Losing Hand, by Ray Charles

A great forgotten number by Ray Charles, recorded in 1953, a year after he signed a contract with Atlantic Records. That artist/label relationship developed into a legendary status a few years later when Charles released the timeless hits I Got A Woman, What’d I Say and many more. Charles was not yet a Rhythm n’ Blues superstar in 1953, but Ahmet Ertegun realized that he had a star in the making and forked $3,000, a large amount for the fledgling label at the time, to buy his contract from the failing Swingtime label.

Ahmet Ertegun

Ahmet Ertegun

Recorded in New York City on May 17, 1953 in the same session that produced Mess Around, Losing Hand is a soulful blues written by Jesse Stone who worked for Atlantic as a producer, songwriter, and arranger. The song was released as a single with the composer identified as Charles E. Calhoun. On Ertegun’s advice, Stone used the pseudonym on his BMI tunes to avoid conflict with his membership in the other music licensing society, ASCAP. Stone was critical to the Atlantic Records label. He later wrote Shake Rattle and Roll, discovered the Raelettes, Ray Charles’ backing vocals group (remember the juicy call and response in What’d I Say?), and wrote many other hits for the label’s artists. A month after the recording of Losing Hand was made, Jerry Wexler joined Atlantic Records and the label’s rise to legend status was meteoric shortly after.

Jesse Stone

Jesse Stone

When we think of Ray Charles what usually comes to mind are the jumpy rhythm n’ blues songs he recorded for Atlantic and the country-tinged hits he later recorded for ABC records (Georgia On my Mind, I Can’t Stop Loving You), but Losing Hand is a great opportunity to hear him delivering an emotional blues early in his career before the demand for hits dictated the style of the songs.

I gambled on your love baby and got a losing hand

I gambled on your love baby and got a losing hand

Your ways keep changing like the shifting desert sand

While I was playing fair baby, you played a cheating game

While I was playing fair baby, you played a cheating game

I know you don’t care, but I love you just the same

I thought I’d be your king baby, yes and you could be my queen

I thought I’d be your king baby, yes and you could be my queen

But you used me for your joker ´cause I thought you’re deal was clean

The way you did me pretty baby, I declare I never understand

The way you did me pretty baby, I declare I never understand

I gambled on your love baby and got a losing hand


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