December 14, 2014

Ray Stevens: Rayality TV webisode 34...

Once again it's time to take a look at Rayality TV...the 34th installment debuted this past Friday. The clip is from one of Ray's concert DVDs and it's a performance of "It's Me Again, Margaret". If you consider yourself a fan of Ray Stevens at all then you should already be very familiar with this song and, like a lot of his stage performances, you'll be hooked from the beginning. Ray knows how to perform on stage and to deliver every drop of visual comedy into a performance.

This is one of his all-time classics.

Margaret is just one of the various female characters that have become embedded into the collective memories of every Ray Stevens fan. Aside from Margaret we've heard Ray sing about Fatima, obviously, in the 1962 classic "Ahab the Arab". Fatima, a member of the Sultan's harem, is carrying on with Ahab. Most critics, if not all, usually (or deliberately) forget that it's a comical cheating song and it brings scorn and contempt from hypersensitive, politically correct zealots. In my opinion the song's cleverness of blending and mixing various fictional titles together and presenting it in a pop music recording is certainly praise-worthy, fictional stories such as Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves, The Thief of Baghdad, The Sheik, The Son of the Sheik...each of those classic stories/films inspired Ray.

In the official music video of "Ahab the Arab" (filmed in 1995), Ray pays homage to the Valentino films, appearing several times in brief silent-movie type footage. It's very noticeable so be on the lookout for it.

Ray's single became a hit in the summer months of 1962. In December that year a brand new movie premiered...titled Lawrence of Arabia. I'm certain that the movie's box-office popularity throughout the early half of 1963 had unexpectedly kept Ray's novelty single as a radio recurrent long after it's original peak in 1962. Ray's single sold more than a million copies...I'd have to say that the sales strength came from much more than airplay exposure alone.

In the 1969 hits "Gitarzan" and "Along Came Jones", Ray told us about Jane and Sweet Sue, respectively. Jane attempted to be the singer in the jungle band...but her mate's overly anxious performances got on her nerves so much she screamed out her catchphrase at the end of her contribution (you readers should know that catchphrase!!). "Gitarzan" sold a million copies. Here's Ray as "Gitarzan" on the picture sleeve that accompanied the 1969 vinyl single...

Sweet Sue, on the other hand, is the classic damsel in distress type...always put in danger but rescued in the nick of time by Jones. Neither participant in "Along Came Jones" have any aspirations of being a singing sensation, though. A Gitarzan album appeared in 1969. A year later Ray had himself another hit comedy recording featuring a fictional female character...can you guess the name of it? If you said Bridget you're absolutely correct!!

"Bridget the Midget" became a international hit in late 1970/early 1971. The biggest success happened to occur in the United Kingdom. The song tells the story of a fictional tap dancer named Bridget and her back-up group, Strawberry and the Short-Cakes. The hook/gimmick of the novelty song is the sped-up vocalization of Bridget. Ray, in his natural voice, acts as presenter/narrator and at several moments in the recording there's an appearance of a spaced out beatnik/hippie-type patron that offers his enthusiasm about the goings-on.

The most popular female character in a Ray Stevens recording is a 3-way tie, actually. One of those is the previously mentioned Margaret from "It's Me Again, Margaret". The second of the three is Sister Bertha from "The Mississippi Squirrel Revival". That song and the one about Margaret both arrived back-to-back on a 1984 comedy album from Ray called He Thinks He's Ray Stevens (a Platinum selling, Top-5 Album on the country charts). Sister Bertha is the unfortunate soul that had a peculiar thing happen to her during church service.

Sister Bertha wasn't the first religious fictional female character to appear in a Ray Stevens recording. Four years earlier, in 1980, Sister Doris and Sister Dewdrop debuted on "The Dooright Family". Their duty was to sing harmony and bless the hearts of all they see. That song, made into a music video in 1995, debuted on Ray's 1980 Shriner's Convention album.

The third female character in the 3-way tie is none other than Ethel...the legendary wife of the eyewitness of "The Streak", in 1974. She comes in at #1 in the 3-way tie...the reason being is her name is synonymous with streaking thanks to the song's catchphrase heard at various moments, "don't look Ethel!!!". Another reason she's first in the 3-way tie at #1 is because "The Streak" sold more than 5 million copies internationally and because of the comical twist and the end of the song regarding Ethel's future.

Here are some other female characters that have popped up or have been mentioned in numerous recordings from Ray Stevens through the decades...

Sally Smash (pop vocalist in "The Rock and Roll Show", 1962); Sugar Bee (companion of motorcyclist "Speed Ball", 1963);  Heidi Fokes (girlfriend of "Butch Babarian", 1964); Bubble Gum (the lead character in "Bubble Gum the Bubble Dancer", 1964); Mary (title character in "Mary, My Secretary", 1967); Fair Maiden/Damsel (victim in "Sir Thanks-a-Lot", 1969); Mildred Queen (pop vocalist in "The Moonlight Special", 1974); Rita (title character in "Rita's Letter", 1980); Melissa (title character in "Melissa", 1981); Mary Lou Picket (from "Country Boy, Country Club Girl", 1982).

I'll stop there or I'll find myself mentally recalling every studio album from Ray Stevens starting in 1983 and moving forward...thinking of each and every mention of a female's name in a song or in the title of a song and so I'll stop there...but the characters above make up a good enough list.  

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