Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What's in an »E«?

»You Must Be Doing Alright« (1972)

This song is the opener on the second (and, tragically, last) album of the »Raelettes / Raeletts« from 1972: Tangerine LP # TRC-1515 (Ray Charles presents The Raeletts: yesterday ... today ... tomorrow). The album was recorded at the Tangerine/APM Studios in Los Angeles.

Tangerine LP # TRC-1515
The Raelettes were, as is known to everybody but the most unaffected by the charms of r&b music, the female backing choir of Ray Charles. Over the many years of their existence (from 1955 into the 1980s) they counted many different singers among their members. The group started their career as »The Cookies«. Towards the end of November 1955 and after the success of his most recent Atlantic single »Greenbacks / Blackjack«, Ray Charles set foot into New York's Atlantic Studio for a new session. When he suggested a female backing for some songs, Jesse Stones brought the local Cookies into the studio (see Mike Evans, Ray Charles: The Birth of Soul, New York 2005, p. 78). At that time the Cookies were a trio; they had formed in Brooklyn and could even boast an Atlantic single with their name on it.

In autumn 1958 Ray Charles, who was never reluctant when it came to marketing, personalized »his« Cookies and had them called »The Raelettes« henceforward (also spelled »The Raylettes« at first). At this point, not all of the original Cookies members were left in the group. Moreover, being a »Raylette« meant, beyond the singing, getting into Ray's range on a more intimate basis, and soon the joke was born: »To be a Raylette you have to let Ray« (quoted in Evans, cit., p. 101 note).

On the back cover of the 1972 Tangerine-LP the early history of the Cookies / Raelettes is alluded to as follows:
»Yesterday there was a young musician working on the road with his band who heard a group of young ladies whose soulful sounds impressed him. The young musician was Ray Charles, and this trio of female singers became the original Raeletts. Since then, The Raeletts have become an institution in the world of music ...«
Tangerine LP # TRC-1515 (back cover)
The »trio of female singers« to become the Raeletts were, as said above, the Cookies when Ray met them for the first time in November 1955. However, for all we know, Ray neither did »discover« the group, as the text suggests, nor did he hear the group while »working on the road« but they were brought to him into the studio. And none of this former group can be heard on the 1972 album! On the contrary, the five singers to feature on the LP are not even presented by name, although they are pictured on the front and back cover. Instead they are collectively called »The Raeletts of Today«. The group at this point consisted of Mable John, Susaye Green, Vernita Moss, Estella Yarborough and Dorothy Berry. Mable John was the most prominent among them, having had a solo career with Tamla-Motown (»Actions Speak Louder Than Words«) and Stax (»Your Good Thing Is About To End«, r&b # 06). I will return to the complex history of the Raelettes in another post.

Suffice it for the moment to say that the Raelettes appear on the cover of the 1972 LP as »The Raeletts«. On other records of the epoch and in contemporary ads we also find »The Raelettes« or »The Raelets«, not to mention the earlier spelling »The Raylettes«. The different spellings have confounded many and are a nuisance for everyone researching their history. What is more, on the actual disc-label the group is billed as »Raelettes«, whereas on the front and back cover of the Tangerine LP they appear as »Raeletts«. What's in an »e«? Well, I presume some rights issue. We find a hint on the back cover of the LP where we read: »The name The Raeletts is an exclusive property of Ray Charles Enterprises, Inc.« So, probably, »The Raelettes« wasn't. But this is just guesswork. I'm not enough of a legal expert to judge the importance of leaving out an »e« when it comes to »exclusive« property.

Enough of that! Here is the song, penned by Tangerine housewriter Dee Ervin. It kicks off with a playful dialogue between Ray (on piano) and Mable (singing lead). It's a cool and groovy tune, no doubt about it. Superb harmony singing all the way. Few could ever do it like the Raelettes could. The song tells of a woman, actually has this woman speaking out, who with much tongue-in-cheek irony confronts her man: You don't care for me any longer and stay with other women ... so you must be doin' alright? ... You don't remember me, ain't even called me in quite a few days! ... You must be, you must be ... doin' okay?

The Raelettes feat. Ray Charles: »You Must Be Doing Alright« from the Tangerine LP 1515 (1972)

1 comment:

  1. you're right it's an amazing album & hard to find...i'll try but...i have the compilation on titanic where all the songs are, thanks for the infos.