The Rhythm and Blues Foundation presents its first achievement awards.
1989 (Nov 10)
The Rhythm and Blues Foundation presented its first career achievement awards at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The impetus for the awards came from Howell Begle, a Washington attorney, life-long soul music fan, and admirer of blues singer Ruth Brown. After Begle discovered that Brown and dozens of other rhythm and blues artists had fallen into financial difficulties in the mid-1960s, he established the Rhythm and Blues Foundation to assist them, and later appointed blues singer Ray Charles chairman of the organization. The group eventually amassed an endowment of one and one half million dollars, donated mostly by Atlantic Records Company. Several of the honorees performed for the audience, including Percy Sledge, whose "When a Man Loves a Woman," was the first soul recording to rise to the top of the pop music charts; Mary Wells, known for her recordings of "My Guy" and "You Beat Me to the Punch;" Charles Brown, who sang "Driftin' Blues" and "Black Night;" and Ruth Brown, often called "Miss Rhythm." In her remarks, Brown recalled the distressing segregated South: "Charles Brown nearly went to jail for me in Mississippi because they wouldn't let me use the bathroom at a gas station.... How many buses did we ride together? How many back doors did we go through together?" Each winner of the Rhythm and Blues Award received a check for $15,000 in order to "right some past wrongs" as well as recognize lifetime achievement.