Renald Richard, the man who co-wrote Ray Charles' first R&B No. 1 'I've Got A Woman' and served as his early bandleader, has been talking about his memories of Brother Ray.
The pianist and trumpeter, born in Thibodaux, Louisiana, is still active in music at the age of 91. The Naples Daily News of Naples, Florida, where Richard lives, says that although he rarely performs in front of an audience anymore, he can usually be found every Tuesday morning at a jam session at the house of a friend.
Richard became expert in the trumpet during his time in the Navy in World War II and then while touring in a USO show. He formed a band that included his cousin, the celebrated saxophonist Plas Johnson, building a formidable reputation in New Orleans.
Later, while he was touring with Ivy Joe Hunter, Richard was approached by an artist representative. “He asked me, 'Would you be interested in playing with Ray Charles?' Well, that’s like asking if a baby wants candy or something,” says the trumpeter, "so I said, 'you bet I would'.”
He then became Charles' bandleader. “He was very exact and he expected the same thing from the members of the band,” says Richard. “If you had to play first trumpet, you're going to play first trumpet. If there's a note you couldn't hit, somebody else would play first trumpet [and] you'd come in and see someone else sitting in your seat. He was very strict."
But there were fun times to be had too. “Sometimes he’d call me up and say, ‘Renald, would you mind driving me to Santa Monica?’ and I knew what he wanted: he wanted to go on the the roller coaster,” he said. “He loved the roller coaster.
“Being [with Ray] was almost like being in a music school, I learned so much,” he concudes. “The highlight of my career was being with Ray Charles. He was a genius. Truly a genius.”
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