August 2, 2015

Ray Stevens: Lady of Spain at 40...

Hello one and all...a certain Spanish lady that Ray Stevens sang about in 1975 is 40 this year. Originating on the Misty album comes "Lady of Spain"...a pop music standard that up until 1975 had been performed mostly as a love ballad and in some performances as an instrumental on guitar and or accordion. In fact, in the performances that feature a vocalist (recordings from the likes of Bing Crosby, Eddie Fisher, Dennis Day, and dating back to 1931's recording by Al Bowlly and Ray Noble's orchestra) the singer is usually singing the song at a slower tempo against the up-tempo musical backdrop.

Although the instrumental performances carried an up-tempo flair in comparison to some of the vocal performances none could compare to the raucous, up-tempo lively performance by Ray Stevens. In the Ray Stevens recording his vocal matches the musical tempo...and on top of that he does a swell vocal impression of the legendary Fats Domino during the first half of the record before it explodes even further into a frenzy prior to Ray calling out the name of the saxophonist at the session, Norman Ray, who goes into a saxophone solo. The image off to the left is from the German release early in 1976. The recording itself took place in 1975 but commercially seen a single release in the summer of 1976...one final single release on the Barnaby Records label several months after Ray had joined and already released his debut album for Warner Brothers. Given that "Lady of Spain" seen it's release after he left Barnaby meant that all of the media hype that could've been used for the single had instead gone to his current single release for Warner Brothers, "You Are So Beautiful"...but longtime fans of Ray are well aware of his cover of "Lady of Spain". It's one of my all-time favorites.

The image of Ray that the record distributors overseas used on the single release of "Lady of Spain" comes from his 1973 album, Nashville. Once upon a time international publicity of American artists utilized previously released publicity photo's or images from previously released albums instead of issuing an exclusive photo for each country...in fact I came across an article on Ray dated from 1976 but it clearly used a photo of Ray from 1970 as a visual. This kind of thing continues to go on today but to a lesser extent. If you visit any number of sites that feature information or articles about Ray Stevens chances are you're going to see a publicity photo of Ray from the latter half of the 2000s or the familiar photo of Ray from his 1992 Comedy Video Classics home video...that release occurred 23 years ago (!) as hard as it is for me to believe...but sites use that photo of him to this very day.

One of the strange facts about the single release of Ray's cover of "Lady of Spain" is that it credits a writer by the name of H.B. Tilsley alongside Tolchard Evans, Stanley Damerell, and Robert Hargreaves. On almost all other single releases of the song by other artists the writers are credited as Tolchard Evans and Erell Reaves (a pseudonym for the lyricists). I'll post an image of the single release from Ray a little bit later. In the meantime "Lady of Spain", as the title of this blog entry points out, turns 40 and so does all of the recordings on the Misty album. Yes, the big hit from the album is the Grammy inning title track but the entire album is Grammy worthy. Even though Ray's performance of "Misty" is incredible, in hindsight, it's massive success over shadowed the remaining performances from the album with "Lady of Spain" being one of those over-looked gems. Another under-rated performance from that album is this single's B-side, "Mockingbird Hill"...oh, and then there's the splendor of "Indian Love Call" and the memorable vocals on "Deep Purple". Here's something to amaze your friends with...Ray Stevens, in 1975, visited The Great American Songbook decades before it became commonplace as a commercial endeavor. As mentioned, the image used on this picture sleeve comes from Ray's Nashville album. In some of my earlier blog entries I've posted other picture sleeves of "Lady of Spain"...one happened to be the image of Ray from the Misty album.

I came across an interesting item on eBay several hours ago...an album called Puzzle credited to Ray Stevens and the release year being 1978 and the country of release being Spain. I can't read foreign languages but common sense would lead one to assume that it's a double album (2 vinyl albums) based on the sticker that appears on the album's cover. The year of release being 1978 and the fact it contains 2 vinyl records has me thinking it's an earlier version of a United Kingdom double album project that surfaced a year later in 1979 called The Greatest Hits Collection or a re-release of a 1977 double album project called The Many Sides of Ray Stevens. The bizarre fact surrounding this Puzzle double LP is there's no picture of Ray on the album's cover but a familiar font of his name appears. The font comes from the 1975 Greatest Hits compilation with the rather large copy of the "S" letter. Any information about this Puzzle LP is appreciated. The back of the LP isn't on display and perhaps a picture of him and the list of songs on the album appear on that side of the cover but as you can see all that's on the front is the title, the number of vinyl discs, and the artist name.

Here's that image of the single release I made mention of earlier. The writers are credited as R. Hargreaves, T. Evans, S. Damerell, and H.B. Tilsley. I did some research in the past and Tilsley happened to be a composer often credited as Henry B. Tilsley...and his name appears on other works featuring the other credited writers. Further research at some future point in time may provide me with answers as to the reason Tilsley is credited as a writer in some pressings of "Lady of Spain" but yet he's uncredited as a writer in other pressings. If you're familiar with the long running program hosted by Lawrence Welk (1951-1982) then you'll immediately be familiar with "Lady of Spain" as the theme song for Myron Floren, an accordionist and right hand man on the program for pretty much it's entire run (both locally, nationally, and in syndication).

Ray Stevens in Canada this October...

Although the date hasn't been posted on his official site I came across an upcoming concert date for Ray Stevens scheduled for this coming October 9th at 9pm. The venue is a Canadian casino located in Orillia, Ontario, Canada and you can read about the upcoming concert HERE. Judging from the site and the photos it's a state of the art facility...housing a massive performance area that regularly converts from being a traditional concert hall to a venue that offers boxing matches (based on the photos on display). According to the page I linked to the tickets became exclusive to members of the casino on July 19th and then to the general public on July 22nd.

