December 30, 2011

Ray Stevens and Obama Money, Part 16...

The Ray Stevens music video, "Obama Budget Plan", now sits with 1,018,737 on-line views. This is a pick-up of 18,407 views since my last blog entry on Christmas Day. The current totals for "Mr. President - Mr. President" is 419,864. The two music videos, as you can see, have a combined total of nearly 1.5 million views. Ray, like a lot of others in the music industry, typically take the last 2 weeks in the year off and rest up for the following year. 2012 as we all know is an election year...but at some point next month Ray is to release his novelty song tribute collection. Ray will also celebrate a birthday next month, too.

The Ray Stevens fans in and around the state of Florida will get their chance to see him in concert in February. He'll appear in three different locations in Florida during the month of February 2012. On the 21st he'll be at the Peabody Auditorium in Daytona Beach. On February 22nd he'll be at The Lakeland Center in Lakeland, Florida. On February 23rd he'll appear at the King Center in Melbourne, Florida. As of now those are the only concert dates for 2012 but I suspect the appearances for 2012 will increase dramatically as the year goes by. These Florida dates were announced earlier this year.

December 25, 2011

Ray Stevens and Santa Claus, Part 6...

Merry Christmas!! In my final installment of The 12 Rays of Christmas we have the final four images. Up first is the picture sleeve that accompanied the original version of "Santa Claus Is Watching You". As I remarked in previous blog entries the 1962 original plays out like a children's novelty song...but it did reach the pop charts that year...landing in the Top-50. In the original we hear shades of what the song would later become but the storyline was definitely aimed at children. At first, the song never appeared on any of Ray's albums and was a single-only release for many years. It would eventually be placed on an album in 1970 when Mercury released The Best of Ray Stevens, a look back on some of Ray's recordings for Mercury Records in the early '60s. Later on as Mercury and their affiliate labels began to re-issue a lot of Ray's earliest recordings it would become something of a tradition to see "Santa Claus Is Watching You" appear on any number of Mercury and, or, Polygram compilations. I once got a Christmas card from Ray's fan club back when it was operational and it had a picture of Ray on it (of course) and when you opened it up it had a list of all the reindeer that appear in the 1985 re-recording of the song.

This was one of the many picture sleeves that accompanied Ray's novelty song, "Bridget the Midget", in 1971. A lot of the various picture sleeves accompanied the international release and most of them used a photo of Ray taken, I assume, from the same photo session because most of the pictures show Ray with a cabin or some sort of rural building in the background. In this image, although it doesn't show up well, there's a tree that Ray's standing in front of. I've got another picture sleeve of this single in my image collection that shows Ray sitting in front of a cabin-like building in the same clothing...making me assume the photo you see here and the other one were taken at the same time. The single was a Top-50 pop hit here in America early in 1971 but overseas it became something of a monster hit...although it was, as most novelty songs eventually become, polarizing. The single had it's greatest success in the United Kingdom where it reached the Top-5 on the music charts over there. It reached the Top-20 in other countries, too. The single wasn't part of any album when it was released...it would later be placed on a re-issued Greatest Hits collection in the mid '70s. It's anyone's guess why most of the picture sleeves that accompanied the single used the same kind of backdrop but the same couldn't be said for the image below...

This picture sleeve features Ray as he appeared in 1970...I assume the picture was lifted from one of his performances on his own summer show or any number of appearances on Andy Williams' program. In this release, as you can see, there's pen and ink drawings of Bridget and her backup group. Note how the group is dressed which is a visual reference to the hippie culture of the day. The song itself is all about a go-go dancer which immediately dates the song to the late '60s/early '70s era...but material that's dated doesn't necessarily mean that it's no longer entertaining or interesting especially when Ray puts a lot of creative energy into his recordings. Aside from Bridget and her group, there's also vocal appearances by the emcee and a demented fan who attempts to come up on the stage. Based upon the fan's demeanor and seemingly limited I.Q. it's a possibility that the fan's under the influence of something although that aspect is never explored. The first time I heard the song was on a CD from 1990 called His All-Time Greatest Comic Hits. The CD came into my possession at some point in the mid '90s and the song's been a favorite of mine ever since.

Ray joined Curb Records in 1990 and his first studio album for the label was Lend Me Your Ears. Obviously the title has a double-meaning. First off is the obvious...the tie-in with the Julius Caesar play and the often quoted "lend me your ears..." phrase. Secondly the CD's title can also be seen as a request to music buyers in 1990 to give this album a listen. I remember when this particular collection was released...Ray appeared on various programs on The Nashville Network promoting it and the release of two music videos: "Sittin' Up With the Dead" and "Help Me Make It Through the Night". These were his third and fourth music videos...already having filmed "Surfin' U.S.S.R." in 1988 and "Santa Claus Is Watching You" in 1985. His take on "Help Me Make It Through the Night" was along the lines of Spike Jones and it's a music video that's one of his more wildest in terms of sight gags and quick edits. The 1990 collection also features "Barbeque", "This Ain't Exactly What I Had In Mind", "Cletus McHicks and His Band from the Sticks", and others.

December 24, 2011

Ray Stevens and Santa Claus, Part 5...

Merry Christmas Eve...

A glance at You Tube this morning shows that the "Obama Budget Plan" video has obtained a million on-line views!! The total number of views, so far, is 1,000,330. This accomplishment allows Ray Stevens to add another million video to his list:

1. Come to the U.S.A: 5,730,861

2. We The People: 4,615,758

3. Mississippi Squirrel Revival: 1,672,281

4. The Streak: 1,493,209

5. Osama Yo' Mama: 1,219,562

6. Obama Budget Plan: 1,000,330

Continuing with The 12 Rays of Christmas we have 5 additional images. In my previous blog entry I posted 3 images. There will be 4 more images I'll be posting in my next blog entry on Christmas Day.

One of the confusing things for a lot of Ray Stevens music buyers is the various compilation releases that have been put on the market. Ray has no control over the release of compilation albums...the recordings are technically owned by whichever label Ray recorded them for. Potential confusion almost always arises when referring to the Collector's Series because of the two separate releases with the same title but slightly different track list and album art. This particular release, from 1987, contains 8 tracks that Ray recorded during his RCA years (1980-1982). The confusion arises due to the fact that two years earlier, in 1985, RCA released a compilation also titled Collector's Series. The original release contains the 1981 hit "One More Last Chance" but in the 1987 re-issue that song is replaced with the 1980 novelty song, "Put It In Your Ear".

The 1987 compilation features the following songs:

1. Shriner's Convention; 1980
2. You're Never Goin' To Tampa With Me; 1980
3. Country Boy, Country Club Girl; 1982
4. Where The Sun Don't Shine; 1982
5. The Dooright Family; 1980
6. Let's Do It Right This Time; 1981
7. Why Don't We Go Somewhere and Make Love; 1982
8. Put It In Your Ear; 1980

What can I say about Hum It that I hadn't said already? This album cover is another favorite of mine...showing Ray as Whistler's Mother. The collection comes from 1997 and it features 10 songs...two of the songs would become music videos: "Virgil and the Moonshot" and "Too Drunk To Fish". This is the first and only album cover from Ray that features him dressed as a woman. Whistler's "son", Ray as a referee, is seen in the picture, too. When this CD was released a lot of people thought Ray was dressed up as Norman Bates' mother until he explained the concept of the painting, known as Whistler's Mother, and the comical idea of the mother "tired" of whistling and how she prefers humming much better. The album features a duet with J.D. Sumner on "Mama Sang Bass", a parody of the Johnny Cash hit "Daddy Sang Bass". Ray and J.D. performed the song together on television during a CD promo appearance. For his part, J.D. wore a wig. This CD features the following:

1. R.V.
2. I'll Be In Atlanta
3. Virgil and the Moonshot
4. She Loves Elvis Better Than Me
5. Sunday Morning
6. Too Drunk To Fish
7. Mama Sang Bass
8. My Neighbor
9. It Ain't Over Till It's Over
10. How Much Does It Cost To Fly To Albuquerque?

One of the most obscure studio albums from Ray Stevens is most certainly, Me. This album, from 1983, is a stand-out amongst the more dedicated fans for it represents one of the last albums where 95% of the material come from the pen of Ray Stevens...and it would be his last studio album filled entirely with non-comical songs for the next 20 plus years. In fact, the next studio album from Ray to feature only non-comical recordings wouldn't arrive until 2004 with the release of Thank You on his own label, Clyde Records. Me features 10 songs...with only one single, "My Dad", reaching the country charts. The single reached the charts in early 1984 but ironically it wasn't written by Ray. A songwriter/comic named Dale Gonyea wrote "My Dad". Those who pay attention to songwriters will recognize Gonyea as the writer of another Ray Stevens hit, "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow". There were quite a few songs from this album that Ray re-recorded this year for his Bozo's Back Again CD. I happen to think the album cover for Me is neat. On the back of the album there's a shot of a painter's work-table with accessories laying around near an unfinished portrait. I love the album and some of the songs include: "My Dad", "Game Show Love", "Love Will Beat Your Brains Out", "Mary Lou Nights", "Me", "Special Anniversary"...there's also a duet that Ray sings with his daughter, Suzie Ragsdale, "Yolanda".

