By Susan Cross
During one of our interview sessions, Leroy Cooper told me a story about why he left the small Ray Charles band the first time. Leroy remembered clearly how his feelings were hurt. Just as clearly, he remember his friend, Marcus Belgrave, coming to his rescue. Leroy and Marcus had known each other before they were in Ray's band together, but that's another story. This story speaks for itself and the fact that he remembers the kindness of his friend over 50 years later gives some insight into Leroy's humility and love for his friends.
*****Ray’s band was in Chicago and I went to Dallas on a break. Our next gig was in Chicago at the Regal Theater. I had to pay everything I had in my pocket for cab fare from the bus station to the south side. I didn’t realize that Chicago was that big. It left me with about two or three bucks in my pocket. I went to see the road manager.
Let me have a loan ‘til payday, I said to Jeff Brown, Ray’s first road manager. Payday was the next day. I had just spent every penny I had on a bus from Dallas to Chicago to rejoin the band.
“I’m sorry, Cooper, I don’t have any money,” he said.
I couldn’t believe it! I said to myself, what am I going to do? A country boy in the big city. I went to Woolworth’s and bought me a jack size bag of popcorn; I ate popcorn and I drank ice water to survive.
We were down in the band room in the theater after I’d asked for a loan and he said he didn’t have anything, he came downstairs and told the straw boss in the band, “I don’t like the neckties the guys in the band are wearing.”
There was a little shopping center up there and he said, “Go buy some kind of neckties that I like.” I was looking in another direction and he put his hand in his pocket and came out with a Philadelphia roll. That really made me feel bad. I said, Wow, he didn’t have any money and he brought out a roll like that.
“What kind of ties should I get?” He said, “I don’t care.”
The trumpet player, Marcus Belgrave [right] saw me and he said, “You don’t have no money do you?” I said no. So he straightened me out until payday. But I said to myself once I get back to Dallas, I won’t worry about leaving home anymore. That was the first time I was out of the band for a year and it was because of Jeff Brown. He used to not treat me too nice when I was first in the band. I was sensitive.
Here was this man, the road manager, having money in his pocket and not letting me have enough to survive. That’s when I said, when I get back to Texas I’ll be staying there, (I didn’t tell them that) and that’s what I did.
Ray was living in Dallas back then. When they got me back to Dallas, I was home. When they got ready to go back out I said I’m not going, man. They traveled by car in those days. I lived out by the airport in Dallas. Ray came out to my house.
“What’s wrong? How come you’re not going?” he asked me after we had returned to Dallas from Chicago. I had decided I would never tell him that I was upset about what happened in Chicago.
Copyright © 2010 Susan Cross – All rights reserved