March 29, 2009

Ray Stevens...there's something in a Sunday...

Ray Stevens and a photo shoot advertising the upcoming single, "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down". I am pretty certain that's Ray standing up in front of the table judging by the structure of the eyes and the put-on sorrowful facial expression and then off to his left in the white suit I think is Fred Foster and then next to him is Jim Malloy. Ray, Fred, and Jim were the producers of the albums that Ray recorded during his stay at Monument Records. If i'm correct in guessing those three, that's a pretty good round of guessing...the other men in the picture I have no idea who they are. On my computer I enlarged the picture several times to attempt a better's a very young Ray, of course, with a beard...notoriously clean-shaven during that time period but several pictures have emerged through the years showing him sporting a beard.

"Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down" is a song from the pen of Kris Kristofferson. Ray is noted as the first artist to record the song although the hit recording belongs to Johnny Cash. Ray's recording appears on his album Have a Little Talk With Myself which I wrote a blog about awhile ago. The recording was Ray's debut on the country music charts...rising into the Top-60 that year while peaking in the lower portion of the Hot 100. It's less than stellar performance on pop radio was ironic because that was the format in which Ray was closely associated with...1969 was also the year he had a Gold record with "Gitarzan", a Top-10 pop hit...but the content of the Sunday morning song clashed with Ray's clean-cut image and therefore wasn't a big seller and as a result of low sales it didn't chart as high on the Hot 100. It's connection to Nashville songwriter, Kris Kristofferson, helped the song gain some exposure on the country charts and helped Ray cross over to country for the first time.

It's important for newer fans of Ray to keep in mind that he was grouped in with the pop music scene throughout the 1960's and into the early 1970's. Ray made infrequent appearances on the country music charts and on country music programs in the early 1970's but his label, Barnaby, was still marketing his music to the pop and international audience. Not until the mid 1970's was there a concentrated effort made into promoting Ray as a country artist...his move to the Warner Brothers label in 1976 kick-started the move toward country. Ray's career time-line is documented in my first few blog entries. Anyway, this promo ad for "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down" is an image I've had in my collection for a period of years and I scanned it and uploaded it onto my computer tonight.

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