July 17, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Shenandoah...

Hello all...its a steamy Monday morning here...and I'm about ready to recap the previous episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville from this past Saturday night. One of the things the more eagle eyed viewers may have caught is the new wave of thumbnail images that crawl along the screen during the opening. Those images highlight episodes that were recorded during taping sessions in late 2016 and earlier this year. Saturday night's episode guest starred the famed country music band, Shenandoah. Their episode was taped back in February of this year and this past weekend marked it's first air-date. The episode began with Ray performing "Ned Nostril"...how wonderful it was to see him stroll out and perform such a beloved song...perhaps, admittedly, obscure to most...but to us long time fans and lovers of his music "Ned Nostril" is a genuine classic. During the band solo's they pulled out napkins and acted as if they were sneezing and sniffing.

Now, for those that have never heard the song before, it's about a guy with a nose as long or as longer as Pinocchio...and he had a very rough childhood...but as an adult he became a crooner of Hawaiian songs (using his nose as an instrument). Ned enlisted the help of some buddies who had a bad habit of sniffing ragweed and so his ragweed buddies would sneeze and sniffle their way through musical breaks as Ned hummed along using his nose.

The complete title of the song is "Ned Nostril and His South Seas Paradise Puts Your Blues on Ice Cheap at Twice the Price Band, Ikky-Ikky Ukky-Ukky". The original hook of the song happened to be Ray's vocal impression of Johnny Cash. In the performance Saturday night he delivered the song in a Cash style, in keeping with the song's original recording, but some of the original arrangement had been changed. On the recording (from 1984) it has an intro similar to "Folsom Prison Blues" but on the PBS performance it wasn't as prominent.

Something that I briefly mentioned in a couple of my previous blog entries is that these PBS exclusive episodes are much more looser and come off more relaxed (sounds redundant, yes?). In Saturday night's episode the audience was spoken to by Ray and they had much more interaction with the activity taking place on the set than in the previous episodes that originally aired on RFD before the series moved to PBS this past January.

Ray brought out Shenandoah and explained that each member of the band was considered special guests. They spoke of their chosen instruments and their history in the music business. The lead singer, Marty Raybon, mentioned the band's 30 year anniversary...Ray remarked that he'd been in the business a long time, too...approaching 60 years...and a small back and fourth about 30 and 60 commenced. There was more audience reaction/interaction during the Shenandoah segment, too. The band performed "Two Dozen Roses", "I Wanna Be Loved Like That", and "Church on Cumberland Road". Every so often during the instrumental breaks in those songs Marty could be heard hollering "yeah!!!".

In addition to the music and exchanges with Shenandoah there happened to be an instrumental spotlight on Ray's steel guitarist, Tommy White. Ray opened this segment speaking about a 1959 steel guitar instrumental which, ironically, became a massive pop hit (one of the most ironic instances in music history...an instrument almost exclusive to country music riding the top of the pop charts). The recording, "Sleep Walk", hit #1 in September of 1959...originally performed by a duo known as Santo and Johnny. I thought I had never heard this recording before but once Tommy White began to play it I immediately remember hearing that melody on a television commercial at some point in my life. Along the same lines came an out of left field performance from Ray...the legendary pop hit "Only You".

Ray sang this song as several members of the studio audience danced in the background. It was a thrilling moment in the show...seeing Ray get into the song and physically mimic any number of crooners of that era...now, adding to that thrill, was the mention of a future CD featuring that song and others. I have no idea if this CD he mentioned is going to be released this calendar year or not but he called the CD, Slow Dance. He has mentioned this CD in the past...in addition to a Bluegrass project titled Melancholy Fescue...but there's never been any sort of concrete information released concerning the future of either project and when or if they'll be released. I'm sure both projects, at some point, are going to get released to the public but it's just a matter of when. His television series and the upcoming grand opening of his CabaRay venue are without a doubt the top priority in his career at the moment...CD releases are on the back burner. His most recent project is the DVD of the first 13 episodes of his television series (during it's run on RFD).

This week's episode is gospel themed and it guest stars Michael W. Smith. It'll air here this coming Saturday (July 22nd).

July 9, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Summer Schedule...

Hello one and all...in my first fan-created blog post of July I have some updated information to pass along concerning the Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville television show on PBS. In a previous blog post from last month I posted the upcoming schedule of episodes set to air on one of the local PBS stations in my area. There are a couple of changes, however, as episodes originally posted have been removed and replaced. Beginning this weekend (officially this past Friday; July 7th) all of the local PBS affiliates that air Ray's show aired the same episode.

Over the course of the last several months (dating back to early January of this year) local PBS affiliates picked episodes that previously aired on RFD and aired those. The PBS station in my area began airing the show in late March and of those RFD episodes available to air, WCVN/KET2 broadcast 15 of them (the 15th being a gospel themed episode guest starring T. Graham Brown and it also guest starred Ray's daughter, Suzi Ragsdale). Last night's episode guest starred Harold Bradley and Mandy Barnett.

On that particular episode it carried an early '60s feel...but yet this isn't surprising considering the guests that night. Ray opened the show singing "Sgt. Preston of the Yukon" which eventually led to an explanation of the song's origins and history and how, coupled with it's brisk sales success and the fact that it happened to be a comedy song, inspired him to focus on comedy for awhile and perhaps that would enable him to breakthrough and become a successful recording artist. He had to pull the single off the market after threats of a lawsuit from the copyright owners of the Sgt. Preston character but the sales attention he had gotten led him to issue another comedy song...and this one contains one of the longest song titles in existence: "Jeremiah Peabody's Polyunsaturated Quick Dissolving Fast Acting Pleasant Tasting Green and Purple Pills". That song rocketed up the Hot 100 and into the Top-40 in the blink of an eye in 1961.

Harold Bradley, a legendary guitar player/session musician and brother of the late Owen Bradley (himself a legendary music figure), talks of his background and history in the music industry. Owen happened to be a producer at Decca (later renamed MCA) and eventually opened what was to be known as The Bradley Barn (a recording studio inside a converted barn). Prior to this, however, both Owen and Harold worked in what was referred to as The Quonset Hut. The facility happened to be located at a house on 16th Avenue and 1954 is the year it opened for business...attaching a Quonset Hut to the house later on...which originally was intended as a film/TV studio but over time it became part of the recording studio. Owen and Harold sold the studio to Columbia in 1962 and, as mentioned, The Bradley Barn came into existence a couple of years later. Ray and Harold discuss their identical first and middle names: Harold Ray Ragsdale (the birth name of our Ray Stevens!) and Harold Ray Bradley. They speak of Patsy Cline and this eventually brings out Mandy Barnett. She sings "Crazy" and "I'm Confessin'" as Harold plays the electric guitar. Given the length of time spent with Harold and Mandy there wasn't much time for some of the familiar segments. There was a Video Jukebox segment featuring the limited animation music video, "Barbecue", and a closing song from Ray...a performance of his early '60s hit "Harry the Hairy Ape".

This begins the official third season of Ray's television show. The updated schedule of episodes can be found below. The air-dates listed below fall on Friday but that doesn't mean Friday is the official day of the week the show airs. Some local PBS affiliates air the show on Friday evening while a bulk of the PBS affiliates air the show on Saturday or Sunday evenings. As mentioned the first episode has already aired here...some PBS affiliates are airing that episode today...some PBS affiliates aired the episode on Friday.

July 7 – Harold Bradley and Mandy Barnett
July 14 – Shenandoah
July 21 – Michael W. Smith
July 28 – B.J. Thomas
Aug 4 – Rhonda Vincent
Aug 11 – Restless Heart
Aug 18 – John Michael Montgomery
Aug 25 – Baillie & the Boys
Sept 1 – Tommy Roe
Sept 8 – Mark Wills
Sept 15 – Duane Eddy
The last three episodes on the above list weren't originally scheduled to air when I provided what turned out to be a tentative list of future episodes in a previous blog. The last three episodes are going to air here on September 2, 9, and 16. Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville Schedule.

June 26, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...episode 14...

Hello all...I watched the 14th episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville to air on WCVN/KET2 this past Saturday night. It was another fun episode and it kind of broke with some of the established formula of the previous episodes. 

Ray came out and performed "Never Too Late", a song from his 2009 CD, One for the Road. The song's lyrics carry an inspirational feel while the music is in the easy-listening/Tin Pan Alley/Great American Songbook vein. Somehow, though, I think the choice to perform that kind of song as a show opener had a lot to do with that episode's special guest, Bobby Goldsboro. I say that because Bobby's biggest commercial successes came with easy-listening and sometimes sing-a-long pop songs and to fit the overall music mood he opened the show with "Never Too Late".

Ray introduced Bobby and the two of them discussed their early years in the music industry. One thing that you'll notice right off the bat is how peppy and energetic Bobby happens to be...and fast talking. He made mention of Ray's session work and the harmony vocals provided in "Little Things" (a single that United Artists released on Bobby late in 1964). Ray makes mention that Bobby's artistic talents go beyond music by spotlighting some of the paintings Bobby created...and some are soon to be on display at the CabaRay Nashville venue once it opens later this fall. Bobby performs "Little Things" and then performs what became his signature hit, "Honey".

