Friday, June 10, 2011


We Remember: June 7th

Today is also Norway's Independence Day (Unionsoppl¿sningsdag), although it is not a public holiday, and not many Norwegian flags are to be seen in the streets! (Alex Gordon)

1939:   King George VI and his wife, Queen Elizabeth, arrived at  Niagara Falls, N.Y., from Canada on the first visit to the United States by a  reigning British monarch. (Tony Morano)

1940:     The Germans advance to within 20 miles of the Somme River.

The (labor) government of Johan Nygaardsvold and the Norwegian Royals (King Haakon VII, Queen Maud) left Norway on the British cruiser HMS Devonshire. The exile government, which had not surrendered to the Germans, was given authorization by the national assembly of the country, [the 'StortIng'], to continue the fight from abroad if exile was the only choice. (Russ Folsom)

A dull rumble of heavy guns can be heard north and east of Paris. The restaurants are empty, the Ritz deserted. For the third time in a lifetime, Paris prepares for a siege. (Andy Etherington)

At 3:00 pm one of the French Navy's three Farman 223.4 long-range naval reconnaissance aircraft, the Jules Verne, left Bordeaux-Merignac airfield carrying 2 tons of bombs, target - Berlin. This was the first bomb assault of the war against Berlin. The mission was successful. (Andy Etherington)

RAF Group bombs railway communications at Hirson. 58 Sqn. Six a/c. One returned early, five bombed. (Andy Etherington)

The first Victoria Cross of the war has been awarded posthumously to Captain Bernard Warburton-Lee of the destroyer HMS Hardy in the raid on Narvik in April. (Andy Etherington)

