November 17, 2017

Ray Stevens Television is Here...

Hello one and all!! The news officially broke a couple of days ago but my job keeps me away from the computer throughout much of the week...all I have time to do is check some social sites and reply to any comments on some Facebook groups that I belong to and that's about it...I rarely have time to put together a halfway decent blog entry until the weekend but I've got some free time and so I'm posting about the brand new endeavor being undertaken by Ray Stevens.

He's launched a website that houses a lot of his television appearances over the last 40 plus years. The site is called raystevens.tv and it's a subscription based site. You can choose to sign up monthly which is $4.99 a month but you can also choose to sign up for a full year and that's $49.99 and I'm leaning toward the latter option. I'd prefer to sign up and not have to think about renewing my subscription for a full year. Anyway you can check out everything there is to behold...like all 8 episodes of his summer 1970 television show!!



Ray tells you all about the site in that video clip above. There is a longer video on the actual website and so you'll get to see 2 promotional videos altogether.

He had previously uploaded sketches and select performances from his summer 1970 television show on his YouTube channel but once you become a member of his raystevens.tv site you'll have access to complete episodes of the summer show. You'll also be able to view every episode of his CabaRay Nashville television program...from episode one (guest starring Steve Wariner) to the most recent with Gary Morris (last Saturday). This is wonderful for me, particularly, because I'll be able to see a lot of the RFD episodes that the local PBS station didn't air and I'll get to see the 2 episodes that the local PBS station is going to pre-empt for a pledge drive later this month. You'll have a lot of fun exploring the site and seeing all of the video content you'll get access to once you subscribe!! There's a clip of him performing "Happy Hour is the Saddest Time of the Day", for example, that I can't wait to see. Elsewhere there's footage from his 1991 appearance on Hee Haw where he sang "Barbecue" and "Where Do My Socks Go?".

Don't forget to click raystevens.tv for all the details!!!

November 11, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Gary Morris

Hello once more...on tonight's episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville the special guest happened to be Gary Morris. Ray opened the show performing "Mack the Knife"...a legendary pop hit previously made famous by Bobby Darin. Afterward Ray introduces Gary Morris and points out that Gary can sing practically anything...even opera. In a brief exchange, on two occasions, Ray has trouble pronouncing the opera, La Boheme (a production starring Gary and Linda Ronstadt). This trouble in pronunciation comes off more as a joke, however.

Gary speaks of the Veteran's organization he's associated with and the efforts made in helping wounded soldiers heal through physical activity...specifically the sport of fly fishing. Ray asks him to perform "Faith and Freedom". After this performance Ray makes mention of NSAI which stands for Nashville Songwriters Association and "The Wind Beneath My Wings". He mentions the song's writers and Gary talks of his arrival in Nashville. He relates how he met up with Harold Bradley and the making of demo recordings...and this led to Gary being advised to seek out Norro Wilson. Gary mentions that he shown up at Warner Brothers Records in search of Norro...but was asked if he had an appointment...saying "no", Gary nevertheless remained there until finally meeting Norro later that day. Gary mentioned that the Warner Brothers office, at that time, happened to be right across the street from Ray's office. 

Norro produced several singles on Gary but none of the single releases became hits. Gary's breakthrough didn't happen until the latter half of 1981 and the release of "Headed for a Heartache", also on Warner Brothers. Gary's self-titled debut album arrived in 1982 and on the back of the album cover there's a message of thanks to Norro from Gary. One of those single releases that Norro produced on Gary, "Sweet Red Wine", was included on Gary's debut album...with the rest of the tracks being produced by Gary, Marshall Morgan, and Paul Worley.

Gary performs "The Wind Beneath My Wings" and receives a rousing applause. Ray follows this with a performance of "The King is Gone and So Are You". The footage taped for this episode originated during a taping session either late in 2016 or early this year prior to Norro's death this past June at age 79. Prior to the closing credits a dedication message to Norro appeared on-screen. In addition to being a legendary record producer Norro was also a legendary songwriter with a comedic reputation all rolled into one. Norro appears on the cover of Ray's 1987 album, Greatest Hits, Volume Two, as the umpire.

On next week's episode (airing here November 18th) John Berry is the special guest. After this episode the series will not be shown here locally for 2 weeks due to a Winter Pledge Break but the 2 episodes will air on the other local PBS stations that carry the series. The series returns locally on December 9th.

