December 14, 2014

Ray Stevens: Rayality TV webisode 34...

Once again it's time to take a look at Rayality TV...the 34th installment debuted this past Friday. The clip is from one of Ray's concert DVDs and it's a performance of "It's Me Again, Margaret". If you consider yourself a fan of Ray Stevens at all then you should already be very familiar with this song and, like a lot of his stage performances, you'll be hooked from the beginning. Ray knows how to perform on stage and to deliver every drop of visual comedy into a performance.

This is one of his all-time classics.

Margaret is just one of the various female characters that have become embedded into the collective memories of every Ray Stevens fan. Aside from Margaret we've heard Ray sing about Fatima, obviously, in the 1962 classic "Ahab the Arab". Fatima, a member of the Sultan's harem, is carrying on with Ahab. Most critics, if not all, usually (or deliberately) forget that it's a comical cheating song and it brings scorn and contempt from hypersensitive, politically correct zealots. In my opinion the song's cleverness of blending and mixing various fictional titles together and presenting it in a pop music recording is certainly praise-worthy, fictional stories such as Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves, The Thief of Baghdad, The Sheik, The Son of the Sheik...each of those classic stories/films inspired Ray.

In the official music video of "Ahab the Arab" (filmed in 1995), Ray pays homage to the Valentino films, appearing several times in brief silent-movie type footage. It's very noticeable so be on the lookout for it.

Ray's single became a hit in the summer months of 1962. In December that year a brand new movie premiered...titled Lawrence of Arabia. I'm certain that the movie's box-office popularity throughout the early half of 1963 had unexpectedly kept Ray's novelty single as a radio recurrent long after it's original peak in 1962. Ray's single sold more than a million copies...I'd have to say that the sales strength came from much more than airplay exposure alone.

In the 1969 hits "Gitarzan" and "Along Came Jones", Ray told us about Jane and Sweet Sue, respectively. Jane attempted to be the singer in the jungle band...but her mate's overly anxious performances got on her nerves so much she screamed out her catchphrase at the end of her contribution (you readers should know that catchphrase!!). "Gitarzan" sold a million copies. Here's Ray as "Gitarzan" on the picture sleeve that accompanied the 1969 vinyl single...

Sweet Sue, on the other hand, is the classic damsel in distress type...always put in danger but rescued in the nick of time by Jones. Neither participant in "Along Came Jones" have any aspirations of being a singing sensation, though. A Gitarzan album appeared in 1969. A year later Ray had himself another hit comedy recording featuring a fictional female character...can you guess the name of it? If you said Bridget you're absolutely correct!!

"Bridget the Midget" became a international hit in late 1970/early 1971. The biggest success happened to occur in the United Kingdom. The song tells the story of a fictional tap dancer named Bridget and her back-up group, Strawberry and the Short-Cakes. The hook/gimmick of the novelty song is the sped-up vocalization of Bridget. Ray, in his natural voice, acts as presenter/narrator and at several moments in the recording there's an appearance of a spaced out beatnik/hippie-type patron that offers his enthusiasm about the goings-on.

The most popular female character in a Ray Stevens recording is a 3-way tie, actually. One of those is the previously mentioned Margaret from "It's Me Again, Margaret". The second of the three is Sister Bertha from "The Mississippi Squirrel Revival". That song and the one about Margaret both arrived back-to-back on a 1984 comedy album from Ray called He Thinks He's Ray Stevens (a Platinum selling, Top-5 Album on the country charts). Sister Bertha is the unfortunate soul that had a peculiar thing happen to her during church service.

Sister Bertha wasn't the first religious fictional female character to appear in a Ray Stevens recording. Four years earlier, in 1980, Sister Doris and Sister Dewdrop debuted on "The Dooright Family". Their duty was to sing harmony and bless the hearts of all they see. That song, made into a music video in 1995, debuted on Ray's 1980 Shriner's Convention album.

The third female character in the 3-way tie is none other than Ethel...the legendary wife of the eyewitness of "The Streak", in 1974. She comes in at #1 in the 3-way tie...the reason being is her name is synonymous with streaking thanks to the song's catchphrase heard at various moments, "don't look Ethel!!!". Another reason she's first in the 3-way tie at #1 is because "The Streak" sold more than 5 million copies internationally and because of the comical twist and the end of the song regarding Ethel's future.

Here are some other female characters that have popped up or have been mentioned in numerous recordings from Ray Stevens through the decades...

Sally Smash (pop vocalist in "The Rock and Roll Show", 1962); Sugar Bee (companion of motorcyclist "Speed Ball", 1963);  Heidi Fokes (girlfriend of "Butch Babarian", 1964); Bubble Gum (the lead character in "Bubble Gum the Bubble Dancer", 1964); Mary (title character in "Mary, My Secretary", 1967); Fair Maiden/Damsel (victim in "Sir Thanks-a-Lot", 1969); Mildred Queen (pop vocalist in "The Moonlight Special", 1974); Rita (title character in "Rita's Letter", 1980); Melissa (title character in "Melissa", 1981); Mary Lou Picket (from "Country Boy, Country Club Girl", 1982).

