Ray Charles Robinson was the son of Aretha and Bailey Robinson. When Ray was still a newborn, his family moved from Georgia, where he was born, to a poverty stricken community in Greenville, Florida. In the early years of child development, Ray showed a curiosity for anything mechanical and he often watched the men nearby work on their cars and farm machinery. His curiosity in music wasn’t sparked until one day when he snuck into Mr. Wiley Pit's Red Wing Café. When he came in Pit played boogie woogie on an old upright piano. Pit would care for George, Ray's younger brother, so as to take the burden off of Ray’s mom. However, George drowned in his mom’s laundry tub when he was four years old. After witnessing this horrific tragedy, Ray would feel an overwhelming sense of guilt later on in life.
Ray started to lose his eyesight at the age of five and went completely legally blind at the tender age of seven. Ray Charles’ mom tried hard to teach him how life would be for blind people. She told him to never let his problem become a cripple for him and to never let anyone take advantage of him just because of that. One way she tried to help him was that she told him to use his memory. He couldn’t see so he had to remember how many steps he took or how long it takes to get to one place so he won’t get lost. His mom eventually sent him away so he can get adequate care. She sent him to the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine, Florida for 8 long years. This is where he developed his patent musical talent. Ray’s troubles wouldn’t end with becoming completely blind. His father died when he was 10, his mother died five years later when he was 15 while he was in school.
Ray Charles left the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind after his mother died in 1946. He moved to Jacksonville with a couple who were friends of his mother. For well over a year, he played the piano for groups at the Ritz in LaVilla, earning what today is a measly $4 each night. Next he moved to Orlando, then Tampa. In Tampa is where he played with a band originated in the south called The Florida Playboys. This is where one of the members of the group got him to wear sunglasses and after that, they just “stuck”.
For Ray’s whole life he had always played for other people, but inevitably he wanted a band to call his own. He decided to leave Florida for a large city, but cities such as Chicago and New York City were way too big. After asking someone to take a look at a map and tell him which city was farthest from Florida, he moved to Seattle in 1947 which is where he met the legendary Quincy Jones while he was 14. Soon he started recording, first for the Down Beat label as the Maxin Trio with guitarist G.D. McKee and bassist Milton Garrett, achieving his first hit with "Confession Blues" in 1949. The song launched itself to No.2 on the charts.
In 1950, he played in a Miami hotel, impressing someone named Henry Stone, who recorded a Ray Charles Rockin' record that...