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Sept. 23: Three legends get together for a celebration of tomcattin’ solidarity, giving Ray Charles his first real success on the country charts. It’s great to hear it again on what would have been Charles’ 79th birthday.

Charles had famously — to some, shockingly — drunk from the country well since the late 1950s. His pair of Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music albums in the ’60s gave Nashville, Bakersfield and earlier classics the big band treatment, and brought the country music he loved so much to a new audience. But, except for the singles culled from those albums, he’d had no hits since the early ’60s. So, as the ’80s rolled around, Charles sought to change that by doing country on country’s terms — signing with Columbia Records’ Nashville division, working with legendary producer Billy Sherrill and recording in Nashville studios with Nashville musicians.

The best and most successful result of that collaboration was the 1984 duets album Friendship, which paired Charles with country hitmakers and reached the top of the charts. It gave him his first and only Billboard No. 1 country single, “Seven Spanish Angels” (with Willie Nelson). But the first hit from the album was “We Didn’t See A Thing” (No. 6 Billboard country), in which Charles and George Jones, two ol’ boys with wandering eyes and habits, vow “to stick together, to keep our stories straight.”

Recorded 26 years ago this coming Sunday, it’s a really fun record by two great stylists — with Mr. Guitar thrown in for good measure.

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