January 22, 2018

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville: Season Five...

In a follow-up blog entry I decided to do some internet searching and although I hadn't found a complete guest list for Season Five of the Ray Stevens locally syndicated PBS series, CabaRay Nashville, I've been able to discover who are likely going to be part of the line-up. I searched some image sites (Instagram, specifically) and looked up photos tagged under Ray Stevens and my memory was refreshed to the late spring/early summer months of 2017. This would be the point in time in which the episodes making up Season Five were likely to have been recorded. Ray Hildebrand's photo with Ray had a May 2017 year of release attached to it. Some other photo's from recording sessions taking place in the first half of 2017 included Ray with the likes of Jenny Gill, John Rich, and Tony Orlando. When I seen those photo's it jogged my memory. I did some further look back and found a Facebook post from June of 2017 in which Ray mentioned that he was in the middle of taping episodes for "a new season" and accompanying his post was a photo of him and guest, Sam Moore.

Now, going with that information I researched earlier this morning, combined with the information I already knew surrounding Season Five I feel I can safely say that this is an abbreviated line-up of guests for this current season of episodes...keep in mind that this guest list is not in chronological air-date order...

Ray Hildebrand, Steve Wariner (edited Season One episode), Paul Overstreet, Dailey and Vincent, Jenny Gill, John Rich, Sam Moore, and Tony Orlando. So far that's 8 broadcasts...so there's 5 episodes whose guests I have no information about. Until a list becomes available of this season's guest stars I'll have to rely on the uploads at Ray's video streaming site and those videos are posted a week after they've aired on PBS stations.

A sampling of local PBS affiliates currently airing episodes of his show: KET2/WCVN; APTV; WXEL; WNIT; WNPT; KRWG; WLJT; KMOS; KCTS9.

If any of you visitors/readers of this fan created blog are familiar with those local PBS stations check their websites for detailed information concerning air-times of Ray's television program. The station I watch his program on is KET2, a sub-channel of WCVN. Those in Washington state and in a good percentage of Canada, from what I've researched, can view Ray's program on KCTS9 but they air his show in a less than desired time slot of 4:30am...so you all are more than likely going to set your DVR and record his show. Since his television series is in local PBS syndication it means that not everybody is going to see the same episode every week. Some affiliates are airing Season Three episodes and other PBS affiliates are airing Season Four episodes. As I've mentioned KET2 is repeating episodes from Season Three. I don't know when they'll start airing Season Five episodes.

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Ray Hildebrand

Hello once again!! Did I ever get a surprise earlier today as I visited Ray's video streaming site...it's called raystevens.tv and I've written about it before. It's a premium site. I opened up the section which archives his episodes of the CabaRay Nashville television series and would you believe Season Five is already airing on PBS stations?

The season kicked off two weeks ago on January 6th but there hadn't been any promo videos emerge on YouTube promoting this fact. The local PBS affiliate in my area, KET2, airs his show but they began repeating episodes from Season Three after the New Year's Eve episode aired in late December and so I naturally assumed that once the repeat cycle completed then Season Five episodes would become available for PBS to air. The fifth season, like the previous four, will also contain 13 episodes and the first episode of Season Five features Ray Hildebrand as a special guest. An edited version of episode one guest starring Steve Wariner is slated as episode two of Season Five. The third episode, which aired on some PBS affiliates over this weekend, guest starred Paul Overstreet. Next week's episode (first airing will be January 26th) will guest star the Bluegrass duo, Dailey and Vincent.

The episodes are added to his video streaming site a week after they've aired on PBS. That means this past weekend's episode, airing the weekend of January 20th and guest starring Paul Overstreet, will be uploaded to Ray's video streaming site the weekend of January 26th...and the Daily and Vincent episode will be uploaded to Ray's video streaming site the following weekend in February.

Ray opened the episode singing "Beyond the Sea" and afterward introduced Ray Hildebrand and jokingly made reference to the artist going by the name of Paul. Given that both are named Ray I'm going to refer to the guest by his last name, Hildebrand, who comes out and tells the history of "Paul and Paula" and how it was originally issued on a label in Forth Worth, TX and how the LP was recorded in Nashville. Paula's real name happens to be Jill Jackson but she wasn't part of the show. He tells a whimsical story of being asked to fly from Kansas to California to record just one song at the insistence of Jon Bauman (Bowser from Sha Na Na). Ray mentioned that Shelby Singleton is responsible for picking up distribution rights to "Paul and Paula" and for changing the duo's name from Ray and Jill (which is how it appears on the original single release pressings in Fort Worth) to Paul and Paula. Hildebrand mentions that one of the things he remembers distinctly is hearing Shelby over the loud speaker saying "take 43..." and explains that there must have been something Shelby didn't like in the previous 42 attempts. He jokingly suggests it could have been the fault of Ray being at the studio...but Ray responds in mock egotism by saying it couldn't have been his fault because if he were involved they would've nailed down the song in one or two takes. For a minute I thought the two of them were going to get into a comical war of words recalling those recording sessions in the '60s.

