otherwise. This is the tape I used for my DCC Ray Charles CD set.

    Five different versions, four mono, one stereo. Phew. :eek:
  11. lukpac

    lukpac Senior Member

    Milwaukee, WI
    Actually, if memory serves, that studio didn't open till 1963 or something. Maybe 1961.

    They got the 8-track in early 1958, of course, though.
  12. indy mike

    indy mike Forum Pest

    Steve, I still have those Brother Ray discs you kindly sent my way when I could barely afford the postage to send you a letter asking about how they sounded - still great sounding after all this time!
  13. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    I was glad to help you out, Mike.

    Luke posted:

    Originally posted by Steve Hoffman
    The song was recorded on 8-track first, early in 1959 by Tom Dowd, at the new Atlantic Studio.

    Luke states:
    Actually, if memory serves, that studio didn't open till 1963 or something. Maybe 1961.

    They got the 8-track in early 1958, of course, though.


    I just meant that the studio was new in the sense that in 1958 Tom Dowd installed an 8-track Ampex tape recorder, mixing console, patch bay, outboard stereo Fairchild Limiters Pultec EQ units, new wall baffles, cables, microphones and other "new" stuff.
  14. indy mike

    indy mike Forum Pest

    Tom Dowd always makes me scratch my head cause I'm never quite sure I follow why a lot of folks swear his work is all great; lots of tracks seem to be one of the downward turning points in sonic treats - more tracks leads to more monkey business, more sources of noise like crackly pots (Good Lovin' anybody)??? 3 or 4 tracks seems kinda ideal from the sonic standpoint (although 1 track with somebody like Uncle Sam Phillips or Norman Petty at the wheel thrills me plenty). What's this Uh-Huh comp that's been mentioned above - I musta been snoozing when that was put out...
  15. Sckott

    Sckott Hand Tighten Only.

    South Plymouth, Ma
    Actually, my thought al this time was, the Uh Huh set (2CD) was the only release of these recordings BY Dcc. It wasn't. They actually released single disc compilations before that time.

    There's some black - covered single disc'ers that cover the same material. DCC made it easier to get it all in 2Cds, basically. I'm not even sure if there's anything missing if you compared the 2 single Cds to the 2CD set. The single discs are older from what I see...

    I've seen both CD1 and CD2 of the single sets out where I live. the track listing, as I remember, was different, Steve knows about this more than I.

    But the 2CD set is what I have, with Ray in Tux as the Pepsi commericial wanted to have him. For all I know, he drank orange drink (like Steve mentioned) and creame soda. BUT the complilation is incredible, and MUST be experienced on tubes.

    My 2CD set possibly mirrors what you have, but....which disc do you have?
  16. indy mike

    indy mike Forum Pest

    Hi Sckott - I have the DCC discs that only have the ABC/Paramount/Tangerine label stuff. I like the Atlantic stuff when Ray was still toying with all kindsa ways to sing and play, so I guess I'll keep my eyes peeled...
  17. Hey, Steve! Missed ya over at the Alexis Park Hotel last Wednesday, you and your S & P cohorts must've been prowling the main convention hall at the time.:confused: Anyway, I want to thank you for all the fine work you did back in the '80s & early '90s on the Ray Charles catalog. It's one of the most treasured parts of my music library. I played your remastering of "America The Beautiful" from the 2-disc comp a week after the al Kaeda East Coast tragedy and started bawling like a baby! It was quite a catharsis and a morale booster after the worst week in modern American times. It's amazing what a great piece of inspiration music can be!
  18. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Sorry I missed you at the Alexis Park, Luke. It was really chaos there for Sam and I. We accomplished at lot, but these all day, all night conventions poop me out more than they used to.

    I remember in College, I could go to classes during the day, study into the early night for a final the next day, dash over to the KPFK radio station and do an all-night show, grab a breakfast bite at Cindy's Coffee Shop across the street, dash back over to school and take my final that morning, getting an A+ in the process.

    Them days is over! :eek:
  19. AudioGirl

    AudioGirl Forum Resident

    Los Angeles
    Love all these Ray stories... Steve, you are a great story teller. You really should write a book.

    Uh Huh is a standard in my house.

    We play that one quite a lot... among others of course.

    Thanks for the inside stories.

    Fun stuff!
  20. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Another Ray Charles thread from the SH Forums first days that someone wanted to comment on.

    I'll sticky this to Music Corner for awhile..
  21. Mark

    Mark I Am Gort, Hear Me Roar Staff

    Steve: Great story on Circuit City. It fits well with the parallel thread about having a sales person snub you in a retail store.
  22. Robin L

    Robin L Musical Omnivore

    Fresno, California
    You used to do late night shifts at KPFK? When? Did you have a DJ shift? Did you ever run into Joseph Spencer? I used to do various DJ shifts and concert recording for Sister station KPFA in Berkeley.
    By the way, the first CD reissues I could stand to listen to at all were those DCC Ray Charles discs. I felt at the time that digital recording was the moral equivalent of nuclear power. Remember that first CD reissue of "Kind of Blue"? :hurl:
  23. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Yeah, I had the midnight to 5am shift. Woah, that was fun. I used to think I was alone, playing records for myself----Until I asked for requests. Bingo, all 40 lines lit up like mad. THAT gave me stage fright...

    Don't remember Joseph Spencer though, sorry.

    Working at KPFA must have been neat!
  24. Robin L

    Robin L Musical Omnivore

    Fresno, California
    Really nothing quite like having a shift that starts at 10 pm on a Sunday night (used to board-op the "Music From The Hearts of Space" shows then have two hours of my own stuff) and finding out that you have to sub till 5am on Monday when Kevin Vance would arrive. Running to the music library to find something to play because you've already played everything you brought. Yes, working at KPFA 1988-1998 was something else.
    Joseph Spencer ran "The Musical Offering, an independent classical LP/CD store in Berkeley and I worked there for nearly ten years. He did a long running early music program called "Chapel, Court and Countryside" at KPFK. When he moved from L.A. to Berkeley in the 80's, he took his show with him. He let me sub for him a few times. Wonderful guy. He spent a lot of time in the L.A. and Hollywood studios schlepping and tuning keyboards for all sorts of recording sessions, including the Rolling Stones and Vladimir Horowitz. He also was responsible for producing all sorts of concerts and music festivals.
  25. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    "Chapel, Court and Countryside"! I remember that program. Forgot all about that.
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