St. Pete declares February 15 Ray Charles Day

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The city of St. Petersburg will celebrate February 15 as Ray Charles Day following a proclamation to adopt the musician as a son and a song he wrote as the city’s official song.

Charles wrote and recorded one of his first songs, “The St. Pete Florida Blues,” in the Bay Area in 1950. It’s a fact not many realize, but now the city is recognizing the legacy he leaves behind.

Charles transcended genres and racial divides with his dynamic performances, including sets at St. Pete’s Campbell Park and the Manhattan Casino – a venue for black performers at the time.

“The historic Manhattan Casino, which is where many of my favorite African-American artists passed through in its heyday, was the spot to find James Brown, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, all these amazing artists that we look to today,” said local jazz musician J.J. Pattishall.

Pattishall performed some of Charles’ hits with other artists to a packed audience at Studio 620 in St. Petersburg. People who attended the commemorative event connect with Charles in a different way.

“One of my earliest memories musically, my first strong musical influence was Ray Charles,” said Pattishall.

As many celebrate black history month, this moment provides a chance to tell a story for some.

“We’re constantly telling our story, and I feel like that’s what this month is, a celebration of those pioneers and also a time for us to tell our stories,” said Alex Jones, a dancer who interpreted the music through movement.

The organizer behind Ray Charles Day Roy Clark said the city isn’t stopping with just a day of recognition. Clark said the city also plans to add some murals to celebrate the man who discovered a love for music right here in the Tampa Bay area.