The Day Ray Charles Scored His First Chart Topper

11/14/2011
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(Gibson) On this day in 1960, Ray Charles went to No. 1 on the U.S. singles chart with "Georgia on My Mind." His cover of Hoagy Carmichael's 1930 standard, became the first of three #1 hits for the singer. Gibson takes a look back: By 1960, Ray Charles had been a recording musician for more than a decade. Blending gospel music with secular lyrics, the "Genius" had worked his way up through the R&B circuit. After signing with Atlantic, he began a string of 15 Top 10 R&B hits between 1953 and 1957 and slowly transitioned to pop prominence in the last years of the decade. In 1959, he hit the big time with the blockbuster "What I'd Say" his first enormous crossover hit.

But Ray's biggest impact in pop music was yet to come. On this day in 1960, he scored the first of three #1 singles when his bluesy version of Hoagy Carmichael's "Georgia on My Mind" topped Billboard's Hot 100. Although it only lasted in the #1 spot for one week ("Stay" by Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs bumped it off), Ray's recording was already on its way to becoming one of the most famous songs of all time.

"Georgia on My Mind" was written by Carmichael and lyricist Stuart Gorrell in 1930. The inspiration for the words actually wasn't the state of Georgia, but Hoagy's sister Georgia Carmichael. But the song was ambiguous enough to refer to either a person or the state. In fact, in Carmichael's 1965 autobiography he remembers that his friend and bandleader Frankie Trumbauer suggested "Why don't you write a song called 'Georgia'? Nobody lost much writing about the South." more on this story

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Copyright Gibson.com - Excerpted here with permission.

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