For the carriers, the moment of truth had arrived.  With the Allied ground forces steadily being pulled out, the time was finally at hand when the RAF landing ground at Bardufoss had to be evacuated prior to its demolition.  Since 21 May the Gladiators of 263 Squadron had provided the first semblance of air cover over the Allied troops.  Then, on 26 May, 46 SquadronÕs Hurricanes had arrived with the providing the first modern Allied fighter planes in the theatre.  For the prior 12 days the two Squadrons had done yeoman service, basically winning control of the air.  But now, the end of their gallant effort was in sight.  As it stood, 46 Squadron was to destroy their aircraft before being evacuated, while 263 Squadron was to destroy the Òlame ducksÓ and then fly their serviceable Gladiators (10) out to HMS Glorious.
     At 0200, with HMS Ark Royal in position 70.14 N, 16.14 W, she dispatched an A.D.A. patrol (one 810 Squadron Swordfish) as well as a fighter patrol to Risoy (two 800 Squadron Skuas led by Lieutenant K. V. V. Spurway, RN).  This was followed, at 0435, by a weather flight (one Swordfish, 810 Squadron), another fighter patrol (three Skuas, Acting Major R. T. Partridge, RM), and a three-plane bombing mission of 820 Squadron (with the usual 4 x 250 GP, 4 x 20 Cooper and 4 x 25 incendiary bombs each) led by OC Lieutenant-Commander G. B. Hodgkinson, RN on the Flak positions at Hundallen.  Weather forced the flight to seek an alternate target, and the trio opted to plaster the railway at Sildvik.
     0540 saw the A.D.A. patrol relieved, this time with two Swordfish, one each ahead and astern of the task force.  At 0800, another trio of Skuas set off for Risoy (800 Squadron, Lieutenant G. E. D. Finch-Noyes, RN).  At 0900 the A.D.A. patrol was relieved by a single 810 Squadron Swordfish, while another is dispatched to Bardufoss to communicate the NavyÕs intentions for the evacuation.  This was followed, at 0930, by another trio of fighters (800 Squadron, Lieutenant G. R. Callingham, RN).  They report the evacuation convoy is putting to sea.
     At 1205, a relief A.D.A. patrol (single Swordfish, 820 Squadron) sets off.  At 1350 this aircraft reports a snooper.  Five minutes later, 803 SquadronÕs Lieutenant C. W. Peever, RN took a trio of Skuas aloft in pursuit, but by the time they got to altitude the German was gone.
     Meanwhile, the earlier communication with the RAF at Bardufoss had, more or less, stunned the naval staff.  Squadron Leader Kenneth B. B. Cross, RAF, 46 Squadrons OC had sent back a message proposing that, instead of destroying his ten serviceable Hurricanes, his pilots be allowed to fly them out to the task force and try to land them aboard Glorious.  Considering the fact that, to date, no Hurricane had ever been landed on a carrier, that the pilots involved had never landed any aircraft on a carrier, and that even if it were possible to land a properly navalized Hurricane on a carrier (and the Naval experts said is wasnÕt), his planes were not fitted with any arrestor gear, it was a bold proposal!
     At 1430, HMS Glorious dispatched four Swordfish to Bardufoss to lead the RAF planes back when the effort was made.  Meanwhile, after due consideration was given to CrossÕ request (and not to be out done by the junior service), the Navy agreed to let a section of Hurricanes fly out to Glorious and Ògive it a goÓ.  At 1615, Ark flew off another Swordfish to Bardufoss with the latest navigational dope, and permission for Cross to fly out.
     At 1800, New Zealand Flight Lieutenant P. G. Jameson, RAF led his Òforlorn hopeÓ (Flying Officer H. H. Knight, RAF and Sergeant B. L. Taylor, RAF) aloft.  Struggling to follow their slow Swordfish guide to the carrier, they arrived shortly before 1900.  The three pilots were literally stunned at how small that floating ÒmatchboxÓ looked on the sea.  Not to be discredited in the attempt, Glorious worked up to 30 knots into the wind to give the maximum wind over the deck, which was visibly pitching and rolling with the ship in the moderate sea.  Signaling an in flight emergency, Sergeant Taylor cut off Jameson in the pattern and became the first Hurricane to successfully land on a carrier.  Following right behind, the other two landed safely as well.  That accomplished, the Swordfish was sent back to Bardufoss to pass the word and deliver the plans for the upcoming embarkation.  At the same time, 701 SquadronÕs Walrus amphibians, having flown out from Harstad, landed aboar
d Ark Royal.
     The plan called for ArkÕs Skuas would fly top cover for the effort.  Once on station, the Swordfish of 823 Squadron would lead RAF boys back to the carriers, at which point the Gladiators were to embark first, and then the Hurricanes. At 2305, Ark commenced launching the fighter patrols, three sections of 800 Squadron, nine Skuas led by Acting Major R. T. Partridge, RM (Narvik), Lieutenant G. E. D. Finch-Noyes, RN (Skaanland), and Lieutenant K. V. V. Spurway, RN (Bardufoss), and an A.D.A. patrol of two 810 Squadron Swordfish. (Mark Horan)

1941:      RAF bombers attack the Prinz Eugen at Brest, but fail to hit her. (Andy Etherington)

The US Maritime Commission has begun to commandeer foreign vessels and allocate them to whatever service may be most useful for national defence. They include 39 Danish, 28 Italian and two German ships as well as others in Lithuanian, Estonian, and Romanian registry. The pride of the catch is the 83,423-ton French liner Normandie, the former holder of the Blue Riband for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic. (Andy Etherington)

1942:     A major German attack begins on Sevastopol.  The Soviet Black Sea
Fleet is involved in suppling the Russian defenders.

