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The epic struggle of a gay gospel icon from New Orleans who was murdered, on the cusp of stardom, in the projects he could not escape.

www.raymondmylesmovie.com 

http://vimeo.com/user8349996/videos

HE WAS THE GOSPEL GENIUS OF NEW ORLEANS 

Raymond Myles may have been the greatest gospel singer of his generation. He was a colorful, complex, and conflicted character, a man of outsized personality and emotion who could have only come from New Orleans.

If you heard Raymond once, you remembered him forever. People compared him to giants like Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, Donny Hathaway and Stevie Wonder. He had a showman's personality to rival Liberace's. He was blessed with a voice of astonishing power, and he was a brilliant pianist and choir director, too.  

Some looked at his wild stagecraft and saw the second coming of Little Richard -- a hopeless sinner. Others saw a messenger, a prophet and a healer. But everyone agreed that Raymond was a man of compelling musical talent.

SPIRIT IN THE DARK

He was about to take his place in the pantheon of America’s most inspired devotional artists. But Raymond was murdered in 1998, with a bullet to the heart. He was 41 years old. His body was found just outside the French Quarter, on a street corner named Elysian Fields -- "paradise of the heroes" in Greek mythology.  

Raymond was more than a maverick musician. He was also a dedicated and devoted music teacher in the New Orleans public schools. His tireless efforts to shape and influence so many young lives represented the best in the human spirit. He was an inspiration to anyone with a voice, a vision and a determination to sing. And he used his talent as a weapon to wage a personal war on the drug culture in New Orleans. 

Raymond had comforted so many grieving families touched by violence. Now New Orleans was in mourning for Raymond Myles. The ambassadors of New Orleans music already knew what the world was about to find out. "There's no telling what he would have achieved," the seminal New Orleans composer Allen Toussaint says. "That was a very bright light that went out."

Raymond knew where he wanted to go on this Earth, and that he might not get there. Call it the intuition of man whose musical genius was always in touch with a higher spirit. "He opened the gates of heaven," Aaron Neville says. "He gave us a glimpse of paradise." 

"We were good friends for years," recalls Harry Connick, Jr. "He opened my concerts in New York with his full choir and band. He was one of the most powerful and talented artists I’ve ever known." 

A GREAT UNTOLD STORY 

As this music-driven documentary reveals, Raymond's spirit is still alive in those he touched. 

The film takes us on Raymond's journey from a childhood of grinding poverty in the projects of New Orleans to his teenaged years as a musical prodigy and protégé of Mahalia Jackson. 

It takes us to the inner city public schools where Raymond taught music and steered countless young people away from a life of ruin.

It takes us to the churches where Raymond mesmerized the faithful, and the concert stages where he made wonderstruck fans.

It takes us to the brink of music stardom -- until Raymond was murdered in the projects he could not leave behind. 

Like a comet shooting across the sky, Raymond Myles was here one minute -- brilliant, incandescent and unmistakably unique. And then, just as quickly, he was gone. 

KEEP YOUR HAND ON THE PLOW

We've assembled all the ingredients to make a great documentary gumbo -- and we're so close to serving it up piping hot.  

We've shot about 30 hours of original HD footage so far. But we still have MORE THAN HALF a film to shoot.

We've self-financed everything since 2008 -- and now we need your support.

We've budgeted 16 more days of principal photography in New Orleans, Los Angeles and New York before we can start on a rough cut. 

The promotional teaser at www.raymondmylesmovie.com reflects what we've been able to shoot on a tight budget and an even tighter shooting schedule.

The teaser was shown as one of five films at a prestigious competition -- the Paley Center for the Media's annual Documentary Pitch competition -- at the Museum of Broadcasting in New York.  

WHERE Y'AT?

This film about the Gospel Genius of New Orleans received a 2009 Community Partnership Grant from the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation -- a beautiful blessing from the city's preeminent cultural institution.

We've already filmed the mean streets where Raymond was born. Where his mother raised ten children in two rooms in the St. Bernard projects. Raymond's older brother Warren told us that many nights the family went to bed hungry. Raymond sang gospel songs for his neighbors to raise money for chicken, rice and beans.

We've filmed intimate interviews with Raymond's friends and musical collaborators, and members of the New Orleans clergy who told us about Raymond's struggle for acceptance and fulfillment. 

We have uplifting sequences of Raymond putting his students through the rigors of a veritable vocal boot camp, pushing them as hard as he pushed himself. Our dear friend Willie Tee also gave us amazing footage of Raymond's audition for Columbia Records in 1995, an audition which could have changed the course of his life.

