May 27, 2012

Ray Stevens: Nostalgia Valley, Part 36...

Chances are you've not heard the 1967 recording from Ray Stevens titled "Answer Me, My Love". This song was written by Fred Rauch, Carl Sigman, and Gerhard Winkler. It was available as a single-only on Monument Records from 1967 through 1996...when it was placed as a bonus track on the CD reissue of Ray's 1968 album, Even Stevens. The reissue was on the Varese Sarabande label. It was on that CD reissue where I heard that 1967 recording for the first time. I was also introduced to a couple of his earliest Monument recordings by way of that 1996 reissue. "Party People" became an instant favorite from the moment I heard it. The recording comes from 1966 and it's writer is Joe South, one of the singer-songwriters that worked with Ray and a few others in the Atlanta, Georgia area in the late '50s and early '60s.

Who were those 'few others'?

None other than Jerry Reed, Billy Joe Royal, Freddy Weller, and Tommy Roe just to name a few. This group of singer-songwriter-performers were connected through their association with Bill Lowery and they all made numerous appearances on Lowery's various radio programs. The Georgia Jubilee radio program was a frequent stop. If you look at the publishing rights for Ray's recordings from those early years (specifically the recordings made between 1957 and 1963) you'll notice Lowery Music published pretty much all of Ray's recordings from that time period. His publishing company was affiliated with BMI.

Eventually Ray would start his own publishing company, Ahab Music Company, BMI.

In 1977 and going forward the recordings that were written by Ray or written by a member of his staff would be published under the title of Ray Stevens Music, BMI. On a few occasions there are songs recorded by Ray that have multiple publisher rights if various writers from various publishing houses collaborated on the writing of a song. Ray's recording from 1993 titled "If 10 Percent is Good Enough for Jesus", for example, has three publishers: Lowery Music, BMI; Brother Bill's Music, ASCAP; and Star Drop Music, BMI. The song was written by Hal Coleman, Ken Gibbons, and Roger Searcy.

When you discover the role that a song publisher plays in the music industry you'll soon discover another aspect of Ray's career...and one that doesn't get as much notice for, perhaps, obvious reasons (it's been said that the topic of music publishing might bore a general audience.). Ray usually attends the annual BMI Country Awards in Nashville and other functions at the BMI building.

Sometimes publishing rights can be bought by other companies. I imagine this happens if the current publisher of a song wants to make some money or just wants to do something else for a living. Sony owns the publishing rights to the Lowery published songs that Ray recorded for Mercury in the early '60s. The official name is Sony ATV Songs LLC, BMI and that is why you won't see the original publisher, Lowery Music, credited.

Roy Acuff and Fred Rose once had a publishing company called Acuff-Rose. They published/owned an impressive array of songs...and one in particular is "It's Me Again, Margaret". A writer named Paul Craft wrote the song...and he recorded it first...and those who really know their Ray Stevens music will recognize Craft as the writer of another song recorded by Ray, 1976's "Honky Tonk Waltz". Craft also wrote "Dropkick Me Jesus Through the Goalposts of Life", a huge hit for Bobby Bare and recently recorded by Ray for the 9-CD Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music box set.

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