June 24, 2018

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Shoji Tabuchi

Hello once more...and this is my recap of season Six, episode 11 of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville guest starring Shoji Tabuchi. During the introduction Bill Cody referred to Ray as the 'Hillbilly Piano Man'. Ray opened the show performing "Strangers in the Night", the classic made famous by Frank Sinatra. Ray's recording of the song is from his tribute album, Ray Stevens Sings Sinatra...Say What??!, from 2008.

Ray brings out the 'Hillbilly Fiddle Player', Shoji Tabuchi, who greets Ray and then offers a one liner: "you all didn't know I could speak English"; Ray then asks what Shoji thinks of the CabaRay. Shoji says he loves it and then is asked how a native of Japan ended up in country music and America. Shoji tells of his origins and how he was inspired by the fiddle playing that he saw Roy Acuff doing while Roy and others were on one of those famed Opry package shows that used to tour all over the world.

Shoji said that he came to America in 1967 and eventually ended up touring with David Houston for five years. I looked up several statistics surrounding Shoji and the timeline has him a member of David Houston's road show from 1970 to 1975. On hand with Shoji is his daughter, Christina. Ray remarks that the last time he saw Shoji's daughter she happened to be a little girl. Shoji opened his theater in Branson, Missouri in 1990 and he remains a headliner there. Ray, as most of you know, headlined his own theater for two separate three season runs (1991-1993 and 2004-2006). Ray brings up Mel Tillis having recently passed away and mentions that Mel and Shoji were fishing buddies. Shoji confirms this and jokingly says that Mel taught him how to speak English (an obvious self-deprecating joke centering around Shoji's heavy Japanese inflected command of English and Mel's famous stutter).

Ray counters Shoji's comical remark with an amusing joke centering around Mel's decision to eventually stop fishing with Shoji. I'd love to offer it in this recap but there are things I intentionally leave out in all of these episode recaps and I do this so those that haven't seen these episodes will be surprised once they view them. There are some things that I add, which I feel necessary to incorporate into my blog recaps, but I always tack on a bold-print **spoiler alert** warning...but this time I decided to hold off...you'll laugh at the joke, though. If any local PBS station in your area isn't carrying Ray's television series you can always watch it on-line. Episodes can be found on his video web-site, raystevens.tv. Every episode from Season One to the most recently uploaded episode from Season Six can be found there. It's a subscription based site but Ray always provides recent episodes in the Free Content section for a limited time only before they become exclusive to subscribers. I'm a subscriber...obviously...no big secret there...but for those that simply want to catch a couple episodes of the show, for free, there's always a limited time frame upon which you can.

As of this writing there are three selected episodes available for free viewing. Two episodes from Season Three (guest stars being Restless Heart and B.J. Thomas) and this episode I'm recapping guest starring Shoji Tabuchi. If you come across this blog entry weeks or months from now the episodes available for free are certainly going to be different...but anyway...back to the recap...

After the comical remark about Mel and Shoji's fishing trips coming to an end Ray suggests they perform something...and this leads into a performance of a Roy Acuff classic called "Once More". After the performance Ray asks if Shoji is familiar with any other style of music. He replies with an answer that surprised me: big band. This leads into a performance of "Tennessee Waltz", vocally performed by Christina, while Shoji and Ray perform it instrumentally. Ray called Shoji the King of Branson and he instructed Shoji to make his way center stage at the red carpet. Shoji performed "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" and followed this with "Old Joe Clark" which he humorously introduced and re-titled 'Young Joe Clark' as he comically took offense to the original "being so old" that he felt a younger version needed to be in existence. Afterward Ray thanks Shoji and his daughter for appearing on the show.

The show's closing performance from Ray is another selection from the Sinatra tribute CD. This time it's "All the Way". Appearing on the episode of Ray's television series airing locally on PBS stations this weekend is John Schneider. Once it becomes available on-line next weekend I'll write a recap of it.

