follow us in feedly
Could Ray Charles really land an airplane? Apparently the answer is YES!
08:10 am


Ray Charles

“Tell me what’d I fly…”

When my dad, a professional musician, was working A Chorus Line on Broadway, he once sent in a sub for a week in order to work with Ray Charles, whom he loved. When he came back, he kept bragging and blabbing about “my buddy Ray” (e.g.: “I was playing with my buddy Ray Charles last night,” etc…).

After a while of this, the drummer got fed up and (noticing my father’s recent haircut) asked, “Hey E! Who cut your hair? Your buddy Ray?” Laughter, of course, abounded, at my pop’s expense.

Periodically over the years, my father would tell me a story he had heard from members of Ray’s band. Here’s the best one:

After Ray Charles had gotten famous and was riding in a chartered private jet, every once in a while, the pilot would call for “a Mr. Ray Charles” over the intercom, and Ray would spring up and enter the cockpit. Apparently, the pilot was a big Ray Charles fan and he’d let Ray fly the plane and even, on occasion, land it! According to the legend, the cats in the band REALLY didn’t like it when Ray flew the plane, though they apparently didn’t know when Ray had landed it too. When Jamie Foxx in Ray came out, I looked to see if they’d validate the “pilot Ray” legend, but unfortunately they didn’t: They showed Ray his crew flying in his private jet, but they didn’t show him actually flying it.

So was it true? Were the legends about Ray Charles’ piloting his private jet true?

Once again this Internet thingee comes in handy: According to Mr. Ray Charles himself the legends were indeed true! Here, in fact, are Ray’s own words on the subject (reported way back in 1997):

Ray Charles doesn’t suggest other blind people try it, but he has driven a car, a motorcycle and, in a jam, could land an airplane.

“I done all kinds of nutty things,” Charles told U.S. News and World Reports in an interview for editions that go on sale Monday. “I don’t recommend it because I don’t want other blind people to say if Ray Charles did it, I can do it, because I don’t want to cause anybody to get themselves killed.“The singer said he also once rode a motorcycle - “I know if I could see, I’d have me a Harley for sure” - on the old Mike Douglas television show in Philadelphia. The show blocked off a street for him.

“I know how to fly an airplane, too. I always had an attitude that anything that can kill me I want to know about,” the 66-year-old Charles said.

Yeah! Alright! Ray Charles indeed not only flew a plane, he could land one too!

Below, Ray Charles live in São Paulo, 1963

Posted by Em | Leave a comment
Animatronic Ray Charles playin’ some tunes on a bench in Osaka, Japan
03:30 pm


Ray Charles

Rocket News 24 hipped me to this life-size Ray Charles animatronic that plays parks in Osaka, Japan. Apparently the animatronic Ray isn’t really belting out any tunes or playing the keyboard (there’s a speaker in the heart of the machine).

Whatever the case, we need animatronics like this one playing parks in America. Maybe a GG Allin one that hurls feces at onlookers?

Via WFMU on Twitter

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Outa-Space: The ‘Fifth Beatle,’ musical legend Billy Preston

The story is told of a furious George Harrison storming out of a Beatles recording session in 1969 and then going to see a Ray Charles concert in London. Billy Preston (who Harrison had met in 1962 when Preston was playing in Little Richard’s group) was performing with Charles. Harrison invited Preston to come into the studio with The Beatles where his friendly personality and musical talents calmed the rising tensions within the band.

Billy Preston was the only musician the Beatles ever credited alongside them, for his contribution to “Get Back.” The song was also performed in the rooftop concert of the Let It Be film with Preston in tow (see below). John Lennon allegedly proposed the idea of inviting Preston to be the “Fifth Beatle” but Paul supposedly replied that it was bad enough already with four.  (Preston also played on Abbey Road’s “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” and “Something.”)

Musical prodigy Preston played with gospel legends Mahalia Jackson, James Cleveland, and Andrae Crouch. In 1963, at the age of sixteen, he played organ on Sam Cooke’s Night Beat. Preston was also a frequently featured performer on ABC’s musical variety series Shindig! and a member of the house band (lots if clips on YouTube). Below, Billy Preston performs “Agent Double O-Soul” with Ray Charles. Check out his moves!

He recorded a great song in 1965 with a young Sly Stone called ““Can’t She Tell?” that was produced by David Axelrod. Do yourself a favor and hit play:

His 70s solo career saw his friendship and professional association with George Harrison continue. Preston appeared onstage at the Concert for Bangladesh and his records came out on the Apple label. His first really big solo hit was “Outa Space” which sold a million copies and won the Grammy for “Best Pop Instrumental Performance of 1972”:

Preston also played on several 70s Rolling Stones albums Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main Street, Goats Head Soup, It’s Only Rock’n Roll and Black and Blue. He toured as a support act on their 1973 European Tour and played with the band as well. Mick Taylor played guitar on Preston’s live album. In 1974 he co-wrote “You Are So Beautiful” with his songwriting partner Bruce Fisher (and an uncredited Dennis Wilson) for Joe Cocker.

More Billy Preston after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment