August 19, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...John Michael Montgomery...

Hello all...as I begin this entry of the fan-created blog it's 4 minutes until 9pm and the latest episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville ran it's closing credits about half an hour ago. On this episode the special guest happened to be John Michael Montgomery. Ray opened the show performing a song from his 1984 album, He Thinks He's Ray Stevens. A couple of episodes ago he performed "Ned Nostril"...the first time I'd ever seen him perform it on television; in fact it may have been the only time he's performed it on television as far as I know. This time around he opened the show singing "I'm Kissing You Goodbye"...a song that has a peculiar history.

As mentioned it's from a 1984 album...his debut album for MCA (a label he was with from 1984-1989 and again from 1996-1998). This song was actually the album's lead-off single...some of the vinyl albums that are sold on-line at places like eBay feature publicity stickers on the album's shrink wrap advertising this song as one of the spotlight recordings. MCA began promoting it as a  single but there wasn't much favorable response and very quickly the hype for the single ended...but whatever initial disappointment there might have been surrounding the future of the album was changed, however, once the squirrel got loose and demand for that song forced the label into releasing "The Mississippi Squirrel Revival" as a single...and once that happened late in 1984 it caused the album to do an about face and eventually climb into the Top-10...all on the strength of a song that originally was meant to be an album track and nothing more. Like "Ned Nostril", a song that I'd never seen Ray perform on television, the same holds true for "I'm Kissing You Goodbye"...and throughout the performance it received a rousing response from the audience. After the opening performance a clip from We Ain't Dead Yet aired in which Phil Everly portrays a manager of George Jones...attempting to get George booked for a series of concerts in Germany. You all may remember Rayality TV...it was one of Ray's television offerings seven or eight years ago. It was produced in sitcom style and it took place at a fictional retirement home for entertainers called The Encore...which enabled there to be a music segment in each episode. The series aired, originally titled We Ain't Dead Yet, as a subscription-based internet exclusive (to subscribers of Ray Stevens Backstage, specifically) but later the series aired in bits and pieces, surrounded by an assortment of other clips, as Rayality TV on the re-launched TNN (now called Heartland TV) but it was never seen nationally due to the limited coverage of the network at the time. It aired on the re-launched TNN during the 2012-2013 season prior to the channel re-branding itself Heartland TV...but back to tonight's episode...

Ray brings out John Michael Montgomery after making the point that some singers are known by only one name but most are known by first and last name...but then, as Ray points out, some artists boast three names...and after listing some of those three name acts he introduces John Michael Montgomery. John speaks of his career (going back to 1992) and mentions his brother, Eddie, and how both his brother and Troy Gentry (of the duo Montgomery-Gentry) were members of band's that John put together in the early years.

Following this conversation there's a short clip from Rayality TV once more. George Jones appears at the end of the clip looking for someone named William Maurice (a take-off on the talent agency, William Morris).

John sings "Letters from Home" and upon it's conclusion he performs "Sold". This is a rarity for it broke formula a little bit. In the episodes that have aired there is usually a performance from the guest, then a Video Jukebox segment, and then a second performance from the guest artist...but on tonight's episode John spoke about and then launched into "Sold" after the end of his first performance. For those not familiar it's an auction song whose official title is "Sold (The Grundy County Auction Incident)".

After the performance there's a clip from Rayality TV once again...it's the comical performance of "White Lightning" from George Jones. It's comical due to the fact that George is lip-syncing to the original 1959 recording and the footage was taped at some point in 2009/2010. It was done like that on purpose because of how funny it would look. After the clip is finished it returns back to Ray on the set of his show to perform the closing number, "Retired". That song was originally a duet with Ray and one of it's writers, Brent Burns. Ray also recorded a solo version and his solo recording appears on his 2009 CD, One for the Road. Afterward Ray tells some one-liner jokes prior to the closing theme playing...leading him to request a dance partner. Prior to the closing credit roll there's a message that appears on-screen dedicating the episode to the memory of Phil Everly and George Jones.

Next week's episode (airing here August 26th) will guest star Baillie and the Boys.

August 14, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Restless Heart...

Hello one and all...I'm a bit late in posting my commentary/review of the latest episode of the Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville series. As all of you should know by now I often give away spoilers...and so for those that are able to see his weekly PBS series and haven't seen this episode yet I'll warn you in advance that I often give out a lot of information pertaining to each episode so spoilers are plentiful. Here we go...

Ray opened the show performing a rendition of "That Old Black Magic". This is a song that goes back a great many decades in the world of pop music. It's the creation of Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen and it's been recorded by many recording artists over the decades...in all fields of music...but it was first recorded by Glenn Miller in 1942. Some of the other artists that have recorded it include Bing Crosby, Sammy Davis, Jr., Ella Fitzgerald, and Frank Sinatra to name just several. Ray's performance seemed to blend the Ella Fitzgerald and Sammy Davis, Jr. arrangements...as it was completely uptempo. The trio of female back-up singers that appear in every episode are referred to as The Shameless Hussies (a reference to an adjective directed at Ethel in Ray's 1974 song, "The Streak") and the band is The A Team. In this episode the back-up singers appeared next to Ray during the performance of "That Old Black Magic"...this was necessary because as the song was winding down each one took turns spinning into Ray's side (as Ray was in the process of singing the lines 'down and down I go, 'round and 'round I go').

After this lively show opener the limited animation music video of "Smoky Mountain Rattlesnake Retreat" hit the television screen. The music video originated in the mid 2000s with a slower, ballad-like vocal delivery but it was originally recorded by Ray in 1986 and in a much more uptempo vocal delivery. After the music video ends Ray is shown seated at the piano as he introduces Restless Heart...calling out their names. He tells the audience that Verlon Thompson was once a member of the group (the lead singer, in fact) and mentions that Verlon had married Suzi (Ray's daughter). Verlon happened to be with the band before any single releases emerged (prior to their being signed to a record label).

In an interesting note it is during this segment a story about Glen Campbell was brought up by a member of Restless Heart. They told the story of how early in their career Glen suggested that they record something by Jimmy Webb...and ultimately they got around to recording "Wichita Lineman" for an upcoming project 30 some years after the suggestion. Glen passed away recently (August 8th at the age of 81). The story/reference to Glen is entirely coincidental given this episode was taped in the latter half of 2016...but once you all see the episode you'll perhaps get a little bit of a chill on the back of your neck hearing the story in the aftermath of Glen's recent passing. A music video from the group is mentioned, too. You can find it on YouTube.

Ray and Restless Heart then team up for a rendition of "Everything is Beautiful". First, Ray begins to sing the first line but lead singer, Larry Stewart, interrupts the performance by saying they all have a surprise for him. The surprise? They sing the opening verse originally performed on the single release by the group of children. After the performance it's time for the Video Jukebox segment. This time around we're treated to the live-action music video of "Freddie Feelgood". In this video we see Ray appear on-screen 6 times in the same screen shot. He appears as himself but also appears as Freddie, Yum-Yum, Ace, Tyrone, and Percy. After the video concluded Ray handed it over to Restless Heart and they performed one of their classic hits, "The Bluest Eyes in Texas".

Ray follows their performance with his take on "Spiders and Snakes", the classic originally recorded by Jim Stafford. Ray recorded it in 2012 for The Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music. The original from Jim Stafford hit in 1974...the same year as Ray's "The Streak"...although "Spiders and Snakes" had it's chart debut much earlier (in November 1973). Jim has never appeared on Ray's television series, as of this writing, and based upon OETA's episode list he isn't scheduled to appear on the episodes that'll be airing on PBS stations in the fall and winter months of this year...but the two of them have some similar statistics.

Jim opened a theater in Branson, Missouri in 1990...Ray opened his theater in 1991...Jim was born January 16, 1944...Ray was born January 24, 1939...they each are known for comedic performances but each one also has superior talent at serious performances and are both multi-instrumentalists.

I don't have a copy of it, I wish I did, but in the early 1980s Archie Campbell did a live performance of his chicken fight story, "Rojo", on one of the award shows. In the background stood both Ray Stevens and Jim Stafford side by side providing chicken clucks. Ray closes this episode of CabaRay Nashville by telling a story about a kid being accused of cheating on a test in grade school...and then the music strikes up the familiar melody of "Everything is Beautiful" and Ray picks someone to dance with from the studio audience.

Next week's episode guest stars John Michael Montgomery but only a brief description accompanies the episode list...it mentions that John will be performing "Sold" and Ray is to to perform "I'm Kissing You Goodbye"...and that's all there is to the description of next week's episode on the local PBS station that carries the show. Unless breaking news emerges concerning a CD or music video release I'll be posting my next blog entry this weekend...yes, you guessed it, it'll be my recap of the next episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville!!

August 7, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville DVD commercials...

Hello all...early Monday morning here and I'm getting ready to post the YouTube video clips, promoting the first season DVD of Ray's television series, that went on-line back on July 31st. I hadn't embedded these clips yet and so I thought the perfect opportunity would be to post them in an early morning blog post. The clips debuted on YouTube in between my previous 2 blog posts (July 30th and August 5th). Why didn't I post them in my previous blog post Saturday night? I didn't think to do so...I was in the middle of posting about the latest episode of Ray's television show...but I'm posting the commercials now...

There are two separate promo clips for the DVD...and each run various lengths. The first clip runs 34 seconds and has more detailed information about the release...



This promo clip runs 21 seconds...it features a slightly different voice over from Ray (for the shortened presentation) and several images of the special guests (plus the house band) from the longer promo clip do not appear in the second promo clip...



