The year was 1974 and I was just 18. A friend's mother asked me to take Christmas gifts to Jackson State Prison (Jackson, Michigan) where her son Steve was incarcerated for Armed Robbery. He refused to add her to his visitor list. Fearless or just plain stupid, I agreed to take the trip to Jackson.

It was December and a cold gray day when I arrived and found a place to park. I approached the entrance (photo above) and was stunned at the massive size of this really old building. Had to turn full right and then full left to see the entire front facade of the place. Being my first and only visit to Jackson Prison. I had no idea what I was doing.

The main lobby was loud and full of people waiting to see the clerk behind the desk. I signed in and put gift drop-off as my task for the day. Had no plans to visit with her convict son.

Spent my wait time chatting with family members of inmates while I waited for the desk Sgt. to call my name. Some of the folks visited every weekend and some had come from greater distances to visit for the holiday. They all had a sad story about their sons and what horrible injustice had befallen them.

After a long wait, maybe an hour, my name was finally called. As I approached the desk to hand over the packages from his mother I noticed the clerk was holding a visitor pass and a locker key. 

He took the gifts and pointed toward the door to enter the locker room and told me to put on the badge and lock up my jacket and purse. 

What? I asked the clerk,"Am going to see Steve in there?" "Yes, he put your name on his visitor list." 

Well, ok! This will be a new experience to tell my friends about and I followed some other ladies into the women's locker room.

Inside I found my locker and put my things inside. All around me were about 15-20 other women primping and putting in hot rollers. They looked like they were getting ready for the Prom! I asked a girl next to me if this was normal. she explained to me how they share their phone numbers with different inmates and they "hook up" for visits. 

These young women spend every possible weekend visiting different inmates. The drama created by these visits would have made for a great Netflix series. 

I eavesdropped while waiting to enter the visiting area. Some of the girls were arguing as to who was the real girlfriend of whichever inmate. All kinds of gossip flying around that locker room. Dress clothes hanging on the locker doors and hot rollers plugged into various outlets.

I was just stunned that these young (18-25) women weren't out dating in the real world. Never dreamed that this type of interaction was possible, but there they were all revved up for the day's visit.

On television, people communicate with an inmate using a phone and are behind glass. This is what I envisioned my visit would be. But no! I entered the visiting room and there were about 15 groups of 4 plastic chairs in circles. 

These were plastic "scoop" chairs that cannot sit side by side. Similar to the photo below. So the visitors and the inmates slide forward and interlock knees. That's what Steve did the second he walked in and sat down. Hmmm, not a comfortable place to be. The visiting room had 15-20 inmates and their visitors. No glass, no phones, and only one sleepy guard by the door.

It was a nerve-wracking place to be certain. Steve never stopped talking and giving me instructions on what I "needed" to do for him once I was back in our hometown. Our 25-minute visit seemed an internity. 

At last, the guards came and escorted me through the clanging doors back to the locker room. Grabbed my jacket and purse and ran for my car in the parking lot. 

Ran into Steve some 15 years later at the Ann Arbor YMCA. Still the same old Steve ordering me around. 



Steve Murphy and Javier Pena

We spent this summer in Northern Michigan and life up there was beautiful but, pretty quiet compared to the city..For excitement, I watched a lot of television, read a ton of books, and listened to a few good Podcasts.

I read How We Took Down Pablo Escobar by Steve Murphy and Javier Pena. It was fascinating hearing from the real DEA guys in the Netflix series Narcos. 



Limited Edition Six CD Ray Charles Box Set
Bonus Disc Includes Previously Unreleased Live Recordings
Musical Icon Recently Inducted Into The Country Music Hall of Fame

September 10, 2021: Tangerine Records has released True Genius, a newly remastered, limited edition set featuring 90 of the greatest songs from his legendary career and all of Ray’s biggest hits, and is now available to order here

The highly anticipated set, which has been featured in Rolling Stone and American Songwriter, includes a special bonus disc of eight previously unreleased tracks recorded live in Stockholm in 1972. True Genius is available today on all digital platforms, making dozens of Ray classics available at streaming services for the first time. Also available to stream are a series of new lyric videos for some of Charles most beloved songs, which span the breadth of genres he both mastered and transformed:

