Country Music Hall of Fame


Panel: Ray Charles: Still Modern with John Burk, Valerie Ervin, Valerie June, and Travis Tritt

Saturday, February 23, 2019 - 02:00pm

Ray Charles was called the “genius of soul,” but in his six-decade musical career, he made some of the most important country records in history. His country sides brought unprecedented national and international attention to the music whose primary home was Nashville.

Charles worked in different musical styles, at home in all of them, including R&B, jazz, blues, pop, and country music. He stamped each with his immediately identifiable musical character.

Charles grew up listening to country music, and country songs were forever a part of his repertoire. His 1962 album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music contained the Charles classics “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” “You Don’t Know Me,” and “Born to Lose.” His record company, his fans, and his fellow musicians were taken aback by Charles’s challenge to musical convention. The album's integration of soul and country music, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, overcame racial barriers in popular music, and he gave country music broader exposure than it previously had enjoyed.

The success of Modern Sounds led to a sequel, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music Volume Two, and Charles would go on to collaborate frequently with country stars, on national television and on record. Concord will reissue both volumes on vinyl, CD, and digital formats on February 22.

To appreciate and understand Charles’s impact on country music, a discussion will include panelists John Burk, Concord Records president and producer of Charles Grammy-winner Genius Loves Company; Valerie Ervin, president of the Ray Charles Foundation; Tennessee-born singer-songwriter Valerie June, who works in both blues and country; and Grand Ole Opry member Travis Tritt, who recently appeared on An Opry Salute to Ray Charles, and in 2002 appeared with Charles for a CMT Crossroads concert special.

This panel discussion will be illustrated with vintage photos, film, and recordings. Valerie June will perform briefly. The program will be streamed live at


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