Throughout the night of 6/7 June, the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5) remained stubbornly afloat northeast of Midway Island. By 0530 hours, however, the men in the ships nearby noted that the carrier's list was rapidly increasing to port. As if tired, the valiant flattop turned over at 0701 hours on her port side and sank in 3,000 fathoms (18,000 feet or 5,486 meters) of water in position 30.36N, 176.34W. (Jack McKillop)

In the Aleutians, the 1,143 man Japanese Army's North Sea Detachment, consisting of the 301st Independent Infantry Battalion, the 301st Independent Engineer Company and a service unit, invade Attu Island at 0300 hours local. There are 44 American civilians on the island, 42 Aleut Indians and two Caucasians, Mr. and Mrs. Jones. Charles Jones dies during the invasion, either a suicide or killed by Japanese troops as he attempts to escape. The Aleuts and Mrs. Etta Jones are interned in Japan, the Aleuts at Otaru City on Hokkaido and Mrs. Jones with Australian nurses in Yokohama. Only 24 of the Aleuts and Mrs. Jones survive interment. The Japanese rename the island Atsuta.
    Nine of the ten USN sailors manning a weather station on Kiska are captured by the Japanese who had discovered the emergency supply caches the sailors had hidden. The tenth man, who was wearing light clothing, evades the Japanese for 48-days surviving on plants and earthworms until forced to surrender after fainting from lack of food. (Jack McKillop)

During the night of 6/7 June, the USAAF's 7th Air Force dispatches a flight of four LB-30 Liberators from Midway Island for a predawn attack on Wake Island. The aircraft are unable to find the target and one LB-30 crashes into the sea killing all of the crew including Major General Clarence L Tinker, Commanding General, 7th Air Force. On 11 November 1943, the Oklahoma City Air Depot at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was renamed Tinker Field (now AFB) in memory of General Tinker. (Jack McKillop)

Operation Drumbeat continues as German submarines sink two more unarmed U.S. merchant vessels in the Caribbean. U-159 sinks a freighter north of Columbia while U-107 sinks a freighter southeast of the Yucatan Channel. (Jack McKillop)

1943:     Following a night raid by Northwest African Strategic Air Force (NASAF) Wellingtons on Pantelleria Island in the Mediterranean, heavy, medium and light bombers, and fighters of the NASAF and Northwest Tactical Air Force (NATAF) pound the island throughout the afternoon. (Jack McKillop)

The USAAF's Alexi Point Airfield and Naval Air Facility Attu are established on Attu Island, Aleutian Islands, just seven days after the island was declared secured. (Jack McKillop)

The Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet established a project for airborne test, by Commander Fleet Air, West Coast, of high velocity, "forward shooting" rockets. These rockets, which had nearly double the velocity of those tested earlier at Dahlgren, had been developed by a rocket section, led by Dr. C. C. Lauritsen, at the California Institute of Technology under National Defense Research Committee auspices and with Navy support. This test project, which was established in part on the basis of reports of effectiveness in service of a similar British rocket, completed its first airborne firing from a TBF of a British rocket on 14 July and of the CalTech round on 20 August. The results of these tests were so favorable that operational squadrons in both the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets were equipped with forward firing rockets before the end of the year. (Gene Hanson)

1944:     Mikmer Air Field on Biak Island in New Guinea is captured.