When I first seen this image nearly 15 years ago while looking through on-line sites it instantly became a favorite of mine. This is the picture sleeve that accompanied "Santa Claus Is Watching You", the 1985 version that Ray recorded for MCA. The song was made into a music video and for much of the '80s and half of the '90s it was an annual staple on various music video television channels. A couple of years ago, or perhaps last Christmas, I posted this image in a smaller size and posted a picture of myself next to it. In my picture I'm wearing a Santa Claus hat and I'm also peeking around a tree. This image appeared in magazines around Christmas time, too. "Santa Claus Is Watching You" is a very funny song in my opinion...but the song's history goes back to the early '60s. Released originally as a children's novelty song in 1962 the original "Santa Claus Is Watching You" sometimes pops up on compilation releases that specialize in the Oldies format. The original is cute and entertaining but the 1985 version, with almost entirely different lyrics and emphasis, is my favorite. This 1985 version was the final song on his comedy album that year, I Have Returned. The b-side of the single is "Armchair Quarterback".

As most readers of this blog are well aware this is one of my favorite albums from Ray and the picture is worthy of inclusion in this pictorial series. One More Last Chance, from 1981, was released during the height of the Urban Cowboy era in country music. Almost everyone in country music, male and female, were wearing cowboy hats or wearing western attire. Some of the artists looked natural in the clothing while others, who shall go nameless, didn't look as natural. Some of the artists that debuted in country music during this trend had enormous hit songs but unfortunately once the trend/fad was over a lot of those artists also vanished. Some acts, like George Strait and Reba McEntire, gained their initial fame during this period but they also were a few of the lucky ones that were able to continue their successes well beyond the Urban Cowboy fad. Ray dressed up in western attire and wore a cowboy hat on and off during this period. On the back of this album cover Ray is shown wearing the cowboy hat and wearing casual clothing. This particular album is ballad heavy...features a lot of steel guitar, too, on several of the songs. One of the most inventive is his take on "Pretend", the old pop hit for Nat King Cole. The title track features a glorious blend of steel guitar and electric guitar. "Night Games", the album's closer, was a hit single for Ray late in 1980. It's a story tailor made for the times: it takes place inside a bar...providing the perfect wrap-up for an album from this period in country music.

December 23, 2011

Ray Stevens and Santa Claus, Part 4...

As we draw closer to Christmas it inspires me to do a pictorial event that I call The 12 Rays of Christmas. Simply put it's 12 images of Ray Stevens taken from various points in time...most of the imagery, of course, will be from albums but a couple aren't. This particular image is the flip side of He Thinks He's Ray Stevens. Several of Ray's early albums for MCA featured hilarious pictures on the back and this one's no exception. This particular album reached the Top-10 on the Country Album chart early in 1985 and it would go on to sell more than a million copies. The album was released in the latter half of 1984 but it didn't start to race up the charts until the release of the second single, "Mississippi Squirrel Revival", in early 1985. The squirrel single reached the country Top-20 upon it's release in January 1985. You might call it an unexpected hit because, as mentioned, it wasn't the first release. The album's first song, "I'm Kissin' You Goodbye", was actually the first single late in 1984. Then came "Mississippi Squirrel Revival" and this was followed by "It's Me Again, Margaret".

The picture sleeve that accompanied the song, "Moonlight Special", in hindsight looks out of place given the fact that the image of Ray is rather calm, reflective, and serious...a complete opposite of the song. The single's b-side is "Just So Proud To Be Here". I have no idea if the song's title was inspired by the famed Minnie Pearl catch-phrase but I often assume it is given that Ray was one of Minnie's friends and for a long time a neighbor of his. This image also appeared on an issue of Cashbox magazine that I own plus it appears inside the liner notes of the 1997 Rhino CD, The Very Best of Ray Stevens. "Moonlight Special" is Ray's wild take on The Midnight Special television program complete with a Wolfman Jack parody called Sheep Dog. Three acts are spoofed: Gladys Knight and the Pips, Alice Cooper, and Jerry Lee Lewis. The song is lengthy...and a lot of it's length may have halted it's airplay potential. It's still one of the most hilarious songs he's ever recorded with funny impressions of the three rock acts I mentioned.

As of December 23rd this is the current album from Ray Stevens. Now, of course, he's released another CD called Bozo's Back Again but that is a collection of songs that features re-recorded material. The purpose of that CD was to bring back songs from the 1980's that he recorded that the public at large, for whatever reason, weren't aware of the first time around. A lot of the songs on that collection were love ballads. Spirit of '76, meanwhile, is a collection of songs in a political vein. The picture is a send-up of the portrait...also known as Spirit of '76. This particular CD features the following: "Obama Budget Plan", "God Save Arizona", "Mr. President - Mr. President", and "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore". As we head into January 2012 a lot of focus will be on the upcoming collection of novelty songs that Ray is to release. In recent interviews he's commented that the collection will be released in January...if this continues to be the actual release month and there are no delays I won't expect a lot of attention to be placed on Spirit of '76 until later in the year...but that's just my theory. This concludes the first 3 pictorials in The 12 Rays of Christmas. The rest of the imagery will be forthcoming...meanwhile...

You Tube at a glance...

Mr. President - Mr. President:
12/20: 401,837
12/23: 409,415

Obama Budget Plan:
12/20: 979,959
12/23: 997,322

Nightmare Before Christmas:
12/20: 183,963
12/23: 190,472

Santa Claus Is Watching You:
12/20: 211,430
12/23: 223,472

As you can see, the "Obama Budget Plan" video certainly has the momentum to reach the 1,000,000 plateau. It would be great if the video obtained that level on Christmas Day...but even if it reaches the million level later today or tomorrow it'll still be something to celebrate.

December 19, 2011

Ray Stevens: Nostalgia Valley, Part 30...



Here's a great treat...Ray Stevens, Boots Randolph, and Chet Atkins perform a familiar instrumental on Nashville Now in 1993. Ralph Emery hosts the show. The upload came along on December 16th but it wasn't showing up in the search results for 'Ray Stevens' until today and therefore I was unaware of the video's existence.

As far as The Nashville Network goes, 1993 was the channel's 10th anniversary. It would also be the 10th and final season of Nashville Now. The show would be replaced with Music City Tonight and feature the same format but with different hosts: Lorianne Crook and Charlie Chase. This series ran through 1996 before it, too, was replaced with Prime Time Country. That particular series was first hosted by actor Tom Wopat and later, Gary Chapman. This series would remain on the air until The Nashville Network ended it's affiliation with country music in 1999. In the meantime, back in 1995, Ralph Emery returned to The Nashville Network to host a morning talk-show from Opryland. This series, which started in the mornings, shifted to the early evenings, before it was canceled in 1996.

Crook and Chase, in the meantime, had started a syndicated television program which ran for a couple of years. Upon the cancellation of Ralph's talk-show he would return a third time to host a series of hour long interviews for a show called On The Record. Ralph, by this time, had become the author of a string of successful books about country music and his experiences with the industry and the artists. Ray Stevens made appearances on Music City Tonight, Ralph's daytime and evening shows, and Prime Time Country but didn't appear in the On The Record series. A large reason for this is, probably, due to Ray not having an autobiography available.

I've posted this before but it's worth additional viewings. This clip comes from 1990 during an All-Star Salute to Ralph Emery. The video starts with a performance from Randy Travis and later we have Ray Stevens performing a song he wrote just for the event, "Ralph, You Have Embarrassed Us All". Ray is joined by Roy Clark, Kathy Mattea, and Faron Young.

December 18, 2011

Ray Stevens: Internet Video Hits, Part 2...

Uploaded onto You Tube on March 11, 2010 "Caribou Barbie", a video salute to Sarah Palin, is nearing half a million on-line views. The current number of views is 469,247. If you click on the video stats it'll give a break down of several on-line sites that have embedded the video. More than 28,000 people watched the video at Ray's web-site. More than 44,000 people discovered the video from a referral. A referral, for those who don't know, are the small thumbnail images of music videos that pop up on the video screen whenever the music video you're watching comes to an end. At the conclusion of "Throw the Bums Out!" there are video referrals and according to the statistics more than 44,000 people clicked "Caribou Barbie" after watching "Throw the Bums Out!". However, the greatest referral video is "Come to the U.S.A.". Statistics show that more than 60,000 people clicked "Caribou Barbie" when they finished watching "Come to the U.S.A.". "Caribou Barbie" is 30,753 on-line views away from an exact 500,000. An actress/impersonator named Lori Stegner portrays Sarah Palin in the "Caribou Barbie" music video.



The music video is cute and filled with sight gags as you can tell. The video's release, on March 11th 2010, created a stir among those who viewed it on You Tube. 11 days later Ray uploaded another music video, "Throw the Bums Out!", on March 22. Since that particular video/song had a much more timely connection to the mid-term elections that year it overshadowed the "Caribou Barbie" video considerably. "Throw the Bums Out!" currently has 838,695 on-line views...compared to 469,247. I typically compare and contrast these two videos because of their release dates: March 11th and March 22nd 2010.

