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Feb 13

Ray Charles

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October 24, 1968

ray-charles-ad-page-12.jpgRay Charles performed in the county several times. The SLO Little Theater recently featured late singer’s life story in a biographical musical. I saw the original at Cuesta College in the 1980′s and though the show was only an hour long it was full strength Ray. He shook the house when he sang the call and response with the Raelets on “What I’d Say.”

In 1968 the concert cost $4 for the good tickets and it was held at the Men’s (now Mott) Gym. Michael Raphael photographed the concert but the paper did not find room for the photo. For many years the paper had a policy of not finding space for concert photos. The editors may not have been hip to trends and they also had an aversion to entertainment stories they could not run in advance. They offered extensive coverage of high school play rehearsals, before they opened. The only regular exception were the local fashion shows, one of the newspaper’s few features that regularly included women at the time.

I hope it wasn’t because Charles was African-American. Race was a hot issue at the time. It was an election year and both Richard Nixon and George Wallace were stirring up voters on race. Black Panther Huey Newton was about to be moved to the California Men’s Colony. A huge controversy at the Olympics erupted after Black Power salutes were made during the playing of the National Anthem for two American medal winners. Both Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy had been murdered that year and riots had broken out in many urban areas.

One of the few positive places African Americans showed up in the paper was in an entertainment context. A quick glance at the top 20 list from Brown’s Music Store shows two black entertainers.

Diana Ross – Love Child
Jimi Hendrix – All along the Watchtower

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