On June 29, 1988 a lot of Ray Stevens fans were in for a treat that day. It was comedy night on Nashville Now, the talk-show that aired on The Nashville Network for ten years: 1983-1993. The network was commonly referred to as TNN for short. An even special treat was in store because our favorite, Ray Stevens, played the part of co-host. I remember some episodes of the show where Ralph Emery used a co-host. On these particular episodes Ralph would sit in the audience or be off-stage and the guest co-host would conduct an interview. I recall an episode where Ray was the guest host...on this episode the guests were Holly Dunn and a member of the show's band, Larry Sasser. I also recall Minnie Pearl as a guest on another episode that Ray played guest host on. The episodes that I'm recalling, though, are from 1990-1991 and not 1988.
Who was on the June 29, 1988 episode of Nashville Now you may be wondering? Along with co-host Ray Stevens there was Jerry Clower, Minnie Pearl, the Riders in the Sky, and Cousin Bubba. In the fall of 1988 Ray issued his comedy album, I Never Made a Record I Didn't Like. It was also during this point in time that some far out animal rights activists were crying foul over the so-called mistreatment of a hamster in the Ray Stevens recording, "The Old Hippie Class Reunion", the last song on Ray's just released album that year. I came across that non-story late last year while browsing the Google news archives and laughed when I read it. Can you imagine listening to a hilarious comedy song like that and then zero in on a hamster reference...and as a result, throw a fit. Ray, also, found the outrage laughable.
On February 22, 1985 Ray was called on to host a Pre-Awards Grammy special. The program ran 1 hour and it was a nationally televised program...it wasn't a program that aired on TNN. An introduction of this 1985 special can be seen on You Tube. The Grammy Awards honor material recorded in the previous year...so the Grammy awards of 1985 would focus on music from late 1983 into the cut-off date in 1984. This meant that if a song debuted late in 1983 it could possibly win a Grammy in 1985 if nominated. In the You Tube clip Ray only gets to speak for a few seconds before the clip ends. I wish the clip were longer. The program was taped during that transition period in Ray's career where he shifted from recording serious songs and began his gradual slide into the realm of country comedy.
On December 28, 1985 Ray appeared as one of the artists on a PBS show called Country Express. I have no idea if this was a continuing series or a program that aired as a special. It was a Christmas themed program which also featured Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, Deborah Allen, and The Statler Brothers. It's my guess that Ray performed "Santa Claus Is Watching You" and, or, "Greatest Little Christmas Ever Wuz".
On January 2, 1986 Ray appeared on an outdoor sportsman program on TNN. During the days of TNN, sports programs typically filled the airwaves on Sunday. Racing, fishing, hunting, and other outdoors activities were all featured on TNN on Sundays. Country Sportsman was the name of the program Ray appeared on. The program details indicate that others were part of the show, too: Chet Atkins, Irlene Mandrell, Boots Randolph, and Jeanne Pruett. Bobby Lord was the star...the episode was billed as Bobby Lord at the LaBelle Celebrity Fishing Tournament. Several days later, on January 13, Ray was a featured performer/presenter on the Music City News Songwriters Awards. An appearance on The Tommy Hunter Show came along for Ray in the fall of 1986. Also appearing on the September 27, 1986 episode was Johnny Lee, Reba McEntire, and Charley McClain. Hunter's program was an import from Canada where it had been on the air since 1960, first on radio and then on television beginning in 1965. TNN began airing episodes in 1983 but then stopped airing the program in 1989. Hunter's show continued to air in Canada until 1992. The reason that the program left TNN, and a reason why a couple of other programs ended in 1989, had to do with TNN's schedule shake-up. The morning hours were taken over by music video programming as were the late afternoon hours. VideoMorning and VideoPM to be specific. Ray appeared on those programs during the mid 1990's when he was promoting his home video releases. Anyway, 1990 marked a kind of new direction for TNN, and a lot of the programs that had been a part of the network since it's debut in 1983 came to an end in 1989. A few shows stayed but quite a few went out of production.
This comedy CD came along in January 2008. The official release date was January 31, 2008 through Ray's web-site store. An Mp3 digital album was then released nationally a month later...and then in late 2008 an audio CD hit the market. "Hurricane" closely resembles "The Streak" and I believe that was done on purpose. Aside from the title track there's political humor in "Sucking Sound" where Ray sings about NAFTA and the economic situation and predictions of Ross Perot. Ray offers some down-home flavor in two back to back Bubba songs. Track four is a talking routine, pretty much, about a man from the south who fancies himself as a world class wine taster. I bought seven of the twelve songs on-line. I already had five of the songs on other collections and so I bought tracks 1 through 6 and track 11.
2. Sucking Sound
3. The Cure
4. Bubba, the Wine Connoisseur
5. Hey Bubba, Watch This!
6. Rub It In
7. Smokey Mountain Rattlesnake Retreat
8. Camping Trip
9. Makin' the Best of a Bad Situation
10. Stuck on You
11. Down Home Beach
12. Hugo The Human Cannonball