Those who want to watch 10 of Ray's political music videos on one DVD can purchase Internet Video Hits at his web-store. On the back of the DVD there are small thumbnail images taken from the various music videos. There is also a message from Ray commenting on the DVD's release and why he wanted to offer the music videos on DVD even though they're on You Tube, too.

Ray Stevens and Christmas Comedy...

Christmas Day is just 1 week away...and coincidentally I came across a particular comment today. The comment centered around "Santa Claus Is Watching You". The comment wasn't very flattering and we'll leave it at that. As usual I'm always baffled why some people get all worked up and annoyed over comedy songs...but that's a discussion for another day. Nevertheless Ray Stevens is primarily known for his comical recordings and anyone who doesn't "get" why Ray would do a Christmas CD of comedy songs just doesn't "get" Ray Stevens...period!

In his career he's recorded just two Christmas CD's and a couple of holiday themed single releases. A lot of fans probably don't know that Ray, in 1960, released an instrumental version of "White Christmas". It was backed with another instrumental called "Happy Blue Year". The single was released on the NRC label. Then, in 1962, Mercury released the original version of "Santa Claus Is Watching You" in which the lyrics were aimed at children. That version is whimsical and cute but as many fans know Ray re-wrote much of the song and re-released it in 1985 while with MCA...along with a music video (his first).

However, it wouldn't be until 1997 that Ray released an actual album of Christmas songs: Christmas Through a Different Window. It would be joined by a companion piece in 2009: Ray Stevens Christmas. The 2009 release features non-comical Christmas songs.

Meanwhile...

You Tube at a glance...

Mr. President - Mr. President:
12/16/11: 389,507
12/18/11: 394,781

Obama Budget Plan:
12/16/11: 966,505
12/18/11: 974,302

Nightmare Before Christmas:
12/16/11: 177,305
12/18/11: 180,214

Santa Claus Is Watching You:
12/16/11: 198,480
12/18/11: 203,343

On the horizon for Ray Stevens is the long-awaited Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music. In an interview Ray gave several weeks ago he mentioned that the collection will be released at some point in January 2012.

In late February of 2012 Ray will be in Florida for four concerts.

February 21: Peabody Auditorium (Daytona Beach)

February 22: The Lakeland Center (Lakeland, Florida)**

February 23: The King Center (Melbourne, Florida)

Each venue has their own web-page and all the information can be found there. The Lakeland Center appearance will contain 2 separate concerts. Ray will appear first at 2:30pm and again at 7:30pm. You can visit this link to read about Ray's two concerts at the Lakeland Center.

For information about the King Center appearance visit this link. I'm sure those who are able to attend these concerts will truly enjoy them!

December 16, 2011

Ray Stevens and Santa Claus, Part 3...

It's Friday...at long last!! December 16th...yes, 9 more days until Christmas. Those who frequent Ray Stevens web-store already know that items ordered after December 20th will not be shipped out until the first of the year so for those who want to get anything and have it arrive within this calendar year ought to visit the store starting today through December 20th. Here's the store's link.

You Tube at a glance...

Mr. President - Mr. President:
12/13/11: 376,234
12/16/11: 389,507

Obama Budget Plan:
12/13/11: 954,747
12/16/11: 966,505

Nightmare Before Christmas:
12/13/11: 172,224
12/16/11: 177,305

Santa Claus Is Watching You:
12/13/11: 189,234
12/16/11: 198,480

The top two music videos increased more than 10,000 on-line views during the last 3 days. "Santa Claus Is Watching You" obtained little more than 9,000 views during the same time period. "Nightmare Before Christmas" obtained a little more than 5,000 on-line views.

December 15, 2011

Ray Stevens sings about Atlanta, Georgia...

It's a stormy, windy, mid 50 degree morning...yes, mid 50's and it's December 15th! We'll only have a couple more days of this abnormal weather before it starts to get cold again.

I heard on the radio this morning that today marks the 72nd anniversary of Gone With the Wind. The radio host said that the movie premiered in Atlanta on December 15, 1939. That, of course, had me thinking of the Ray Stevens song that incorporates character names and terminology from the movie. The song, "I'll Be In Atlanta", was recorded by Ray in 1997 for his Hum It comedy CD. It's one of my favorite songs on the CD and it has a bouncy sing-a-long feel to it. Interested readers of this blog page can click here and be taken to the product page at Amazon where you can purchase an Mp3 of "I'll Be In Atlanta". I saw him sing this song just once on a music program that aired on The Nashville Network. I think the show was Prime Time Country or it may have been Music City Tonight.

It isn't available on You Tube...yet...but in 1995 Ray did a music video for "I Used To Be Crazy". This song originally came along in 1989 on the Beside Myself album but Ray made a music video of it in 1995 for use in his direct-to-video movie, Get Serious! Toward the end of "I Used To Be Crazy" Ray does an impression of Prissy, quoting the line that the character in Gone With the Wind is noted for. I should note that the music video contains a lot of additional one-liners during the song's fade out which aren't included in the 1989 original.

December 14, 2011

Ray Stevens: Studio Albums

1. 1,837 Seconds of Humor; 1962 Mercury Records
2. This Is Ray Stevens; 1963 Mercury Records
3. Even Stevens; 1968 Monument Records
4. Gitarzan; 1969 Monument Records
5. Have a Little Talk With Myself; 1969 Monument Records
6. Everything Is Beautiful; 1970 Barnaby Records
7. Unreal; 1970 Barnaby Records
8. Turn Your Radio On; 1972 Barnaby Records
9. Nashville; 1973 Barnaby Records
10. Losin' Streak; 1973 Barnaby Records
11. Boogity-Boogity; 1974 Barnaby Records
12. Misty; 1975 Barnaby Records
13. Just For The Record; 1976 Warner Brothers
14. Feel the Music; 1977 Warner Brothers
15. There Is Something On Your Mind; 1978 Warner Brothers
16. Be Your Own Best Friend; 1978 Warner Brothers
17. The Feeling's Not Right Again; 1979 Warner Brothers**
18. Shriner's Convention; 1980 RCA Records
19. One More Last Chance; 1981 RCA Records
20. Don't Laugh Now; 1982 RCA Records
21. Me; 1983 Mercury Records
22. He Thinks He's Ray Stevens; 1984 MCA Records
23. I Have Returned; 1985 MCA Records
24. Surely You Joust; 1986 MCA Records
25. Crackin' Up; 1987 MCA Records
26. I Never Made a Record I Didn't Like; 1988 MCA Records
27. Beside Myself; 1989 MCA Records
28. Lend Me Your Ears; 1990 Curb/Capitol
29. #1 With a Bullet; 1991 Curb/Capitol
30. Classic Ray Stevens; 1993 Curb Records
31. Hum It; 1997 MCA Records
32. Christmas Through a Different Window; 1997 MCA Records
33. Ear Candy; 2000 Clyde Records
34. Osama Yo' Mama; 2002 Curb Records*
35. Thank You; 2004 Clyde Records
36. New Orleans Moon; 2007 Clyde Records
37. Hurricane; 2008 Clyde Records
38. Ray Stevens Sings Sinatra...Say What???; 2008 Clyde Records
39. One For the Road; 2009 Clyde Records
40. Ray Stevens Christmas; 2009 Clyde Records
41. We The People; 2010 Clyde Records
42. Spirit of '76; 2011 Clyde Records
43. Bozo's Back Again; 2011 Clyde Records***

**- This 1979 album featured just one new song, "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow", with the rest of the album previously recorded material from Ray's other Warner Brothers albums. I placed it in the studio album category with the asterisk because it features that one new single, which reached the Adult-Contemporary Top-20.

*- This 2002 album features three newly recorded songs, "Osama Yo' Mama", "United We Stand", and "Freudian Slip" with the rest of the material lifted from his 2000 album, Ear Candy.

***- This 2011 CD features re-recordings of songs that Ray recorded mostly in the early '80s which have long been out of print. Among the highlights is his re-recording of "Just For the Hell Of It" which originally appeared on the Cannonball Run movie starring Burt Reynolds.

In the '90s Ray's main output were music video collections...first on VHS home video and later on DVD. He continued to issue music video collections on DVD later on and currently he releases music videos on You Tube.

December 13, 2011

Ray Stevens and Santa Claus, Part 2...

Ray Stevens wrote a new commentary/opinion piece yesterday...he writes about Obama and how fundamentally sound the country actually is and that it isn't necessary for the President to thirst for "fundamental change". It's another great commentary and you can read it for yourselves by clicking the following link.

I'll only be keeping up with three of the following four music videos for several more days. I'll continue to periodically make mention of his current music video, "Mr. President - Mr. President, though. As you can tell, two of the videos are Christmas themed and so there's only a week or so before the activity for those videos begins to decline again. The "Obama Budget Plan" is nearing 1,000,000 on-line views...it's anyone's guess when the video will reach a million. It would be great if the video reaches a million on-line views on Christmas Day but considering that Christmas is just 12 days from now it would mean that more than 45,000 views would have to be accumulated in just 12 days time. Anything's possible, though...but whenever the day comes that the video surpasses a million views I'll write about it on here.