It's a highly emotional song and the camera panned over the audience upon the song's conclusion and, yes, there were some teary eyed members of the audience. It's a sad song in case you've never heard it...and I'm consistently amazed that there are quite a few people out there that routinely vote this particular song as "one of the worst ever written". I don't know if that overly dramatic reaction stems from a listener feeling uneasy or vulnerable when listening to the song or if a listener simply hates sad songs...whatever the reason it's a song that doesn't get the kind of respect it should get.

This is a promo for the episode. If you're a regular visitor to Ray's YouTube channel or any of his social media sites then you should be well aware that he's uploaded a lot of promo videos for his television program. Given the fact that the program is locally syndicated on PBS stations across the country all of the video uploads are meant to air on the PBS stations that air the show. If the PBS affiliate in your area carries Ray's program and Bobby happens to be the guest that week, for example, then this is the official promo that may air on your local PBS channel...

Due to the show airing on PBS there aren't any commercials and so it cuts to one segment after the other. After the emotional "Honey" concludes Ray walks out from behind the piano and thanks Bobby for being on the show. The very next segment is the lighthearted Video Jukebox installment and an airing of "The Moonlight Special" animated music video. Talk about going from one extreme emotion to the other in the blink of an eye. The recurring segment featuring Don Cusic appears next and he provides some history on the upcoming performance Ray is about to do...a song from The Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music. The song? "Does Your Chewing Gum Lose It's Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight?". Ray is in fine uptempo form as he tackles this song...originally a hit for Lonnie Donegan in the United Kingdom (1959) and in the United States (1961). After the performance of this song he closes the show in his usual way...by selecting someone to dance with as an instrumental of "Everything Is Beautiful" plays in the background. The one chosen this time around seemed terrified/nervous.

Here's a little mystery concerning the episode: In the description for this episode on the KET2 web page it states that Ray would be singing "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore" and no mention is made of "Never Too Late". This could have been a typo on their part (highly unlikely) so perhaps the original promo for this episode indicated that Ray would be performing that song but "Never Too Late" was chosen instead for the final cut...indicating that the original press release for the episode was never changed/corrected. That's just my theory. This is one of the episodes that had previously aired on RFD television (in May of last year to be specific). It's not a big deal, though, but it's something that caught my eye nevertheless.

In a previous blog entry I listed the upcoming episodes of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville scheduled for WCVN/KET2. They've added a couple more since that blog entry but mysteriously removed a couple they previously had posted...ones that I had shared in that blog entry.

Originally listed to air September 2nd was Con Hunley but now they have an episode listed guest starring Tommy Roe; for September 9th it was listed that Jimmy Wayne would be the special guest but now it's an episode guest starring Mark Wills. The September 16th episode, as originally scheduled, would be Ray's patriotic show guest starring Lee Greenwood and Darryl Worley but now KET2 has the September 16th air-date guest starring Duane Eddy instead.

In addition to those three episodes replacing what had originally been scheduled there were 2 episodes added to fill the entire month of September...

Angaleena Presley: September 23

Riders in the Sky: September 30

There's no explanation as to the reason the first 3 episodes in September that had originally appeared on the KET2 schedule have been replaced by other episodes but there must be a reason...I'm sure none of us will ever know the reason and I'm sure they never expected someone (myself) to have noticed the change of episodes anyway...let's hope the originally scheduled episodes make it onto DVD if they never make it to the PBS airwaves. There are to be 52 first-run episodes exclusive to PBS stations in addition to the first 26 episodes that aired on RFD. Half of those 52 first-run episodes have already been assembled and are scheduled to start airing soon.

Next week's episode on KET2 (July 1st) guest stars T. Graham Brown and Ray's daughter, Suzi Ragsdale. This is one of the RFD episodes (originally aired January 30, 2016). After the airing of that episode KET2 begins airing (starting July 8th) the first-run PBS episodes. Harold Bradley and Mandy Barnett are the guests on the July 8th episode.

June 19, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville DVD and Series: My Examination!!!

Hello out there...all of you fans of Ray Stevens!! The DVD of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville, Season One arrived in the mail this past Friday (June 16th). It's a 4-disc collection featuring 13 episodes of his television series. Once you play any of the discs there's an advertisement for Ray's website and mention of the upcoming CabaRay venue. Ray provides a voice over as his chicken clucking recording of "In the Mood" plays in the background. The main menu consists of various options that a viewer can select. You can choose to "play all episodes" (4 half hour episodes are featured on 3 of the 4 discs) and that's the choice I often select on my other DVD's but you can select the "choose a program" option and pick specific episodes to watch and there's even an option where only the performances are available and that's in the "choose a song" selection. There isn't a list of the 13 episodes on display on the back of the DVD case...so if you hadn't purchased the DVD yet and you want to know what episodes are part of the collection read further because I'll be posting an episode list. Now, of course, you can choose to wait until you purchase the DVD and read the menu...but I thought I'd make mention of the fact that an episode list is going to be at the bottom of this blog entry.

The first season consists of 13 regular episodes and one Christmas episode. Technically 13 episodes are referred to as a half season and 26 are considered a full season because everything is based upon a once a week air-time and a 52 week calendar year (26 first run episodes plus 26 repeats equals 52). I explained a lot about Ray's production cycle in my previous couple of blog entries but in any case this collection features 13 episodes with all of them showcased in chronological broadcast order based upon it's current run on PBS stations across the country.

The series originated as a lot of you know on the cable channel, RFD, in November of 2015. It's first season on RFD consisted of 14 episodes (one of those episodes, which isn't part of the PBS syndicated package, was the Christmas themed episode). From here on out I'll be referring to the episode lists as Season One/RFD; Season Two/RFD and Season One/PBS. All of the episodes currently airing on PBS affiliates originally aired on RFD.

Ray has had taping sessions at various times throughout 2016 and into this year and those episodes are going to start airing on PBS stations at some point later this year. The footage is in post-production. Then, in 2018, he plans on taping his episodes from the actual CabaRay venue after it officially opens. I was at long last finally able to see the first episode and episode nine!! In episode nine John Conlee performed "Common Man" after talking about his radio background. Jeff Bates appeared on the program, too, and after performing his song he and Ray spoke about Conway. Ray and Jeff also mentioned "Mary and Joseph and the Baby and Me". Given that the episode originally aired in early January of 2016 it wouldn't be until November the same year that a music video emerged of the song...and eventually an entire Christmas CD soon after that. As most of you know I wasn't able to see Ray's television program during it's original run on RFD and couldn't see it on PBS until WCVN/KET2 began airing it on March 25th of this year.

The series is taped in bits and pieces and assembled into separate half hour programs during marathon-style taping sessions. In a lot of ways the recording and production of the series resembles Hee Haw

As mentioned...there are 13 episodes on this 4-disc collection...but for some reason there's a bit of a difference in the broadcast order of RFD and PBS.

Curiously, in addition to the Christmas episode (from December 26, 2015) not being among the episodes airing on PBS (so far) and therefore not on this DVD there are 2 episodes from Season One/RFD not on this particular DVD, either. The January 2016 episodes guest starring Lee Greenwood and Darryl Worley (January 23rd) and T. Graham Brown and Suzi Ragsdale (January 30th) are not on this DVD because, technically, those episodes haven't aired on PBS stations yet even though they originally aired during Season One/RFD. Those 2 episodes aren't scheduled to air on PBS stations until later. The local PBS affiliate in my area carrying the program, KET2, which is a sub-channel of PBS affiliate WCVN (part of Kentucky Educational Television), has the January 23rd episode airing on September 16th and the January 30th episode airing in a couple of weeks, July 1st. This is a perfect illustration of local PBS affiliates picking and choosing the episodes they'll be airing from those made available.

What happened is 2 episodes from Season Two/RFD, perhaps by mistake or by design, have aired on Season One/PBS already. An episode guest starring Gene Watson from June 18, 2016 (Season Two/RFD) aired on the local PBS station a couple of weeks ago on June 3rd. On June 10th the episode guest starring James Gregory (Season Two/RFD) aired on PBS stations. The 13th and final episode of Season One/PBS guest stars Billy Dean and it aired just this past Saturday on the PBS channel in my area (June 17th). This is also the final episode of Season One/RFD from March 19, 2016. So, for whatever reason, PBS stations haven't aired a couple of January episodes from Season One/RFD but they did air a couple of summer episodes from Season Two/RFD to fill-in the gaps.

