South Georgia relative remembers Ray Charles - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

South Georgia relative remembers Ray Charles

Marye Wright Marye Wright
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June 17, 2004

Albany - Years before Ray Charles was a famous singer, he was just "Cousin R.C." to his extended family in Slyvester. Marye Wright, a second cousin, remembers Charles visiting her each summer and giving her piano lessons.

"He wanted me to be like him and play the piano," said Wright. Ray Charles was her grandmother's nephew.

"He was so good at the piano always. Each summer when he would come, he would have me to play for him. He would always sit on this bench with me. Sometimes, he would hold my holds, because I would be moving with them way we wanted me to. He could go all over the piano. It was just like magic."

The musical magician dazzled his family long before he packed concert halls. "He would just be rockin' and playin'. He would have his head going and fingers going down the keyboard," said Wright.

Wright didn't think of Ray Charles as a star when she was a child, but by the time she was in high school, she knew he was big, really big. "We were always so proud, and I was always bragging about my cousin, Ray Charles," she said with a chuckle. "He wanted me to join him once I finished high school to become a 'Raylette.' But, my dad so 'Oh no, I'm not going to have my daughter in clubs.'"

Wright laughed as she thought of the fortune she missed out on. "I could have been rich."

The family lost touch with their famous cousin over the years. Now, this old piano is Wright's constant reminder of him. The ivory is worn off the keys and the dull exterior is covered with nicks and scratches. "But, it stills plays pretty good," said Wright.

 It's a family antique touched by a man whose music will live on long after his death.

Generations of Wrights family learned to play on the piano, and Wright says Ray Charles' death has inspired her to start playing again.

updated at 4:26PM by kathryn.murchison@walb.com