You Tube at a glance...

Mr. President - Mr. President:
12/11/2011: 367,462
12/13/2011: 376,234

Santa Claus Is Watching You:
12/11/2011: 183,592
12/13/2011: 189,234

Nightmare Before Christmas:
12/11/2011: 169,789
12/13/2011: 172,224

Obama Budget Plan:
12/11/2011: 935,000+
12/13/2011: 954,747

"Santa Claus Is Watching You" obtained more than 5,000 views in 2 days time. "Mr. President - Mr. President" obtained almost 10,000 views over the last 2 days. The biggest jump in numbers, though, is "Obama Budget Plan" which saw the video's on-line view total jump from a little more than 935,000 views on December 11th to nearly 955,000 views today...an increase of nearly 20,000 in 2 days. If it would happen to have another increase in views of that magnitude 2 days from now the video would then be in the 975,000 range and certainly possible to reach a million views, if not on Christmas, surely by the end of 2011.

December 11, 2011

Ray Stevens: Comedy Music Magnet, Part 7...

Ray Stevens is a great entertainer...and I can't wait to hear his upcoming novelty song collection set for release in January!! The collection will feature 9 CD's and an accompanying booklet. I was hoping a pre-order would become available but at the moment no such luck. I have no idea if this collection will be sold only at Ray's web-store or if it'll also become available on Amazon and other places. Whatever the case once it becomes available for purchase I'll send off for it and then it'll probably take me several days to digest everything. 9 CD's is A LOT OF MUSIC!! In the meantime let's look at the statistics of a few of Ray's music videos...

"Mr. President - Mr. President" at a brief glance:

View total on 12/4/2011: 358,402
View total on 12/11/2011: 367,462

"Santa Claus Is Watching You" at a brief glance:

View total on 12/1/2011: 166,250
View total on 12/11/2011: 183,592

"Nightmare Before Christmas" at a brief glance:

View total on 12/1/2011: 158,237
View total on 12/11/2011: 169,789

As you can tell, the current video is approaching 370,000 on-line views. Now, with it being the Christmas season it shouldn't come as no surprise that his two seasonal music videos are performing strongly on-line. "Santa Claus is Watching You" increases by more than 17,000 while "Nightmare Before Christmas" has an increase of more than 11,000 views in a span of 10 days.

The "Obama Budget Plan" video, which some have been nick-naming 'Obama Money', has more than 935,000 on-line views.

A few days ago a new upload appeared on You Tube featuring a sing-a-long performance from The Andy Williams Show. The musical number features Andy, Ray, Dusty Springfield, and the Osmonds. As far as audio goes it's excellent to hear but it's too bad the visuals aren't in the same league. Don't get me wrong, though, it's not too horrific visually but it's obviously not the clip that was broadcast on TV (you can tell that by the time clock that runs on the bottom of the screen).

According to the uploader the episode this performance originated from aired in 1969, the year Ray became a recurring performer on Andy's program...

December 4, 2011

Ray Stevens: Comedy Music Magnet, Part 6...

It's The Best of Ray Stevens...a release from Mercury Records in 1970 spotlighting 11 songs recorded by Ray between the years of 1961 and 1963. The ironic aspect of the collection is most of the songs made up Ray's 1963 album, This Is Ray Stevens. In hindsight Mercury should have re-released the 1962 and 1963 albums in 1970 but that wasn't on the agenda back then. 1970 was a banner year in Ray's career as he hit #1 on the pop chart for the first time...and he hosted a TV show in the summer...and the song that went #1 would end up winning a Grammy in early 1971 in the Best Male Pop Vocal Performance category. Considering all that went on in 1970 for Ray Stevens I assume Mercury was eager to re-introduce earlier songs from Ray right at the time "Ahab the Arab" was the biggest hit of his career. Another irony about this 1970 release is you get a live performance of "Ahab the Arab" complete with an introduction by country DJ Ralph Emery...so you don't actually get the hit recording of the song. I know this sort of thing irks some people but if you're as big a fan of Ray Stevens as I am you already have plenty of copies of the hit recording of "Ahab the Arab" elsewhere that it doesn't matter that an obscure version is featured on this particular collection.

This cassette version, released in 1987, cuts off the top row of illustrations that appear on the vinyl release. What you get with the cassette are 6 illustrations whereas on the vinyl copy the album cover has 4 more illustrations that appear behind the album's title. The same 11 songs on the vinyl album are here on the cassette release, though. I've often remarked on this blog that this particular collection is where I first heard the much younger Ray Stevens. Keep in mind that when this release became a part of my collection I was still unaware of the vast amount of recordings that Ray did...I was only familiar with the handful of cassette tapes that my grandparent's owned and that I'd listen to. I was still uninformed and in the process of discovering a lot about Ray during that time period. There's still a rush of excitement, even now, if I hear a song that Ray either wrote, produced, or arranged for someone else...and this holds true if I come across vintage pictures of him or find video of him that I've never seen before. The excitement's still there. I'd like to know who came up with the idea that you can't be a fan/supporter of a singer for years/decades. I'd like to know so I can tell him or her that they're wrong.

1. Ahab the Arab
2. Funny Man
3. Harry the Hairy Ape
4. It's Been So Long
5. Speed Ball
6. Santa Claus Is Watching You
7. Butch Babarian
8. Loved and Lost
9. The Rock and Roll Show
10. Jeremiah Peabody's Green and Purple Pills
11. Bubble Gum the Bubble Dancer

Ray Stevens and Obama Money, Part 15...

It's an early Sunday morning...December 4, 2011...and on a personal note I reached the age of 35 two days ago on December 2nd. It dawned on me a couple of hours ago that when I started this fan-created blog spotlighting the talented Ray Stevens I was 31 going on 32. It's been a fast 3 years...a lot of it breezing by and aided primarily by the activity going on in Ray's career. When I started this blog in 2008 Ray didn't have a You Tube page...he wasn't making music videos for on-line viewing...and he wasn't affiliated with any political movement. Today, of course, Ray has a highly viewed You Tube page, releases music videos on You Tube every 4 or 5 months, and is affiliated with the conservative political group collectively known as the Tea Party. I'm thrilled with all of the awareness his music videos have been getting and love all the exposure he's been getting by appearing on politically oriented TV and radio programs.

The latest music video from Ray, Mr. President - Mr. President, is approaching 360,000 on-line views. At the moment it's at 358,402. This is a pick up of more than 8,000 views in less than a week. It should vault past the 360,000 mark in a matter of days...and if it does it'll be another consecutive week of 10,000+ on-line views. Ironically, though, his previous music video continues to garner even higher on-line views. I call it ironic because the video's been available since April 2011 and it's still having strong numbers. The video I refer to is the "Obama Budget Plan" and at the moment it has 920,600 on-line views. When I last checked the numbers for that video it had 905,670. That means an increase of 14,930 on-line views. The economy serves as a backdrop for the music video and without fail there always seems to be bad economic news coming in daily...going hand-in-hand with what the music video shines a comedic spotlight on.

December 1, 2011

Ray Stevens and Santa Claus...

One of the classic music videos from Ray Stevens is "Santa Claus Is Watching You". The video, Ray's first, dates back to 1985 and at one time was a staple of The Nashville Network's various music video programs during the holiday season. I remember seeing the video multiple times every year in December for a number of years. The song itself dates back to the early '60s when Ray originally released it as a pop single. It reached the Top-50 at the time. That particular recording, though, was aimed at children. Ray recorded the original for Mercury Records and it appears often in various compilation CD's issued around this time of the year.

The version featured in the music video below, as mentioned, comes from 1985 and it features a completely different music arrangement as well as lyrical emphasis. This time around the story is much more in line with a much more older audience as Ray sings about faithfulness and adultery...warning the woman that she better treat him right and be faithful because Santa's watching. The video contains a bit of irony toward the end as the wife ultimately is shown being unfaithful on the most joyous of all holidays.



As mentioned, the music video appeared annually on The Nashville Network for nearly 10 years. It appears on Ray's ground-breaking 1992 home video, Comedy Video Classics, too. In July 2009 the by then 24 year old music video made it's You Tube debut and since that time it's gotten 166,250 on-line views. It being a holiday video it typically only sees action during this time of the year. If you hadn't seen it by all means click the arrow and watch!

The music video below is of a more recent vintage...it was uploaded onto You Tube in November 2010 and has 158,237 on-line views so far. It's titled "Nightmare Before Christmas" and it's a very funny story about political correctness and all it's silliness. The video was recently featured on Internet Video Hits, a collection of Ray's You Tube music videos released on DVD. That particular release contains 9 of Ray's political You Tube music videos (those released since December 2009) plus the Christmas music video below...

November 28, 2011

Ray Stevens: Retrospective 42...