Season One/RFD Air-Dates/Broadcast Order:
1. Steve Wariner: November 7, 2015
2. Larry Gatlin: November 14, 2015
3. Bobby Bare: November 21, 2015
4. Don Schlitz: November 28, 2015
5. Charlie McCoy and Lori Stegner: December 5, 2015
6. Bobby Braddock: December 12, 2015
7. Jimmy Fortune: December 19, 2015
***Special episode: Suzy Bogus (Christmas program; hasn't aired on PBS): December 26, 2015***
8. Aaron Tippin: January 2, 2016
9. John Conlee and Jeff Bates: January 9, 2016
10. Tanya Tucker and T.G. Sheppard: January 16, 2016
11. Lee Greenwood and Darryl Worley: January 23, 2016 (hasn't aired on PBS yet; scheduled to air on WCVN/KET2 on September 16, 2017)
12. T. Graham Brown and Suzi Ragsdale: January 30, 2016 (hasn't aired on PBS yet; scheduled to air on WCVN/KET2 on July 1, 2017)
13. Billy Dean: March 19, 2016

Season Two/RFD Air-Dates/Broadcast Order:
1. James Gregory and Helen Highwater String Band: May 7, 2016 (aired on WCVN/KET2 already)
2. Bobby Goldsboro: May 14, 2016
3. Williams and Ree: May 21, 2016
4. Bellamy Brothers: June 4, 2016
5. The Gatlin Brothers: June 11, 2016
6. Gene Watson: June 18, 2016 (aired on WCVN/KET2 already)
7. Collin Raye: June 25, 2016
8. Bill Anderson: July 2, 2016
9. Sylvia: July 9, 2016
10. Con Hunley: July 16, 2016
11. Leroy Van Dyke: July 23, 2016
12. Janie Fricke: July 30, 2016

Here are the episodes that have aired and those yet to air on the local PBS affiliate in my area. You will notice that WCVN/KET2 isn't planning on airing much of what aired during the Season Two/RFD line-up. So I am hoping that more DVDs of his television program become available throughout the year!! Also, the first 13 episodes listed below are exactly what appears on Ray's latest DVD project...

WCVN/KET2 Air-Dates/Broadcast Order:
1. Steve Wariner: March 25, 2017
2. Larry Gatlin: April 1, 2017
3. Bobby Bare: April 8, 2017
4. Don Schlitz: April 15, 2017
5. Charlie McCoy and Lori Stegner: April 22, 2017
6. Bobby Braddock: April 29, 2017
7. Jimmy Fortune: May 6, 2017
8. Aaron Tippin: May 13, 2017
9. John Conlee and Jeff Bates: May 20, 2017
10. Tanya Tucker and T.G. Sheppard: May 27, 2017
11. Gene Watson: June 3, 2017 (from Season Two/RFD)
12. James Gregory: June 10, 2017 (from Season Two/RFD)
13. Billy Dean: June 17, 2017

1. Bobby Goldsboro: June 24, 2017
2. T. Graham Brown and Suzi Ragsdale: July 1, 2017 (from Season One/RFD)
3. Harold Bradley: July 8, 2017
4. Shenandoah: July 15, 2017 (footage taped February 2017)
5. Michael W. Smith: July 22, 2017
6. B.J. Thomas: July 29, 2017
7. Rhonda Vincent: August 5, 2017
8. Restless Heart: August 12, 2017
9. John Michael Montgomery: August 19, 2017
10. Baillie and the Boys: August 26, 2017
11. Con Hunley: September 2, 2017 (footage taped February 2017)
12. Jimmy Wayne: September 9, 2017
13. Lee Greenwood and Darryl Worley: September 16, 2017 (from Season One/RFD)

The second group of 13 episodes consists of some programs originally meant for RFD but weren't aired (based on social media postings late last year during taping sessions by the guest stars) and there are some from a taping session held earlier this year and those episodes will be brand new to all of Ray's fans since they hadn't aired before. The 11th episode is Con Hunley's second guest appearance. He appeared in an episode that RFD aired in July of last year. There was a taping session held in December of 2016 and those episodes are no doubt also part of the second group of 13 episodes WCVN/KET2 is scheduled to air.

From June 26th to June 30th Ray is going to be busy taping footage for even more episodes of the television series. These episodes are probably not going to start airing on PBS affiliates until maybe late fall or early winter this year. Once those episodes air, however, as I mentioned earlier, additional episodes are going to be taped at his CabaRay venue!

You can purchase the 13-episode, PBS-aired First Season DVD by clicking HERE.

June 11, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville DVD!!

News broke several days ago about an upcoming product concerning Ray Stevens. I became aware of the product while doing one of my Google image searches for Ray. I happened to come across an image of a DVD offering the first season of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville (13 episodes). Whenever I come across something about Ray that's out of the ordinary I contact Ray's people and ask questions. The image was credited from originating at Ray's site. Since I write a fan-created blog focusing on Ray I prefer to post information that's official and accurate.

Admittedly I was aware of this product for several days...but I didn't feel secure enough to post much about it...so I privately shared the images with some other fans of Ray Stevens. I contacted Ray's people about the DVD but didn't get a reply...they were obviously planning/preparing for the CMA Music Festival. (Note: I wrote about his appearance at the Fan Fair event in my previous blog post from earlier this morning.).

Anyway, after sending Ray's people a message about this mysterious DVD image that I came across, I visited his website. Once the page opened up there's a great big advertisement for the DVD. Upon seeing this I realized that the DVD image credited to Ray in the Google image search happened to be official. Even though I had clicked the image of the DVD and it took me to Ray's store I still didn't feel okay writing about the product because of the lack of publicity for it...but considering the big advertisement at Ray's website I'll officially add my enthusiasm and excitement for this product and I'll spare no hold-back.

Isn't this a lovely sight?? This is something that I'd been hoping for ever since Ray debuted his television series back on RFD television in November 2015. I had hoped that a DVD of the program would emerge at some point and sure enough it has. Ray moved the show from RFD to PBS in January of this year. I've since placed my order for the DVD and I can't wait for it to get here...finally I'll be able to see episode 1 (guest starring Steve Wariner) in it's entirety and the several episodes that the DVR didn't record (namely episode 9 guest starring John Conlee and Jeff Bates!) and the episodes the DVR automatically removed (3 altogether!!). There were more episodes that aired on RFD than just 13 but the air-date schedule happened to confuse a lot of people and apparently it's unique production cycle is the reason for it's departure from RFD (but that's just my guess). It operated under a 13 week first-run/13 week rerun schedule. Once the 13th episode reran, new episodes would begin to air for 13 more weeks (a total of 26 first-run episodes and 26 reruns comprise a 52 week calendar year). Most television programs air 26 first-run episodes and then go into their hiatus/rerun period during the summer months. Ray's program wasn't taped in the 26 first-run, 26 rerun style...so the first 13 episodes billed as Season One could arguably be referred to as half a season. I'm hoping a Part 2 is also on the horizon featuring the remaining 13 episodes that originally aired on RFD. There has also been footage shot for an additional 26 episodes but the footage hasn't been constructed/edited into individual half hour programs yet. Once the editing process is completed then those episodes will start airing on PBS, too.

How can YOU order your copy of the Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville series?? I'm glad you asked!! You can purchase your copy of the DVD by visiting Ray's store and do what I already did...order it! You can visit the web-store by clicking HERE. If you have never ordered from his site before you will have to register as a customer and provide the usual details (name, shipping address, e-mail, payment method, etc. etc.). It's a 4-disc collection. Episodes 1 through 4 are on Disc 1, episodes 5 through 8 are on Disc 2, episodes 9 through 12 are on Disc 3, episode 13 and Bonus material is on Disc 4. I'm assuming the bonus material are out-takes, bloopers, etc. etc. Once I get the DVD and watch it and take note of the sound/picture, etc. etc. I'll post my review.

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Episode 12...

It's an early Sunday morning (June 11th) and Ray has had a very busy last couple of days during the CMA Music Festival (also known as Fan Fair). He appeared at a booth and greeted all kinds of fans and members of the music press judging by the photo's that have appeared on social media. Ray signed CD's, books, photo's, and had his photo taken during three separate hour long sessions. The times were 1:30pm-2:30pm Central (June 8th, June 9th, and June 10th). You can look at the photo's that were posted on Ray's Facebook page. They're in the Mobile Uploads album section of his page and you can view the photo's by clicking HERE.

As of this writing he only has 6 photo's posted from the meet and greets...perhaps more may be added...and if so the photo's from the Fan Fair appearances with his fans stop at the photo of the key to Pascagoula, Mississippi. The other photo's are screen caps from his television series and from a book signing of his memoir, Ray Stevens' Nashville. Today he'll be participating in a locally produced version of "Celebrity Family Feud" on the CMA Close-Up Stage inside the Fan Fair X venue. It's being promoted as The Country Stars vs. The Reality Stars. The line-up for the Country stars happen to be: Ray, Jeannie Seely, Darryl Worley, Craig Campbell, and Parmalee. The Reality stars happen to be: Nicole Franzel, Caleb Reynolds, Sheila Kennedy, James Fuertes, and Jessica Figueroa. This charity event is going to take place at 1:30pm Central time today. Keep in mind that this is a locally produced version of the series...it isn't going to feature Steve Harvey as the host.