Presumably the audience for this event more than likely are going to be much more familiar with the pop music era of Ray's career or perhaps not familiar with him at all and are just attending due it being part of a night out at the casino. Ray's career seems to have limited coverage, internationally, once you go beyond 1979/1980...except in Canada.

There's a lot of websites originating outside of the United States that offer detailed information on Ray Stevens' career pre-1980 but typically offer little to no information on his country music and country comedy successes post-1980. Of course a lot of that has to do with the limited exposure of country music, especially country comedy, internationally, and so a lot of people abroad may in fact genuinely believe that Ray's career ended around that 1980 time period (his single, "Shriner's Convention", became a massive hit in Canada early in 1980). Canada's had a country music chart for decades and so a lot of artists from the U.S. crossed over into Canada's music scene and vice-versa...some artists that originated in Canada ended up having their biggest successes in America.

Venue: Casino Rama Resort

Where: Orillia, Ontario, Canada

Time: 9pm

Date: October 9th

Site: Casino Rama Resort 

Ray Stevens appeared in Hiawassee, Georgia last night (August 1st) at the Anderson Music Hall. The concert was promoted rather heavily on his Facebook page. By that I mean several posts leading up to the concert appear in succession on his page. Posts from July 10th, July 28th, July 29th, and lastly July 30th centered around last night's concert appearance. He's appeared at the venue before...a publicity piece from June 2010 is still available for viewing on-line...in that 2010 article the author of the promo tended to balance a tight rope between factual information and somewhat hostile personal opinion of Ray's performance style. As mentioned in several of my previous blog entries Ray Stevens is currently on his Here We Go Again! Tour. The tour is named after his current comedy CD...being displayed in the image above. This tour is not the conventional night after night venue appearance for weeks on end...those days are a thing of the past...this tour is more or less a batch of concert appearances spread out over the course of the latter half of 2015 and into 2016. Yes...there's a 2016 appearance already scheduled. It's an appearance at the annual Strawberry Festival in Plant City, Florida on March 9th! I haven't mentioned it too much because the appearance is obviously months from now and tickets aren't even available yet.

According to his site the next concert appearances are in September. An appearance at the Moon River Theatre on September 12th in Branson, Missouri and then an appearance at the Alabama Theatre in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on September 19th. I provided links to those venue's in a previous blog entry but I'll post them again as we get close to those dates.

On October 2nd he'll be at the SKyPAC venue in Bowling Green, Kentucky, on October 3rd he'll be doing 2 concerts at the Country Tonite Theatre in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and then on October 9th (not posted on his official website yet) he'll be up in Canada at the Casino Rama Resort (details at the beginning of this blog entry!!).

July 31, 2015

Ray Stevens on Speaking Freely...April 2002...

Hello one and all...a fellow Ray Stevens fan brought to my attention an interview that Ray gave back in 2002 for the Speaking Freely program. For years I had seen the interview on-line but had never seen a video...I wasn't aware one existed. This discovery via social media happened yesterday on my Facebook page even though the upload hit YouTube a couple days ago.



The interview is conducted by Ken Paulson.

The video and a transcription can be found HERE. I had seen this page years ago and to my knowledge a video never existed (if one existed you'd think I'd have embedded it on one of my blog entries by now) but yet there's a video box on that page and so you can either click the video here or click the link and watch it there and read along. According to the data the interview took place on April 1, 2002. Longtime fans of Ray no doubt ill get a thrill seeing him perform abbreviated versions of "Osama Yo' Mama" (at the time it happened to be among the Top-5 best selling country music songs). Ray also talks about and performs pieces of "Sgt. Preston of the Yukon", "Ahab the Arab", "Mr. Businessman", "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?" and he speaks about the changes in the music industry.

Keep in mind that this took place in 2002...and this kind of interview happened to be a rarity back then because Ray's not exactly known for being one that bares his soul for all to see and he doesn't do that here, neither, but it's one of the rare times he's given in-depth recollections of his life and times. He's a private man and he's not the sort that likes to get personal or open up about his off-stage happenings. Ray's opened up a little bit more since then, however...read his memoir, Ray Stevens' Nashville, and you'll see what I mean...but by no means is it a "tell-all" book but that interview/video is a treasure trove of anecdotes and performances.

***CONCERT ALERT***

If you're in the area Ray Stevens is going to be in concert Saturday night August 1st  (tomorrow) in Hiawassee, Georgia at the county fair. The tickets became available back on May 22 but given that the concert's tomorrow night and if you're wanting to attend I'd suggest you call the venue and see if walk-up tickets are available.

You can read about the Georgia appearance HERE.

If you missed the chance of getting tickets to that concert in Georgia and aren't able to attend you can call this morning beginning at 10am and purchase tickets to Ray's October concert in Bowling Green, Kentucky at the SkyPac venue. The concert is to be held on October 2. The next night Ray is going to do 2 separate concerts at the Country Tonite Theatre in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

Ray has 2 concerts scheduled for September. One of them is in Branson, Missouri at The Andy Williams Theatre on September 12th and then on September 19th he'll be in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina at the Alabama Theatre.

These concert dates are part of his Here We Go Again! Tour. You can read all about the October concert by clicking HERE or you can see his tour schedule by clicking HERE and selecting the venue from one single page.

To purchase your copy of his current CD, titled Here We Go Again!, click this LINK. It features "Taylor Swift is Stalkin' Me" and "You Didn't Build That"...both songs have been turned into YouTube music videos.