This is the image of Ray that appears on the Have a Little Talk With Myself album. Here it's used as a picture sleeve for an overseas release of "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down", one of the singles from the 1969 album. The b-side, "The Minority", comes from Ray's 1968 album, Even Stevens. As most of Ray's fans are aware, "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down" was the first single to reach the country music charts for Ray. Ray was not being marketed as a country singer at that time but starting with this single and moving forward he'd frequently have songs cross over to the country charts. It wouldn't be until the late '70s that there was ever a concentrated effort to market Ray's music to country audiences. The Have a Little Talk With Myself album features Ray's interpretations of contemporary pop songs with a few all-new songs thrown into the mix. It is on the 1969 album where Ray covers songs made popular by The Beatles, for instance, as well as songs associated with Blood, Sweat, and Tears as well as the Hair stage play. The only songs on the album that weren't cover songs are "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down", "The Little Woman", and the title track, "Have a Little Talk With Myself". Johnny Cash recorded "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down" a year after Ray and that's why it's technically not a cover song for those who may assume that Johnny recorded the song first. The album has never been re-issued on CD or Mp3 but selections from the album often appeared on many low-budget releases and compilations throughout the '70s and much of the '80s.

Ray, 42 years later, continues to make music and tour. As I write this I assume he and his crew are already in Canada or at least on their way. Ray appears tonight and tomorrow in Niagara Falls up in Ontario, Canada at the Scotia Bank Convention Center. He's appearing there in the Winter Festival of Lights series. The concert today will be at 2pm and then on Tuesday November 29th the concert will start at 7pm. I'll be on the look out for any reaction from those who attended the show. I don't know if he'll perform Christmas songs or his classic songs considering that the political comedy he's currently doing has what I'd consider a largely American identity and therefore an audience in Canada perhaps may not be able to relate to it or appreciate it...but for those up near that venue here's the information:

Venue: Scotia Bank Convention Center

Where: Niagara Falls Ontario, Canada

First show: November 28, 2011 2pm

Second show: November 29, 2011 7pm

November 27, 2011

Ray Stevens: Mr. President...



Today marks an anniversary, of sorts...it was 2 months ago that Ray Stevens uploaded his current music video onto You Tube. "Mr. President - Mr. President" arrived on September 27, 2011 and since that time it's gotten more than 300,000 on-line views. As of now the actual count is 350,191 views. In the video Ray portrays the part of a news reporter stating all kinds of problems going on in America and he asks the President to tell the public how he's going to deal with the nation's problems. The music video, at various moments, inserts an actual video clip of Obama from a news conference where he looks into the camera rather intently like he's listening to a real reporter. The song is so good, so catchy, but it's so short...clocking in at just over 2 minutes...it makes you want more and more. The song is from his political comedy CD, Spirit of '76. His previous music video called "Obama Budget Plan" is steadily climbing...it's now at 905,670 on-line views. It's steadily approaching the 1,000,000 plateau.

November 26, 2011

Ray Stevens and the Spirit of '76, Part 10...

Taking a look at Amazon this hour I find that the current Ray Stevens project, Spirit of '76, is ranked on two best seller lists that I have never known existed until today. A third list is the more familiar "Comedy" survey. The CD is ranked in the Top-50 on a list called "Poetry, Spoken Word, and Interviews" and one called "Radio Shows" while it ranks inside the Top-100 on the "Comedy" list. The CD's been available on Amazon since August while the Mp3 counterpart's been available on Amazon since April 1st.

The CD features "God Save Arizona", "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore", "Obama Budget Plan", and "Mr. President - Mr. President". All of these songs have become hit on-line music videos. The most successful being "Obama Budget Plan" at just over 900,000 views and "God Save Arizona" racking up close to 830,000 on-line views. The current music video, "Mr. President - Mr. President", is nearing 350,000 views.

The conservative comedy videos continue to resonate with people...some, on the opposite end of the political spectrum, despise the videos while those who feel the mainstream media prop up a liberal point of view in their news reports appreciate the videos that Ray Stevens has put together the last two years.

The Spirit of '76 track-list is below. No Tea Party supporter or any conservative Republican should be without this CD, in my opinion:

1. The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore {music video available}
2. Mr. President - Mr. President {music video available}
3. God Save Arizona {music video available}
4. Cap'n Trade the Pirate
5. My Uncle Sam
6. November Storm
7. Mi Casa Su Casa
8. Grandpa Voted Democrat
9. Obama Budget Plan {music video available}
10. News Machine
11. New Normal

Spirit of '76 can be found at Amazon or by clicking the link to Ray's web-store.

November 25, 2011

Ray Stevens: Comedy Music Magnet, Part 5...

Good evening Ray Stevens fans! We're 1 month away from Christmas...being it's November 25th. Also, of course, we're nearing 2012...an election year...and one of the most popular New Year's wishes is to make 2012 the year Obama's reign of socialism and massive Government dictation comes to an end when he's voted out of office in November 2012. These last 3 years have been the groundwork for the President's long-term visions for the country and if he were to get 4 more years it'll have disastrous and long-lasting impact on generations to come. Who in their right mind would want to light their homes with dim lights, plan your own funeral if a medical procedure in the Government's eyes is seen as too costly, or drive around in cars where you have to charge them up every 10 miles!? This, in my opinion, is the vision of Obama and those he surrounds himself with. I've not even began to bring up the debt that he's racked up the last 3 years.

Meanwhile...on a happier note...

There's been another new You Tube upload of vintage Ray Stevens. The latest is a clip featuring Tom Jones performing a song in which the name is unknown. Tom's performance opens up the clip and then at the two minute fifty-three mark Ray Stevens takes over and sings "Gitarzan". The clip, as with the other two I've embedded, come from 1970. The video clips themselves come from a You Tube member named Jonesing4Tom.



Ray's current music video, "Mr President - Mr. President" has 347,526 views. This is a pick up of over 6,000 on-line views during the last couple of days. "Obama Budget Plan" vaulted past the 900,000 mark and now sits with 901,544 views.

Christmas season is officially underway today and so it's appropriate to remind those who hadn't already seen it that Ray put out a comedy Christmas music video last year titled "Nightmare Before Christmas". The song is from his comedy Christmas CD, Christmas Through a Different Window. This CD was recorded and released in 1997 but was later re-released. A non-comical Christmas CD titled Ray Stevens Christmas came along in December 2009. Currently the two Christmas CD's are being sold together in one exclusive order at Ray's web-store.



Click the Ray Stevens Christmas offer and it'll take you to his web-store where there's more information about the items. Obviously this is for those who don't already have these collections. It's an extremely low price, I think, for 3 CD's and a copy of the above music video. Search the store and you'll find the Bozo's Back Again CD, too, plus Spirit of '76 which I assume will get some more publicity as we get closer to November 2012. Oh, and the Internet Video Hits is also on full display in a banner at his web-site.

November 23, 2011

Ray Stevens: Comedy Music Magnet, Part 4...

A late check-in tonight...Thanksgiving Eve 2011...I'm actually writing this blog in a sort of rushed delivery given that in half an hour I'll be heading off for work but I wanted to showcase a video clip I came across earlier this morning in the meantime.

A couple of months ago a video clip of Ray Stevens and Tom Jones surfaced on You Tube. The clip was well over 5 minutes in length showing the two artists singing various Ray Charles songs. Yesterday a new clip was uploaded and it features Ray, Tom, and Scoey Mitchell singing "Walk a Mile In My Shoes". This particular song was written by Joe South and it appears on Ray's 1970 album, Everything Is Beautiful.



Wasn't that great? Of course it was! I continue to hope more and more vintage clips of Ray Stevens surface on You Tube. As most people may know one of the things that I hope will resurface is Ray's 1970 Summer show for Andy Williams. To this day I have no idea why it's never been offered on DVD when so many music nostalgia programs are consistently on late-night TV. There's even a few channels on my cable line-up that specialize in nothing but infomercials.

Ray's variety program isn't celebrated as other singer-hosted programs from the same time period are but I still hope it'll find it's way onto a DVD or a clip or two or three will end up on-line.

Meanwhile, Ray's current music video "Mr. President - Mr. President" has 345,319 on-line views. His previous video, "Obama Budget Plan", is seeing an increased number of views enabling it to have an on-line view total of 896,791. Yes, as you can see, it's inching toward 900,000 on-line views. Could this video top 1,000,000 by the end of 2011? It's hard to tell. The disaster that was the so-called Super Committee designed to deal with the nation's budget and deficit woes no doubt increased the exposure of the "Obama Budget Plan" music video because it wasn't that long ago that the video had just crossed over the 800,000 total and here it is close to 900,000.

November 20, 2011

Ray Stevens: Comedy Music Magnet, Part 3...

On this early Sunday morning I come with a link to nearly 170 pictures of Ray Stevens that were posted at the Imperial Palace's Facebook page. One picture in particular, the third picture in row 6, looks as if he's doing an impression of Groucho Marx. Comments are open to the public...even those who weren't able to appear.