Last night at 8pm eastern the local PBS channel aired episode 12 of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville. I watched it and taped it...and about an hour ago I checked my DVR recording log because I couldn't find last night's episode in the line-up. Once again (much like the error message a couple of episodes ago) I received a message saying that KET2 wasn't available and therefore last night's episode didn't tape. It's a mystery to me...because I happened to be watching the very episode that the DVR didn't tape "because the channel was not available". Thankfully I made notes and last night's episode guest starred James Gregory and the Helen Highwater String Band.

Ray opened the show singing a rousing version of "Kiss a Pig" (originally recorded by him in 1985; I Have Returned). This is followed by a clip of Ray spoofing James Bond (originally from the 1993 home video, Ray Stevens Live!). James Gregory is then brought out and he performs a comedy routine. Afterward he and Ray have a discussion about weight loss. Although Ray is known for his comical songs and videos anytime somebody that's also known for their comedy appears on the same stage Ray often takes on the role of straight man...I don't know if it's intentional or not.

The Helen Highwater Stringband appear and perform a song called "Cryin' and Singin'". One of the band's members, Missy Raines, uploaded their performance from Ray's television program a couple of months ago and you can see it by clicking HERE. The band share the same microphone when they sing which is a rarity for group performances but this is one of those instances in which the proper definition is an actual band...rather than a group. In an effort to not get into the weeds too much there's a difference between calling an act "a group" or "a band". Search on-line social media for such arguments, though. After the string band performance the regular feature, Video Jukebox, appeared. This time around his music video of "Everything is Beautiful" aired. Don Cusic introduced the next segment focusing on the pop music classic "Splish Splash". Ray had recorded it for inclusion on his Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music. It's on Disc 7 (it's a 9-CD collection; the songs appear in alphabetical order). If you thought "Kiss a Pig" happened to be rousing (as I had described it) then the performance of "Splish Splash" tops that one.

Given the song's history and familiarity plus the fact that Bobby Darin gave it a distinctive vocalization, originally, Ray happened to be more than up to the task of recreating the feeling of the song. Even though "Splish Splash" isn't necessarily a 'ha-ha' kind of comedy song it nevertheless was viewed as a novelty song by some due to it's unusual lyrics (for the time period) and it's overall subject matter. Afterward Ray told a hamster joke prior to the closing music beginning to play over the sound system. As usual Ray asked a member of the audience to be his dancing partner as the credits rolled. Although this is episode 12 of the 13-episode "first season" I can't say I'm disappointed to much in my lack of episodes on my DVR. My lack of disappointment is due to some news that broke several days ago...click on the third blog entry starting at the bottom for the month of June for further information over on the right hand side of the page in the archives!! 

June 5, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville Showroom...

Hello there once again!! Oh yes, I know that I missed nearly an entire month of fan-created blog posting during the month of May but I didn't have much extra time to write a quality entry. I could've posted breezy messages and called it a 'blog entry' but I usually, hardly ever, do that kind of thing unless some kind of urgent news about Ray breaks and I want to get it onto my blog as soon as possible. In my hiatus I'd been busy with my off-line life...my job demands for much of May included working extra days (mandatory) and it created a situation in which my only free time was Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings...hardly any time available to spend seriously concentrating on my blog posts. Before going any further I want to share a video clip that Ray posted in early May of the nearly completed CabaRay Showroom. There are some more things left to complete (the parking lot, for example) but I think the major construction is complete as far as the actual building is concerned.

Meanwhile, during my hiatus from blog writing, several more episodes of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville have aired on KET2. The last blog post I wrote featured a review of episode 7 (Jimmy Fortune guest star).

Episode 8 featured Aaron Tippin as the special guest. On this episode Ray opened the show performing "The Ballad of the Blue Cyclone, Part One". After the performance he offers commentary about the physique of special guest, Aaron Tippin. Ray asks about Aaron's past and they discuss some of his duties as a former pilot/aviator. Afterward Aaron gives Ray a bottle of Blackberry Wine. They discuss Aaron's Silver Anniversary in country music. Ray displays a CD celebrating the milestone. Ray remarks about the photo's inside the fold-out and points out a photo of Aaron and Bob Hope during the Gulf War (1991) and this eventually leads into Aaron performing "You've Got to Stand For Something" which became a monster hit in country music during the Gulf War. After a break (fade out) the next scene features Ray introducing Aaron once more for a performance of a brand new song, "God's Not Through with Me Yet". In the Video Jukebox segment the famous music video of "It's Me Again, Margaret" is played. Ray closed the main portion of the show by singing "The Ballad of the Blue Cyclone, Part Two".

Sadly episode 9 didn't record. I got an error message on my recording log saying that the channel wasn't available during the taping. It happened to be an odd situation because after contacting the station via social media messaging and asking if the channel had any sort of technical issues Saturday night (May 20th) the very next week (May 27th) episode 10 recorded without any problem. The person that replied to my e-mail couldn't understand the glitch given that, to their knowledge, the station remained on the air the night of May 20th...so it's a mystery as to why the DVR didn't record episode 9 and why the recording log had an error message about the channel not being available. To add to my minor misery over the episode not recording...that particular episode guest starred one of my favorites, John Conlee, and it also featured Jeff Bates. What a night for your DVR to not function properly!!

Episode 10 (May 27th) featured Tanya Tucker and T.G. Sheppard as special guests. Ray opened the show singing "Taylor Swift is Stalking Me". Ray and Tanya perform a cute duet. I do not know the actual name of the song but the line that's often repeated "I Might Be an Old Dog, Honey" is probably the song's title. She then performs "Strong Enough to Bend". T.G. Sheppard performs "I Loved 'Em Everyone" and talks about his current duet project CD. Ironically, Ray and T.G. recorded a duet together called "This One Burger King Town" in 2012 but they didn't perform the song for this particular episode. There's a possibility that he and T.G. performed it during the taping and that it didn't make it into the final cut but that's just me making a guess. Ray and company tape the program in segments and edit everything together later (almost similar in recording technique to "Hee Haw"). Ray closed the main portion of the show by singing "Along Came Jones".

Concurrently, May 27th happened to be the night that Ray made a guest appearance on The Grand Ole Opry. In a segment hosted by Bill Anderson, who advertised the upcoming grand opening of the CabaRay showroom (slated for August), Ray came out to strong applause and after some opening remarks he launched into "It's Me Again, Margaret". In recent times during live performances he cut out his vocal impression of the telephone dial but on that particular night he dazzled the audience (judging by their applause) during his phone dial impression (you can see it on the music video if you're not sure of what I'm referring to). After telling a joke about a hapless kid named Earl and cheating on a school test Ray performed "Misty".

Episode 11, which aired this past Saturday night (June 3rd) featured Gene Watson as the special guest. Ray opened up the show singing "Power Tools" aided by snippets of the music video. Gene Watson is introduced and he talks about his start in the music business. One of Ray's background vocalists, Sheri Copeland Smith, steps into the foreground and shares thoughts about George Jones as does Gene...in particular a tour in Canada that he and George were on. Gene then speaks a little bit about performing at the unidentified Jones Country in the early 1980s. Gene referred to it as "the outdoors music park George owned..." but didn't exactly call it by it's actual name. Gene sang "Farewell Party" and in the Video Jukebox segment the music video of "The Haircut Song" was featured. Gene performs the more uptempo "14 Karat Mind" and then Ray closes the show performing a stellar rendition of "Mr. Businessman".

Take a look at a Billboard advertisement currently on display...

May 7, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Episode Seven...

Hello one and all...it may seem as if this is becoming a recurring segment of my fan-created blog but it's more or less something that just seems to happen...that is, a re-cap of the previous night's episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville. Airing last night, episode seven, and the main guest happened to be tenor singer Jimmy Fortune.

The episode opened with Ray performing "Hang Up and Drive"...a comical gem of a song criticizing the habit of driving a car and talking on a cell-phone at the same time. This preoccupation habit is more commonly referred to today as texting and driving but it didn't have such a nick-name back when Ray recorded the song, originally, in 2000. Actually, to be specific, texting and driving refers to typing on your cell-phone as you drive your vehicle and this song happens to be about talking on your cell-phone as you drive your vehicle...regardless, though, either habit is unwise while operating a vehicle. The live performance lacks the abundance of car crash sound effects heard on the recording. He created a limited animation music video for the song back in the early 2000s. It originally appeared on the VHS release, Cartoon Video Collection, but the audio recording debuted on the 2000 Clyde Records release, Ear Candy; a CD which, in 2002, was partially re-released as Osama Yo' Mama- The Album on Curb Records. You can see the official music video of "Hang Up and Drive" by clicking HERE. All the music videos on that VHS release feature live-action Ray Stevens singing against animated backgrounds. All of them have since been uploaded onto YouTube. This one hit YouTube on June 12, 2013 and it's been seen by over 40,000 people.

