Ray Charles

Polk 1948 Ray Robinson

Ray Charles 1948 address

If you watched the 2004 movie Ray, you may have caught that Ray Charles actually lived in Seattle. Apparently, in 1947, Ray asked one of his friends to find the farthest place in the U.S. from Georgia. Of course in 1947 Hawaii and Alaska weren’t yet states, so his friend responded Seattle. He lived in the Central District, as the phone directory from 1948 above shows. At the time almost all black people lived in the eastern neighborhoods of Seattle due to the common practice of ‘redlining‘. These neighborhoods included Madison Valley and the Central District on the north to Rainier Beach to the south. The house’s location, listed at 1809 24th Avenue, is today a condo building, built in 2009. As the phone listing notes, his girlfriend at the time, Louise Mitchell, lived with him at this address. She bore the first of his 21 children. Yes, 21 children. He did the mess around. Phone books from this time often listed the profession of the residents and their place of employment. Ray Charles’ listed place of employment at the time was the Old Rocking Chair Club was located near the corner of Yesler Street and 14th Avenue, which is today a parking lot. This club is the inspiration for the song “Rocking Chair Blues”, and was the location that Ray Charles was discovered by Jack Lauderdale, owner of Downbeat Records. It was one of the many clubs that ran up and down Yesler and Jackson Streets at the time that featured numerous jazz and blues clubs, so many so there’s even a book about the subject (amazon link here). The Old Rocking Chair club in 1947 was apparently not keeping up with their police bribes, because it was raided multiple times by police for selling liquor illegally in 1948. Ray’s relationship in Seattle also had long-lasting effects. According to the Ray Charles (auto?)biography Brother Ray, by Mr. Charles himself and David Ritz, Seattle is where Ray Charles became acquainted with Quincy Jones, weed and heroin (in no particular order).


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