On Friday night, Feb. 17, The McDuffie Museum will be host to the greatest entertainment announcer of all time, Danny Ray, James Brown’s personal valet for over 40 years.
Ray will be at the museum on Main Street from 6:30-8:30 p.m. and will entertain us with his intimate stories of working with the Godfather of Soul. Admission is free, the public is invited and we expect to have a good time. No food or drinks will be served or allowed. The same goes for smoking.
The museum is a beautiful place at night with all the lights and the tall ceilings and windows. Come see for yourself.
Ray was trying to get into show business as a singer when he was introduced to Brown in 1960. He joined the James Brown Revue as Brown’s personal valet, which he loved. Later at a place called Streets, in Maryland, the master of ceremonies didn’t show up, and Brown said to Ray, “Well, since he’s not here, you do the show.” Brown walked away, and Ray said, “Oh, God, he really didn’t mean that.” Brown opened the door again, and said, “I’ll see you on stage.” Ray said his knees were shaking. He’d never done anything like that; he’d only watched someone else do it. He said he’d never forget that night. Standing in front of that big band made him feel like it would blow him off the stage.
Ray remembers that the first time he did the “Cape Review” was in Baton Rouge, La. He draped a white robe over Brown as he went off the stage. Brown threw it off, and the audience went wild. It was worked into the show.
Being together so long made them begin to think alike. Ray could read Brown’s moods. He thought sometimes that Brown was a hard man to work with, but he realized that Brown wanted everything just right. Brown understood that when someone paid the price of a ticket they deserved the best show possible.
Please, Please, Please with the cape routine became Brown’s signature song. Its presentation was as much theatre as any nightclub act or church service. Nothing about the sound, the look, the emotion or the culture of modern American black music would ever be the same.
At James Brown Arena on Dec. 30, 2006, a day short of a year after his death, a tribute was held for Brown. It was his third funeral service. At the end, after Jesse Jackson spoke, Ray walked to the front edge of the stage holding one of Brown’s large, sparkling red-sequined capes.
Without saying a word, he unfurled the cape and draped it for the final time over his boss. Thus ended 46 years of faithful service by Danny Ray to the legend that was James Brown, Godfather of Soul.