The Two and Only : Charlie & Ray©2000JCMarion
Charlie & Ray made an immediate impact on the R & B scene helped by winning the world famous Apollo Theater's Amateur Night contest for five consecutive weeks. The combination of their outrageous (for 1954) and unabashed gay persona, combined with hard rocking tunes made them showstoppers. In October of 1954 they were signed to Al Silver's Herald Records. The first release by the duo was on #438 - "I Love You Madly" and "You're To Blame". "Madly" was a hit from the start. For the newly converted listeners via Moondog Freed's radio show, this record was a revelation as to the power of R & B music. The jump tempo, the scatty vocals, and the blasting baritone sax break all made for a landmark record. Charles Singleton also deserves credit as the leader of the label's house band behind the vocals. On the strength of the popularity of the recording, Charlie & Ray are part of the big touring revue called the Top Ten R & B Show which also features The Clovers, Faye Adams, Joe Turner, The Moonglows, Amos Milburn, Bill Doggett, and the Paul Williams band.
In mid February of 1955 while on tour, Herald releases #447 pairing "My Loving Baby" and "Take A Look At Me". After the big tour ends Charlie & Ray are a big draw at the Royal Peacock in Atlanta. In June Downbeat Magazine awards the duo with the award for the most promising R & B act of the year. That same month Herald issues #454 "Dearest One" which is an immediate smash. The tune features some original and ear catching musical backup shifting between clarinets and saxes. They play the Apollo again, this time with Hal Jackson's R & B Revue. Around Labor Day, Charlie & Ray sign on for the fall tour of the Top Ten R & B Revue. At this time Herald releases #461 - "Oh Gee Oo Wee" and "Guess I'm Through With Love", and the busy twosome finds time to return to the Apollo with the Doctor Jive Show. Late in the year after the Top Ten show ends, the duo joins Etta James,The Jacks, and Wynonie Harris for a weeklong show in Buffalo, New York with George "The Hound" Lorenz.
Early in 1956, Charlie & Ray are back at the Apollo Theater with Ruth Brown, The Five Keys, and Roy Milton. They play a few dates in Cleveland and Gary, Indiana with The Diabolos and Joe Morris with Ursala Reed. Herald #472 "Little Fool" and "I Gotta Have You" is released, and this time taking no chances, a pop cover of "Fool" is issued on Coral Records by The Lancers. The guys make an appearance at a benefit for sax player Arnett Cobb who is seriously injured in an auto accident.The show held at New York's Savoy Ballroom also stars Sammy Davis Jr., Count Basie, Dinah Washington, T-Bone Walker, Lionel Hampton, Illinois Jacquet,and many others. Closing out the summer of 1956, Charlie & Ray appear at the Doctor Jive Show once again at the Apollo with Bo Diddley, The Five Satins, The Channels, Big Maybell, and The Valentines. In September Herald #487 - "Mad With You Baby" and "The Closest Thing To An Angel" is released. "Mad" takes off in sales and Jocko picks the record as one of the top ten on his popular radio show.
Herald Records announces plans to re-release the duo's "I Love You Madly" in 1957 hoping for pop music success. A new recording will be on the flip side. It is "Sweet Thing" and is on #503. At mid-year, Charlie & Ray appear with Dr. Jive (Tommy Smalls) at the Apollo Theater for a big all star show for a week over the July 4th holiday. They return to the Apollo Theater in October for a show with the Five Satins, The Dominos, and late entry Bobby Darin. The show is mc'd by none other than Murray Kaufman (soon to be known as Murray The K) and records one of the largest grosses in the landmark theater's history !
However new sounds were taking over the music by 1958, and the R & B performers from earlier years were losing much of their audience as record sales and airplay evaporated. At this time Charlie & Ray's career as a top line R & B attraction was at an end. In their time they were a unique act, one that could rock with the best of them. Their attitude of "we are what we are" and so let's rock, was decades ahead of its time. Charlie & Ray truly were, the boys that dared to rock !
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