Sept. 23 is now officially Ray Charles Day in St. Augustine, thanks to a proclamation by Mayor Nancy Shaver and St. Augustine’s own Potter’s Wax Museum!
What’s the local connection? Ray Charles — the multiple Grammy winner who has entertained at the White House and thrilled audiences worldwide with his original genre-fusion of blues, rock, R & B, pop, gospel and country music, spent some of his most formative years in St. Augustine. From the age of 7 to sometime in his late teens, he was a student at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind here. This is where he got his early classic music education on the piano, saxophone, organ and clarinet and learned to read, write and arrange music in Braille. Of the 10,000 concerts Ray performed in his lifetime, his very first live concert was in St. Augustine on WFOY radio. He also played regularly (as a teen!) at the Oddfellows Hall and at Florida School for the Deaf and Blind.
To honor this musical genius, a new wax figure was unveiled Friday (what would have been Ray’s 86th birthday) by the Potter’s Wax Museum folks, owned by Historic Tours of America. The ‘reveal’ party was held at the Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center on MLK Blvd. in Lincolnville. The museum honors the integral role African American’s play in St. Augustine’s rich cultural history. Singer Clarence Bell, who has played with Ray in the past, along with a four-piece band serenaded the crowd of about 200 with classic tunes like “Hit the Road, Jack,” “Unchain My Heart,” and “Georgia.” Guests were treated to spirits by the St. Augustine Distillery and catering by the Raintree Restaurant.
The new wax figure is part of an ongoing effort to pay tribute to local “hero’s.” The most recent one previous to this was the Martin Luther King, Jr. figure created last Spring also at the St. Augustine museum.
Potter’s Wax Museum is located in historic downtown St. Augustine at 31 Orange Street seven days a week from 9 am through 6 pm for those who wish to get a glimpse of their newest figure as well as close to 200 others! This museum is now located inside the Old Drug Store circa 1886.