ADD SOME FILÉ, SMELL THE ROUX

But we still have many more interviews to film: with Raymond's brothers and sisters about the poverty that shaped his self-image and worldview, and with colleagues and confidants who shared his faith-based music and social activism.

We want to hear from Raymond's musical collaborators about the challenges of working with this colorful character, just as we want to hear from the musical ambassadors of New Orleans -- including Harry Connick, Jr., Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, Davell Crawford and the Neville Brothers -- about Raymond's pioneering artistry. 

Music scholars will establish Raymond’s place in the pantheon of gospel greats like Marion Williams, Professor Alex Bradford and the Rev. James Cleveland, and also his connection to pop icons such as Elton John, David Bowie, and Queen's Freddie Mercury.

Comic satirist Harry Shearer has offered to share his insight into Raymond's mischievous personality. We also need to film poet Nikki Giovanni reciting "The Son of The Sun," a beautiful piece she wrote for Raymond which you can read here: www.raymondmylesmovie.com

We also want to ask the man who pleaded guilty to being an accessory to Raymond's murder: Do you think Raymond Myles has forgiven you?

BE ON FIRE

Raymond’s climb out of poverty wasn't the only story arc in his life. Just as significant was the conflict between his religion and his sexuality.

Raymond loved God and he expressed that love in song. Yet he never fully reconciled his faith with his sexuality. His faith burdened him with remorse and guilt because he was gay. That remorse and guilt was made worse by prejudice and homophobia in his own community during the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties. Raymond's best friend died of AIDS, and yet he could not grieve openly. As hard as he tried, Raymond never felt that his community embraced him with God's unconditional love.

His battle against for acceptance as a gay man in the church poses some universal questions: What makes a person good or bad or spiritual? Who decides what's moral and what's not?

At the same time, Raymond was also a victim of his own human nature. In a city of secrets, everyone in New Orleans knew, or at least suspected, the truth about Raymond Myles: that he regularly returned to the streets he’d worked so hard to escape to seek the love he craved but could never seem to find.

DIDN'T IT RAIN

In 1982 I walked into the Gospel Tent at Jazzfest in New Orleans. Magnolias in bloom mixed with the salty scent of fried oysters, and I heard a voice that changed my life. I heard the voice of Raymond Myles, a singular voice that I believed could touch the world. 

Years later, when no one else would, I offered Raymond the opportunity to make his first full-length studio album of original material. Over time I would come to understand why he chose to call it A Taste of Heaven

Raymond poured his heart and soul into our project. Yet the gatekeepers in the mainstream gospel music industry refused to acknowledge Raymond as a marketable artist. In their view, the perception that he was gay was a liability too great to overcome with fans of evangelical gospel. The burden fell upon my shoulders as his producer to break this heartbreaking news. 

“They say you’re too 'flamboyant,'" I told him regretfully in 1995. Raymond knew that I was speaking in code. But the notion that his private lifestyle might actually alter his dreams and affect his destiny? Unthinkable. Unfathomable.

“Don’t they know...” His voice trailed off in protest. “Don’t they know that I’m talented?” 

In the moment of this crushing disappointment, Raymond grew defiant. “If I’m a Christian," he demanded, "doesn’t that make me a child of God, too?” 

EYE ON THE SPARROW

So much heritage was destroyed when New Orleans was devastated in 2005. Raymond represents a part of that heritage that needs to be preserved. Seen through the larger prism of complex issues affecting the rebuilding of New Orleans in 2012, this film can also be seen as a part of the preservation and resurrection of the cultural legacy of New Orleans.  

Raymond was the embodiment of a community -- the same hard-pressed community that was decimated by Hurricane Katrina. 

This film will reflect how deeply Raymond was shaped by the values of those who scattered after Katrina. These were Raymond’s people. He shared their streets and embodied their values and their struggles. Raymond's uplifting life story is an inspiration for the displaced and forgotten. 

THIS LITTLE LIGHT OF MINE

Raymond’s tragic and untimely end came just as he was on the verge of winning the acceptance he so deeply craved as an artist and a man. Had he lived, who knows where Raymond's journey might have taken him. This film will take us down those untraveled roads. 

Raymond's message of compassion and tolerance, charged with the most stirring and soulful music I had ever heard, spoke to me in a way that music never had. I want this film to leave you feeling exhilarated by his music and moved by the power and emotion of his short, turbulent life. 

Ultimately, Raymond's story is a universal story -- about our everyday struggle for acceptance and fulfillment. With your support, I can tell, and do full justice to, the great untold story of Maestro Raymond Anthony Myles.

