Twenty years ago in 1990 Ray Stevens graced the cover of Music City News, a publication that once featured in-depth and fan-friendly write-up's and articles on practically all the acts in country music. The magazine was founded in the early 1960's by Faron Young who eventually sold his interests in the magazine. Ray was featured a lot of times in the magazine down through the years. He didn't appear on a lot of covers but he'd often receive write-up's of his albums or he'd be featured in an interview within it's pages. This is the magazine which became legendary in Nashville for it's fan-voted awards and if truth be known the Music City News Awards went a long way in cementing the loyal reputation country music fans have toward the singers they enjoy listening to. The awards show would become a much anticipated event every summer as one of the focal points of Fan Fair...which during it's biggest years would have millions of fans flocking to Nashville to meet their favorite singer's one on one and have them sign autographs, etc etc. Fan Fair is now called Music Fest and it's put together by the CMA. It's basically the same kind of event...taking place in June for a four day period...but the publicity and hype is now centered around a carefully selected roster of singers who conveniently all had recent Top-10 hit songs and albums on the charts prior to the festival's opening day. When The Nashville Network was still in operation they'd showcase Fan Fair and they'd not single out certain acts and ignore others. I remember a lot of times where artists that hadn't had any hit songs in years were shown signing autographs for their fans...this is because TNN gave exposure to a wide variety of country music acts...in other words they didn't focus exclusively on the hot new acts of the day.
The cover story, from an issue released in January 1990, focused on country comedy and it gave some insight and spotlight to a genre within country music that seldom gets under-appreciated and over-looked. Hee-Haw was still on the air in 1990 and by all accounts that was the only program still on the air to showcase country comedy in such a prominent and positive way. The comedians selected in the magazine all gave their opinions on what makes a funny joke or story and how timing is important in all forms of comedy...even subtle humor according to them requires a certain level of timing for the punchline to pay off. 1990 marked the fifth consecutive year that Ray won the Music City News Comedian of the Year award...his first win was in 1986...and he continued to win the award every year through 1994. His domination of the award was sadly relinquished in 1995 when Jeff Foxworthy came calling with the redneck routines and he won the award...followed later by Bill Engvall. Ray played a big role in the various Music City News television specials in that sometimes he acted as a host, sometimes an award presenter, and often he'd perform on the show in addition to winning Comedian of the Year (1986-1994). The magazine would also put together secondary awards shows devoted to songwriter's and the top country music hits of the year. Ray co-hosted several of those specials in the early to mid '80s.
Ray made the cover in April 1991 along side Jimmy Dean and Kathie Baillie. The three of them were the hosts of the Songwriters Awards that year. Baillie was a member of a sometimes duo, sometimes trio called Baillie and the Boys. Their peak year on the charts came in 1991 and so this was at a time when the act was quite popular among country music audiences. Ray would go on to appear on the 1992 edition of the Songwriter Awards and perform the George Strait #1 hit, "You Know Me Better Than That". Strait had a multi-week #1 with that song in 1991. I have several issues of Music City News in my possession and I keep them stored away with my vinyl albums. In the late '90s I would order back issues of the magazine for the specific purpose of nostalgia and to enjoy reading stories and write-up's about the country music artists I grew up listening to by way of my parents and grandparents. Prior to the publication taking the form of a magazine it had appeared originally in newspaper form.