The Allied Expeditionary Air Force (AEAF) directs air attacks against congested points to delay movement of more enemy forces into the assault area and the USAAF's Eighth Air Force in England flies two missions in support.
    In the first mission (Mission 397) in the morning, 182 B-17 Flying Fortresses and 291 B-24 Liberators, including 20 PFFs, are dispatched; of the B-17s, 58 hit Conde sur Noireau, 60 hit Flers, and 54 hit Falaise; of the B-24s, 66 hit Argentan, 19 hit Vascoeuil, 61 hit Laigle and 83 hit Lisieux.
    Personal Memory:  My diary for today reads: "Cherbourg again. Invasion coast. Bombed German escape route. Target seven tenths covered. Used PFF method of bombing. No opposition from Nazi. Big operations. We are wholly supporting the ground troops." Beiser and I were again assigned the "Buzz Blonde" that I would eventually fly twelve missions in. Each of our 18 B-17s were loaded with six, 1000 pound bombs to be delivered to a road junction near the invasion coast close to Conde Sur Neireau, in western France. Eighteen other B-17s from our field were loaded with five hundred pound bombs that they dropped at a road and rail junction near Flers, France. Two of our aircraft failed to bomb because of malfunctions. Due to overcast at the target we bombed by radar from 21,000 feet. We saw no flak or enemy fighters in our 40 minutes over enemy territory. The 303rd Bomb Group was capable of putting up 40 B-17s on any mission and on one occasion actually put up 60 which is very cumb
ersome. Our 36 planes today made up two groups for bombing purposes. The temperature was a relatively mild, minus 7 degrees F. and our wind at altitude was 63 miles per hour  from 340 giving us an 18 degree drift to the left which the Norden bomb sight corrected. Our indicated air speed of 150 MPH gave us a true airspeed of 208 and a ground speed of 207. Each aircraft carried 1,700 gallons of gas for this five hour and twenty minute flight. My score so far is: Milk runs 8, Others 4. (Dick Johnson)
    In the second mission (Mission 398) in the afternoon, 487 B-17s and 88 B-24s are dispatched; the primary targets for the B-17s are Nantes (190 bomb) and the Kerlin/Bastard Airfield (132 bomb); 23 B-17s hit Niort and 40 hit the Nantes Bridge; the primary target for the B-24s is Tours/La Roche (12 bomb) and 13 hit Pouance, 13 hit Blain, 13 hit Chateaubriand, 25 hit Laval Airfield, 12 hit Vitre and 3 hit Tours; one B-17 and one B-24 are lost. Heavy cloud prevents almost 100 others from bombing targets.
    The VIII Fighter Command furnishes area support for beachhead areas in the early morning and to heavy bomber operations at midday and in the late afternoon, at the same time maintaining harassment of communications and flying shipping patrol. 526 P-38 Lightnings and 294 P-51 Mustangs patrol the beachhead and provide escort in northern France; they claim 2-0-1 Luftwaffe aircraft in the air and 0-0-2 on the ground; eight P-51s are lost. 505 P-47 Thunderbolts and 148 P-51s engage in general strafing over northern France and claim 29-1-12 Luftwaffe aircraft in the air and 25-0-12 on the ground; ten P-47s and four P-51s are lost.
    Mission 399: Ten B-17s drop leaflets over The Netherlands, France and Belgium.
   Fourteen B-24s participate in CARPETBAGGER operations in France. (Jack

The USAAF's Ninth Air Force in England dispatches 600+ B-26 Marauders to hit bridges, junctions, trestles, coastal and field batteries, and marshalling yards in France in support of the invasion; 1,100+ fighters support ground troops by dive bombing and strafing, escort B-26s and C-47 Skytrains, and make sweeps throughout the battle area as Bayeux is liberated and the Bayeux-Caen road is cut; and 400+ C-47s, C-53 Skytroopers, and gliders resupply paratroops in the assault area. (Jack McKillop)

The USAAF's Fifteenth Air Force in Italy reaches its planned operational strength of 21 heavy bomber groups and seven fighter groups.
    In Italy, 340 B-17s and B-24s, some with fighter cover, hit Leghorn dock and harbor installations, Voltri shipyards, Savona railroad junction, and Vado Ligure marshalling yard; 42 P-38s bomb the Recco viaduct and 32 P-47s fly an uneventful sweep over the Fenara-Bologna area.
    In France, the Antheor viaduct and Var River bridge are hit. (Jack