Soulfully yours, 

Leo Sacks

Sweet tea time in May 2008 with some of Raymond's favorite singers at Two Sisters restaurant on North Derbigny in New Orleans. Raymond would feast there on Doris Finister's red beans and rice with turkey wings and neck bones. "And he always took home an extra plate for Mama," Doris says. From left: Cedric Scott, Karen Hogans, Leo Sacks, Eunice Love, Cory Wallace and Aretha Franklin. Photo by Drew Carolan.

Raymond's mother Christine was a gospel singer who taught him the living language of spiritual song. They electrified church-goers around New Orleans as "Christine Myles And Son." Chris understood better than anyone the feminine aspect that Raymond was born with, a natural energy that shaped his creativity. Rather than suppress those qualities, Chris nurtured them. Photo by Syndey Byrd.

On the hardscrabble streets of the St. Bernard project, Raymond literally sang for the family's supper. "One time," his brother Warren recalls, "Raymond collected nine dollars in pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. Mama bought rice, beans and chicken. She said, 'Here come the good days now. Raymond is our warrior for the Word.'" Photo by Syndey Byrd.

At the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 1998. Photo by David Gahr.

Photo by Syndey Byrd.

A life-size likeness of Raymond -- one of many "ancestors" created by the artist Wright McFarland on display at the Fairgrounds Racetrack during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. 

Backstage at the Newport Folk Festival, August 9, 1998.Photo by David Gahr.

Rocking the Ray-Ban stage at Jazzfest in April 1994. "If God is for you," Raymond told the crowd, "can't nothing be against you." Photo by Syndey Byrd.

In the Gospel Tent at Jazzfest in 1998. Photo by David Gahr.

Raymond adored "Queen of Soul Aunt Ree Ree." Oil on wood painting by Sharon Green, 1998.

A queen in waiting. Photo by Vernon L. Smith. Courtesy of Sony Music Archives.

The tender, the moving, the swinging Aretha Franklin at home in D-Town, 1962. Photo by Don Hunstein. Courtesy of Sony Music Archives.

They said you could feel the Holy Ghost when Mama Chris gave little Raymond the microphone. And when she introduced him to the Queen Mother of Gospel, New Orleans' own Mahalia Jackson, the faithful compared it to an anointing. They said that after listening to little Raymond sing the gospel, 'Haley could feel the Holy Spirit, too. Photo of Mahalia by Benny Joseph. Taken from "The Early Years of Rhythm and Blues: Focus on Houston" (Rice University Press, 1990).

Publicity photo for "A Taste of Heaven." The CD was briefly released by Sony Music in 2003. Photo by David Gahr.

Six weeks after the levees failed in New Orleans in 2005, The New Orleans Social Club made "Sing Me Back Home" at Wire Recording studios in Austin, Tx. The core band featured, from left: Leo Nocentelli, Henry Butler, Raymond Weber, George Porter, Jr. and Ivan Neville. Photo by Michael Crook.

The cover of "Sing Me Back Home" by The New Orleans Social Club. The Boston Globe said it was "a treatise in great American music." Cover design by Cindy Goldstein.

A reissue of Raymond's first single, recorded in 1969 for the local Pee-A-Boo Records. "Prayer From A 12-Year-Old Boy" spoke to the wounds and scars of the countless families from the New Orleans projects who were sacrificing their sons to fight in Vietnam. But the controversy surrounding the flip side, "You Made A Man Out of Me, Baby," affected not only the course of Raymond's heartbreak life but also the very arc of his artistic career. Picture sleeve courtesy of Kent Records.

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    A THANK YOU ON OUR WEBSITE We'll sing your praises on our website as a joyous choir shouts out your good name…and a brass band mambos to an unforgiving beat...and the prettiest Mardi Gras Indians in their finest suits preen and strut...and your favorite krewe throws you a fist full of glass beads…and everyone gets a slice of king cake and a glittery coconut for good luck.

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    A rare and highly unusual two-sided promotional postcard showing the covers of Raymond's "A Taste of Heaven" and "Gotta Serve Somebody: The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan." It was printed on glossy paper to raise awareness for these two worthy projects.

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    A REHEARSAL BY THE RAYMOND MYLES SINGERS Attend a closed rehearsal in New Orleans with the mighty Raymond A. Myles Singers as they prepare for their 30th anniversary concert on May 3rd at the annual Jazz & Heritage Festival. Jazzfest was always a special time for Raymond and the R.A.M.S. in the Gospel Tent, so the Holy Ghost will definitely be in the house.

