It's the fall of 1963 and Maceo Parker is standing out back of the Coliseum in Greensboro' North Carolina trying to catch a glimpse of his idol, Ray Charles. He's looking for anyone he would recognise from the band but all he sees is strangers. Out of the corner of his eye he sees the flare of a lighter. Instantly Maceo recognises Hank Crawford, the epitome of cool in his leather jacket and matching boots. It is nearly midnight, but Crawford still has his sunglasses on. The back door of the Coliseum opens and the rest of the band spill out. Then Ray Charles emerges and in an awestruck moment the young saxophonist makes a promise to himself and a silent one to Ray Charles: "one of these days you're all gonna know me"
In 1993 that promise came true for Maceo when he opened shows for Ray Charles all over Europe, and did the same the following year at the Lincoln Centre in New York.
Just as James Brown would have Maceo sing Georgia in his shows, Prince had Maceo do the same thing during his Musicology tour as a tribute to Ray Charles after he passed away in 2004.
It was the loss of Ray Charles that led Maceo to think about somehow doing something with former members of the Ray Charles Orchestra. As he toured the world for the next ten years he wondered what would happen to the band following the loss of their leader and how important it might be to put that band "back together" and perform Ray's work.
In the interim years Maceo recorded two Big Band albums the first of which, Roots and Grooves, was part tribute to Ray Charles and received huge critical acclaim.
Finally, in 2014 following a chance remark spotted by his manager on Facebook, the idea of putting Maceo with former members of the Ray Charles Orchestra and Raelettes went from a dream to a real possibility. Two years later that possibility in turn became a reality.
In 2016 Maceo performed a tribute to Ray Charles, the Ray Charles Orchestra, and the Raelettes on August 17th at the Hollywood Bowl as part of Hollywood Bowl's 2016 season. Followed a month later by a show at the 59th annual Monterey Jazz Festival.
This was the first time that the RC Orchestra members had performed together since Ray Charles passed away in 2004, and the shows have now been already experienced by several thousand people. For Maceo, for the orchestra, and for the singers this is a dream come true. The essence of the music of Ray Charles shines through these performances and already there are festivals who have booked this this project for their 2017 or 2018 seasons.
"I've known for a long time that Maceo was the right person to pay tribute to Ray in a genuine way that I think Ray would have enjoyed. The fact that he insists on wanting to work with Ray's musicians and backup singers only solidifies that he would like to present this music with and in the spirit that it was taught to us and performed by Ray. We think the songs that we've selected are a great representation of Ray Charles' biggest hits and the tunes that he liked to sing on a regular basis."
Steve Sigmund, Musical Director for the Tribute, and First Trombone with Ray Charles Orchestra for over 20 years