Hildebrand performs "Hey Paula" with Ray's three female harmony singers. They each vie for the role of Paula and throughout the performance each one gently pushes the other out of the way each time it's their turn to sing Jill/Paula's lyrics. After this performance he tells of the time he abruptly left a Dick Clark tour because he couldn't take life on the road anymore. He says he slipped a note underneath the door and left. Dick had to fill in for Hildebrand throughout the remaining tour stops (three in total). Ray suggests that Hildebrand might be the music industry's father of Contemporary Christian music. Hildebrand talks of recording Christian music and Word Records. Ray brings up Hildebrand's past involvement with an organization known as The Fellowship of Christian Athletes. A performance of "Say I Do" by Hildebrand soon follows...but introduced by Ray as "here's Paul...no, Ray...or is it...well, whoever it is...". Upon the conclusion of the song Ray thanks him for being a guest on the show...and this is followed by an instrumental of "Tennessee Waltz" by Ray's band. The lead instrument is the electric guitar played by Jerry Kimbrough.

The show's announcer, Bill Cody, comes running onto the set to see if he could introduce the show's closing number...Ray agrees...and "You're Nobody Til Somebody Loves You" done in Ray Stevens style is delivered as the closing performance. One of the harmony singers frequently offers reaction lines which are greeted with giggles from the audience. It's definitely very different from the crooner version by Dean Martin.

This episode was taped during recording sessions held in 2017 and as I was mentioning in a couple of previous blog entries Season Five will be the final season of episodes taped at the current studio. His next recording sessions are going to take place at the CabaRay and those are going to get underway soon. The next recap I'll post will be this weekend once the Paul Overstreet episode is uploaded to Ray's video streaming site.

January 21, 2018

This Ray Stevens LP turns 30...

Hello once more! As the title of this blog entry states...this Ray Stevens LP turns 30. Released in the summer of 1988 on MCA this 10 track comedy album is chock full of top notch material and while the recordings aren't as lengthy as some of the songs on his previous albums it's nevertheless a highly entertaining project. First off the album's title is based upon a phrase associated with Will Rogers. Whereas Will's saying if often quoted as "I never met a man I didn't like", Ray's album offers a twist on that phrase with I Never Made a Record I Didn't Like. As you can see Ray is in full costume as the rope twirling Rogers. I may have shared this story before but I'll repeat it again...I discovered this project at a record store at a shopping mall with my grandfather. At the time of it's purchase it was already several years old. I remember finding the cassette copy among a stack of Ray Stevens cassettes on display at the store. I was there hoping to find his most recent album at that time, Lend Me Your Ears, and I found this one which I had never known about...the same holds true for his 1989 album, Beside Myself. I was still a teenager at the time (pre-16 so I wasn't able to drive on my own) and my only access to stores was with my parent's or my grandparent's...and a lot of the time the local K-Mart and Hart's stores didn't always carry an abundance of Ray Stevens titles...so most of the purchases of Ray Stevens music that I had at that point in time was through my grandparent's who'd take me to a shopping mall not too far away which featured a couple of music stores which carried a wide array of music and plenty of Ray in a comedy music section of the store. Those stores were Camelot and NRM.

Anyway, I found I Never Made a Record I Didn't Like and glanced over the song titles and was dumbfounded that I'd never heard of these songs before...or the album...and I looked at the copyright year, 1988, and a light bulb moment occurred when I realized the album was simply a project my grandfather skipped over when he had purchased several of Ray's albums a couple of years earlier. Ever since the cassette copy came into my possession in the early '90s I've long since been a fan of it. Once I got onto the internet in the mid 2000s I was able to purchase vinyl albums released on Ray Stevens including the vinyl copy of this 1988 release.

First off I'd like to give a run down on the list of musicians that played on this record. I usually don't single out the album musicians but ever since Ray began his CabaRay Nashville television series with a lot more heightened emphasis and attention directed toward his band I figured I'd provide a list of the musicians for this particular release. Ray is credited with playing the synthesizer. The keyboard is credited to Gary Prim. His name appears on several of Ray's albums as keyboard or piano player even though the public at large assumes that Ray plays piano on all of his recordings. Steve Gibson is credited with electric guitar, mandolin, and dobro. Larry Sasser is the credited steel guitar player and it also credits him as a dobro player as well. There's no indication of whether or not Larry and Steve play the dobro together on any of the recordings or if Steve played the dobro on specific recordings while Larry played the dobro on other recordings. I assume the latter. Stuart Keathley is the bass player and the engineer. Stuart had been with Ray for many years as bass player and engineer and would continue as such into the 1990s before his untimely death in a house fire in 1995. Tommy Wells is the drummer. Terry McMillan played the harmonica. Mark Casstevens played the rhythm guitar and the banjo. Lisa Silver was on hand as the fiddle player and as one of the background vocalists along side Sherri Huffman, Wendy Suits, and Diane Vanette. Lisa is another musician that goes back quite awhile with Ray. She's the one singing harmony with Ray during a 1980 appearance on Hee Haw...he's singing the song "Love Me Longer" at the piano wearing a cowboy hat and she's standing to the side of him with fiddle in hand.