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    Raymond loved Donny Hathaway -- for the tone and timbre of his voice; for the way he mingled seduction and social consciousness; for his fragile heart. Raymond transformed Donny's "Everything Must Change" into one of his own signature songs, and we found a soul-stirring version that Raymond performed alone at the piano during an audition for Sony Music in the summer of '95. Let's say it's hotter than July.

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    FIND HIDDEN TREASURES WITH A NATIVE SON Explore the by-gone New Orleans music scene with Grammy-nominated music producer Carlo Ditta. Carlo has produced such great artists as Coco Robicheaux, Mighty Sam McClain and Willy (Mink) DeVille for his Orleans Records label. He'll take you to the corridor of uptown churches where gospel and r&b first joined hands. You'll swing by the iconic Dew Drop Inn on LaSalle where Duke Ellington and Ray Charles played and stayed during segregation; and Cosimo Matassa's landmark J&M Recording Studio on Rampart where Fats Domino and so many other pioneers cut the first rock & rhythm records. Carlo will even take you to the Joy Lounge on the West Bank where mob boss Carlos Marcello championed local talent like Sugar Boy Crawford, whose grandson is Piano Prince Davell Crawford. "Raymond was a big influence on Davell," Carlo points out. "It's a perfect example of how everything fits hand-in glove in New Orleans."

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    A SINGLE BY THE NEW ORLEANS SOCIAL CLUB We felt Raymond's spirit when The New Orleans Social Club recorded a unique benefit CD called "Sing Me Back Home" immediately after Katrina. The band cut a powerhouse version of John Fogerty's "Fortunate Son" at those highly emotional sessions -- it's a searing jab at the powers that be. With your pledge we'll send you an alternate version of the performance, which features the ferociously funky Ivan Neville on lead vocals and organ. "Catharsis never sounded cooler," said Entertainment Weekly about the project. We'll also include Raymond's "Everything Must Change."

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    A RAYMOND COMIC BOOK Illustrator Jake Alvarez has created the first five pages of a graphic novel strip about Raymond's life, and he'll sign one of these original pen-and-ink illustrations for your pledge. You can view the strip in the HypnoSpiral link at the bottom of the Rewards page. "I think the graphic medium serves his larger-than-life persona pretty well," Jake says. Your pledge also includes copies of "Fortunate Son" and "Everything Must Change."

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    A POWERFUL POSTER OF RAYMOND An eye-popping promotional poster for "A Taste of Heaven" that depicts Raymond adjusting his signature black frame glasses against a background of baby blue clouds. The picture of Raymond was taken by the late, great photojournalist David Gahr. The caption on the 11"x17" poster reads: "Faith & Funk by The Gospel Genius of New Orleans." It's very suitable for framing. We'll also include "Everything Must Change" and "Fortunate Son" with your pledge.

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    THE SPIRIT OF JOHN COLTRANE Raymond was on a spiritual quest in his short, turbulent life. John Coltrane, the jazz immortal who made the incandescent album "A Love Supreme" in 1965, was on a similar quest as well. With your pledge we're pleased to offer a hardcover copy of "A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane's Signature Album" (Viking, 2002) along with a newly mastered copy of "A Love Supreme" on CD. Author Ashley Kahn will personally dedicate your copy of the book; it's a beautiful hymn of praise in the style of his absorbing "Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece" (Da Capo Press, 2001). "John and Raymond were similar in the way they both went looking for a deeper meaning in life and music," Ashley says. "Their paths were different, but their creative trajectories were the same."

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    THE MAJESTY OF LUTHER VANDROSS Raymond was deeply moved by the soul and sensitivity of Luther Vandross, so we're thrilled to offer "Love, Luther," a lavish boxed set with 56 stunning songs spread across 4 CDs. Luther's voice has never sounded warmer or richer on this spectacular career-spanning overview. The four hours of music exquisitely capture the essence of LV, from heart-stopping ballads like "Here And Now" and "Dance With My Father" to funky favorites like "Never Too Much," "'Til My Baby Comes Home" and "Stop To Love." There are also excerpts from Luther's start as a jingle singer; those delicious duets with Cheryl Lynn, Dionne Warwick, Mariah Carey, Beyonce and Frank SInatra; stunning live versions of "A House Is Not A Home" and "Searching" from his days with Change; three intimate songs recorded live in the studio -- with just a rhythm section -- during the making of his "Give Me The Reason" LP; and a deluxe 60-page booklet featuring rare family photographs, a powerful essay by Ernest Hardy and a touching poem of thanksgiving composed by Luther's mother. With thanks to our friends at Legacy Recordings, your pledge also includes a CD of Luther's hottest dance mixes, such as the posthumously released club hit "Shine." "Love, Luther" is guaranteed to keep the home fires burning.

