Friday, April 2, 2010

Perry Como, and The Ray Charles Singers

The following video, made from a 1954 kinescope of the Perry Como TV show, is of Como singing “Papa Loves Mambo":

He’s accompanied by The Ray Charles Singers, who for years were an important part of his shows (TV, and otherwise), and his records.

The vocal performances are enjoyable. There are also some other nice moments in the video (such as, when Como dances with singer Peggy Lee).

And there is this interesting part of the video, which concerns the nature of live television: at the end of the song (which is also the end of the show), there is time left over. Como and The Ray Charles Singers improvise: they sing part of the song again, and Peggy Lee returns to the stage, for more dancing.

In the 1950s, while Ray Charles was part of Perry Como’s show—arranging the vocals for and overseeing his Ray Charles Singers—he was also the vocal arranger on Your Hit Parade. Charles—often referred to as the other Ray Charles—is interviewed in my book about his work in early television.

Through the years Charles was affiliated with a number of TV programs, in various capacities—as vocal arranger, writer of special musical material, composer, musical consultant. Today, he continues to serve as consultant to the Kennedy Center Honors programs; he has been affiliated with the Kennedy Center shows since the early 1980s.

Many television viewers, today, are no doubt familiar with Charles’s voice, from the 1970s and 1980s TV show Three’s Company; he and Julia Rinker sang the show’s theme song.