As mentioned it's a 10 song comedy album and MCA released two commercial singles. "Surfin' U.S.S.R." was issued as a single and it also became his second music video. The song blends the sounds of Beach Boys music with the real world topicality of the Cold War between The United States and Russia. In the music video there's exclusive content in which Ray does audio impressions of Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in addition to delivering opening commentary (off-camera voice over) as an unidentified news man reporting on the meeting between the two world leaders. It's never been stated if Ray was one of the two on camera...I'm assuming Ray had two of his friends act as Reagan and Gorbachev (both are wearing masks) and he delivered their audio remarks. The wives of the two leaders are also on the music video but they don't speak. This footage is exclusive to the music video and that audio isn't heard on the album/single release. It's my guess that it was added to the music video release for visual humor prior to the kick off of the actual song itself. After the completion of the opening track it's time for "The Booger Man", a bluesy comical song dealing with monsters and how if you're not careful the most horrific of them all will get'cha. Ray performed this song on a Halloween themed episode of the televised portion of The Grand Ole Opry in the mid '90s. It's the only time I'd ever seen him perform the song and it's probably the only time he performed the song on television. He wrote it with Buddy Kalb. I don't own a CD copy of this album but I have an image of it saved on my computer so I thought I'd include it in this blog entry. "Mama's in the Sky with Elvis" is a song that originated on a prior project...the 1987 Greatest Hits, Volume Two on MCA...but the label placed it on this 1988 album, too. It's a darkly humorous story about an Elvis fan who passes away in the most bizarre fashion. It's filled with Elvis references from movie titles to song titles and the arrangement carries an Elvis flavor including Ray's impression of The Jordanaires providing harmony/background vocals to open the song.

Something found on most of Ray's comedy albums in the 1980s and early 1990s were traces of topical references or social commentary on trends/fads of the day. Cable television was booming and even though financial reports indicated a decline in satellite television sales the fact remained that some pockets of the country were just discovering the unfiltered programming of satellite television...and what better way to offer comical commentary than with a song whose title utilizes all of the disclaimers accompanying a large amount of programming: "Language, Nudity, Violence, and Sex". In this bouncy sing-a-long with heavy use of fiddle Ray plays the part of a rural well to do who decides to give in to his family's wishes and get satellite television. Ray proceeds to tell us everything he's seen and the things he's noticed his children watching, too...and there's a vague reference to Doctor Ruth even though she's not mentioned by name. This countrified slice of hilarity is followed by a dramatic shift in music in that Ray delivers his version of Michael Jackson's song, "Bad". The song begins with a faithful Rhythm and Blues tinged arrangement prior to it shifting into a full-on rollicking performance with a country overtone with sheep impressions and chicken clucks near the end.

Track Six (the first song on side two if referring to the vinyl or cassette copy) is "The Day I Tried To Teach Charlene MacKenzie How To Drive". This is a bouncy sing-a-long, too, with a 1960's flavor as it tells the story of Ray attempting to teach a childhood girlfriend how to drive. The only roadblock being her deafness. So, Ray tells us his adventure trying to teach her to drive a '57 Chevy and all the chaos that ensues.

Now, following this romping adventure of a song, Ray once again does an about face musically and delivers the amazing "Blood and Suede". In an overall somber arrangement Ray tells the story of a young rock and roll singer in Hollywood whose egotism got the better of him as he crashes his car while listening to his Greatest Hits album turned up full blast in his Porsche. Ray's vocal takes on the part of the wise seen-it-all recalling the Porsche and Mercedes crash near Mulholland Drive. The fault of the crash wasn't necessarily all on the rock music star. The driver of the Mercedes, according to the song, was drunk on Cabernet and speeding but the singer paying too much attention to his music never heard the Mercedes screeching to a halt trying to avoid a collision. It is not a comedy song and it breaks up the overall flow of the album...but it's a great performance.

The next two songs on the album are both uptempo. "Ethelene the Truck Stop Queen" is a song about a waitress at a truck stop and the day to day activity of her job. Ray tells us that she was born in the sleeper of a Peterbilt and her parent's abandoned her by leaving her at a booth at a truck stop wrapped in a road map for protection. In "I Don't Need None of That" Ray tells us of several situations he's found himself in and in each situation he's confirmed his belief that he doesn't need anyone's depressing advice, negativity, or potential trouble (one situation has him on the receiving end of a friend's practical joke involving a prostitute). The album's closing song is the satirical "Old Hippie Class Reunion"...and once more the light is shined on his arranging prowess...because as you listen to the song and hear the music playing along in the background you begin to think you're eavesdropping on a conversation between 2 out of their mind hippies. Ray vocally plays the role of 2 hippies...one with a gravelly voice whose hard of hearing and the other with a lazy, mellow voice who constantly has to remind the other of all of their accomplishments (?) at their latest party. Ray uses that mellow voice as he sings the song, too, and as a result you don't hear his natural voice throughout the entire recording.