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Honoring a Legend

February 12, 2007

 McDonough --  Almost 77-years ago, A baby was born here in Albany who would grow into a world-famous musician know simply as "The Genius." In just a few months, Construction will begin on a downtown plaza to honor that genius.

The centerpiece of the park will be a statue, Carefully crafted by an artist who is also a fan of "The Genius" and is proud to be Honoring a Legend.

The hands of a master Sculptor Andy Davis re-create the hands of a master.

"I just hit it with the torch and kind of warm it up. I've been doing sculpture and art all my life."

But Andy Davis's lifelong passion, "It's just always been in me.  I always knew that I could do it," only became his vocation eight years ago, without so much as an art class. "I have no formal training whatsoever."

And now, His greatest challenge. "It's a huge responsibility, but it's also a huge inspiration."

Andy is bringing one of his idols back to life. "I've been a Ray Charles fan since I was 11 or 12-years old."

It was Andy who approached leaders in Albany two years ago with an idea for a statue to memorialize the city's famous favorite son. "This is something that I wanted to do."

His enthusiasm, Made it impossible to say no. "I think it's gonna be quite amazing if I do say so myself."

The hands-on work really began last year. "Right at four and a half months to finish up." Andy started with a wood and copper frame, then foam, and clay.

And imagination. Andy patiently formed the clay six days a week, Sometimes ten or twelve hours a day.

"It's the details.  It's just the details that makes it."

He got his hands on DVDs of old interviews with Ray Charles on the Dick Cavett Show, and two of Ray's concerts from the 1970s,

"Ray Charles came to me through the television set and became my real-life subject."

That wasn't his only connection to The Genius. "That's one of his classics."  As Andy sculpted, Ray sang.

His music blaring from an old CD player, motivating an artist. "He's sculpting it with me.  That's how much it helps."

Listen to that and it's hard not to get inspired. "I couldn't stop smiling, and you can't stop moving."

Ray also rarely stopped moving. "The bobbing back and forth.  The going back with his feet.  He's feet were in a constant tornadic movement."

And this still, static statue somehow captures that motion down to the flapping pants leg and those hands that seem to bounce off the piano keys. "I think it's pretty well animated."

After foundry workers make a mold and create a wax version of the statue, Andy will put on the finishing touches. "I'll detail some things like the hinges on the glasses."

Then Ray Charles will be cast in bronze. "It will be spectacular."

Georgia on My Mind is a a proper and permanent memorial for a musical legend. "There's great legends and that list would not have any credibility if you did not include Ray Charles with that."

And the man whose hands made sure Ray's hands will forever play his music will help bring The Genius home; "I will be living a dream."

And help keep Ray Charles on Georgia's mind for generations to come.

Ray Charles Plaza will be built along the riverfront right across from the Hilton Garden Inn. The statue will sit on a rotating stage at the center of park. Ray's music will play as if he's there performing.

The Plaza could be ready to open by September 23rd of this year, which would have been Ray Charles 77th birthday.

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