Ray's next couple of concerts for 2011 will take place in Canada at the Scotia Bank Convention Center in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. Ray appears at this venue on back to back days: November 28th and November 29th. His appearances are part of what's called the Winter Festival of Lights. Lorrie Morgan, based upon the venue's web-page, is a co-headliner but there's no information regarding whether or not the two will share the same stage or if in one concert Lorrie plays the part of the opening act and in another Ray returns the favor so it's difficult to determine how the concerts are going to be presented. Those who are planning on going to the concert can easily find out information by calling their number: 1-800-563-2557 or sending an e-mail to tickets@WFOL.com

Since the first concert is going to take place 8 days from now it would make more sense to call the venue directly using the number I supplied. You can also visit this link to see the information that I just wrote about. The venue seats 5,000 people so I'd not wait until the last minute to inquire about the concert.

Meanwhile, the following Imperial Palace Facebook link will take you to the pictures showing Ray on stage at various moments in the concert Saturday night.

November 19, 2011

Ray Stevens: Comedy Music Magnet, Part 2...

A little over 10,000 people have seen the Ray Stevens music video, "Virgil and the Moonshot". The video was uploaded onto You Tube rather low-key back in May of this year. The music video comes from 1997...one of two music videos he did that year. The other video, "Too Drunk To Fish", is also on You Tube.



"Virgil and the Moonshot" is all about a guy who works at NASA but decides to innocently sit inside a space shuttle...envisioning himself as a first-rate astronaut. Things get intense as Virgil can't resists pushing a brightly lit button...and from there the adventure in outer space begins. Toward the end of the song several talk-show hosts and news programs are mentioned as we're told all of them want Virgil to appear on their programs given how popular he became.

Long-time songwriter associate of Ray's, Buddy Kalb, appears in the video as the head of Mission Control. Ray's brother appears near the end of the video where Virgil is seen being waited on hand and foot. The brother is wearing the suit and holding the contract papers. I do not know who plays the other roles.

Just in case you missed my last blog entry I posted a link to the Examiner web-page where Jeremy Roberts interviews Buddy Kalb regarding Ray's upcoming novelty song encyclopedia box set. Based upon information Ray himself has said in the past and the comments from Buddy in the recent interview the Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music is going to be an amazing product. I can't wait to get the collection...I think I may have said that a million times by now!?!

This 2010 Great Awakening T-shirt is something I don't typically wear because T-shirts are too form fitting which is why I switched several years ago to button shirts.

I have 2 t-shirts that I bought last year from Ray's web-store. I bought them not to wear...just to have for my collection.

Ray Stevens: Comedy Music Magnet...

Well, it's a Saturday morning...November 19th...later tonight is the Ray Stevens Biloxi, Mississippi concert at the Imperial Palace. I wasn't able to see the Lou Dobbs program last night on the Fox Business Network due to some family events taking place and so I was looking forward to seeing a video clip at the web-site I gave a link to in my previous blog entry. Well, I checked the show's web-page and saw that they uploaded just three video clips from last night's episode and neither upload contained Ray Stevens. I have no idea if the segment will be uploaded...so if anyone saw the program you can fill us all in on what happened.

In the meantime a new interview with songwriter Buddy Kalb surfaced moments ago on the Examiner web-site. This is the same site that featured other interviews with Buddy Kalb as well as an interview with Ray Stevens and an interview with the person typing this blog entry.

Click here to read the most recent interview from Buddy Kalb...within the interview there are links to the previous interviews I mentioned and there are slide-shows and a video link to a 1974 Ray Stevens performance on British television. The main focus of the interview deals with Ray's upcoming Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music which is set to be released early next year. The collection will contain 108 recordings and Buddy talks about the inspiration behind the mammoth treasure chest of comedy songs and how everything came about over the last 2 years. This is going to be a comedy/novelty song lover's must-have collection in my opinion.

November 18, 2011

Let's Discuss Ray Stevens, Part 36...

When you click the Sun Herald Promo you'll see a promo for the upcoming Ray Stevens concert in Biloxi, Mississippi at the Imperial Palace. I intentionally hadn't written any new blog entries since November 14th because I wanted my previous blog entry to be at the top of the page for awhile instead of buried in the archives. Tomorrow (November 19th) is the day of Ray's concert which I'm sure will be a success. I'm sure the link I provided will expire at some point in the future but for now it's active.

*** Tonight Ray Stevens is scheduled to appear on Lou Dobbs' television program which airs on the Fox Business Network. ***

Ray's involvement is slated to begin at 7:10pm Eastern time tonight. The show has a web-page and from the looks of it the segments become available for viewing on that site.

Meanwhile, his latest video titled "Mr. President - Mr. President" is continuing it's steady pace...at the moment it's gotten 337,467 on-line views. This is a pick-up of nearly 7,000 views in 4 days...indicative that it'll garner nearly 10,000 views during the course of the week.

November 14, 2011

Ray Stevens In Biloxi, Mississippi...11/19/2011

Good Monday morning...it's the start of another work week...but for those down in Biloxi, Mississippi you all have a chance to see Ray Stevens in concert at the Imperial Palace this coming Saturday night, November 19th. The information is contained within the link provided. On November 28th and 29th Ray Stevens will be in Niagara Falls Ontario, Canada at the Scotia Bank Convention Center.

The latest releases from Ray Stevens include a CD of serious songs...re-recordings of some of his obscure songs from the '80s on a CD called Bozo's Back Again. In addition to that CD there's also the DVD release of Internet Video Hits that I wrote about a couple of blogs ago. In the political vein there's Spirit of '76 which was released earlier in the year at his web-store prior to it's nationwide release a couple of months ago. That CD features 11 songs...4 of the songs have become You Tube music video sensations: "God Save Arizona", "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore", "Obama Budget Plan", and his latest, "Mr. President - Mr. President".

Who: Ray Stevens

When: November 19, 2011

Venue: Imperial Palace Casino, Resort, and Spa

Where: Biloxi, Mississippi

Time: 8pm

Ray Stevens: Retrospective 17...

In this Retrospective installment we go back 17 years in the career of Ray Stevens to take a look at 1994. This was one of the busiest times in his career where a lot of his success was coming from the home video market. It was around this time in 1994 that two of Ray's home video releases were still among the Top-10 in home video sales. Comedy Video Classics, the 1992 collection of music videos, had sold more than 200,000 copies in retail stores beginning in 1993 (following it's year long advertising campaign on TV). That particular home video sold millions by way of TV advertisements. He followed it up in 1993 with Ray Stevens Live!, a home video of one of his Branson, Missouri concerts. Technically it was a partial concert with some of the performances edited out and placed on the sequel, More Ray Stevens Live!. After the Ray Stevens Live! home video was released to retail stores in the late summer of 1994 it became another retail sales success. Each of the home videos had lengthy chart runs...in early November of 1994 Comedy Video Classics had been on the charts almost 80 weeks while the newest, Ray Stevens Live!, had been charted for nearly 30 weeks.

In the meantime, while Ray's home video releases were selling unprecedented numbers, his publishing company received an award for "I Can't Reach Her Anymore", a hit single for country singer Sammy Kershaw in 1994. This was the second publisher award bestowed upon Ray in association with a Sammy Kershaw recording...the first being 1992's "Cadillac Style".

November 13, 2011

Ray Stevens: Retrospective 24...

In Retrospective 24 we take a look at the year of 1987 in the career of Ray Stevens. This was the year that marked the 30th anniversary of Ray's earliest recordings in 1957. This was also the year that MCA Records issued not one, not two, not three, but four separate projects on Ray Stevens! Those four releases were: Greatest Hits, Crackin' Up, Greatest Hits Volume Two, and Get the Best of Ray Stevens. The year was marked by the success of "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?", a single from Ray Stevens that satirized televangelists and spoke to thousands upon thousands of people who experienced the scandals that were taking place at the time. A topical single it became a hit slowly...crossing over into the mainstream to such an extent that it was instrumental in garnering an invitation to appear on The Tonight Show in addition to write-up's from various newspaper columnists (Paul Harvey in particular). The song would get a Grammy nomination in 1988. It was written by Chet Atkins and Margaret Archer.

Ray, for a short period of time, did a series of animated music videos for several of his older songs. These video collections were released to retail stores by Curb Records in 2006. Each DVD features 5 music videos. Gourmet Restaurant is named for a song that Ray recorded in 1987 on the Crackin' Up album. Featured on that particular DVD, in addition to "Gourmet Restaurant", is "The Ballad of Cactus Pete and Lefty"...both songs come from the 1987 Crackin' Up album. Much of these animated videos have since been uploaded onto You Tube and you can see several of them when you visit Ray's You Tube channel, raystevensmusic, all one word. Crackin' Up features 10 comedy songs for those who don't yet own a copy: "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?", "Three Legged Man", "Cool Down, Willard", "I'm My Own Grandpaw", "The Ballad of Cactus Pete and Lefty", "Sex Symbols", "Gourmet Restaurant", "The Flies of Texas", "Doctor, Doctor Have Mercy On Me", and "The Day That Clancy Drowned".

Get The Best of Ray Stevens was an album advertised on television and in newspaper advertisements. Years before Ray sold millions of home videos in the 1990's this 2-LP collection was being sold on TV and the official commercial shown Ray singing snippets of the songs. Commercials like this used to appear frequently for albums released by Heartland Records, too. Unfortunately I only saw the commercial a couple of times and couldn't tell you much about it...except that Ray appeared in various suits and costumes much like in the commercial he did for Comedy Video Classics in 1992. The vinyl album in the picture opens up, like a reading book, to reveal the songs and credits. Each vinyl disc is housed in a separate sleeve. The collection basically combines both Greatest Hits releases (plus or minus a couple of songs).