Jimmy Fortune is brought out following an introduction by Ray concerning The Statler Brothers in the early 1980s upon the retirement of Lew Dewitt. He tells the audience/viewers that Jimmy became an invaluable member of the group due not only to the tenor support but through his songwriting. Jimmy penned several of the group's monster hits during the mid 1980s...including the song he performed solo on last night's episode, "Elizabeth". He penned "Elizabeth", "My Only Love", "Too Much on My Heart", "More Than a Name on a Wall", "Forever", and others. Jimmy speaks fondly of his years with The Statler Brothers prior to the group's retirement in 2002 and offers brief history on the group's origins...beginning in gospel music and transferring to country music...and Ray inserts commentary about Statler being the name of a tissue brand.

Later in the show Ray presents a treat for viewers...a segment that had been taped previously featuring Bobby Bare, Don Schlitz, and Charlie McCoy. After Ray asks each of them to describe their arrival in the music industry they join Ray in a performance of the Rhythm and Blues hit, "My Babe". The trio are in the same outfits that each of them appeared in during their solo appearances on Ray's program (Bobby episode 4, Don episode 5, and Charlie episode 6) and so I think the segment had originally been taped during the production of episode 4 and saved for broadcasting on episode 7...at least that's my theory. In the performance clip Charlie McCoy sings (!) in addition to playing a harmonica solo.

In the Video Jukebox the spotlight turned to his iconic music video, "Help Me Make It Through the Night" (1990). The Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music "professor", Don Cusic, presented information concerning "Gitarzan"...and this lead to Ray's performance of his 1969 classic. A rousing performance to close the episode for sure!

Next Saturday night episode 8 will feature Aaron Tippin as special guest. If the PBS affiliate in your area airs the program tune it in. You can find out by clicking Ray's TV SERIES link. There's a state by state breakdown so if you find your state on the list click it and see which PBS affiliate in your area is carrying Ray's program. Once you do that check your local listings for specific day and time it airs. Syndicated television series have various air-times and air-dates throughout the country. In most major PBS markets that carry his program they offer it at 8pm on Saturday nights.

You, as fans, will have to look up your PBS channel's website from the list provided at Ray's web page. One the touring front Ray is to appear at The Grand Ole Opry on May 27th. Usually, but not always, but usually most guest appearances from Ray signal some sort of upcoming project is on the horizon and he's been known to debut unreleased songs during Opry appearances...but even after saying that don't read too much into his guest appearance until after it happens later this month. Since he hasn't released any music since last Christmas (the CD and music video of "Mary and Joseph and the Baby and Me") it's only natural for this fan to assume he'll spotlight some upcoming release but then again he may just walk out on the Opry stage and regal the audience with classics like "The Streak", "It's Me Again, Margaret", "Misty", "Everything is Beautiful", etc. Later this summer on July 22 he'll be appearing in Renfro Valley, Kentucky at their entertainment center. So far those are the only concert dates that appear on his site. I'm sure other appearances may appear on the schedule this summer but don't forget his CabaRay Nashville venue is set to open in the fall of this year...so the bulk of his performances are going to be taking place there...and factor in any taping sessions for his television series, too! He continues to keep himself busy doesn't he??

April 30, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...episode Six...

Hello one and all...on this early Sunday morning I find myself having just finished viewing episode six of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville. I DVR the series and watch it later. Here's a LINK that takes you to Ray's website. It lists the first 6 episodes and if you click the next page link over there it'll open up to page 2 and you can read about the next 6 episodes (the first 12 are spotlighted). The thing about the local syndication market is you can't necessarily follow a cohesive air-date schedule. Due to the series debuting on some PBS stations in January with other PBS stations adding it as time has gone by it created the scenario of some viewers seeing different episodes in any given week.

Those of us viewing the series on PBS affiliates that added CabaRay Nashville after the month of January are always going to be playing catch-up to the stations that have aired it since it became available for PBS syndication in early January 2017. That is the reason Ray can't necessarily promote any particular episode on social media during any given week because the PBS markets that are airing the program are on different air-date schedules.

CabaRay Nashville PBS addition: The program is going to start airing in Martin, Tennessee on PBS affiliate WLIT beginning July 7th according to his website. This means that it'll start with episode 1 on July 7th for those viewers...but in my area episode six aired last night...

On episode six the special guests happened to be legendary songwriter Bobby Braddock and Sheri Copeland Smith. Ray opened the program singing "There Must Be a Pill For This" from his Here We Go Again! CD. He introduces Bobby Braddock...and the songwriter is asked to name some of the songs he's written/co-written over the years. Ray calls on Sheri Copeland Smith to exit the background singers line-up and perform the soprano harmony during the upcoming performance. Ray makes note of the fact that prior to her joining his group she was part of the George Jones group for 6 or 7 years. On a personal note I remember when she appeared as one of George's back-up singers, too. She and her husband, Barry, used to open George's concerts during their time with him.

Bobby performs "He Stopped Loving Her Today", a song he co-wrote with Curly Putnam, which of course became a monumental hit for George Jones and an iconic country music classic. In the original recording George did in 1980 the soprano effect happened to be performed by Millie Kirkham. Sheri did a great job. The music video of "The Dooright Family" airs next. The Video Jukebox segment acts as a kind of intermission between the first and second half of the 30 minute program.

Kicking off the second half of the program Sheri joined Ray in a duet of "Golden Ring"...a classic duet by George Jones and Tammy Wynette which, not coincidentally, Bobby Braddock co-wrote. Don Cusic appears in a segment featuring information about Dick Feller that he's reading from Ray's box set, The Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music. The segment sets up Ray's performance of "Makin' the Best of a Bad Situation", a song that Feller wrote. Ray had previously recorded the song on his 1986 album, Surely You Joust. Upon the conclusion of the performance he tells a joke about Setters and Pointers. It's more or less a running gag that he closes the show with either a corny joke or perhaps an obscure bit of trivia that has a humorous double meaning.

April 29, 2017

Nice Tee Shirts of Ray Stevens available...

Hello once more to the fans of Ray Stevens! I'd been on vacation from work this past week but vacation's soon going to be over tomorrow sad to say. I received an e-mail this morning as a lot of others should have received if you're on his mailing list. I highlighted in bold print the most important of information. It's information about this season's CMA Music Fest.

Ray is to have a booth set up again in the Music City Center during this year's Fan Fair X festivities. According to the information he's to appear on June 8, June 10, and June 11 and sign autographs, sell items, and I assume have his photo taken with fans. There's a standard time slot given: 1:30pm - 2:30pm Central time

Based upon things I've read in the past, most meet and greet/photo/autograph events are timed so that everybody in line is able to get their item signed or their photo taken...cutting off any small-talk a fan may have with their favorite artist...ensuring that everybody gets through the line within the allotted time frame.

Some fans bristle at the notion of a time table in place (a common practice for a number of years...some years it's more strictly enforced than others) but the organizers of the event perhaps want to avoid the potential for a seemingly never-ending parade of professional autograph seekers...those that aren't necessarily fans of an artist clogging up a line...and cutting off legitimate fans' chances of meeting their favorites. The autograph seekers then, more often than not, put the autographed item on sell (eBay usually).

I assume the booth is going to be operated by members of his staff prior to and after his autograph session each day. I can't imagine the booth only being open for 1 hour each day...but I've never been to the CMA Music Fest (formerly known as Fan Fair) and so I don't know if the booth's of artists are only open if the artist is there in person or not. I had always thought that the booth's are operated by members of the artist's staff or representatives of the record company and that booth's are open during business hours for fans to walk by, browse any merchandise available, etc. but the artist being represented at that booth may only be there in person for an hour or 2 per day. It's safe to say that the in-person appearance by an artist is the busiest a booth is going to be each day.

The other big news item in the e-mail are the arrival of a couple of items at Ray's official website store. A couple of T-shirts are available...and yes I already made a purchase!! I ordered the black T-shirt featuring a recent photo of Ray on the front and an advertisement for the CabaRay Nashville on the back. A second T-shirt is red in color and features the photo of Ray from Comedy Video Classics and "Don't Look Ethel" underneath the photo. That T-shirt may be purchased by more of a general audience but I selected the other one. The introductory price for each shirt regardless of it's size is $20. Sizes range from Small to XXL. You can see the T-shirts for yourselves and decide which one you want...you may choose to purchase both...and you can see those T-shirts by clicking HERE. Once you open the page you'll see the items on display.

Tonight episode six of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville airs at 8pm. On this episode Hall of Fame songwriter Bobby Braddock and musician/harmony singer Sheri Copeland Smith are the guest stars. I have my DVR set to record the program...last week the special guests happened to be Charlie McCoy and Lori Stegner. Ray performed "I'm My Own Grandpaw" on last week's episode...he performed it as a ballad instead of the uptempo manner in which he recorded it in 1987. The arrangement of the performance was similar to the arrangement used on the 1987 recording, too, only slightly modified by the use of some different instruments not heard in the original.

He and Lori sang their duet, "Temptation", from his Encyclopedia project a couple of years ago. The song is officially spelled "Tim-Tay-Shun" because they perform it in an exaggerated southern dialect.

April 28, 2017

Ray Stevens recalls "The Streak"...