In addition to awaiting any kind of information about any further DVD or CD releases from Ray Stevens I'm also awaiting information on the grand opening of the much anticipated CabaRay Nashville entertainment venue! I know it's only early August but throughout every article and interview that has appeared since the middle of last year concerning the project it was always suggested that the CabaRay would have it's grand opening in August or no later than September of 2017. There hasn't been any updated photographs posted of the venue to see if it's close to a grand opening yet. The previous photo's that were uploaded shown that there was still work to be completed. Those photo's are part of a YouTube video clip that Ray uploaded back in early May of this year...almost 3 months have passed since then...and I'm sure the parking lot's complete and it no longer looks like a construction zone anymore. In case you hadn't seen that video clip here it is...



Ray's television series, Ray Stevens Nashville, ran for 26 episodes on RFD-TV (2015-2016). After it's departure from that channel it was re-branded Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville and in January it began airing on local PBS affiliates across the country. The PBS affiliates that began airing the show in January of this year have since aired all 26 episodes from the RFD era. In July (last month) 26 additional episodes became available for PBS stations. The local PBS affiliate that carries the show in my viewing area aired all of the episodes that appear on the First Season DVD (13 episodes) plus the affiliate aired 2 additional RFD originated episodes (one that guest starred Ray's daughter, Suzi Ragsdale, and country-rock artist T. Graham Brown; and one that guest starred Bobby Goldsboro) for a total of 15 episodes.

After the airing of the July 1st episode (guest starring Suzi Ragsdale and T. Graham Brown) the local PBS affiliate began airing (July 8th) first-run episodes exclusive to PBS. The episode airing July 8th guest starred Harold Bradley and Mandy Barnett. I'll have to wait until a future DVD release from Ray (hoping there's more to come) to see the remaining RFD episodes (episodes that guest starred Williams and Ree; Leroy Van Dyke; Sylvia; Con Hunley; Bill Anderson; The Gatlin Brothers; The Bellamy Brothers; Collin Raye; Lee Greenwood and Darryl Worley). Episode 5 of the PBS exclusives aired this past Saturday (guest starring Rhonda Vincent).

August 5, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Rhonda Vincent...

It's an almost fall like night here as I put together my first fan-created blog entry of the month. Oh yes, it's a Saturday night and that means that I'm fresh off the latest episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville. On tonight's episode the guest star happened to be Rhonda Vincent...introduced by Ray as The Queen of Bluegrass.



The video clip is a promo of the episode. If you visit Ray's YouTube channel you'll be able to see promo clips for all of the episodes. The episode carried an overall feel of Roger Miller and Bluegrass...as Ray opened the show performing "King of the Road" and afterwards the Video Jukebox segment spotlighted a more recent release, "Unchained Melody". To date Ray has only released his version of the song as a music video (October 2, 2013) but it's part of a larger project that has yet to be released.

Ray brings out Rhonda Vincent and the two have an unusually lengthy conversation. I say this because most of the time the guests are brought out and they interact with Ray, briefly, before the guest performs their song. This particular episode is a bit different in that Rhonda spoke of her childhood, her family, and how strong of an impact that Bluegrass music had on her life. Ray mentions her brother, Darrin, of the Bluegrass group, Daily and Vincent. Moments later Ray tells a story of Bill Monroe meeting Frank Sinatra at a function in Washington, D.C. in which Bill received an honor. Sinatra walked over to offer congratulations and Bill's reply was: "Thank you and who might you be?". This lead into Rhonda explaining how much Bluegrass impacted her upbringing and that she didn't hear any music outside of that...she offers recollections about the songs, "A Little Piece of My Heart" and "Yesterday", and how she was raised thinking those were Bluegrass songs. She tells of the origins of her own group, The Rage.

She sings the gospel song "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" with Ray singing harmony and playing the piano. Afterward the limited animation music video, "Teenage Mutant Kung Fu Chickens", airs. The song itself goes back to 1991 in the career of Ray Stevens. It appeared on the album, #1 With a Bullet. It, like so many of Ray's songs, wouldn't become a music video until years later. The music video emerged in 2006 on a DVD release titled Teenage Mutant Kung Fu Chickens (a DVD featuring five limited animation music videos). It's now part of a DVD collection called Cartoon Carnival, Volume 2.

Rhonda returns and sings "Jolene", the Dolly Parton classic, which Rhonda recorded in 2000, and afterward Ray walks over and thanks her for being on the show. I'm sure the most devoted of Rhonda Vincent fans may have preferred that she perform songs more closely associated with her career (such as "Is The Grass Any Bluer on the Other Side?", "I'm Not Over You", or "All-American Bluegrass Girl") but then again, if you happen to be one of her fans, I'd assume you'll enjoy/like whatever she sings.