Let's Discuss Ray Stevens, Part 35...

During the CMA festivities that took place in Nashville during the week of November 7, 2011 Ray Stevens made several appearances. He often appears at the publisher awards but usually there isn't an in-depth or conversational interview that takes place. An exception to the rule occurred when Ray found himself being interviewed by a radio DJ, who uses the name of Danger Frog, from a Pittsburgh radio station. A lot of country radio stations from around the country make the annual trip to Nashville to attend the festivities surrounding the CMA Awards.

The clip of Ray's interview was uploaded onto You Tube recently and here it is...

Ray Stevens on Hee-Haw, Part 5!!!!!

Good Sunday morning Ray Stevens fans!! In my previous blog entry I posted about the happenings of Ray Stevens in 1986. That particular blog post was nearly a week in the making due to some unfortunate circumstances. Back on November 6th, around 2am, my computer monitor stopped functioning and so the blog I was in the middle of writing (the one called Retrospective 25) was saved in the draft folder. I never got the opportunity to get back on-line until late Saturday afternoon (November 12th) and so it was nearly 1 week before I could put the finishing touches on the 6 day old blog entry.

Due to the fact that my monitor stopped functioning I wasn't able to write a blog surrounding the appearance of Ray on Hee-Haw later that night. The appearance was exceptional (in my opinion!). He wore a red shirt and performed "Isn't It Lonely Together" during the first half hour...with the camera doing all sorts of visual tricks at various moments in the song. Prior to him singing the last line of the song the camera gave an extreme close-up of his face. The second performance was the high-energy enthusiastic "Gitarzan". I'm hoping both performances end up on You Tube as his debut appearance did. In his debut appearance on Hee-Haw he performed "Turn Your Radio On" (which was considered his most recent release) and "Along Came Jones". Strangely enough in his second appearance on the show he didn't perform any current release. These two 1972 appearances would be it for a period of 3 years...returning in 1975...and from then onward appearing almost annually for the rest of the show's lifespan.

In the meantime, while being off-line, Ray had conducted a series of interviews but only a couple of them, so far, have become available for audio playback. The interview was conducted by radio personality, Michael Berry, of KTRH radio in Houston, Texas. The interview runs more than 16 minutes and both parts were uploaded onto You Tube...

Part 1...
Ray Stevens KTRH interview

Part 2...
Ray Stevens on KTRH

One of the things that I was able to do on November 4th, a couple days prior to my off-line status, was place an order for the new DVD from Ray Stevens titled Internet Video Hits. Around the time of the DVD's announcement several people wondered why Ray would want to release a DVD of music videos that people can see on-line 24/7. I suspected that the reason for the DVD release was so people could have a collection of the music videos on one DVD that they could watch on their TV and also have the DVD as a way to introduce the music videos to those that aren't interested in being on-line for whatever reason. A lot of people are still in the dark when it comes to being on-line and using a computer and so the DVD is a perfect way of giving those who choose to be without a computer an opportunity to see what they've been missing. As mentioned in a previous blog entry, this DVD features 10 music videos. There's a message from Ray written on the back of the DVD case explaining the reason why this project was put together.

The music videos in the collection are:

1. God Save Arizona
2. Come to the U.S.A.
3. We The People
4. Caribou Barbie
5. Mr. President - Mr. President
6. The Global Warming Song
7. Throw the Bums Out!
8. The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore
9. Obama Budget Plan
10. Nightmare Before Christmas

Those who want a copy of this DVD for your personal collections need to simply visit the web-store at Ray Stevens' official web-page. A link to the DVD's product page is located here.

His current music video, "Mr. President - Mr. President", increased by nearly 30,000 on-line views since my last look-in 6 days ago. The current total is 329,453. The video is a little over 1 month old.

November 12, 2011

Ray Stevens: Retrospective 25...

In this particular blog entry titled Retrospective 25 I'm spotlighting events that took place in the career of Ray Stevens in 1986...25 years ago.

What exactly was happening in the career of Ray Stevens in 1986? Well, for one thing, he was riding high on a wave of newly found popularity...a situation that just happened to be something of a recurring theme in his overall career. Every so often, while retaining his core fan base, he often becomes discovered by an entirely different audience...then, once they become enmeshed within his core fan base he's discovered by other people...on and on, down through history, this sort of ebb and flow effect has enabled Ray (in my opinion) to endure for decade upon decade in spite of the fact that music critic after music critic has long pronounced "the novelty song" a surefire way to kill a career rather than prolong it. 1986 is the year that Ray enjoyed his first and only #1 album...the album in question is I Have Returned and it wasn't an immediate chart success. Over the course of half a year, starting in the latter part of 1985 and into the spring of 1986 the album slowly climbed up the country album list week after week. It ultimately reached #1. A previous album (released late in 1984) reached the country Top-5 in early 1985. In the image above it's the cassette version of 1986's Surely You Joust.

Are there any other Ray Stevens fans out there who are overcome by giddiness, excitement, and full-blown euphoria after a vinyl album of Ray's arrives in the mail? How about having those same feelings if you come across a vinyl album of Ray's at a flea market? I'll expand this further by asking if any Ray Stevens fans have those feelings once they see the flip side of the album jacket...revealing imagery and, or, art work that is new to the eye. When the vinyl album arrived in the mail of Surely You Joust, Ray's 1986 album, I knew of the image beforehand but didn't know it come from the flip side of the album jacket. When I first saw the image of Ray hoisted in the air by a crane in a junkyard I assumed it was a rarely seen publicity picture for magazine or newspaper usage...little did I know that it's origins were from the actual vinyl album. The picture comes from January 4, 2008...a few weeks after it arrived in the mail from some on-line seller at eBay. I already had the cassette copy...it had been my grandfather's originally. He bought it new in 1986.

In the first image the cassette version shows three songs listed: "Southern Air", "Can He Love You Half as Much as I?", and "People's Court". The project was released at a time in country music where there were all sorts of clashes going on between various style trends. In times past country radio, as a whole, attempted to equally promote all the various sub-genres of country music within it's musical umbrella. In 1986 and moving forward country radio began to slowly remove certain styles of country music as well as artists of a certain age from the airwaves and replace them with brand new artists emerging on the country scene that tended to fit marketing strategies or a preferred sound. In addition to this country radio began to increase airplay exposure of acts that had been in the business a few years and had been overshadowed by long established acts.

As I'm sure most are aware, Ray Stevens has both a Facebook and Twitter page in addition to his official web-page. I, too, have a Twitter page but I rarely post personal thoughts there. I basically post links to Ray Stevens videos or news stories about Ray or I re-tweet messages from Ray's page. I sometimes provide links to any number of blogs that I've written or ones that I've come across by others.

I came across a blog today that mentioned the one you're reading now...

Unfortunately, though, the blog entry was written way back in April of this year! The reason why I wasn't aware of it until now is because the search engine I normally use didn't include that particular blog in their search results. I sometimes switch search engines from time to time to compare how detailed one search engines results are in comparison to another. It was while I was temporarily switched to a different search engine that I came across the April 2011 blog entry. The blogger said that my blog page on Ray Stevens is probably the best reference site on the internet. The blog I'm referring to is called R S Crabb Music Review & Top Ten Site. The entry is called On the Subject of Ray Stevens.

November 5, 2011

Ray Stevens on Hee-Haw, Part 4!!!!

In a couple of minutes I'll be ordering the Internet Video Hits DVD from Ray Stevens that I wrote about in my previous blog...but the main reason I'm writing this brief entry is to alert people to Sunday night at 8pm Eastern time. This is the time when RFD-TV will air their weekly episode of Hee-Haw. The episode airing tomorrow night was originally broadcast in 1972 and it features Ray Stevens and Donna Fargo as the special guests. Earlier in the year Ray's first appearance on Hee-Haw was reran on RFD-TV and tomorrow night we'll get to see his second appearance. Fast-forwarding 39 years to November 5, 2011 we see that Ray's current music video on You Tube, "Mr. President - Mr. President", has 310,245 views. This is another increase of nearly 10,000 views in a matter of a few days.

November 2, 2011

Ray Stevens: Internet Video Hits...

Good Wednesday morning...also, welcome to November! Yes, I know it's November 2, but it's my first blog entry of the month. A couple of days ago I wrote about an upcoming DVD from Ray Stevens titled Internet Video Hits. The DVD is now available for purchase at Ray's web-store. Click the above link for more information. I'll be purchasing mine this coming Friday.

The collection features 10 music videos taped during the years of 2009 through the current 2011 video, "Mr. President - Mr. President". The current music video vaulted past the 300,000 mark and has 301,328 on-line views at the moment. It's an increase of nearly 10,000 on-line views in a few days time.