One other aspect of life on the Susan B. Anthony appealed to me. At Whatcombe Farm we had had a post exchange which opened once a week in order to sell to us our weekly allotment of seven packs of cigarettes and five candy bars. I didnÕt smoke and so was able to trade my cigarettes for candy. None of this was necessary aboard the Susan B. Anthony. The shipÕs store, or whatever it was they called their version of the PX, was loaded with what I, by now, considered luxuries from the United States. There seemed to be no end to it. We could buy whatever we wanted: Milky Way, Baby Ruth, Butterfingers, you name it. Of course, we knew that we would soon be going ashore and that our purchases would have to be carried and so there were limits. 
     The good life on the Susan B. Anthony ended on the morning of June 7, D+1, when she struck a mine. This mine packed a fearsome punch. The ship rolled and shook from the force of the explosion and she was soon dead in the water. Several minutes after we hit the mine, I saw a few seamen with their heads bandaged come up on deck from below. They were the only casualties I saw. 
     Shortly after the explosion a United States Navy destroyer escort (DE) with a salvage officer on board pulled alongside. Using loud hailers he and the captain conversed. The captain wanted to attempt to save his ship by having it towed and pushed toward land and beached. The salvage officer said that he would get back to him and the DE pulled away. He returned soon with the news that the task force commander would not beach the stricken ship and that it would have to be abandoned. The captain didnÕt seem happy with the decision but then the United States Navy didnÕt require its shipÕs captains to be happy. The area around us was crowded with ships of the United States Navy and the Royal Navy and so I wasnÕt at all concerned about being rescued. 
     Cargo nets were lowered over the side and we began disembarking into a Royal Navy DE. Waves were two to three feet high and the DE was pitching and rolling, making it difficult to jump from the net into the it. The last time I had climbed down a cargo net was on the firm land of Fort Eustis, Virginia during basic training. That exercise was quite different from the real thing which we were attempting now. However, as far as I could see, everyone made it down safely thanks in large part to the help of the Royal Navy seamen who held the cargo nets and shouted advice to us. 
     Another Royal Navy DE was rafted alongside the first and some of us were ordered onto it. Once there we began enjoying His MajestyÕs hospitality courtesy some crew members. They broke out some oxtail stew, tea and biscuits for us. The stew was reminiscent of the food I had been served on the Queen Mary and it was the precursor of some of the rations we were to receive during Operation MARKET-GARDEN when we were attached to the British Second Army. But that was in the decidedly unknown future. (Three times the British had tried to interest me in oxtail stew and they had failed. Just hearing that name, even without seeing the stuff turned me off.) 
     As our DE pulled away from the Susan B. Anthony I looked back and was surprised at how low in the water she was. While on the ship I had no sensation that she was sinking but there was a reason for which we were abandoning her. I hoped that all would be successfully disembarked. His MajestyÕs hospitality soon came to an end when a United States Navy landing craft pulled alongside. We went over the side into her. There were many soldiers in that craft; so many that it was impossible to move around or to sit. It was so crowded that I climbed over the side onto a ledge about 18 inches wide and sat there with nothing between me and the water. After about 30 minutes a German fighter aircraft came screaming across the bridgehead on a strafing run. Before I could think about it, she was jumped by two American fighters which had been loitering in the sun waiting for just such an occasion. When last seen, the German was headed inland trailing much black smoke. This convinced me t
hat my position outside of the landing craft was insecure and so I climbed back into the crowd. 
     Soon after the attack we landed on the shore at Utah Beach. I realize that the 4th Infantry Division which made the assault on Utah Beach did not have as much difficulty as did the 1st Infantry division at Omaha Beach but Utah Beach was a mess. Boats were damaged and lay beached. Army equipment and weapons were all over. There was even the abandoned desk and files of a company clerk. Next to them was a tennis racquet. That must have been carried by one optimistic soldier. I hoped that no Frenchman in Normandy was waiting for him to keep a tennis date. 
     I knew that I was at war but was impressed with this by the mines that the Germans had laid over so much of the area. ÒAchtung MinenÓ in black paint on red background was everywhere. I couldnÕt understand why the Germans had been kind enough to warn us of their mines. I suppose that it was for the safety of their own personnel and that they didnÕt have time to remove their warnings. 
     We assembled just over the dunes and dug in. (Jay Stone)

