In June 1952, Atlantic Records bought Ray Charles’s contract for $2,500 (US $24,070 in 2019 dollars)….when in his first recording session for Atlantic….songs like “The Midnight Hour”and “Roll with My Baby” took place in September 1952….although his last Swing Time release of “Misery in My Heart”/”The Snow Is Falling” wouldn’t appear until February 1953.
In 1953, “Mess Around” became Brother Ray’s first small hit for Atlantic….then during the next year he had hits with “It Should’ve Been Me” and “Don’t You Know”……plus, he also recorded the songs “Midnight Hour” and “Sinner’s Prayer”.
Late in 1954, Charles recorded “I’ve Got a Woman”….with the lyrics being written by bandleader Renald Richard….although Charles claimed the composition…..when they later admitted that the song went back to The Southern Tones’ “It Must Be Jesus” in 1954…..but it became one of Charles’ most notable hits…. while reaching # 2 on the R&B chart…..as “I’ve Got a Woman” combined gospel, jazz, and blues. In 1955, he had hits with “This Little Girl of Mine” and “A Fool for You”…..and in upcoming years, he scored with “Drown in My Own Tears” and “Hallelujah I Love Her So”. In 1959, “What’d I Say” reached # 6 on the Billboard Pop chart…and # 1 on the Billboard R&B chart.
He also recorded jazz….such as The Great Ray Charles in 1957….and worked with vibraphonist Milt Jackson….while releasing Soul Brothers in 1958 and Soul Meeting in 1961. By 1958, he was not only headlining black venues such as the Apollo Theater in New York….but also bigger venues such as Carnegie Hall and the Newport Jazz Festival….where his first live album was recorded in 1958. He hired a female singing group, The Cookies, and renamed them The Raelettes. In 1958, Charles and The Raelettes performed for the famed Cavalcade of Jazz concert produced by Leon Hefflin Sr. held at the Shrine Auditorium on August 3. The other headliners were Little Willie John, Sam Cooke, Ernie Freeman and Bo Rhambo. Sammy Davis Jr. was there to crown the winner of the Miss Cavalcade of Jazz beauty contest….in an event that featured the top four prominent disc jockey of Los Angeles.
In this 1978 Saturday Night Live performance….Ray Charles plays with his jazz band from the 1950’s…. while being live on stage in New York City…..when in a very rare piece of video footage….the genius of Ray Charles carries over to the saxophone….as he blows some jazz licks with his old band members.