- 12:10 PM, Aug 17
Beginning from that incident, he gradually lost his sight before became totally blind at age 7. George's death and the complete blindness of his eyes apparently could not stop Ray's love for music; instead it grew deeper, taking roots into his heart. Encouraged by his supportive mother, he entered St. Augustine's School for the Deaf and the Blind in 1937, learning to read Braille as well as studying music composition and playing various instruments. This was when he came to a desire to write music of his own, wanting to feel the excitement of hearing his compositions played back for him.
The death of his beloved mother when he was nearly fifteen years old made him shocked, but eventually he kept going on, making his own way. He started to work as a musician in Jacksonville, Florida, where he was also taken care by her mother's friend named Lena May Thompson. Tired of working for someone else's band, Ray decided to move to Seattle in 1947. While joining an audition, he was invited to perform as a trio at Elk's Club together with Gosady McGee and Milt Jarret. Adapted the smooth pop/R&B style of Nat "King" Cole and Charlie Brown, The "McSon Trio," so they called it, turned out to be the first black group to have a sponsored TV show in the Pasific Northwest in 1948. Together with the trio, Ray made a major R&B hit through the song entitled "Confession Blues" in 1949. During this time, he shortened his name as Ray Charles in order to differentiate his identity from famous boxer "Sugar" Ray Robinson. After playing at Elk's Club for about five weekends, the trio was hired to perform at another club called Rocking Chair where Ray met Jack Lauderdale of Swingtime Records for the first time. Getting impressed with his talent, Lauderdale offered Ray to sign a contract, so he left Seattle for L.A. to do his recording of "Baby, Let Me Hold Your Hand" (1951). This single was well received and became a hit, especially among black community, entering the U.S. R&B Chart for the first time.
After the release of the song, Ray held a tour with blues artist Lowell Fulson before Atlantic Records purchased his contract from Swingtime Records in 1952. In the same year, he made his Atlantic debut single "Roll With Me Baby," followed by "It Should Have Been Me" (1954)