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    RAYMOND'S ORIGINAL VINYL ALBUM We have one sealed copy from the very first pressing of Raymond's thrilling debut album, "New Orleans' Gospel Genius." Raymond is a font of soul on this amazing LP which Great Southern Records released to great fanfare in 1988. The album includes Raymond's breakout single "I Go To The Rock," which still lights up request lines like a Christmas tree. The record also features Raymond's proteges Anthony Bailey and Jerard Woods, who became great artists on their own. As Raymond wrote in the liner notes, "Love is the key. Faith unlocks any door. And hope keeps our dreams alive." We'll also include copies of "Everything Must Change" and "Fortunate Son" with your pledge.

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    PLAY DJ WITH JIMMY VIVINO OF THE CONAN O'BRIEN BAND Grab your favorite slice of Crescent City soul and spin it live on "Sounds of Blue," the earth-quaking, hip-shaking radio show hosted by the infamous Bob Putignano on WFDU-FM in Teaneck, New Jersey. "Sounds of Blue" is a bold celebration of blues, roots and all things New Orleans -- it's positively funkier than a mosquito's tweeter. In honor of your pledge, Bob has invited a kindred spirit to the studio: the great guitarist and raconteur Jimmy Vivino who leads the killer Basic Cable Band on the Conan O'Brien show. Jimmy may be from Jersey but he was reincarnated from the Dew Drop Inn: he knows the New Orleans songbook positively by heart. Like Bob, Jimmy wants to see this documentary on Raymond reach the big screen. "Come on, man," he says. "Raymond was sensational! It's time to tell his story." Expect a boatload of splashy musical joys (and the usual braggadocio involving mamas and meatballs) when these proud and soulful sons of Italy do their thing. You'll also receive copies of "Fortunate Son" and "Everything Must Change."

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    RAYMOND'S CLASSIC STUDIO CD We're delighted to send you a copy of Raymond's only full-length studio album which he titled "A Taste of Heaven." The reviews gratified Raymond. “Its glories runneth over,” said David Fricke in Rolling Stone. “A high-octane blend of spirituality spiked with torrid pop, soul, funk and pure gut emotion worn ostentatiously on Raymond's stylish sleeve,” wrote The Hartford Courant. "Instant chills…earth-moving power…devastating calls to faith…affirmations of what's good in the world," The Philadelphia Inquirer raved. While the physical CD that Sony Music released in 2003 is long out of print, your copy will come directly from the original master tapes. We'll also include copies of "Fortunate Son" and "Everything Must Change."

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    A VISIT WITH BROTHER JESSE Every Sunday morning on WWOZ-FM in New Orleans, Brother Jesse Hawthorne ministers to his flock with an uplifting gospel show that makes the world a better place. Join him as he transforms the studio into a sanctuary filled with healing powers, and also take home copies of "A Taste of Heaven," "Fortunate Son" and "Everything Must Change." Jesse has been keeping Raymond's music, and memory, alive for years. "We're thankful for Raymond," he says. "He was New Orleans' very own."

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    THE MAJESTY OF ARETHA FRANKLIN Everyone knows that Raymond adored Lady Soul, and we have five copies of "Take A Look: Aretha FranklIn Complete On Columbia," a breathtaking boxed set of her pop, jazz and blues recordings from 1960 through 1964 -- on 11 CDs and 1 DVD. This remarkable collection is courtesy of Legacy Recordings and it makes a convincing case that Aretha was already royalty before she became The Queen at Atlantic Records. Her flashes of divinely inspired greatness are everywhere: in the biting social commentary of "This Bitter Earth," in the gospel transcendence of "Without The One You Love," in the languid rapture of "Just For A Thrill." With original mini-jackets, mono mixes, alternate takes, studio conversations, a stunning 64-page booklet with essays and previously unseen photographs -- plus the DVD from Aretha's electrifying TV appearances on "The Steve Allen Show," including knockout versions of "Won't Be Long," "Skylark" and "Evil Gal Blues" -- "Take A Look" is the ultimate portrait of Aretha's gestating genius.

