New York City music venues tend to come and go. While some historic spots outlast the decades, many storied spaces, like CBGB and Electric Circus, don’t make it for one reason or another, falling victim to rising rents or ownership scuffle. Another such space was Tramps, a 200-capacity nightclub that welcomed a diverse host of legends in its 25 years and two locations, including Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Chuck Berry and Etta James. Tramps relocated to its second post, a boxy Flatiron District club, in 1990, and, before closing its doors in 1999 hosted indie rock royals like Yo La Tengo, Modest Mouse and Wilco. In those last few years Tramps also remained a hideout for catching great soul acts, and Ray Charles played the venue on this day in 1995.
Born on Sept. 23, 1930 in Albany, Ga., Ray Charles, whom Frank Sinatra called “the only true genius in show business,” was perhaps the most influential artist in soul. He emerged in the 1950s as one of Atlantic Records’ first successes, recording hits like “This Little Girl of Mine,” “A Fool For You” and “I’ve Got A Woman,” which you’ll recognize from Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” sampling if from nowhere else. Working jazz, country and R&B into his music, Charles later gained fame for what can only be described as American classics: “Georgia On My Mind,” “Hit The Road Jack” and “Mess Around.” However, he didn’t play any of those songs at Tramps on Sept. 7. Rather, he treated the intimate crowd to an array of covers including Ruth Brown’s “Teardrops From My Eyes” and the Rodgers and Hammerstein standards “Some Enchanted Evening” and “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning.” Backed by a big, orchestral band and what sounds like several backup vocalists, he also played classics like “Then I’ll Be Over You” and more recent tracks like “If I Could.”
Ray Charles died almost ten years after this performance, in June of 2004. Listen to his Tramps set below.