March 31, 2010

Ray Stevens: Pop Goes the Country follow-up...

It doesn't appear that I can contain my excitement over receiving these DVD's in the mail today. I sent away for them this past Saturday...I wasn't expecting them to arrive this soon after the disclaimer alerted me it would take 5-7 days for delivery. Anyway, they arrived in the mail today and I watched the Ray Stevens sections of the DVD's which were the main reason why I purchased them. I'll no doubt watch other sections of the DVD, too, because I like watching old/vintage/classic country music programs. Although this program was designed to tie in with the pop influences in country music the show still gave a national spotlight to well-established country music acts. On Volume 15, Ray is incredible in my opinion. He walks out and immediately launches into "You Are So Beautiful", his Top-20 country hit from 1976. After the performance he has his interview segment with Ralph where Dolly Parton is brought up. Ray talks about once being Dolly's record producer and how he envisioned her as an R&B singer, saying the vibrato effect of her voice in the mid '60s sounded closer to R&B than to what country audiences were used to at the time. This can also be said about Willie Nelson, too, who himself had a voice that didn't become marketable in country music until the 1970's. Ray's next song was "Save Me From Myself", in which he sang the first verse and the chorus. The song originated from 1977. Later, Ralph highlights various groups that Ray has sang about in various songs and then tells the audience that Shriners can now be added to that list.

Ray explains the idea behind the song and then performs "Shriner's Convention" in it's entirety. This episode I believe was taped in 1979 because the first two songs that he performed were both recorded for Warner Brothers, the label he was on during 1976-1979, while "Shriner's Convention" would become his debut single on RCA Records in February of 1980. This very well could be the first time he performed the song on television. An interesting fact about that song is there were two recordings of it cut relatively close to one recording credits 1979 as the copyright year and another recording credits 1980 as the copyright year. The 1979 recording can be found on MCA's Greatest Hits from 1987 and CURB Records His All-Time Greatest Comic Hits from 1990. Most of the other albums that feature that song use the 1980 recording.

Toward the end of the show Ralph asks Ray about his idols and about piano players. Ray does a few lines of "Hallelujah, I Love You So", a Ray Charles hit. Ralph brings up Floyd Cramer and Ray performs "Last Date".

Moving on to Volume 17...this episode was hosted by Tom T Hall. Ray opens the show singing a much different take on "You've Got the Music Inside" complete with hand-claps and an up-tempo arrangement. Midway through this hand-clapping frenzy he slows the song down but then goes back into the up-tempo sing-a-long style. For those familiar with the song it was written and recorded by Ray as a slow ballad. Tom later has Ray perform "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down". Ray sings the first verse and the chorus. Later, Ray and Tom play a game where audience members call out their favorite Ray Stevens and Tom T Hall songs and the object of the game was to sing a line or two from the songs. Ray performed a couple of lines from "The Streak" and "Everything is Beautiful". Tom sang a few lines of "Old Dogs, Children, and Watermelon Wine" and "Harper Valley, PTA". Ray and Tom sing a duet together, "It's Hard To be Humble", which I first heard by Mac Davis. The duet is hilarious, I think, with the two of them intentionally belting out a lot of the words. The instrumentation behind the song is like a polka almost...maybe it is a polka.

On Volume 15 the other guest of the show was a singer known as Dottsy. On Volume 17 the other guest of the show was teenager Wendy Holcombe who performed several banjo numbers and sang "Rocky Top".

Pop! Goes the Country was a half hour show and so a lot of times the guests would sing one or two songs in their entirety and then sing a shortened version of another song. The show moved along quickly, too, and there was hardly ever more than 3 guests per show...most episodes featured 2 guests. Some critics say this program was sort of like country music's version of The Midnight Special and Solid Gold rolled into one.


  1. I will soon be sending for my copy of "Pop Goes The Country" don't worry we have paramedics on duty at all times, but I think by this time I've learned to contain my excitment as well. All kidding aside, he's still a very sweet man with that goodness in his smile and voice we have all loved over the years. He's the kind of person in my book you look forward to seeing with you in the great behond.

  2. You'll not be disappointed. Ray appears on Volumes 15 and 17 and even though my review here was detailed there's nothing like actually seeing it for your own eyes.

  3. I appreciate that, and I'm anticipating being
    able to view those DVD's with those performances. Ray has a additional gift that moves people to participate along and we all
    love that when we can do that.I know on my on I could have never enjoyed music and the fun of learning in the process, he is a wonderful teacher, if he isn't a professor,
    then no one deserves the title.


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