Ray Charles

"This may sound like sacrilege, but I think Ray Charles was more important than Elvis Presley." -- Billy Joel
In the early 1950's, Ray Charles had a successful recording career with R & B hits such as "Mess Around" (1953) and "I Got A Woman (1954). In 1956 he converted a female singing group, The Cookies, into his backup singers and renamed them The Raeletttes. As rock and roll became more a part of the main stream, in 1957, his #1 R & B recording of "Drown in My Own Tears" experienced some crossover success. In 1959 Ray Charles became a pop star when "What'd I Say" was #1 on the R&B chart and reached #6 on the pop chart. All of that early success came on Atlantic Records, but when his contract ran out in 1960, he negotiated a lucrative agreement with ABC-Paramount. The label was anticipating more hits like "What'd I Say," but instead got a ballad with full instrumental treatment, "Georgia on My Mind." The label executives were skeptical, but were won over when the record went to #1 on the pop chart. To alleviate any concerns his fans might have had about his "selling out" to a pop sound, Charles released "Hit the Road Jack" later that year and it went to #1 on both the R&B and pop chart. In 1962, Charles once again confounded his label with a plan to release an album of country songs. The album, "Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music" was released in April of 1962. By June, one of the songs from the album, "I Can't Stop Loving You" was #1. Later that year, "You Don't Know Me" reached #2. The album also reached #1 that June. Ray Charles was among the first group inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.
title week debuted highest ranking weeks on chart
I Got a Woman 12/5/1954

Drown in My Own Tears 2/18/1956

What'd I Say (Parts 1 & 2) 7/20/1959 6 11
Georgia On My Mind 10/10/1960 1 10
One Mint Julep 3/27/1961 8 9
Hit the Road Jack 9/18/1961 1 11
Unchain My Heart 12/10/1961 9 10
Hide Nor Hair 4/21/1962 20 4
I Can't Stop Loving You 5/19/1962 1 14
Born To Lose 5/19/1962 41
You Don't Know Me 8/4/1962 2 9
You Are My Sunshine 12/1/1962 7 9
Don't Set Me Free 3/16/1963 20 4
Take These Chains From My Heart 4/27/1963 8 8
Busted 9/14/1963 4 11
That Lucky Old Sun 12/21/1963 20 7
Love Me With All Your Heart 5/2/1964 3 12