A Dig Through Blues, R&B & Soul via the Music of Ray Charles


A Dig Through Blues, R&B & Soul via the Music of Ray Charles

The late Ray Charles was a true icon. An early pioneer in R&B and soul music, a mentor to iconic producer Quincy Jones, and a “master of sounds” in blues, gospel, pop, and jazz, too.




July 28, 2021

The compilation The Complete Swing Time and Down Beat Recordings on Tracklib includes previously unreleased material of Ray Charles from 1949 to 1952, such as “Can’t You See Darling.” The selection features some of his work for Down Beat Records, which was renamed to Swing Time Records in 1949. His early blues work was heavily inspired by Nat King Cole and Charles Brown.

Other artists who debuted on the Los Angeles-based indie label Down Beat Records were blues guitarist and songwriter Lowell Fulson, "Hit the Road, Jack" singer Percy Mayfield (later covered by Ray Charles), Felix Gross & His Sextet as another early signing, and The Maxin Trio with Ray Charles on vocals.

maxin trio ray charles

The Maxin Trio’s “Confession Blues” became the very first song written by Charles to reach the charts. The song reached a #11 position on Billboard's Best Selling Retail Race Records in 1949*.*He spent the years that followed touring with Lowell Fulson as his musical director. That’s when his sound started to toughen with his heartfelt blues moans, backed by horn arrangements—and major label budgets after signing to Atlantic Records in 1952.

Atlantic Records is also where Ray Charles reached his pinnacle of success, reaching mainstream audiences with his gospel, jazz, blues and Latin cross-over on What'd I Say. The title track was later famously interpolated by The Doors ("Break on Through (To the Other Side)"), ZZ Top ("Bad Girl"), will.i.am ("Mamma Mia"), among others. A new deal with ABC in 1959 took Ray Charles to new heights, including his first four Grammy Awards (also for his cover of Percy Mayfield’s “Hit the Road, Jack,” a signature song for Charles), expanding his modest touring outfit to a big band, and 1960’s Genius + Soul = Jazz album on ABC sub-imprint, Impulse! Which was yet another case of the versatility of R&B/soul pioneer and long-time legend, Ray Charles.


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