Hello all...oh yes, I know that I'm 2 weeks late in adding these links to the fan-created blog page but I'm adding them nevertheless. It's an article about and in interview of Ray Stevens published April 14th and the history behind "The Streak". The setting takes place at the NSAI. That acronym stands for the Nashville Songwriters Association International. The actual interview itself took place late last month and it's broken up into 2 different uploads. There's a clip of Ray talking about "Everything Is Beautiful" (from March 31st) and one recalling "The Streak" (April 14th). In each clip the interview is being conducted by Bart Herbison of NSAI.

Here's a link to the article published about EVERYTHING IS BEAUTIFUL in The Tennessean on-line site. Here's a link to the article published about THE STREAK from The Tennessean. If any of those links give your browser any kind of upload fits, like it did mine, then visit Ray's Facebook page and access them there and see if there's any kind of upload issues. His Facebook page can be accessed by clicking HERE. The March 31st article wasn't uploaded to Ray's Facebook page until April 7th...I don't see a link on his Facebook page for the article about "The Streak". Here's a word of caution, though...even after accessing the link to The Tennessean via his Facebook post I still had difficulty keeping the story uploaded. The host site would jump to their home page as I as trying to read the article and sometimes the page would simply vanish and all that remained would be a blank white screen with only the site's letter head at the top and no article/video on display. Those that have much more knowledge about computers might have some sort of an explanation for The Tennessean website doing that.

Ironically those video clips hadn't been uploaded to YouTube so the only way in which to see them are through The Tennessean website.

From April 3rd, however, is an article that shouldn't give your browser any kind of fit. It's an interview posted on the Cowboys and Indians site. It focuses on his television program, Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville, and there's mention of the much-anticipated Bluegrass project he's been keeping on the back burner for several years. Here's a LINK to that particular article.

The only song that's been officially released from this mysterious, unreleased Bluegrass project is "Unchained Melody" but the official upload on Ray's YouTube channel doesn't reference it being part of a future release...however, during a performance at the Grand Ole Opry prior to the music video's on-line release he specifically mentioned that it'll be part of an upcoming Bluegrass project.

The song hit YouTube as a music video several years ago...October 2, 2013 to be specific...and I'm sure once this cryptic Bluegrass project hits the market as a CD or perhaps a DVD "Unchained Melody" is going to be among the songs...but considering it's been four years and counting since the video hit on YouTube I doubt they'll promote that song once Melancholy Fescue (the name of the Bluegrass project) is unleashed.

It's hard to tell exactly what's ahead...in the interview I linked to from Cowboys and Indians he mentions that he hopes to have Melancholy Fescue available in the fall of this year but not before his CabaRay venue has it's grand opening in August. Could this mean the project is going to hit the market in September? October? As fans of Ray Stevens aren't we used to being surprised, anxious, and on the edge of our seats?? 

April 9, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville Episode List...

Hello once again! Last night I seen episode 3 of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville which featured Bobby Bare as a guest. He sang "The Streets of Baltimore" and told a couple of stories of Nashville's past. He and Ray spoke of Mel Tillis and "Detroit City". Ray played a clip of Bobby performing the song on an episode of Ray's previous internet-only series, We Ain't Dead Yet. Ray performed a rhythm and blues classic, "Hi-Heel Sneakers", and later on performed "Mississippi Squirrel Revival". Earlier this morning I began thinking about Ray's current television series and it's history. It previously aired on RFD-TV...debuting on November 7, 2015. There happened to be at least 26 episodes (maybe more) that aired on the channel prior to it's RFD exit nearly a year later. It began airing on local PBS stations across the country in January of this year (starting with episode 1 from November 2015).

On Ray's main site there's a section focusing on his television series and it lists the first 12 episodes. You can access that page by clicking HERE. On that page there's a state by state list of PBS affiliates carrying Ray's series. Click on the name of the state to see the PBS affiliate. Given that the series hasn't been available on PBS for too long (since January) the number of markets isn't saturated across the country which obviously explains the reason a lot of states are missing from the line-up. Some states carry the program on more PBS affiliates than others. For example...if you click Oklahoma you'll see that 19 stations carry the program. There are 16 PBS stations in Kentucky that air the program. I can tune into the program via KET2, a sub-channel of WCVN.

A couple days ago the Inductees of the Country Music Hall of Fame (class of 2017) were released. Going into the Hall of Fame this year are Alan Jackson, Jerry Reed, and songwriter Don Schlitz. Next week's episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville, by pure coincidence, guest stars Don Schlitz. Ray is not a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, by the way, but he's a member of other Halls of Fame and they're just as meaningful...but of course as a fan of his I'd love to see his name become enshrined as a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame one day!

A couple months ago a 4 minute publicity video featuring snippets of Ray's television series appeared on YouTube. Some of the episodes spotlighted in this video clip have already aired on PBS and some have yet to air.

April 2, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville successfully Recorded...

Hello once more...last week I wrote a post about my lack of experience setting up the DVR recording options and that the episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville that I thought would be taped didn't turn out as planned. As I had guessed all I had to do was change it's default setting from "record new episodes" to "record all episodes" and that did the trick. Obviously by having the episode recorded I loved having the opportunity to go back several hours later and watch the episode all over again. In case you missed it the April 1st airing guest starred Larry Gatlin. Ray opened the show singing "Such a Night" and later performed "It's Me Again, Margaret". In case you hadn't seen this episode yet keep your eyes open for Don Cusic. Interestingly Ray didn't do a live vocal impression of the telephone dial during "It's Me Again, Margaret" but instead had his recorded sound effect piped in through the sound system. In a segment referred to as the Video Jukebox Ray presented his music video of "Freddie Feelgood and His Funky Little Five Piece Band".

Larry Gatlin spoke about his career and his brothers, plus he did his impression of Mel Tillis in addition to mentioning Mickey Newbury (a noted songwriter). He sang a couple of lines of a song from the pen of Newbury, "American Trilogy", before launching into "All the Gold in California".  Throughout the episode there happened to be comical inserts of vintage comedy bits featuring Ray as Sickmind Fraud, a parody of Sigmund Freud.

Prior to and after the episode PBS aired commercials for The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and the more broader Musicians Hall of Fame. Ray was elected a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1980 (the same year he was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame!). Also promoted, of course, was Ray's website. In addition to the publicity for the Halls of Fame and Ray's website he appears before and after the episode seated at his piano for exclusive footage introducing/closing the presentation. This footage is exclusive to it's PBS airings given that he asks viewers to stay tuned to their local PBS station. It's a syndicated series...airing on scattered PBS stations across the country and on whatever day and time a station chooses to air it. Those wraparound segments of Ray at his piano reminded me of the PBS airings of classic episodes of Lawrence Welk's program. Former cast members/associates of that series often appeared before and after the episode to talk about the show, etc.

Saturday night (April 1, 2017) happened to be the first time I'd been able to see a complete episode of Ray's television program. Over the years the thing that's been consistent from those that had previously seen the episodes on RFD-TV is their sentiment that "the episodes are too short" or "it needs to be an hour long". After finally being able to see an episode I agree...it did feel as if the half hour flew by...but only time will tell if he expands it to an hour. My overall reaction: it's sort of an informal formality...it's a top flight, formal program lacking the stuffiness or pompousness often associated with formality. That's the best way of describing my feel of the series...and I've had that opinion of the series solely based on the clips I'd seen on his YouTube channel...so to finally see an episode in it's entirety only helps to reinforce my earlier opinion. I can't wait to see the next episode on April 8th!!

Here are a couple of articles about the upcoming CabaRay Nashville venue...set to open at some point later this year. Once it opens, it's already been announced, that future episodes of his television series are going to be taped there.

The first article features comments from Ray's longtime business and songwriting partner, Buddy Kalb, plus comments from Bill Cody (WSM radio personality and the announcer of Ray's television series) and several others. The second article features comments from Ray himself. Each article appeared in the March 31st issue...so they're still "hot off the presses" as the saying goes.

Nashville Ledger Buddy Kalb

Nashville Ledger Ray Stevens

March 25, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville and my DVR...

Hello all of the Ray Stevens out there! I've never claimed to be an expert in technology and so tonight I come sharing some embarrassing moments on my part. For months I've been awaiting for the debut of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville on one of the local PBS stations in the area. A couple of weeks ago I set up my DVR to record the program...I woke up Saturday night around 9pm and found out that the episode didn't tape!! March 25th (tonight) is the night it debuted on the local PBS station. Mad, upset, embarrassed...I decided to dive into the specifics/settings of the DVR. 

On the menu I selected recording options. A page opened up and there's an option for recording "new episodes" and one for recording "all episodes". The setting was checked for "new episodes" (it's default setting). Then, in a brain storm, I possibly realized the reason tonight's episode of Ray's television series didn't record. 

In the program description for the show it lists it's original air-date (last year). Remember, in case you all forgot, PBS is re-airing all of the episodes that originally aired on RFD-TV the last couple of seasons. So, given that the program description didn't list it as a "new episode" but instead listed a previously aired date I'm assuming that's the reason the DVR didn't tape the program. So, as an experiment, I selected "all episodes" and hit the save setting button. At the moment the DVR menu has next Saturday's episode scheduled for taping!! I'll give a report next Saturday night (April 1st) and let you all know if the DVR taped the episode or not. I'll be sure to watch the episode, too, as it's airing just in case the DVR doesn't tape it. Oh yes, I learned my lesson...but yet, as I pointed out, I never claimed to be an expert in technology.

