January 1, 2017

Ray Stevens and the New Year: 2017...

Happy New Year to all of you fans of Ray Stevens!! Much like in year's past I usually start off each new year with a blog entry centering around the past, present, and future in the career of Ray Stevens. Of course I don't spend too much on the future due to the fact that you can't predict the future...especially when it concerns the unpredictable Ray Stevens...so, let's take a look at some songs celebrating anniversary milestones...

The milestone that I want to focus on the most in this specific blog entry centers around 2017 marking the 60th anniversary of Ray's debut on records. Oh yes...you read that correctly...2017 marks Ray's Diamond Anniversary in the music business. Admittedly those early recordings (1957-1960) carry a regional/local flavor without the later polished production values that became synonymous with his recordings but everyone has a starting point...but in saying that it doesn't mean that those early recordings are no good or not entertaining...they just happen to be recordings without a whole lot of production put into them.

The recording that's singled out as his first commercial release arrived in 1957 on the Prep label, a subsidiary of Capitol Records. Given my weakness for wordplay Ray's Diamond Anniversary revolves around a song called "Silver Bracelet". The song, penned by Ray, is all about a trinket that high school kids carried around with the name of their boyfriend/girlfriend listed on it. In the recording you'll hear the heavy use of rhythm and blues and backup singers that dominated a lot of Ray's single releases in the late '50s. Although the song is all about a "Silver Bracelet", something positive and uplifting in a young relationship of the time, you can't help but sense that there's a hidden concern of upcoming break-up due to the line "oh, don't ever lose my bracelet...my Silver Bracelet...". A fellow fan of Ray Stevens that I've known of, on-line, for 10 years or longer posted a video montage clip of "Silver Bracelet" on YouTube back in April of 2011. I've been on-line since 2002...back then I happened to be on a Web-TV...I didn't get onto a personal computer until sometime in 2005 or 2006. So it's hard to tell exactly at what point I first interacted, on-line, with this person but it's been nearly 10 years. Here's the video he put together of "Silver Bracelet" in 2011...



The B-side of "Silver Bracelet", for those curious, is a novelty recording. Although not necessarily laugh out loud funny or bizarre it's an offbeat recording...and in those days music critics and radio DJ's collectively referred to those kinds of recordings as being 'novelty' rather than 'serious' or 'thought provoking'. The B-side is "Rang Tang Ding Dong (I'm the Japanese Sandman)". As mentioned Ray's early recordings featured a heavy dose of rhythm and blues, doo-wop, and frenetic arrangements and vocalizations indicative of the era in pop music overall. Ray's early recordings can be found on a CD titled Ahab, Jeremiah, Sgt. Preston and more... The Early Ray Stevens on Jasmine Records. I gave a lot of space to that particular CD during the lead-up to release and on release day back in 2014. You can find that CD at Amazon and other on-line retail outlets.

Having a year marking your Diamond Anniversary as a professional recording artist is amazing enough but 2017 will also mark the re-launch of Ray's television program. Previously airing on RFD-TV as Ray Stevens' Nashville the program is being re-launched on PBS this month as Ray Stevens' CabaRay Nashville. As mentioned in a couple of previous blog entries there's a PBS affiliate in my area that has Ray's television series listed on their site but there's not been any information posted on it's debut date. The publicity for the program states that it's to start airing on PBS, nationally, starting in January 2017. I'm anxiously awaiting for the moment to arrive in which his television program begins to air. He produced more than a season's worth of television programs for RFD-TV. His production cycle happened to be all his own, too. Rather than taping 26 episodes a season and then having those episodes rerun to fill a 52 week calendar year, as is the norm all across commercial television, Ray's series would air first-run episodes for 13 weeks. This would then be followed by 13 weeks of repeats. Then, at week 27 in the television season, when almost all of the television programs would be entering their 26 week long rerun period, Ray would emerge with 13 first-run episodes...and those episodes would then repeat to fill out a 52 week calendar year.

Returning to the past again...2017 marks anniversary number 55 for good ol' "Ahab the Arab"...the 1962 hit from Ray Stevens in which he built a much bigger career. For Ahab not only became a Top-10 pop and Rhythm and Blues hit it would eventually lead to logo's and career trademarks for Ray over the next 5 decades. "Ahab the Arab" is the song that made Ray Stevens 'a star overnight' as the saying goes. Although Ahab wasn't his first comical or first novelty recording it became the song that at long last created national awareness for Ray and sent him to places outside the regional areas of the South (Ray was born in Clarkdale, Georgia as Harold Ragsdale on January 24, 1939). The Ahab recording became a million selling hit and his second Top-40 pop hit for Mercury Records following 1961's "Jeremiah Peabody's Green and Purple Pills".

