In an article I found a few minutes ago via Twitter that was published yesterday, a writer at Examiner put together an article recounting her visit to the offices of Ray Stevens Music in Nashville, TN this past Thursday. The article can be read by clicking the following Ray Stevens article link. The writer of the piece is Donna Nolan-Wilson. In it, she mentions the recent death of George Lindsey, and that the visit took place this past Thursday, the day before the funeral. The article doesn't offer any direct quotes from Ray or any interview-style Q&A's but all in all it's a positive article that promotes Ray's You Tube activity and his 9-CD Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music. The article offers a new photo of Ray...decked out in a plaid shirt standing inside his recording studio. The article states that Ray is working on some new political songs...and I for one can't wait to hear them!!
The other day, on Facebook, it was announced that a sketch taped during the early '90s that was cut from the Amazing Rolling Revue television pilot will surface at some point on You Tube. The Amazing Rolling Revue, which I mentioned in a previous blog entry, was released on home video in 1992. The program was meant to be a pilot for a television series but there were no takers.
Ray is no stranger to the visual medium. Sure, today, he's known for his music videos and You Tube but not many people realize, if you've not paid too much attention to his interviews from the past, that there was a time when he pursued appearances on the big screen and the small screen. There was a time when you'd be able to catch him in a cameo role in various television productions...including the daytime drama, Texas, in 1981 where he performed his single at the time, "One More Last Chance". He appeared on The Fall Guy as Webb Covington and a couple of movies in the late '70s featured Ray in cameo appearances: Concrete Cowboys and Murder in Music City. These two films were released in 1979...and both have a country music backdrop...and both feature a cameo role from Ray Stevens. Claude Akins co-starred in both movies which causes confusion for those not aware that there were two separate movies that took place in Tennessee. Jerry Reed and Tom Selleck starred in Concrete Cowboys. Ray performed "Sunshine" in that film, a song from his Misty album from 1975. In the Music City film Ray performed a short song, with Ronnie Milsap, called "It's Only Temporary". Ray wrote the song according to the credits.
There was once a series called Nashville 99 and Ray made an appearance on this program. The show lasted a few episodes and it starred Jerry Reed and...drum roll...Claude Akins! Concrete Cowboys would become a television series. Jerry Reed returned for the series but Selleck's role was took over by Geoffrey Lewis. Akins had been a star in the series, Movin' On, which had a theme song performed by Merle Haggard. Notice all the ties between country music of the late '70s and both the small and big screen? The ultimate marriage between country music and the big screen would happen in 1980...with Urban Cowboy. Marty Robbins once hosted a television program and Ray made an appearance...
Did Ray Stevens ever appear on the television show, Dukes of Hazzard? The answer would be No...but he appeared on a wide variety of television offerings in the meantime.
Now, this sort of thing fits a pattern that was consistent in Ray's career for awhile during that point in time. He made many appearances on Nashville-based programs...including Pop! Goes the Country and Hee-Haw. The latter appearances started to come in bunches during the 1980's...by the end of the '80s he had also became a frequent guest co-host on Hee-Haw. He taped so many segments that it wasn't uncommon for an episode to air featuring his performances and then several weeks later an entirely different set of performances could be seen. There were some episodes in which Ray wasn't the headlining guest but that didn't take away from his performances.
In Pop! Goes the Country I think a major reason for his numerous appearances had to do with his friendship with it's host, Ralph Emery. He also made appearances after Tom T. Hall took over as host in 1979...but for the longest time Ralph's television programs were certain to feature Ray Stevens at some point or another. While Hee-Haw became the show that Ray appeared on the most in the 1980's...with a close second being the Ralph Emery hosted Nashville Now...the program that Ray appeared on the most in the '70s was without question Pop! Goes the Country with a close second being his appearances in the early '70s on Andy Williams' program. When Jerry Reed was asked to host a country music special in 1979 Ray Stevens was among the guests. Ray performed an abbreviated version of "Freddy Feelgood" before launching into his current single at the time, "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow". In the famed Chet Atkins television special from 1980 Ray performed "Night Games" and "Frog Kissing". The latter was actually a Chet Atkins vocal hit...the recording had been produced by Ray in 1976. The song itself had been written by Buddy Kalb. Ray performed the background harmony in the recording, too.
As early as 1970 Ray was working on the legendary story of Johnny Appleseed...from the few news articles I've come across, apparently, it was suppose to be a stage production of some kind...a lot like the Mark Twain adaptation musicals of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
Here is a news archive from June 24, 1970 reprinted by Google detailing Ray's career at that point in time: June 24, 1970 news article. It's from a newspaper called The Bryan Times. The story was written by one named Mel Heimer and it briefly mentions the Johnny Appleseed project.