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    RARE MUSIC BY RAYMOND & FRIENDS Some very rare and tasty musical treats, starting with two versions of Raymond's "Put A Little Love In Your Heart" -- an ambient mix and a house mix -- that were created by the UK's premier dance remix label, the always adventurous Almighty Records in London. New Orleans returns the favor and flavor with a wonderful recording of The Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" by the group Church Street. The track was never commercially released but we're sure that Sir Paul would approve. Church Street featured some of Raymond's favorite singers; to hear them blend their voices is to imagine that Raymond is right there, too. The arrangement by the late Michael Robinson is just as remarkable. Big Mike was a rising star in the gospel world. He was based at Bishop Paul S. Morton's Greater St. Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church in New Orleans, and he was one of Raymond's most innovative proteges. We miss him, too.

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    RAYMOND'S FIRST 45 R.P.M. SINGLE As a child, Raymond's fragile tenor reminded everyone of a young Michael Jackson. With this pledge you'll receive the original 45 r.p.m. single that Raymond recorded for Peek-A-Boo Records in 1969, just as the world was beginning its love affair with the Jackson Five. The A side, "Prayer From A 12-Year-Old Boy," shows why Raymond was the darling child of churchgoers in New Orleans. But the flip side, "You Made A Man Out of Me, Baby," scandalized Raymond and set in motion the maverick course his career would take. The single was produced and arranged by the exalted Wardell Quezerque -- affectionately known as the Creole Beethoven -- who never worked with children but happily made an exception for Raymond. The 45 has plenty of crackle and pop, but its still a tangible slice of Raymond's immortal soul. We'll also include copies of "A Taste of Heaven" and all the other CDs we've mentioned.

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    MEET GOSPEL STAR CRAIG ADAMS Attend a master class led by the sensational gospel keyboardist Craig Adams. Craig is simply one of the baddest organ players, in any style, on the Crescent City scene. His songs of praise and worship speak to our better selves, and his star is currently rising across Europe. But he'll come to close the Gospel Tent at Jazzfest on May 6th with his dynamic group called Dimensions of Praise. Craig was also one of the Maestro's most fervent musical disciples. "Raymond was a great inspiration to me," he says, "a warrior for the Word. I played his single 'I Go To The Rock' until I wore it out." With your pledge you'll also receive the assorted CDs.

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    MEET GLENN PATSCHA OF OLLABELLE Raymond would have loved the sound of the great American roots group Ollabelle: for their crystalline voices; for their ethereal harmonies; and especially for their knack of bringing new life to traditional gospel songs such as "Jesus On The Mainline" and "John the Revelator." "That's gratifying to hear," says Ollabelle's passionate pianist Glenn Patscha. "I saw Raymond perform many times when I lived in New Orleans. He took me to some profound spiritual places." Glenn holds the keys to the Crescent City in his own fingertips -- you can hear them in his melodic sensibilities and light-fingered flourishes -- and he's graciously offered to spend some time in exchange for your pledge. "It's a way of re-connecting with Raymond," he says. The various CDs are also included.

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    MEET JOHN MAGNIE OF THE SUBDUDES "I loved Raymond," says John Magnie of the subdudes. "As soon as we'd finish our own set at Jazzfest, I'd run right over to the Gospel Tent to see him. He just made my soul happy." John is also happy to make the hang with you in recognition of your pledge. John is a one-man Nola-palooza, a jaunty singer-songwriter and deeply moving pianist and accordionist who can hot-wire every conceivable combination of rock, folk, country, blues and soul. He's fronting a new group now called 3 Twins that also features the subdudes' fabulous drummer Steve Amadee. "I'd like to see this film made," John says. "I always thought Raymond's message was a tablet from the mount." All the CDs we've mentioned are included with your pledge.

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    MEET TOMMY MALONE OF THE SUBDUDES "Raymond was something else," says Tommy Malone, the smoldering singer-songwriter and guitarist from the subdudes. "He was this touchstone for gospel truth." Tommy, who's currently performing with his brother, Dave, in the Malone Brothers, tells his own truth in the bittersweet songs he writes -- about love, loss and betrayal -- and sings with an ache in his voice, and heart. Tommy would do almost anything to support his New Orleans heritage. That includes making some hang time with your pledge. "I don't imagine we'll see anyone quite like Raymond anytime soon," he laments. Our CDs rewards are included here, too.

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    MEET WAYNE AND WANDA VAUGHN OF THE EMOTIONS Raymond had some faithful fans in Wayne and Wanda Vaughn -- the influential songwriters and producers who gave Maurice White and Earth, Wind & Fire some of their most spirit-driven jams, including "Let's Groove," "Side By Side," "I Wanna Be With You" and "Fall In Love With Me." With your pledge you can meet the Vaughns in Los Angeles, where they are recognized as the First Family of Faith & Funk,."Raymond was touched by the Spirit," says Wanda, a founding member of The Emotions who blessed the world with the "Best of My Love." "I can hear the anointing in his voice." Wayne -- a gifted keyboardist who brings the church to everything he writes and plays -- says he can relate to Raymond's struggle between the earthly and the divine. "Deep down, I think we all can," he says. You'll also receive the various CDs with your pledge.