March 5, 2017

Ray Stevens sings "Misty"...1976...

Hello to all the fans of Ray Stevens! I'm sure those of you in the Myrtle Beach area attended the Ray Stevens concert at The Alabama Theater last night (Saturday March 4th). Hopefully those that attended will make commentary on social media sites at some point so there can be some documentation about it.

I'm anxiously awaiting the debut of Ray Stevens' CabaRay Nashville on a local PBS affiliate in my area. I've been aware of this upcoming debut for several months. Ray's series once aired on RFD but it moved to scattered PBS affiliates across the country this past January. A lot of stations in the South and Southeastern half of the country, perhaps predictably, immediately added the program to their line-ups but surprisingly, the state I live in, hasn't added it...but a neighboring state whose local PBS station is carried by our cable provider is set to start airing it on March 25th.

A couple of days ago I came across a vintage performance by Ray Stevens from 1976. In the clip he performs "Misty"...and is introduced by Andy Williams. It hasn't been promoted much, if at all, and therefore it's only received less than 30 (!) unique views.

Update: I originally had a video embed posted here from YouTube but it's been removed from their site and the embed no longer worked and so I removed that portion of this blog entry. I'm replacing the video embed with an image of Ray from that performance, though...

It may be one of Ray's last televised performances as a Barnaby Records artist. The performance took place on February 28, 1976. I know that the label released a couple of singles on Ray very early in 1976. One of those, "Young Love", happened to crash into the charts for a couple of weeks in late January. It debuted on the pop chart on Ray's birthday of all days, January 24, but not long after that Barnaby issued "Mockingbird Hill" as the fourth single off of the 1975 Misty album but I don't know off the top of my head if the single happened to be an impact release or just something the label issued to fill out a contractual obligation.

Sometimes an artist, I assume, may have a specific amount of single releases and album releases for whatever label they're recording for but if an artist and label are in their "lame-duck" period, to borrow a political phrase, and are in the process of parting company the label usually will issue one last single release to fill out the quota but not promote it much, if at all, and afterward the label and artist part ways on friendly terms. Sometimes, though, a label may issue an additional single or even an album that isn't part of the contracted total to be released. Some artists shrug it off but some fight against it on the grounds of contract violations...but getting back to the label Ray recorded for...

Barnaby was founded by and owned by Andy Williams; and Ray signed on in 1970. Andy's brother, Don, became Ray's manager (an association that lasted for more than 20 years). Not coincidentally Ray hosted the summer program that aired in Andy's time-slot on NBC in 1970 (Ray had been a recurring music guest on Andy's television series since 1969 and continued in that capacity during the 1970-1971 season). After the release of "Mockingbird Hill", which didn't make the pop or country singles charts, Ray left for Warner Brothers records and a different chapter of his career began.

February 19, 2017

Ray Stevens and Marty Robbins...1977...

Hello once again!! Although Ray Stevens is busy behind the scenes getting things prepared for the next season of his television series there is another vintage appearance I'm about to promote on this fan-created blog. Call it perfect timing due to my habit of celebrating anniversaries involving Ray Stevens...but 40 years ago the one and only Ray Stevens was the featured Spotlight Artist on Marty Robbins obscure syndicated television series, Marty Robbins Spotlight. Late last year an episode spotlighting Chet Atkins appeared on YouTube and as a special guest, yes, it was Ray Stevens. I commented at the time that it would be great if the episode spotlighting Ray would appear on-line and like a wish come true such a thing happened this morning.

The episode is entertaining from start to finish. You don't ordinarily associate Ray with a Marty Robbins, for example, but this is another example of Ray's ability to adapt and interact with anybody. It reminds me of the time that Ray guest starred on an episode of George Jones' television series...there again he's appearing on a program hosted by someone you normally don't picture interacting together and yet the two come off as long-time friends. The same thing is true in the episode of Marty's program. Ray performs an outstanding "Feel the Music" and later, "Honky Tonk Waltz". He and Marty perform several bits together (a song medley, for example, features both of them at the piano) and there's an interview segment. One of the funniest parts of the episode is Ray in a trench coat, speaking in a thick German-American dialect, and performing a leg slapping routine. Throughout the segment featuring Ray and Marty at the piano the camera would frequently focus in on Marty's faux disbelief in hearing how varied Ray's musical styles happened to be...in the medley performance Ray gives his take on "What I'd Say" by Ray Charles and in a surreal moment Ray sings the first verse and chorus of "I Write the Songs", the smash hit recorded by Barry Manilow...why do I call it surreal? It's due to the fact that a couple of years after this episode aired Ray would record a song inspired by the sound and song titles from Barry's string of hits. Here is an example of one of those Marty Robbins comical looks of disbelief...

Marty's television series ran in syndication for a couple of years. I've seen information citing 26 episodes exist and other sources mention 24 episodes. I've even come across on-line sites stating the program has 52 episodes but I'm pretty sure only 24 (or 26) is the actual number. If anybody knows for sure how many actual half hour episodes of Marty Robbins Spotlight there happens to be leave a comment. It's a mystery to me, at least...and speaking of television programs...Ray himself has a television series...

Ray's television series, as a reminder, has jumped from RFD to PBS. It's been airing on scattered PBS stations since January after airing for a year and a half on RFD. The title has also changed from Ray Stevens' Nashville to Ray Stevens' CabaRay Nashville. The plan is to eventually tape episodes of the television series from the CabaRay venue.

Construction on his CabaRay entertainment venue is also well underway. It's still expected to open in the latter half of this year. Ray has periodically posted photo's of the venue's construction. The story of Ray embarking on construction of the venue broke in March of 2016 which is how the general public became aware but the most loyal of fans had been aware of the proposed venue for a couple of months prior. Does anyone not have the New Orleans Moon CD? In case this is all new to you the CD came out in 2007 as a salute to the music/culture of Louisiana a couple of years after Hurricane Katrina. The CD hit in March 2007 as an exclusive offered at Ray's web-store. It became available all over the internet in July of that year. It's been 10 years since it's release (technically a decade next month) but for the rest of this month (February) you can get the CD at a mark down price in celebration of Mardi Gras. I've been having a bit of trouble accessing the Store area of his website. Just in case you have the same trouble I'd suggest calling his office and ordering the CD over the phone. You can find ordering information/phone numbers at his official website by clicking HERE.

February 12, 2017

Ray Stevens: Such a Night at 35...

Earlier today via social media Ray Stevens made mention that on this date in 1980 "Shriner's Convention" debuted on the charts. The story of Coy, Bubba, Charlene, and a Harley motorcycle first graced the grooves of vinyl that year and it became a Top-10 hit. The album, Shriner's Convention, also hit the Top-10 of the Country Albums chart...the festive mood of a fictional Shrine convention described in song by Ray and the humorous happenings taking place at a fictional motel in Hahira, Georgia certainly captured the imagination of plenty of people. The song features a one-sided phone conversation between a couple of Shriner's. The Illustrious Potentate calls up Noble Lumpkin to ask about a series of incidents being reported in, each involving Lumpkin, that are giving the Shriner's a bad reputation. During the first conversation an irritated Potentate drops the formalities and reveals his name as Bubba and reveals Lumpkin's name as Coy. There are three one sided conversations in addition to Ray performing the song's verses and chorus. The song itself is more than 5 minutes in length...the actual length is 5 minutes, 33 seconds. The performance played on radio is an edited copy since the song had to be cut significantly for airplay. It was cut to 4 minutes, 10 seconds and even that length of time is a bit lengthy for a typical country music recording. I've posted vinyl images in the past of the full version and radio edit before.

Ray didn't produce a music video for the song until 15 years later. It debuted on a home video movie starring Ray titled Get Serious! in 1995. The movie became available on DVD for the first time a couple of years ago.

35 years ago Ray Stevens issued one of his greatest albums...an under-rated and under-appreciated project titled Don't Laugh Now. The song's are balanced in that there's a mixture of uptempo sing-a-longs and ballads. The album's opening track, "Such a Night", wasn't released as a commercial single but I'm guessing that it was a favorite of Ray's given his music background and love of classic rhythm and blues. The song even appears on the front of the album in the upper left hand side as if it's one of the songs that'll become a single release at some point; of the three songs highlighted in the upper left hand side of the album cover only one actually ended up being a single...the ballad "Written Down in My Heart".

The album's title is decked out in neon lettering and his performance and arrangement of "Such a Night" fits into that retro, classic rock sound as does another rocker song on here, "Take That Girl Away".

A couple of days ago somebody on YouTube uploaded a couple of vintage performances of Ray Stevens from 1982...and both songs come from Don't Laugh Now. I had seen one of those performances many years ago on The Nashville Network but I had never seen the second performance until a couple of days ago. In both instances the performances come from the long running syndicated series, That Nashville Music (1970-1985), as you'll see once you view the YouTube clips. Up first is his rousing performance of "Such a Night"...have your volume up...