U-970 (Type VIIC) Sunk in the Bay of Biscay west of Bordeaux, in position 45.15N, 04.10W, by depth charges from a British Sunderland aircraft (Sqdn. 228/R). 38 dead, 14 survivors.
     U-955 (Type VIIC) Sunk in the Bay of Biscay north of Cape Ortegal, Spain, in position 45.13N, 08.30W by depth charges from a British Sunderland aircraft (Sqdn 201/S). 50 dead (all crew lost) (Alex Gordon)

CINCPAC PRESS RELEASE NO. 435,  Guam Island was bombed by Seventh Army Air Force Liberators and Liberator search planes of Fleet Air Wing Two during daylight on June 5 (West Longitude Date). Antiaircraft fire ranged from moderate to intense. Our force was not attacked by enemy aircraft. All of our planes returned.
     Nauru Island was bombed on June 5 by Mitchell bombers of the Seventh Army Air Force and Ventura search planes of Fleet Air Wing Two. The barracks area, phosphate plant, and gun positions were principal targets.
Ponape Island was attacked by Seventh Army Air Force Mitchells on June 5. Antiaircraft fire was meager.
     On June 4 Mille Atoll in the Marshalls was attacked by Dauntless dive bombers and Corsair fighters of the Fourth Marine Aircraft Wing. Runways were principal targets. Light caliber antiaircraft fire was intense.
     A search plane of Fleet Air Wing Two sighted a group of small enemy cargo ships proceeding northwest of Truk on June 5, and attacked and damaged one of the vessels. Another search plane shot down an enemy torpedo bomber west of Truk on June 5 (Denis Peck)

1945:     US I Corps take Bambang, Luzon, Phillipine Islands.

Off Brunei Bay, Borneo, the USN's Task Group 74.3, consisting of three U.S.
light cruisers and six destroyers, and an Australian light cruiser and
destroyer, provides fire support for minesweepers and underwater demolition
teams (UDTs). (Jack McKillop)

Kamikazes are again active off Okinawa.
    The escort aircraft carrier USS Natoma Bay (CVE-62) is struck by a Mitsubishi A6M Navy Type 0 Carrier Fighter, Allied Code Name "Zeke," at 0635 hours. The aircraft came in over the stern, fired incendiary ammunition at the bridge and, on reaching the island structure, nosed over and crashed the flight deck. The engine, propeller and a bomb tore a hole in the flight deck, 12 by 20 feet (3.7 by 6.1 meters), while the explosion of the bomb damaged the deck of the foc'sle and the anchor windlass beyond repair and ignited a nearby fighter. One ship's officer was killed. A second "Zeke" was splashed by the ship's port batteries.
    The destroyer USS Anthony (DD-515) suffers only slight damage as a kamikaze crashes nearby. (Jack McKillop)

The USAAF's Twentieth Air Force in the Mariana Islands flies two missions. Mission 189: 409 B-29 Superfortresses, escorted by 138 VII Fighter Command P-51s, drop incendiary and high explosive bombs on Osaka, Japan, hitting the east-central section of the city which contains industrial and transportation targets and the Osaka Army Arsenal (largest in Japan); despite being forced to bomb by radar because of heavy undercast, the B-29s burn out over 2 square miles (5.2 square km) of the city, destroying 55,000+ buildings; nine other B-29s hit alternate targets; the P-51s claim 2-0-1 Japanese aircraft; two B-29s and one P-51 are lost.
    Mission 190: During the night of 7/8 June, 26 B-29s mine Shimonoseki Strait and waters around Fukuoka and Karatsu, Japan. This begins Phase IV of Operation STARVATION, the blockade by mines of northwestern Honshu and Kyushu Islands. (Jack McKillop)

King Haakon, and the family of Crown Prince Olaf return to Norway on board HMS Norfolk. The Norwegian government in exile also returns on RN ships, but are now regarded with disfavour for having spent the war years in relative comfort, away from the inconveniences of the occupation. (Alex Gordon)

The 19-minute documentary "To the Shores of Iwo Jima" is released in the U.S. The film depicts the landing and conquest of Iwo Jima including the raising of the American flag on Mount Suribachi. Two of the actual servicemen in the film are Ira Hayes and James H. Bradley who participated in the raising of the flag; Bradley's son wrote the bestselling book "Flags of Our Fathers." (Jack McKillop)

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As his 80th birthday approaches, a look at the life and legacy of the late Ray Charles.