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    GO INSIDE THE EDIT ROOM Join the production team in the trenches as the documentary races toward the finish line. Be a guest observer at an editing session as we hunker down to make crucial creative decisions in the days before we submit the project to prominent film festivals. We'll also share the great CDs we've noted above.

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    ENJOY THE SARATOGA JAZZ FESTIVAL Swing into summer with a VIP package to the 35th annual Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, in scenic Saratoga Springs, New York, on Saturday, June 30th and Sunday, July 1st. This year's performers include Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, Diana Krall, Arturo O'Farill, Esperanza Spalding, Christian McBride, Jeremy Pelt, The Mingus Big Band, Michel Camilo, Maceo Parker, The Yellowjackets, Chris Botti and the awe-inspiring Cuban percussionist Pedrito Martinez, among others. "Shorty" alone is worth the price of this pledge. Recently named Offbeat magazine's Artist of the Year, he plays fierce funk, jazz, r&b and bounce on a growling trombone and a stratospheric trumpet while his raucous, riffing rock band thunders like an army of love. Your VIP package includes house seats for both days, a backstage tour and the many CDs we've discussed. Dan Melnick, who curates the festival so tastefully for his Absolutely Live Entertainment company -- and recently presented the rollicking New Orleans revue "A Night In Treme" that made a roof-raising stop at the Kennedy Center -- will introduce you to your favorite artists, too.

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    ENJOY THE NEWPORT FOLK FESTIVAL When Bob Jones -- the beloved producer of the Newport Folk Festival -- brought Raymond and his group to play the prestigious festival on a sleepy Sunday morning in the summer of 1998, the Maestro took the stage at Fort Adams State Park on the banks of the Narragansett Bay with the confidence of a Biblical sage ready to lay down the law. "From his vantage point, the audience churning at his feet might have looked like the Red Sea parting," Bob recalls. Three months later, Raymond was gone. In his honor, Bob is donating a pair of tickets for each day of this year's event, on Saturday, July 28th, and Sunday, July 29th. And he's personally offering two nights of hotel accommodations at the Marriott Courtyard, in nearby Middletown, R.I. Plus, Bob will escort you on a tour of the festival's hallowed backstage grounds. "I am quite sure," he says, "that Raymond will be there, in some shape or form." Your pledge also includes the many great CDs that we've discussed.

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    MEET CYRIL NEVILLE Cyril Neville, the original New Orleans Uptown Ruler and rhythmic firebrand for the Neville nation, and his African Queen Gaynielle Neville hold a special place in their hearts for Raymond: on their wedding day, the Maestro bestowed his blessings with a love song. "Raymond was similar to Jesus in certain ways," Cyril says. "He was a magnet for anyone trying to find their way. They could be runaways, unwed mothers, dropouts, it didn't matter. He welcomed all." Along with the various CDs that will come with your pledge, Cyril will take you on a spontaneous tour of his New Orleans -- the same New Orleans that has challenged him since Katrina -- and he'll tell it like it is. "I believe in faith, and healing powers," he says, "but I also know it takes action to get things done."

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    MEET PHILLY SOUL LEGEND KENNY GAMBLE Raymond's rousing version of "Wake Up Everybody" by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes was one of the highlights of "A Taste of Heaven." It was a natural choice for Raymond to record because the lyrics sung by Teddy Pendergrass spoke to Raymond's own responsibility as a teacher in the New Orleans schools. Kenny Gamble, who produced the original recording with his songwriting partner Leon Huff for their legendary Philadelphia International Records label, says he can see strong similarities between Raymond's mission and his own lifelong dedication to the betterment of the community. Kenny -- who'll make time to meet you with your pledge -- and Leon have given us so many enduring anthems as the storied creators of the sleek, sophisticated art form called The Sound of Philadelphia: let's start with The O'Jays' "Love Train," Billy Paul's "Me and Mrs. Jones" and The Blue Notes' "If You Don't Know Me By Now." "I like the way Raymond put a message in his own music," Kenny says. "It's all about the message." A powerful compilation of Philadelphia International's greatest hits, including jams and slams by The O'Jays, The Blue Notes, Billy Paul, Lou Rawls, People's Choice, The Intruders, McFadden & Whitehead, MFSB, Patti Labelle and The Three Degrees, and all the various CDs we've promised, are included with your pledge.

