Ray Charles started out on Atlantic Records which recorded some of the greatest black performers of the Fifties. After the success of “What’d I Say” which hit number six on the pop chart and number one on the R&B chart, ABC Paramount offered him such a lucrative deal that he didn’t feel like he could turn it down.
In fairness he went to Atlantic and asked them if they would match the deal. They couldn’t and so, Ray left Atlantic and recorded for ABC Paramount most of the rest of his career. He had his first number one soon after that with “Georgia On My Mind” (See 1960.)
“Hit the Road, Jack” was written by Percy Mayfield, who was a singer as well as a songwriter during the Fifties. He sang “Please Send Me Someone to Love” which was a number one R&B hit in 1950. It also hit number 26 on the pop chart, so Mayfield was well known to Ray Charles. When Ray heard that he had written “Hit the Road, Jack,” he was interested in talking to him and eventually cut a deal to record the song. Mayfield may have wanted to record the song himself, but knew he could make more money if Ray Charles recorded it. And he was right. If Mayfield had recorded the song, we might never have heard it.
There is brief biography of Ray Charles under “Georgia On My Mind” in the article in 1961, so I will not repeat that here. He recorded “Hit the Road, Jack” in 1961 with The Raelettes singer Margie Hendricks. He won a Grammy Award for Best Rhythm and Blues Recording for the song and Rolling Stone Magazine ranks the song number 387 on the magazine’s list of the 500 Best Songs of All Time.
“Hit the Road, Jack” entered the pop chart on September 18, 1961 and spent two weeks at number one. It also spent five weeks at the top of the R&B chart. Ray would have one more number one in his career on the pop chart, 1962’s “I Can’t Stop Loving You.”
The quality of this video is not that good, but it really made me smile. This looks like an original performance from sometime near when the song came out. Hope you enjoy it.