Atlantic Records released early Ray Charles recordings beginning in 1952. The records usually only did well on the R&B charts. His fifth #1 R&B record, What’d I Say, also got up to #6 on the pop charts. By then Ray’s contract with Atlantic had run out, and he signed with ABC-Paramount Records in 1960.
His second single for ABC was Georgia On My Mind, which quickly reached number one on the Pop charts. His next single was the two-sided hit, Ruby/Hardhearted Hanna. Ruby was the A-side and got to #28 on the Pop charts and #10 on the R&B charts. The flip side got some airplay on the Pop charts as well, reaching as high as #55, but failed to chart on the R&B side.
The original record for Ruby was nearly four minutes long, but Ray’s live performances often went longer. One live video from the early sixties spends a lot of time with quick shots of the audience. After about two minutes of that, the camera settles in on Ray, so we can watch his technique on the piano.
Ray’s career continued strongly for most of the sixties, scoring multiple chart-topping records on each chart. By the mid-seventies, his success on the charts waned, but he found a new career on the Country charts. He even scored a number one record on the Country charts in 1985 (Seven Spanish Angels, a duet with Willie Nelson).
We’ll talk about his hit records in the 1990s some other time!