Unchain My Heart
Hit The Road Jack” (Soul)
​​There’ll be No Peace On Earth Without All Men as One” (America)
We Can Make It” (Jazz & Blues)
Crying Time” (Country)
A Song For You” (Pop Classics)

“We’re extremely proud to present this collection, which maps the breadth and depth of Ray Charles’ music, presented in chronological order so the listener can join Ray on his journey through the most expansive and creative period of his legendary career. I’m also thrilled that this music will be widely available on all streaming services for the very first time, so that new and future audiences will continue to discover the True Genius of Ray Charles.” - Valerie Ervin, President Ray Charles Foundation

The digital release of True Genius marks the first time this incredible collection of Ray Charles most important works will be widely available on streaming platforms, bringing classic hits such as “Hit The Road Jack,” “Crying Time,” “Busted,” “America The Beautiful,” “A Song for You,” “Unchain My Heart,” and many, many more back to streaming after more than a decade.

The box set also includes a beautifully designed coffee table style book with rare, unseen photos, and detailed liner notes by Ray Charles Foundation President Valerie Ervin, legendary writer and music journalist A. Scott Galloway, and featuring a special message from Quincy Jones.

Tangerine Records will also release True Genius: Sides of Ray on November 19th, a double-disc vinyl collection that illustrates Charles’ many musical “sides” by focusing each album side on the genre categories he visited most: soul, jazz & blues, country, and pop, available for pre-order here.

On August 16th, The Country Music Hall of Fame announced that Ray Charles has been inducted as an official member. Charles, who revolutionized the country genre and brought it to new audiences with albums like 1962’s Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, was inducted in the "Veterans Era Artist" category.

Ray Charles’s recordings are major landmarks in American culture. By blending country and roots with other popular sounds, this visionary singer, songwriter, pianist, and composer brought his expansive musical vision to a worldwide audience. Charles’ albums, released during the heart of the Civil Rights Movement, broke down both racial and genre barriers. The incredible crossover success of Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Volumes 1 & 2 led Willie Nelson to remark, “Ray Charles did more for country music than any other artist.” Ray continued to do something no other artist had done before or since, conquering all genres of music, from gospel and R&B to soul, country, jazz, blues, and pop, which led Frank Sinatra to dub Ray Charles, the only “True Genius” in music.

Ray further helped bring Americans together with his rendition of “America the Beautiful,” and he remains the only artist in history to create and define a national anthem. Charles was also one of the first recording artists to have ownership of his masters as well as complete creative freedom.

Charles’ staggering achievements over a 58-year career include 17 GRAMMY Awards, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a Lifetime Achievement and the President’s Merit Award, the Presidential Medal for the Arts, France’s Legion of Honor, the Kennedy Center Honors, the NAACP Image Awards’ “Hall of Fame Award,” and numerous other music Halls of Fame, including those for Jazz and Rhythm & Blues, all testament to his enormous influence. In 2019, he was honored by the Grand Ole Opry with An Opry Salute to Ray Charles, which was broadcast across PBS stations.

One of the greatest artists of all time, Charles successfully mastered and forever changed the blues, jazz, gospel, rock, pop, and country music landscapes. He teamed up with the best of the best in each stylistic genre, including B.B. King, Aretha Franklin, Lou Rawls, Hank Williams Jr, Willie Nelson, Stevie Wonder, and countless others. As he described himself. “I’m not a country singer. I’m a singer who sings country songs. I’m not a blues singer, but I can sing the blues. I’m not really a crooner, but I can sing love songs. I’m not a specialist, but I’m a pretty good utility man. I can play first base, second base, shortstop. I can catch and maybe even pitch a little.”


 Ray Charles was more than just the Genius of Soul; 
he was the Genius of Music.

About The Ray Charles Foundation
Ray Charles was equipped with a keen sensibility to the needs of others. It was this selfless generosity that motivated him when he founded, The Robinson Foundation for Hearing Disorders, Inc in 1986. The mission and purpose of the foundation was to provide financial support in the area of hearing disorders and support institutions and make donations to organizations for educational purposes. Charles thought “the inability to hear was a handicap, not the inability to see.” In 2006 the official name of the foundation became The Ray Charles Foundation, in order to bring awareness to his name but the mission remained the same. Ray Charles often made contributions anonymously to help fund cochlear implants for those who could not afford the operation and shortly thereafter started supporting educational institutions for those who could not afford an education.

Ray Charles on the Web:

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