Ray, a man ahead of his time, conceived the building in the early sixties, along with his longtime manager, Joe Adams. During this time, Charles dominated the charts in no less than four categories — pop, rhythm-and-blues, jazz and country.
The dream of having his own studio involved more than a studio. Ray’s vision encompassed a self-contained enterprise in which he controlled all aspects of his professional life. “Even though I was only in my early thirties, I’d been in the business a long while,” he recalled. “I’d seen what it meant to be managed by others. Now it was time to manage myself. It was time to put all my business under one roof.”
The roof was finally put atop 2107 W. Washington in the winter of 1965. The two-story stucco structure had been in the planning stages for two years.
“I liked the location,” Ray said. “People were trying to tell me to move to fancier areas like Beverly Hills. But why? What was wrong with a working-class black neighborhood? Why not put some money back into the community? Besides, the location was great — close to downtown, close to Hollywood and a straight shot to the airport. The land was reasonable and because I’d worked on the design of the building myself, I knew it would fit me to a "T".
It did. Within days of moving in, Ray knew every inch of the second story, which housed his offices and studio. The first story was initially rented out to tenants.
“I liked being a landlord. Ownership is a beautiful thing. For less than a hundred thousand dollars, the building was all set up and ready to go. That same year I built a house for my family in View Park. The house cost twice as much as 2107 West Washington, although 2107 would give me twice as much pleasure.” The sign placed out front of 2107 — RPM — is a play on words. “Some thought it stood for revolutions per minute, as in a 33-1/3 long-playing album,” Ray explains. “But in my mind it stood for Recording, Publishing and Management — the three activities going on inside.”
Other companies that are housed at RPM since the 60s and 70s include: Mr. Charles two Publishing companies — Tangerine Music and Racer Music — and Linden Properties.
“I was fascinated by electronics,” Ray remembered, “and was blessed to have worked with Tommy Dowd, the genius engineer who recorded all my sessions when I was with Atlantic Records.
“While I wasn’t using the studio, I didn’t want it to sit idle,” he explained. “So I had other artists recording in there — the Ohio Players, and a group called the Friends of Distinction, who later became the Fifth Dimension, even Ike and Tina Turner. “The studio was also designed with my big band in mind. It’s big enough to accommodate a whole mess of musicians. Every spring, before leaving to tour around the world, I had the band assemble in the studio for rehearsals.” Since 1965 when the studio became operative, Ray recorded, with few exceptions, all his material at 2107 West Washington — at last count, some 30 albums and, in total, over 300 songs.
Such Ray Charles classics as Rainy Night in Georgia, Let’s Go Get Stoned, I Don’t Need No Doctor, Look What They’ve Done to My Song, Ma and his immortal version of America, the Beautiful are all products of 2107. The albums include the critical triumphs “Sweet and Sour Tears,” “Message to the People,” “Renaissance,” “True to Life,” “Would You Believe,” “Strong Love Affair” and “My World.” “I guess you can’t help but be a little impressed when you think of the singers and players who have recorded up in there,” Ray remembered.
“Willie Nelson has been here a bunch of times. So has B.B. King, Gladys Knight, Freddie Hubbard, George Jones, Milt Jackson, Lou Rawls, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and of course my best buddy, Quincy Jones. The studio has been a blessing.” “When we worked for eighteen months on his memoirs Brother Ray,” says the book’s co-author David Ritz, “practically all the work was done right there in Ray’s studio. That’s where he’s happiest. The studio is where he feels most free — where his ideas come together and his art and life seem to make sense.”
The fact that 2107 West Washington Boulevard has achieved historic status is a credit both to Ray Charles’ original vision of establishing a recording home of his own and, even more, to the enduring beauty of the music made within its hallowed walls.