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    MEET THE HORN SECTION FROM THE CONAN O'BRIEN BAND Raymond relied on a Kurzweil synthesizer to simulate the sound of the archangel Gabriel -- imagine him jamming with a real horn section like the high-flying trumpeter Mark (The Love Man) Pender; the towering trombonist Richie (LaBamba) Rosenberg; and the swaggering saxophonist Jerry Vivino from Conan O'Brien's television band. With your pledge, you can lunch in Los Angeles with this tremendous trio who've played the Super Bowl with Bruce Springsteen and performed with just about every major artist who's ever appeared on late-night TV. They're also band leaders in their own right. The Love Man loves the Kansas City swing of his youth and sings with the bravado of Big Joe Turner; LaBamba is a brilliant arranger whose big band charts for Southside Johnny's "Grapefruit Moon: The Songs of Tom Waits" were worthy of the great Neal Hefti; and Jerry is a magical multi-instrumentalist who can channel Johnny Hodges and Cannonball Adderley or show his affinity for Jean-Pierre Rampal and Hubert Laws. But most of all, they cherish the music and culture of New Orleans -- Mark and Richie were on part of the "Seeger Sessions" tour that stopped in New Orleans on that emotional Sunday in 2006 when Bruce played the first Jazzfest after Katrina.

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    MEET GEORGE PORTER, JR. George Porter, Jr. knows something about greatness. As a founding member of The Meters, his influence on modern music is incalculable. George just received OffBeat magazine's Lifetime Achievement Award, and we can't think of a more deserving honoree. So when George says that he admired Raymond, and regrets that they never jammed together -- this matters. George is many things: incendiary bassist, bandleader, pocket protector, musical healer, guardian of the groove, among them. He's also a big supporter of this project, and he's donating some hang to help us reach our goal -- and help you to funkify your life. "Doing this film is very important, but not just for New Orleans," he says. "I think Raymond's story speaks to the world."

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    MASTER YOUR MUSIC WITH A MASTER Joe Palmaccio is one of the music world's most sought-after mastering engineers. A three-time Grammy Award-winner, Joe brought warmth and richness to the sound of Raymond's "A Taste of Heaven" CD. He's also brought his magic touch to music by Michael Jackson, Taylor Swift, John Mayer, Alicia Keys, Eric Clapton, Luther Vandross, Johnny Cash, AC/DC, Godsmack and the soundtrack to "Saturday Night Fever." In Raymond's honor, Joe will personally master a song of your choice, in any genre, at his state-of-the-art studio in Nashville called The Place…For Mastering. This is a golden -- even platinum -- opportunity to master your music with a Master. "I promise to give you my special sauce," Joe says. Our CD rewards are included with your pledge.

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    MEET CHRIS JASPER OF THE ISLEY BROTHERS Raymond liked to get his groove going with The Isley Brothers. He especially admired the brothers' musical connection to the church. With this pledge you'll have the pleasure of meeting Chris Jasper, the brothers' brother-in-law who single-handedly helped the Isleys stay in sync during the Seventies with innovators like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Earth, Wind & Fire. Chris will preview songs from his forthcoming album, tentatively titled "Inspired," at the world-famous Battery Studios in New York. Music lovers may not realize that Chris wrote, arranged and produced most of brothers' best material, including "Harvest For The World," "For The Love of You," "Footsteps In The Dark" and "Groove With You," among so many other life-affirming hits. He also composed and produced "Caravan of Love" for Isley Jasper Isley to secure his seat in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. "I appreciate that Raymond had a difficult spiritual journey," Chris says. "All we can do in this life is bring love where we can." Your pledge also includes our many CD rewards.

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    A V.I.P. PARTY FOR THE FINISHED FILM Celebrate with us as we proudly present the finished film to friends and supporters like you. We'll find a fearless iron chef to make us a lil' sumpin' sumpin' and then toast to Raymond's eternal spirit. We'll share the music on those great CDs. And of course we'll arrange for a few musical surprises...

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    YOUR PRODUCER'S CREDIT Become an Associate Producer of the film and a permanent part of Raymond's legacy. Your honorary credit will appear on the screen and in the DVD. Your credit will also have cachet in the authoritative IMDb (the Internet Movie Data base). We'll say thank you with our various CDs and a bonus compilation of songs that shaped and influenced Maestro Myles. You'll play a vital role in telling his great untold story -- a story that preserves a part of the cultural heritage of New Orleans.

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