1. God Save Arizona; 2010
2. Come to the U.S.A.; 2010
3. We The People; 2009
4. Caribou Barbie; 2010
5. Mr. President - Mr. President; 2011
6. The Global Warming Song; 2010
7. Throw the Bums Out!; 2010
8. The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore; 2011
9. Obama Budget Plan; 2011
10. Nightmare Before Christmas; 2010

Currently the music videos of "Throw the Bums Out!" and "God Save Arizona" are neck and neck in on-line view totals. "Throw the Bums Out!" has 822,825 on-line views while "God Save Arizona" has gotten 822,720 on-line views! The "Obama Budget Plan" has 848,469 views.

October 31, 2011

Revisiting Ray Stevens, Part 14...

Halloween day...October 31, 2011...I posted a Halloween themed blog a couple of days ago where I spotlighted some of the songs Ray recorded with a Halloween overtone. Search the archives on the right side of the screen for the blog titled The Entertaining Ray Stevens, Part 2. In this particular blog entry I decided to post the other side of The Best of Ray Stevens, a compilation that Mercury Records issued on Ray Stevens in 1970. This release features material Ray recorded during the years of 1961 through 1963. It's a combination of album songs and single releases. The collection is notable for a very rare recording of "Ahab the Arab" from some point in the early '60s. I do not know, even to this day, when this performance was recorded. The recording is made more rare by the fact that country music personality, Ralph Emery, is heard at the beginning introducing Ray to a small audience. My guess is this is an audio taken from a television program...I know Ralph hosted a pop music program at one time in the mid '60s and perhaps that's where this audio comes from!? Wherever it comes from it's an obscure recording. Purists are dismissive of the recording and complain that it doesn't belong on a collection like this but I have a differing opinion on the matter.

The liner notes, as you see here, were written by someone named Bob Scherl. Since the collection was released in 1970 the liner notes slip in references to some of the songs Ray recorded in the late '60s (which aren't part of this collection). Tracks 6, 7 and 11 were originally released as commercial singles exclusively and weren't part of his 1962 or 1963 albums for Mercury, which is where 7 of the songs on this 1970 compilation comes from.

The songs on the collection were all written by Ray Stevens:

1. Ahab the Arab
2. Funny Man; 1963
3. Harry the Hairy Ape; 1963
4. It's Been So Long; 1963
5. Speed Ball; 1963
6. Santa Claus Is Watching You; 1962
7. Butch Babarian; 1963
8. Loved and Lost; 1963
9. The Rock and Roll Show; 1962
10. Jeremiah Peabody's Green and Purple Pills; 1961
11. Bubble Gum the Bubble Dancer; 1964

Ray's 1962 album for Mercury is titled 1,837 Seconds of Humor. Tracks 9 and 10 in the above collection are from that album. His 1963 album for Mercury was titled This Is Ray Stevens...tracks 2 through 5 and track 8 are from that album. Track 1 was previously unreleased while tracks 6, 7 and 11 were issued as single-only releases. Some of Ray's singles featured b-sides that have not yet appeared on any commercially released album. His version of "When You Wish Upon a Star" is the original b-side of "Scratch My Back" from 1962. The b-side has never made it to any LP or CD in the last 49 years. "Scratch My Back" never made it to the Hot 100 but was released as a follow-up to "Jeremiah Peabody's Green and Purple Pills".

"Don't Say Anything" is the b-side of 1963's "Butch Babarian". "It's Party Time" is the b-side of 1963's "Speed Ball". A song that I commented about several blogs ago, "Laughing Over My Grave", is the b-side of 1964's "Bubble Gum the Bubble Dancer". A couple of other singles, both the A and B side, that Ray recorded for Mercury have never been available since their original release: 1965's "Rockin' Teenage Mummies" and it's b-side "It Only Hurts When I Laugh" as well as "Mr. Baker the Undertaker" and it's b-side "The Old English Surfer". The releases in 1964 and 1965 came after he had signed with Monument Records. The recordings took place at some point in the early '60s when he was still with Mercury.

October 30, 2011

The Entertaining Ray Stevens, Part 3...

In the embed below you'll hear a fairly recent interview that Ray Stevens gave. The interview took place on October 27, 2011 on a radio program called Conscience of Kansas hosted by Paul Ibbetson. Ironically, the embed has the image of Ray's 1983 album, Me, which I wrote of in the previous blog entry.



Since the interview took place on a politically-driven program the focus was on his political comedy and politics in general. The host relates a story of how he first heard of Ray Stevens and strangely enough it nearly mirrors how I first heard of Ray Stevens, too, except I learned of Ray nearly 12 years afterward in the mid '80s.

The current video smash, "Mr. President - Mr. President", is nearing 300,000 on-line views. The up to the minute total so far is 294,118 on-line views. Those who've been asking if he'll put out a DVD of his political music videos will get their wish in a couple of days. An upcoming DVD from Ray will feature all 10 music videos that he's released since December 2009. I've seen commentary from fans during the last several months wishing to have these videos on a DVD collection that they can play on their TV so they won't always have to be at a computer in order to watch them. The collection is titled Internet Video Hits and it'll become available November 2!! As I said...the release of the DVD will be in a couple of days!

Before anyone can ask...yes, you can pre-order it at Ray's web-store and here's the link...

Internet Video Hits.

Now, obviously, while you're there you can also wander on over to the CD area and read information about his latest CD, Bozo's Back Again, which I wrote about in my previous blog entry.

October 28, 2011

Ray Stevens...Bozo's Back Again...

Good Friday morning! I checked the mail this morning and the CD that I ordered last Friday had arrived. Actually, though, I never checked mail on Thursday and so it arrived yesterday. The CD in question is Bozo's Back Again from Ray Stevens. It consists of 12 tracks...one of the songs, "Priceless", has never been available before. The song is about the little things in life, their costs, and life's excesses and their costs, but Ray tells us that there's one thing out there that's "Priceless". Now, going into it, I knew that the songs on here were re-recordings of past songs that Ray had done...on his web-page he mentions that these are some of the best songs you've never heard. His statement is accurate in terms of general audience...the dedicated fans are familiar with these songs...but that doesn't take away from the enjoyment one gets listening to the songs. I loved each of the songs...I grinned a lot while listening to them. The songs marked with a double asterisk were written by Ray Stevens.

1. Bozo's Back Again (Ray and Buddy)
2. Priceless**
3. Just For The Hell Of It**
4. Oh, Leo Lady**
5. Game Show Love**
6. Another Fine Mess (Ray and Buddy)
7. My Dad (Dale Gonyea)
8. Me**
9. Kings and Queens**
10. Dixie Hummingbird**
11. Written Down In My Heart (W.T. Davidson)
12. Ruby Falls (Buddy Kalb)

One of the things that stands out is that all of the songs...each and every one of them...are non-comical. Also, given that a majority of the re-recorded songs on here cover material from the early '80s, there's not that big of a difference in the vocalizations. As we all know Ray's earliest recordings featured a somewhat deeper vocalization (specifically the late '60s and into the early '70s) and by the late '70s onward his voice become smoother. Since this CD contains songs from Ray's past it's not a big surprise to the dedicated fans that he's the writer/co-writer on a lot of the songs. I love that several of the songs from his obscure, under-rated, and tragically ignored 1983 album, Me, are spotlighted on here. Ray gives us "Me", "Game Show Love", "Kings and Queens", and a stellar re-recording of the emotionally charged "My Dad"...all four of those songs originated on that 1983 album. Admittedly I don't own the soundtrack to the Cannonball Run movie so I don't know if there's a longer version of "Just For The Hell Of It" on that soundtrack or not...but I'm familiar with the recording that played in the movie. This re-recording features an opening verse that wasn't heard in the movie version and so I was surprised to hear this additional part of the song.

Much of the songs written on Bozo's Back Again, as I mentioned, originated from Ray Stevens himself. On several of the songs his long-time songwriting partner, Buddy Kalb, is credited as one of the writers. The clever final track, "Ruby Falls", was written by Buddy. Although the general public may not know who Buddy Kalb is he's no stranger to a lot of the fans of Ray Stevens. His name has appeared as many times as Ray's in the songwriter credits...much of Ray's songs during the last 25+ years were either written by Buddy, written by Buddy and his wife Carlene, or written by Ray and Buddy...and yes, there's even been a few songs where Ray, Buddy, and Carlene are the credited writers. In the songwriter credits his name appears more formally as C.W. Kalb, Jr. but almost everyone refers to him as Buddy.

A few days ago I was alerted to the release of 3 CD's from Buddy...he's recorded 3 CD's of self-written songs...quite a lot of the songs were recorded at various points in time by Ray Stevens but the recordings on the CD's will be of Buddy himself. Also, there are many songs that have never been recorded by Ray featured on the CD's. The curious who want to take a look at the material can click the following Buddy Kalb CD's and be taken to the page that displays the 3 CD's. You'll need to click the More Info button to see the song titles.

As mentioned, quite a lot of the titles will be familiar to Ray Stevens fans. The one who alerted me to the CD's is the same one who interviewed Buddy recently. I've posted a link to the interview before but here it is again... Jeremy Roberts interviews Buddy Kalb.