"I just do what I do." That's what Ray Charles told Billboard in June 2002 when asked to assess his role in music history. Of course, Charles' self-effacing response belies a groundbreaking career and a legacy that endures today, as fans look toward celebrating what would have been the legendary artist's 80th birthday Sept. 23. Looking back at Charles' storied career, what comes to mind is the phrase "musical genius." In Charles' case, that's no hype.

Rare & Unseen Ray Charles Photos | Charles on the Charts

80th Birthday Year Events | Charles Charity

In 1954, the artist's melding of gospel and blues yielded the pioneering hit "I've Got a Woman"-and forged an indelible imprint on R&B, rock and pop. His earthy, soulful voice graced a steady stream of classics after "Woman," including "Drown in My Own Tears," "What'd I Say," "Hit the Road Jack," "Unchain My Heart," "I Can't Stop Loving You" and "Georgia on My Mind."

Video below: Ray Charles performs "Hit The Road Jack" in São Paulo, Brazil on September 22, 1963.

Video below: Ray Charles performs "Then I'll Be Home" in Montreux, Switzerland on July 19, 1997.

Just as at home on the Hammond B-3 organ as he was on the piano, he also landed at the top of Billboard's R&B, pop, country and jazz charts-and even the dance chart, collaborating with childhood friend Quincy Jones and Chaka Khan on "I'll Be Good to You."

His final recording, 2004's "Genius Loves Company," made history when it won eight Grammy Awards, including album and record of the year for his pairing with Norah Jones on "Here We Go Again."

But what many may not know is that the inimitable Charles was also a genius when it came to the business side of music. In the early '60s he negotiated a rare feat after leaving Atlantic Records to sign with ABC-Paramount: ownership of his own master recordings. He also established his own labels. Tangerine (his favorite fruit) came first, which later evolved into CrossOver Records.

A songwriter who penned nearly 200 songs, Charles also operated his own publishing companies, Tangerine Music and Racer Music. For these entities, Charles and longtime manager Joe Adams designed and built the RPM International office and studios on Washington Boulevard in Los Angeles. The Ray Charles Memorial Library will open in the building this fall.

Charles also found time to manage the careers of other acts, including Billy Preston and '70s R&B group the Friends of Distinction. And way before it was de rigueur for artists to do, Charles set up what became a foundation to help needy children with hearing disabilities and later on support education.

He was an amazing human being," says Jones, 77, who became friends with Charles when both were scrappy teenagers in Seattle. "A true innovator who revolutionized music and the business of music," he adds. "Growing up, we only had the radio; no Michael Jackson, Diddy or Oprah. So it was hard to imagine today's entrepreneurial world. But that didn't stop us. We spent a lot of time talking and dreaming about things that brothers had never done before."

"He really was a genius," says singer Solomon Burke, a former Atlantic labelmate. "He did things the way he wanted."

Charles was born Ray Charles Robinson Sept. 23, 1930, in Albany, Ga. As many learned through actor Jamie Foxx's Academy Award-winning portrayal in the 2004 film "Ray," Charles became blind by age 7 and orphaned at 15 while growing up in northwest Florida.

In eight years at a state school for the blind, the young Charles learned how to read and write music. Leaving Florida in 1947, he headed for Seattle ("Choosing the farthest place he could find from Florida," Jones says), where he notched his first hit two years later as a member of the Maxin Trio, "Confession Blues."

