Ray Charles Records His First Country Song; Changes The Course Of The Music Business

Ray Charles
Ray Charles

Ray Charles changed the course of popular music today (June 26, 1959), when he recorded his first country cover.

Ray Charles selected a #1 Country song released by Hank Snow in 1950 titled “I’m Moving On,” which was the b-side of the single “I Believe To My Soul.”

The song was featured on Ray Charles’s album The Genius Sings the Blues, which made the Top 20 charts when it was released in 1961.

In his autobiography “Brother Ray: Ray Charles’ Own Story,” the recording session for “I’m Movin’ On,” was memorable because The Raeletts messed up their parts on the single’s A-side, “I Believe To My Soul.”

“We did it what seemed like 100 times, and each time one of the gals goofed. I was impatient – sometimes I get that way – and finally I told them to go home; I’d do it myself,” Ray Charles recounted. “I did all four parts, one at a time, singing in falsetto. They made a tape of each one and then put them together, that way I had my own four-part harmony.”

Ironically, this was also the last session that Ray Charles recorded for Atlantic Records, which was an R&B label at the time.

In November of 1959, Ray Charles moved to ABC-Paramount, where he released the groundbreaking series of albums Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music Vol. 1 and Vol. 2.

The ABC-Paramount deal had a clause that allowed Ray Charles “full artistic freedom.”

“It was a tough move for me – I loved the Atlantic people – but it was probably the smartest money decision of my life.”

Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music Vol. 1 and 2 produced landmark recordings like “You Don’t Know Me,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and others.

It also spent 14 weeks at the top of the Billboard pop charts in 1962.

In 1994, country music singer Willie Nelson told Ed Bradley of CBS’ news show “60 Minutes,” of Ray Charles’s impact on the genre, with Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music.

“He did more for country music than any other living human being, because when he did that album, already Ray Charles was, you know, a household word,” Willie Nelson said. “Here’s Ray Charles doing country songs, introducing those songs to millions and millions of people who, otherwise, would have never had a chance to hear them.”

Waxfact: Six songs on the album The Genius of Ray Charles were produced by Quincy Jones.

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