Name and location of repository
Level of description
Ray Charles Papers, Preliminary Inventory
- 1925 (Creation)
100 linear feet; 89 boxes and 3 filing cabinets
Name of creator
Raymond Charles Offenberg, known professionally as Ray Charles (and who jokingly referred to himself as "the other Ray Charles" for much of his later career), was an American singer, arranger, and conductor. He is most famous for working with Perry Como as the arranger and director for the Ray Charles Singers, Como's backing group for over 30 years. He also served as the musical consultant for the Kennedy Center Honors gala.
Charles was born in Chicago. By the time he was in high school he was already the host of a 15-minute radio show. He attended the Chicago Musical College and continued singing, arranging, and conducting for various choral groups and radio shows. He changed his name to Ray Charles around the same time he was drafted, in 1944. During World War II Charles wrote and arranged music for the women's branch of the Naval Reserve (WAVES) and trained the WAVES "Singing Platoons". After the war he went right back to working on the radio; among other roles, he worked as an arranger-conductor for "The Big Show", one of the last well-known radio variety shows.
The bulk of Charles's career was spent working with Perry Como, beginning in about 1948. He arranged music for and conducted Como's backing group, which would become known as the Ray Charles Singers. The group, which was not a consistent group of vocalists, also recorded a number of albums in the 1960s that arguably founded the "easy listening" genre. They were also responsible for several popular commercial jingles. Charles also arranged music for a variety of television specials during the same period.
Beginning in 1982, Charles was also acted as a musical consultant for the Kennedy Center Honors gala, selecting and arranging the songs for the annual program. He did so every year through 2014. He also served in a similar capacity for over a decade's worth of Independence Day and Memorial Day concerts for PBS. He also wrote the song "Fifty Nifty United States," which many elementary school children continue to learn.
Charles died of cancer at the age of 96.
Content and structure elements
Scope and content
Boxes 1-3: 66 scores
Boxes 4-27: books
Boxes 28-45: CDs
Boxes 46-49: LPs and books
Boxes 50-54: cassette tapes
Boxes 55-60: arrangements
Boxes 61-67: misc. sheet music and arrangements
Box 68: plaques
Box 69: advertising award
Boxes 70-83: Show binders
Box 84: National Memorial Day concert, handwritten music 1995-2004
Box 85: Kennedy Center Honors books 2009-2013
Box 86: Glen Campbell Show vocal sketches + arrangements
Box 87-88: calendars
Box 89: plaques, Perry Como Show shooting schedule, Scrapbook, misc.
File cabinets: sheet music, folios, arrangements, and scores
System of arrangement
A portion of this collection has been cataloged and can be found in our LibraryWorld catalog (link can be found on homepage).
The remainder of this collection is in process. Please consult the staff of the Library & Archives for an up-to-date inventory of processed materials.
Conditions of access and use elements
Conditions governing access
All material is open to the public without restriction. Copyright laws of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) govern the making of photocopies or other reproductions.
Conditions governing reproduction
The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to the Great American Songbook Foundation. Music written prior to 1923 is in the public domain. For more information, please consult the staff of the Library & Archives.
Languages of the material
Scripts of the material
Language and script notes
Acquisition and appraisal elements
Immediate source of acquisition
Received from Ray Charles on May 4, 2015.
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information
Related materials elements
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Related archival materials
Perry Como scores and scripts are housed at the American Music Research Center, University of Colorado, Boulder - Identifier CoU-AMRC-26.
- Citation: Ray Charles Papers, The Great American Songbook Foundation.
- Processing information: This is a preliminary inventory. A completed finding aid will be available at a later date.
Description control element
Rules or conventions
Preliminary inventory created by Janice Roger, October 2015.
AtoM description created by Ashlee James, January 2018.