I'll stop there or I'll find myself mentally recalling every studio album from Ray Stevens starting in 1983 and moving forward...thinking of each and every mention of a female's name in a song or in the title of a song and so I'll stop there...but the characters above make up a good enough list.  

December 7, 2014

Ray Stevens: Recent radio station interviews...

Hello all once more! In my previous blog entries I didn't make mention of some of the recent radio interviews that Ray Stevens took part in. In addition to the television appearance on Kentucky's WBKO, Ray also gave some radio interviews to a couple of stations. Each of the interviews focused on his book and the gospel CD.

On December 4th, Ray did a 10 minute-plus call-in to radio station WKSJ in Mobile, Alabama on the Jason Taylor program. You can listen to that HERE.

On December 5th, the same day that Ray made the appearance on WBKO-TV and did the Barnes and Noble book signing, he gave an interview to radio station WGGC. Unfortunately I have not been able to find a podcast or any audio clip of his interview on that particular radio station but I became aware that Ray did an interview for the station this past Friday after seeing mention of it on a social media site and seeing a picture of Ray and the disc jockey that conducted the interview, Greg Almond.

Given that Ray appeared at the Barnes and Noble book store in Bowling Green, KY the radio and TV interviews that took place there featured Ray in-person.

The only call-in interviews that took place were on the Mobile, Alabama station and this one from Louisiana...

KVPI ...This radio station is actually an Oldies it's a little bit unusual to have a Ray Stevens interview on a station programming Oldies music (usually Ray's radio interviews are on Classic Country radio stations, morning programs on Mainstream Country stations, or on Talk Radio stations). Although Ray's career dates back to 1957 and his earliest recordings of pop/teenage love songs could easily find a home on any Oldies format, it's his reputation as a "novelty singer" that's long separated his catalog of love ballads and pop music from those that never strayed too far from the pop/love song formula.

In other words, if you play one of his singles from that era (keeping the identity of the singer a secret) and played another song by any number of pop acts from the same time period, chances are a listener would like both recordings...but once you identity 'Ray Stevens' as the singer of one of those songs a listener is more than likely going to deny it being him because it doesn't fit their idea of what Ray Stevens is all about in their mind.

Nevertheless, publicity is publicity, and the interview on KVPI is good, too. In the interview Ray makes mention of an upcoming comedy CD due out at the first of the year (at some point in early 2015).

In the interview he didn't elaborate on the style of comedy taking center stage on the CD...if it's going to be traditional country comedy, irony, satire, social commentary, political humor, mockery, or sarcasm. I doubt it'll be political humor, though, given the extremely topical and timely nature of the subject matter. It's obviously best to hit with political humor in the months leading up to a national election cycle and the midterms closed in early November of this year and it's obviously way too early to release political commentary surrounding it's anyone's guess as to the style of comedy taking center stage on the upcoming CD.

Ray Stevens: The WBKO-TV interview and More...

Hello all the fans of Ray Stevens...and yes, it's December...and it's been a busy couple of days for Ray and also a busy time of the year for myself, too. My birthday rolled around 5 days ago on December 2 and so on that day I had to do the usual birthday stuff (purchase tags for my car/update it's registration). Ray's made a couple of stops in the state of Kentucky recently on a book signing tour. Previously he made an appearance at a Louisville, KY book store.

The most recent stop happened to be in Bowling Green, Kentucky at a Barnes and Noble store a couple of days ago (December 5th). Video footage surfaced of an appearance by Ray on the local WBKO television station prior to the appearance at the book store. The segment is hosted by the station's meteorologist, Chris Allen.

The interview promotes both the memoir, Ray Stevens' Nashville, and Ray's current CD, The Ray Stevens Gospel Collection: Volume One. You can see the video clip HERE. The video playback is nearly full screen...and once you click the link and the video appears you'll have to click the play doesn't start to play automatically like most video clips do.

Also on December 5th, Ray's Nashville book received a mention near the end of the Friday episode of The O'Reilly Factor on the Fox News Channel in the Tip of the Day segment. Bill mentioned the book and played a piece of one of Ray's music videos, "The Nightmare Before Christmas". You can see that video clip HERE.

Ray's memoir, the hardback copy, is ranked #92 this hour amongst Amazon's Best Sellers in what I call a subdivided category (Books > Arts and Photography > Music). This indicates that it's selling to a niche audience. The Kindle version is ranked this hour at #16, also in a more complex subdivided category. Take a look at this Best Seller category ranking the Kindle version at #16: Kindle Store > Kindle eBooksBiographies and Memoirs > Arts and Literature > Actors and Entertainers > Comedians. After completing that, it felt like I was writing a combination Math equation-English sentence dissection. 

Here's a link to the KINDLE version of Ray Stevens' Nashville. Keep in mind that the Amazon Best Seller rankings change hourly and so it's highly likely that the ranking isn't going to be among the Top-20 at the moment you're reading this...but click the link anyway in case you hadn't made your purchase of Ray's memoir yet.