An album turning 20 this year, Hum It, from 1997 features 9 comical recordings and one seriously infectious homage to the Old South...notable among those recordings happen to be "Too Drunk To Fish", the official music video from 1997 became a hit on YouTube more than 10 years later...November 2009 marks it's YouTube debut; "Virgil and the Moonshot", a send-up of NASA and coinciding with all the hype and celebration surrounding the Apollo-13 movie...the 1997 music video hit YouTube in May 2011; "Mama Sang Bass" is a parody of the Johnny Cash country music classic "Daddy Sang Bass". Ray's recording features J.D. Sumner in the vocal role of Mama. The song is about hormonal imbalances. The non-comical but still upbeat recording found on Hum It is "I'll Be in Atlanta". It paints a picture with words concerning a fictional but modern-day twist on the lives of Rhett, Scarlett, Ashley, Prissy, Melanie, Frank and all the rest as it's as much a salute to the classic film, Gone with the Wind, as is it a salute to the Dixieland music sounds of the South. The music arrangement is definitely Dixieland inspired.

Later this month Ray Stevens reaches 78...on January 24th. As time gets closer to that date I'll be posting a birthday blog entry...and perhaps by then we'll have more detailed information about his re-launched television series and it's PBS airing. As always I'm looking forward to what the new year holds in store in the career of Ray Stevens. Perhaps a much anticipated CD, one that's to feature a specific music genre that he spoke about nearly 5 years ago, is to be forthcoming this year!?! He spoke of a CD in the works a couple of years ago and even issued a music video of one of the songs from this forthcoming CD as a teaser but so far a full-length CD of music hasn't emerged. Is 2017 going to be the year it arrives?? Stay tuned...

December 15, 2016

Ray Stevens latest Christmas CD...

Hello all! It's hard to believe that it's only 10 days before Christmas...let me look at the calendar once again...and yes, it's December 15th...and I'm sure most of you are aware that Ray Stevens has a brand new Christmas CD out. The CD is titled Mary and Joseph and the Baby and Me and just recently Ray uploaded a promo clip. It in Ray talks about the CD...it's not too long, though...36 seconds...



As Ray mentioned you can purchase your copy of the CD at his store. To get there you click this LINK. The link takes you to the product page for the CD. If you're not a member of his site...in other words if you don't have an account with his store, you can register at his site for free and create your profile and account information.

Some of the excellent Christmas songs found on the CD are: "Mary and Joseph and the Baby and Me", "Merry Christmas", "Claws (A Cat's Letter to Santa)", "Frosty the Snowman", his cover of Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas is You", and then there's "Christmas Will Be Just Another Lonely Day".

December 12, 2016

Ray Stevens: Claws (A Cat's Letter to Santa)...

Hello one and all!!! It's been a couple weeks since my previous blog post. A lot of the time happened to be spent at my job. I work in an industry that ships packages/freight all over the globe and so during December, especially, the volume of packages increases a thousand percent and so I've been having to work 6 days a week...leaving me little time for on-line activity. As a result the time I do have at home is spent sleeping...with only half an hour or less available for the internet and so I visit Facebook and other social media sites and seek out anything about Ray Stevens that happens to be new. Peak season at my job should be over by the end of this week...but we shall see...in the meantime...

I came across an article about one of the songs on Ray's current Christmas CD, Mary and Joseph and the Baby and Me. The song's called "Claws (A Cat's Letter to Santa)" and I've mentioned it in some of my previous blog posts. The article I came across focuses on it's writers, Tommy Crawford and Taylor Craven, and the story behind the song. It also features comments from Ray, too. You can read the article by clicking this LINK. I echo the thoughts expressed in the article...I, too, hope the song becomes something of a Christmas standard in the same vein as other Christmas novelty songs. There isn't any YouTube music video of this song from Ray but I certainly hope he releases a video for it...the month of December isn't over...but, of course, you can purchase the Mp3 of "Claws (A Cat's Letter to Santa)" from Amazon by clicking HERE.