As of this writing I haven't seen any indication of Season Seven being in production or if Ray's going to take any sort of hiatus from the show and focus on CD releases of any kind. Whenever the show is "in production" Ray and company frequently provide photo's from the taping sessions, etc. etc. which, obviously, keeps all of us informed and there's social media posts offering tickets for show tapings. I haven't seen anything like that emerge so far. If I come across any on-line information concerning an upcoming season I'll pass it along. Now, of course, this current season of episodes were taped earlier this year after the CabaRay officially opened it's doors in January and the episodes began airing on PBS in April. Well, technically, the current season started with episodes taped at his Music Row recording studio in the latter half of 2017 but by the fifth episode, guest starring Moe Bandy, episodes had since began taping at the CabaRay. My guess being the production of a Season Seven may get underway next month or probably August with those episodes more than likely starting to air on PBS in the latter half of September or early October...but then again the show could very well go into a lengthy repeat cycle for the rest of the calendar year (which I don't see happening, by the way) with new episodes emerging in 2019. Again, I don't see that happening, so I look forward to seeing some sort of information in the coming weeks about production of the next season getting underway. I'm assuming during his activities at this year's Fan Fair/CMA Fest earlier this month he contacted a range of entertainers to appear on his show.

Just in case anybody's wondering or may be curious the total number of episodes of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville has exceeded more than 70 so far. The actual total number of episodes produced is 78. This being Season Six, and with each season consisting of 13 episodes, that brings you to a total of 78 half hour episodes. So far 77 of those episodes have aired. The 13th and final episode of Season Six (the 78th episode overall) airs next weekend. If Season Seven sticks to the 13 episode formula this means by season's end the total number of episodes would have risen to 93! This isn't counting the documentary special that aired during PBS pledge breaks. Since it isn't an actual half hour episode but rather an hour long documentary special it's not counted in the series episode guide.

June 17, 2018

Ray Stevens performs "My Dad"...

Hello one and all on this Father's Day 2018! I was going to post about a particular Ray Stevens recording, "My Dad", and I already have a photo collage put together spotlighting the commercial and promotional single as well as the album it originally appeared on in 1983...a vinyl album titled Me. On Father's Days past I've mentioned "My Dad" on this blog page and this time around, as you can tell, it's no different. However, there is something new to add...a performance of the song by Ray Stevens! It's rare indeed to see Ray perform the song...and as far as I know the last time he performed it on television was the mid 1980s on a telecast that I've only read about in vintage country music publications but never seen with my own eyes. That performance (from 1984) was part of a television special featuring other recording acts.

"My Dad" emerged from an album Ray Stevens recorded for Mercury Records in 1983. The album is chock full of romantic ballads and uptempo sing-a-long performances...including a song that critics may consider a novelty song, "Game Show Love", but if critics should label it as such it's only because of the song's title and it's construction of lyrics (name dropping titles of game shows and their catch-phrases) but as far as the vocals are concerned Ray performs it straightforward without a slightest hint of comedy. It's the album's closing track and one of the uptempo songs I was referring to at the start of the paragraph. The album was produced by Ray and Jerry Kennedy. This was sort of a reunion as the two of them worked together in the early to mid 1960s on numerous recording sessions. Jerry was often a session musician on Ray Stevens recordings back then and sometimes he was credited as Orchestra leader. On the single release of "Ahab the Arab" in 1962 it credits Jerry Kennedy as such. Ray's main record producer was Shelby Singleton but both he and Jerry Kennedy are credited as producers on a series of recordings Ray did in the mid '60s while under a unique contract. The language of this contract gave Mercury the right to issue commercial recordings on Ray while he held another job with a competing label, Monument, as strictly a session musician/A&R man. In other words he wasn't allowed to record anything for Monument until his recording contract with Mercury ended in the latter half of 1965. After the contract ended with Mercury then Monument began to issue commercial singles on Ray for the first time.

Ray recorded "My Dad" twice in his career. There is the 1983 original from the Me album and then there's a fairly recent re-recording found on a CD titled Bozo's Back Again released in 2011. It's on that particular 2011 CD where Ray also revives a couple of other songs from the Me album: "Game Show Love", "Kings and Queens", and "Me".

