Song: “Hit The Road Jack” by Ray Charles
Reached #1: October 9, 1961 (his second, 2 weeks)
His mother was named Aretha, and he really shared a name with the most famous boxer of his day. How could Ray Charles fail?
He was born Ray Charles Robinson, and performed early in his career as “R.C. Robinson” before his first record label suggested he drop his last name to avoid confusion with Sugar Ray Robinson.
It didn’t take long to find out that Ray had a gift… 1954’s “I Got A Woman” was his first big R&B hit, and by 1959, the incredibly-suggestive “What’d I Say” (which was improvised on a night where Charles and his band had played out the set list and had some time to fill) made him a pop star.
1960 brought enduring fame with his version of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Georgia On My Mind”. Then came today’s #1.
So after all of that pop and R&B success, Charles made the decision that really cemented his reputation as an innovator.
He did a country album.
In 1962. A black man doing country in 1962 was, simply, unheard of. But not only did Charles pull it off, but sales were so good he went back and did a second volume of Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music.
Unfortunately, Charles also had an addition to heroin that had led to three arrests in the ‘60s before kicking the habit late in the decade.
Through the ‘70s, Charles’ career quieted down before he was rediscovered in the ‘80s by a younger generation.
Tomorrow, Tawny Kitaen and one very lucky car…
Other songs that reached #1 on October 9:
1965 – “Yesterday” by the Beatles (their tenth, 4 weeks)
1976 – “A Fifth of Beethoven” by Walter Murphy & the Big Apple Band (his first, 1 week)
1999 – “Heartbreaker” by Mariah Carey feat. Jay-Z (her fourteenth, 2 weeks)