The other performance is one of the single releases from the 1982 album. "Where the Sun Don't Shine" is a sing-a-long, hand clapping performance in the vein of southern gospel music but in reality it's a break-up song as Ray sings about everything he's going to voluntarily give to the ex-lover...and for good measure he tells her where she can put everything he's giving her. It should have been a much bigger hit...it stalled in the lower half of the Country Top 100 (this is back hen the country singles chart had 100 positions just like the Hot 100 pop chart). The upload has several glitches and it abruptly comes to an end...if you're familiar with the audio recording of the song you'll understand what I'm referring to. Nevertheless it's vintage early 1980's Ray Stevens...and I know you're all gonna love it as much as I do...

January 24, 2017

It's a Ray Stevens Birthday...

Hello one and all...today is the birthday of our fearless Entertainer, Ray Stevens. Born in Clarkdale, Georgia as Harold Ragsdale on January 24, 1939 the Georgia-born talent eventually became known all over the world as Ray Stevens. Music, one could say, has long been the life of Ray Stevens, too. His first recordings came along in 1957 on a small label called Prep Records. In my previous blog entry I made mention of the fact that 2017 marks Ray's 60th year in the music business...and he turns 78 today. Yes, if you do the math it's a fascinating tidbit of information. It means that 60 of Ray's 78 years on Earth have been spent in the music industry in some form or another. Given such a youthful start in the industry and being talented as a piano player (among several other instruments) it didn't take long for his presence on recording sessions to become something of a habit. He enrolled in Georgia State with the idea of studying music but during his college years he remained active as a recording artist on a series of record labels (Capitol, NRC, and eventually Mercury). A series of recordings from Ray hit the market...everything from love ballads aimed at teenagers to rhythm and blues...one obscure recording during this period happened to be an off the wall effort called "Cholly Wolly Chang", a blend of Hong Kong culture set to rock music. Ray's early recordings (1957-1960) can be found on CD but you'll have to dedicate yourself to finding the various CD's available that contain those early recordings. There is a CD from just a couple of years ago that includes the obscurities from that period and it's called Ahab, Jeremiah, Sgt. Preston and more...The Early Ray Stevens. The CD hit in 2014 and it's available on AMAZON. The site states that there's only 7 copies left and so if you're a devoted fan of Ray Stevens but haven't heard some his recordings from 1957-1960 then get that CD as soon as possible!!

As mentioned in the previous paragraph Ray recorded for a series of labels under the guidance of Bill Lowery. Prior to Ray's debut on vinyl in 1957 he had become something of a local celebrity thanks in part to radio station WGPC. In his memoir, Ray Stevens' Nashville, he recalls the time that he was promised a slot on the radio station on the condition that he find a female co-host. The radio program was described by Ray as a kind of sock hop and his role was simply to play rock music and rhythm and blues songs currently on jukeboxes nationally and locally. For those curious you can read the memories of the co-host, Mary Dale Vansant, by clicking this LINK. The link takes you to Albany High Times and their page devoted to that sock hop radio program she and Ray hosted. He began recording for the NRC label in the middle part of 1959 following brief stints on Capitol (1958) and Prep (1957). A recording for NRC in 1960 nearly became a national hit...a novelty called "Sgt. Preston of the Yukon". The single began appearing on the national radar and had climbed a special chart called Bubbling Under the Hot 100. This chart listed specific single releases that had began to break all over the country but hadn't obtained the sales requirements necessary to move onto the "big chart" as they called it. Ray had to take his recording off the market (well, NRC did) after the copyright holders of the Sgt. Preston character objected to the use of their property in the recording.

Ray's first Hot 100 hit arrived in 1961. For those that don't follow music popularity charts the Hot 100 is the name of the chart that lists the best-selling songs across the country in all formats. Chart methodologies have come and gone since then but in 1961 the chart was still largely being based on sales. The higher the sales the more likely pop music stations would play the song...and the airplay exposure, in theory, would increase sales even more. Ray often recalls that his near-hit with Sgt. Preston inspired him to try novelty songs and see if that would do the trick and get him national attention. Prior to that next release, however, he switched record labels. He departed NRC for the much more commercially successful and mainstream label, Mercury. Still living in Georgia in 1961 his debut for Mercury happened to be a novelty song...with a title that tested the memory of many disk jockeys and listeners and, also, tested their breathing control, too. The song's title?? None other than "Jeremiah Peabody's Polyunsatured Quick Dissolving Fast Acting Pleasant Tasting Green and Purple Pills". The song is appropriately abbreviated by many of us fans and we refer to it simply as "Jeremiah Peabody's Green and Purple Pills". The single hit the Hot 100...and climbed into the radio-driven Top-40! It opened the door...but the follow-up, "Scratch My Back", failed to scratch the charts, sad to say. The song is highly entertaining as is it's B-side...his version of "When You Wish Upon a Star". Ray moved to Nashville, Tennessee in January 1962...and he began a lengthy association with Shelby Singleton. Ray eventually became an A and R man for the label. In this role he found songs for artist's to record, assisted in production of the recordings, and as a session musician he played on other artist's records. One of his first sessions at Mercury included his recording of "Ahab the Arab". The song turns 55 this year. On the same day he also played on the recordings of "Wooden Heart", a song recorded by Joe Dowell and the massive Leroy Van Dyke hit, "Walk on By".

"Ahab the Arab" became a million selling Top-5 pop hit and it crossed over to the Rhythm and Blues chart and in the summer of 1962 it made him a star overnight as the saying goes. The song inspired an assortment of properties. His music publishing company had the name Ahab Music Company (BMI) until the mid 1970s when it changed to the more business-sounding Ray Stevens Music (BMI). Ray has several music publishing outlets but the bulk of the songs are published under Ray Stevens Music. The camel in "Ahab the Arab", Clyde, became the name of his personal record label in 1988. In 1991 he opened up a theater in Branson, Missouri. The design was inspired by the desert imagery mentioned in "Ahab the Arab" and throughout the venue one could see imagery that could've come directly out of Arabian Nights or Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. Clyde the camel became his logo. Clyde Records gained it's first taste of profit in 1992/1993 during the VHS explosion in Ray's career. After the major record labels refused to finance/promote a home video from Ray titled Comedy Video Classics he took matters into his own hands and released the VHS on his own label, Clyde Records. This home video led to other home video releases...sold directly to customers through television commercials and print advertisements. By the mid 1990s he had sold more than 3,000,000 home videos through direct marketing. Comedy Video Classics, Ray Stevens Live!, and Get Serious! are landmarks in home video marketing. Clyde Records became something of a stand-by for Ray throughout the '90s and 2000s. If he happened to not be signed to a major label but wanted to release new music for the fans he'd simply release the music through mail-order via his fan club and later, after the fan club dissolved, he'd sell his music through his own website.

Some of the career milestones for Ray Stevens include record, single, and home video sales of a combined 20 million. 2 Grammy awards: a 1971 win for "Everything is Beautiful" and a 1976 win for "Misty". 3 Gold Singles: "Gitarzan" (1969), "Everything Is Beautiful" (1970), and "The Streak" (1974). Numerous Gold and Platinum albums and home videos (throughout the '80s and '90s). The fan-voted Music City News Country Awards honored Ray as Comedian of the Year for 9 consecutive years (1986-1994). In 2012 he released a 9-CD box set, The Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music, a beautiful salute to comedy and novelty songs both past and present. Ray performs his versions of many, many, many novelty songs made popular by other artists plus he offers some of his own recordings, too. He hosted a summer television series for Andy Williams in 1970. In the latter half of 2014 he started hosting Ray Stevens' Nashville on the RFD cable channel. The series ran on RFD for a season and a half. In late 2016 the series became associated with PBS and this month (January 2017) it started popping up on scattered PBS stations across the country. The program's title has changed to Ray Stevens' CabaRay Nashville

In 2009 Ray added another dimension to his career...he began to release music video content on-line...specifically on the video hosting site, YouTube. At first he issued music videos from his past but in late 2009 he released a new recording, "We the People", and it's music video took off in a tremendous way. He became hot on the internet...releasing a string of music video content taking jabs at the Obama Administration and becoming a headliner at several Tea Party and Conservative events. Oh yes...saying that he added political humor to his career in 2010 is a huge understatement...the YouTube music videos he released during that time period, 2010-2013, became viral video sensations. Nearly all of them have obtained more than a million unique views (some topping more than three million!). At some point this year (2017) Ray's entertainment venue, CabaRay, is set to open. It's still under construction on River Road in Nashville. His television program, according to some reports, is eventually going to start taping at that venue and he's moving his offices and recording equipment from his longtime studio in Nashville to the CabaRay venue.

Happy Birthday to the one and only Ray Stevens!! May he forever remain creative, compelling, unpredictable, and entertaining!! Here's also hoping his television series comes to a PBS station in my area! Check your local PBS stations and see if you are receiving the program!