Earlier today a performance of "My Dad" by Ray Stevens was uploaded onto YouTube. The performance is from an episode of his CabaRay Nashville television series. The performance originated from the television studio on Music Row where Ray used to tape the show prior to it's move to the actual CabaRay Showroom in West Nashville. Episodes taking place at the CabaRay began airing this season (starting with Episode Five guest starring Moe Bandy).

But anyway...here's Ray Stevens singing "My Dad"...

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Ronnie McDowell

Hello all...I just finished watching Ronnie McDowell's episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville and I'm here to deliver my recap/commentary. The episode, as you can imagine, features a lot of reference and recollection about Elvis Presley. In case you're unaware, though, Ronnie McDowell, in my opinion, is a great Elvis vocalist.

I never label him an impersonator because Ronnie's had success with his own recordings (in his own voice) and he's long since established himself separately from Elvis but for decades movie companies and television companies have often recruited Ronnie due to his uncanny ability to vocally mimic Elvis from any time period: from the youthful rocker to the often parodied Vegas Elvis. Ray opens the show with a performance of "Way Down". This song happened to be a hit for Elvis at the time of his death in 1977. I've mentioned this several times over the years on this blog the fact that Ray published the Elvis recording. The writer happened to be Layng Martine, Jr. and in addition to Elvis singing the obvious lead vocal "Way Down" also featured bass accompaniment from J.D. Sumner.

Ray introduces Ronnie and he tells of how he happened to be in Nashville in 1977 and he gives the exact time of day being 2:22pm when he heard Elvis had died. Ronnie explains the origins behind his recording, "The King is Gone", and how it sold more than a million copies in less than a week (it was certified Gold by the RIAA, officially, in January of 1978). Ray mentions how much of an influence Elvis had on Ronnie and asks if he ever personally met Elvis. Ronnie says that he never met him in person. He tells of how his father wasn't a fan of Elvis or rock 'n' roll, in general, and he recalls taking his father to the movies to see a film called King Creole.

Ronnie says that he knew it was an Elvis movie but told his father it was a horror movie (perhaps thinking his father would assume it to be along the lines of King Kong or something). Anyway, Ronnie says that when he seen Elvis up on the large movie screen it changed his life forever. Ray comically counters this by stating that as a boy he seen Frankenstein and that it had a profound impact on him. At this point I also should make mention that Ray comically teased Ronnie several times about having a sharp memory and being able to remember exact dates and places in time. Ronnie also spoke as much as he could about Elvis and there are some noticeable edits indicating that the conversations may have lasted longer and so maybe we'll see some additional footage in a later clip-filled show.

Ronnie sings "The King is Gone" while Ray plays the piano.

Ray brings up Ronnie's talent in visual arts...and Ronnie remarks that it all began in grade school and how his efforts were praised by a teacher. Ray asks about a painting called Reflections of a King and this leads into discussions about his art work. In the video clip above you'll see Ronnie getting ready to unveil a portrait called That Magic Moment. It received a lot of applause and there were some audible gasps from the audience when viewing the sheer precision of the painting.

Shifting gears Ronnie performs "Watchin' Girls Go By" which was one of his big hits in the early '80s. Afterward he tells of seeing Elvis for the first time on television and he performs the song he said Elvis performed, "I Need Your Love Tonight". I'm nowhere near the dedicated fan of Elvis that Ronnie happens to be so I'd never heard that song before...but I looked it up and sure enough it was a big hit for Elvis early in 1959. The song had been recorded in June of 1958 while Elvis was on leave from the Army.

After the spirited performance from Ronnie of "I Need Your Love Tonight" Ray thanked him for being on the show and although 95 percent of this episode was Elvis oriented Ray closed the show with his version of the Hank Locklin mega hit, "Please Help Me I'm Falling". The episode of Ray's television show airing this weekend guest stars Branson, Missouri mainstay Shoji Tabuchi. If you're keeping track it's episode 11 of Season Six. Shoji has performed at his own Branson, Missouri theater since 1990 and given Ray's history with the Missouri town headlining his own theater (1991-1993; 2004-2006) you can bet the two will share some Branson stories. I'll deliver my recap/commentary next weekend!