November 5, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Gary Mule Deer

As promised in my previous blog entry I'm back with a recap of Saturday night's episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville. Airing November 4th on KET2 the guest star happened to be comedian Gary Mule Deer. Ray opened the show performing his version of "Frog Kissing". This is a song that goes way back in Ray's career but not in the way you might be thinking. The writer is no stranger to Ray's fans for it's none other than Buddy Kalb. The song was put on the musical map by none other than Chet Atkins...but it wasn't a recording he produced...it was a recording featuring him singing...while the production was handled by Ray.

Released as a single in 1976 "Frog Kissing" did become a hit recording...and a lot of it had to do with the overall irresistible novelty factor surrounding the project. I decided to post an image of the single because it includes all of the technical information that I like to see. As you can see Ray Stevens produced and arranged the song and his Ahab Music Company published the recording. Also note the writer being Buddy Kalb. This is an image of the promo recording sent to radio stations...which is why it has the Not For Sale disclaimer on it. Now, of course, since the invention of on-line shopping (especially eBay) a lot of those vinyl promo singles meant for radio stations have long since made their way into the public domain. A lot of insiders that worked at radio stations had, at that point in time, gotten rid of a lot of their vinyl inventory buy placing the products on-line for public purchase rather than throwing the stuff in the trash or returning them to a record company. So, one thing led to another, and this is why you'll find all kinds of products available with a Not For Sale or Radio Only Broadcast disclaimer written on the label. Ray does a great job on the song and mentions that it had originally been a recording by Chet Atkins. In the performance two of Ray's musicians were standing behind him playing the twin clarinets. Ray also makes mention that "Frog Kissing" may be the only song that remotely comes across 'serious' during the entire show given that the guest is comedian Gary Mule Deer.

Ray introduces Gary...and he walks out and delivers a one liner about his wild hairstyle...declaring it to have been a windy day. He's holding a guitar...mainly as a prop...and he launches into what seems to be a full-on version of "Ring of Fire"...but then abruptly ends and begins speaking to the floor. There are two microphones...one to pick up the sound of the guitar and the other for him to speak into. Well, in an elaborate comedy routine he pretends to have guitar troubles and he flips his guitar on it's top and a lot of debris falls out (it looks like guitar picks). He goes to the ground on one knee and begins speaking to the audience using the guitar's microphone. He tells a lot of rapid fire one-liner jokes...and whichever one received the biggest laugh he'd wryly make a comment out loud like "oh, you all like dog jokes?". The one I thought was funniest was his one-liner about seeing an advertisement about alcoholism. He mentioned that the advertisement read, and I'm paraphrasing: "if you're an alcoholic and having trouble...call us...we can help" and he remarked that he called the number and found out it belonged to a liquor store.



I first heard of Gary Mule Deer at some point in the early '90s, I think!?! He appeared on Ralph Emery's Nashville Now television program on a semi-regular basis. In those days Gary would appear with a typewriter on his shoulder and he'd strike the keys on it every so often to imitate the typing sounds heard on older newscasts (such as those heard on Walter Cronkite's newscasts). Gary was a cast member on the final season of Hee Haw, too, which I never seen...but I know of this due to photo's and cast lists I've seen over the years from those episodes from 1992.

After things settled down and the jokes/laughing winded down Gary performed a song...a complete version of "Folsom Prison Blues"...sounding a lot like Johnny Cash in the process. Afterward more comedy and jokes aplenty...including a routine about Gary never stooping to use four letter words in his act in spite of the fact that his name contains four letters a piece: Gary Mule Deer.

They discuss Roger Miller and Gary delivers a very funny one-liner comparing Roger to a walking maraca. You'll have to see the episode for yourself to learn the set-up (in case you hadn't already heard it). Gary remarks that he always preferred to hang out with comical musicians (like Roger) and Ray himself rather than stand-up comedians. Gary cites some of his influences being Jack Benny and The Smothers Brothers and the discussion turns to Steve Martin. Ray remarks that Steve was a cast member and writer on his 1970 summer show for Andy Williams. After some final comical exchanges Gary exits the stage and Ray closes the show performing "Furthermore". Interestingly he uses the original arrangement of the song from the 1960s rather than the bluesy, harmonica heavy 1980s re-recording.

On the next episode, airing locally on November 11th, the special guest is going to be Gary Morris and it's one being promoted as the Veteran's Day/Patriotic Show.