October 24, 2010

Ray Stevens...and those 45 singles...

45 single of "Bridget the Midget, the Queen of the Blues" released in December 1970 on Barnaby Records. This was back in the days when CBS was handling Barnaby's distribution. Those newcomers to Ray's career may wonder about his association with the record label and I go into detail in a few of my previous blogs located in the archive section. Barnaby is what you'd consider an independent label...it required distribution from either a larger company or one that had way more financial resources than the independent label did. In a lot of ways an independent label gave the artist's more freedom when it came to song selection and recording possibilities but there was still an element of expectation from whichever company acted as a distributor...so, the way I see it, independent labels didn't completely experience an entire hands-off approach from the major labels unless there was that rare occurrence when a label distributed it's own product completely independent from a distributor affiliated with a major label. Ray's record company, Clyde Records, is an example of this kind of situation where Ray self-finances his own releases without interference from other companies who may have their own agenda or pre-determined goals to achieve.

I'm not exactly sure off the top of my head at what point this single was issued in 1974...the official statistics indicate that "The Moonlight Special" was the A-side and "Just So Proud To Be Here" was the B-side. Each song is from his all-comedy album from 1974: Boogity-Boogity. That particular album featured "The Streak" for the first time...as the album was named for the slang phrase 'boogity-boogity' heard throughout the song. Some people mishear the enunciation of the boogity-boogity phrase and proclaim it to be "look at that, look at that" by mistake. For those still unfamiliar "The Moonlight Special" features a tour de force vocally for Ray in that he does impressions of several celebrities all centered around a spoof of the hit television show of the time, The Midnight Special. Ray does impressions of Gladys Knight and the Pips, an alternative rock singer whose name is a spoof of Alice Cooper, and a killer impression of the Killer himself: Jerry Lee Lewis! If all this wasn't enough Ray of course does an impression of the show's announcer, Wolfman Jack! Oh, we hear Ray's natural voice too...it's the voice heard singing the song's chorus. The song opens up with a rapid fire of heavy drum beats...and those drum beats serve as the cue for the various interludes of the song's chorus throughout the performance.

Another single demonstrating Ray's skill at character voices is this spoof of the television court program "The People's Court". Issued in 1986 on the MCA label it featured the dominant label design seen on countless MCA singles and LP's for years...that of the rainbow and clouds. The song was written by Buddy Kalb, Jack White, and David Slater. I assume the two writers named Jack and David worked for Ray's songwriting company during this time period. The song can be found on Ray's 1986 comedy album, Surely You Joust. In the song Ray plays the part of a man, woman, court reporter, and the Judge. Interestingly the voice that Ray uses for the court reporter is more associated with Jim Peck, the hushed voice court reporter on Divorce Court. I assume Ray performed the song on television...I'd never seen footage of it...but I assume he performed it on Nashville Now or Hee-Haw. I know that he performed another song from the 1986 album, "Can He Love You Half as Much as I", a lot of times on his television appearances.

This particular video upload located below is not brand new...it's been available since March of this year. It's Ray Stevens performing his hit single, "Honky Tonk Waltz", from a 1977 television appearance. The single was a hit during the latter half of 1976 and typically most singers promote their most recent hit in addition to their most recent recording whenever appearing on a television program. The performance has it's comical moments as you'll see even though the song itself is non-comical...

The song originates from Just For the Record, the debut album from Ray Stevens on the Warner Brothers label. I can't say enough about that particular album...it's one of my favorites...and mostly every song on that album deals with the subject of music in some aspect or another. For those who want to read more in-depth information about Ray's years on Warner Brothers {1976-1979} seek out my archives off to the right hand side of the screen and search for blog entries specifically dealing with songs or albums Ray recorded in the late '70s.

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