Even then, Charles was an enterprising individual. "He had his own apartment, record player, two pairs of pimp shoes, and here I am still living at home," Jones recalls with a laugh. "His mother trained him not to be blind: no cane, no dogs, no cup. His scuffed-up shoes... that was his guide and driving force. He was the most independent dude I ever saw in my life. Ray would get blind only when pretty girls came around."

Signing with Atlantic Records in 1952, Charles as a West Coast jazz and blues man recorded such songs as "It Should've Been Me" and label co-founder Ahmet Ertegun's composition, "Mess Around."

Then he connected in 1954 with "I've Got a Woman," which set off a chain reaction of more hits capitalizing on his bold gospel/blues fusion. But Charles was just getting started. In 1958, he performed at the Newport Jazz Festival, accompanied by a band that featured such jazz cats as saxophonists David "Fathead" Newman and Hank Crawford. Further bucking convention, he recorded "The Genius of Ray Charles," a 1959 release offering standards on one side (including "Come Rain or Come Shine") and big band numbers on the other, featuring members of Count Basie's orchestra and several arrangements by Jones.

Video below: Charles' 1966 Coke commercial, "So Tired."

Leaving Atlantic for ABC-Paramount, a fearless Charles recorded the seminal "Genius + Soul = Jazz" album in 1961. A year later, his earlier dabbling in country music grew serious with the release of the million-selling "Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music."

Complemented by lush strings and a harmony-rich choir, he scored with covers of Don Gibson's "I Can't Stop Loving You" and Ted Daffan's "Born to Lose"-and spent 14 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

For a black man to do this in 1962 was unheard of," says Tony Gumina, president of the Ray Charles Marketing Group, which handles the late artist's licensing affairs. "He was trying to sell records to people who didn't want to drink from the same water fountain as him. But this was one of his greatest creative and business moves: to not be categorized musically and cross over. Though he never worried about it, he was resigned to the fact that he might lose some core fans. But he thought he'd gain far more in the process."

Gumina was operating his own promotion company working with state lotteries when he met Charles in 1999. The two teamed up on a series of commercials for various state lotteries and also introduced a line of Ray Charles slot machines also accessible to the blind.

"Everything he did had a business acumen to it," says Gumina, who cites Charles' liaison with manager Adams as a pivotal turning point. Originally hired to be Charles' stage announcer, former radio DJ Adams segued into overseeing production of the singer's shows, lighting and wardrobe.

Together the pair designed and built Charles' L.A. business base, RPM International (Recording, Publishing and Management) studio. When he began recording there in 1965, the label rented the studio from him, so he made money on his recordings before they were even released.

To save money on travel expenses, Charles purchased an airplane to ferry his band around to gigs. A smaller plane was also acquired so that Charles could wing in to, say, New York to record a couple of songs before flying back out in time for a show.

"He understood the entertainment business enough to know that you may not be popular forever," Gumina says, "and you need to maximize your product. At the same time, he had as much fun as any rock star but without the sad money stories. There was a time to work and a time to play, and he knew the difference. He didn't have a bunch of homes or a large entourage. That's why he was able to save $50 million before he died."

Calling Charles an "incredibly smart man," Concord president John Burk says he learned a lot from the ailing singer while he was recording his final studio album, "Genius Loves Company."

Video below: Ray Charles performs "It Ain't Easy Being Green" in Trentnton, NJ on Nov. 7, 2002.

Going through "some sticky deal points, he was amazing," Burk recalls. "He had the whole agreement in his head. Without referencing any material, he knew all the terms we proposed and had the deal done for the album in two discussions."

Creatively, Burk says Charles was an artist dedicated to delivering "a true performance from the heart. Part of his creative legacy was his approach to singing. He opened the door to vocal improvisations, changing how people perceived you could sing a song. Many singers today are influenced by him and they don't even know it."

Rare & Unseen Ray Charles Photos | Charles on the Charts

80th Birthday Year Events | Charles Charity


Digital art selected for the Daily Inspiration #528


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