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Ray Charles Desegregates NOLA, 1963

20 Jul

At least that’s the way Sax Kari told it. This little installment of the Sax Kari Photograph Collection comes from Sax’s career as a chitlin’ circuit promoter. He brought Ray Charles to New Orleans, Louisiana’s  Loyola University auditorium in 1963. According to him, it was the first show in New Orleans to allow racially mixed seating. He had the presence of mind to take a few snaps of the desegregated audience, the best of which appears below.

First, a shot of Brother Ray, during the time of “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and “Busted.” Here he waits in the wings for opening act Danny White to hit the road.

The Raelettes mug, some more cheerfully than others:

That mixed crowd, very well-behaved. Most of them kept to their sides of the pit even without the rope between black and white sections:

Handlers escort Ray from the stage after his set. No incidents reported, everyone had a lovely time, and, more importantly to Sax, paid to see Ray instead of staying away in protest of integration. Another triumph for music.


The Sax Kari Photograph Collection

17 Jul

Folks are getting to know Sax Kari through the book The Chitlin Circuit, a work that would not have been possible without his guidance and insight. He worked every angle of the black music business, as a bandleader, cabaret act, stand-up second fiddle, straight man, bag man, producer (The Falcons “You’re So Fine” among his credits), manager (a wide range of talents from Della Reese to Esquerita), and did so with some of the most influential figures in the business, from obscure booking agent Denver Ferguson to the feared and respected Don Robey. He carried his camera along while he promoted records and concerts, and snapped some incredible fly-on-the-wall scenes from his world.

I want to share some of the amazing photographs from his collection that do not appear in the book. I’ll release a few at a time in the coming days. They are copyrighted material and all sorts of inconvenient repercussions will follow if they’re used without permission. Other than that, enjoy! The first sequence includes candid shots of well-known people. Like, Art Neville in New Orleans, 1963:

The following caption, in Sax’s hand, reads: “Jerri Hall and Irma Thomas WOW!”

NOLA people, who is Ms. Hall? (Matt Weingraden comments that she used to sing with Huey Smith & The Clowns and may still be in New Orleans! Thanks, Matt.)

Finally, here’s Count Basie having a smoke outside a Tampa Motel in 1973. The newspaper headline says something about POWs released in March.

Many more to come!

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