Ray closes the episode performing Roger Miller's "Chug-a-Lug". This is one of the songs that Ray had previously recorded for his 2012 project, The Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music. Next week's episode guest stars the famed country music band, Restless Heart. Have you contacted your local PBS station? Remember that Ray's program is locally syndicated on PBS affiliates...if you have a local PBS channel in your area contact them via e-mail or telephone and suggest they air Ray's show. But hold on...here's a much better and simpler idea...

Ray's website, if you hadn't checked it in awhile, has actually done the hard work. They've gone through and listed contact information of local PBS affiliates across the country. All you need to do is type your zip code. Once you enter the zip code a box opens up displaying contact information for your local PBS station's programming department. You can see it by clicking HERE.

July 30, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville series...

Hello all...I don't know if I usually write fan-created blog entries on Sunday mornings much anymore but this morning I decided to compose one. I was looking over some of my previous blog entries...more or less reviews of Ray's PBS television series, CabaRay Nashville. In one of those blog posts I shared a list of the upcoming episodes set to air on KET2 (the local PBS affiliate that carries Ray's television program). The list looked like this...

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
 
All of those air-dates are from a copy of episodes and each of those air-dates happen to be on a Friday. OETA distributes Ray's television series and on their site they have an episode guide which lists the first 26 episodes set to air on PBS. The air-dates range from July 7, 2017 to December 29, 2017. That particular December episode is billed as The New Year's Eve episode following back to back Christmas episodes (December 15 and December 22). Each episode on OETA's list has already been taped and have air-dates scheduled. 
 
Local PBS stations have the option of carrying the program on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday in the afternoon, evening, or night. So, technically, Friday is the day of the week for the earliest of air-dates. Several weeks ago KET2 added a couple of episodes to that list. I never made mention of it because of my preoccupation writing reviews of his television episodes. 
 
The two episodes added are for the month of September. So, going by the official Friday air-date method, September 22 will guest star Angaleena Presley and September 29 will guest star The Riders in the Sky. On KET2 those episodes will air September 23 and September 30. 
 
These 13 episodes are being promoted as his summer PBS schedule. I am hoping that there is going to be a fall PBS schedule of episodes released because there are 13 more episodes "in the can", as they say, for a total of 26 exclusive PBS episodes. 
 
KET2 doesn't have any episodes listed beyond September 30th and so I'm hoping that doesn't mean they're going to stop airing his program. This is why I hope that episodes are going to be added to KET2's web page to fill in the months of October through December. So, to my way of thinking, once it hits late August or early September KET2 may add the rest of the available episodes to their list. The OETA list of episodes I made mention of has episodes set to air on PBS stations throughout the rest of the calendar year. The first episode in October, for example, is to guest star Rex Allen, Jr. but given that KET2 doesn't provide any air-dates beyond September 30th I'm wondering if they'll air the episode or not. I'll find out more information, though.

July 29, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...B.J. Thomas...

Hello once more! If you are among the fans of Ray Stevens that are able to see his syndicated PBS series, Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville, then this week's episode is another spectacular show. The guest this week happens to be B.J. Thomas.

The show airs in my area every Saturday night at 8pm on KET2, a sub-channel of KET. Ray opened the show singing "Hound Dog"...with mostly an entirely different arrangement/delivery than the Elvis recording...and I suspect that Ray's recorded the song for some future project but then again perhaps the performance of the song is exclusive to the series. It's a wonderful performance nevertheless. Ray then brings out B.J. Thomas...and the conversation immediately shifts to "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head". Ray tells of how he turned the song down...not because he didn't like it...but because he had another song ready to come out (that song, while not mentioned, happened to be his recording of "Sunday Morning Coming Down"). Ray pulls out a ukulele and attempts to play the musical intro to "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head"...B.J. takes the instrument away and hands it to guitarist Jerry Kimbrough (a long time member of Ray's group of studio musicians).

After B.J. performs "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" Ray mentions the session work he used to do and brings up being organist on a recording by B.J. in 1966 called "Billy and Sue". B.J. remarks of how much he's loved Ray's songs and makes references to "Just One of Life's Little Tragedies" and "Funny Man". Ray brings up B.J.'s recording of "Mr. Businessman"...and B.J. talks of his recording and jokingly refers to the song having at least four thousand words. B.J. mentions the reason they never issued it as a single...it had to do with not wanting to have a competing record of the same song on the market. He sings the song as Ray plays piano...but Ray sings a verse, too, and they both sing parts of the song's chorus as a duet. The performance is one of the highlights of the episode...you could tell that Ray enjoyed it and you could visibly see from their expressions how invested the two were in the performance.

Following a brief clip of a scene from Ray's 1995 Get Serious! movie (the one featuring the partially made music video of "The Day I Tried to Teach Charlene MacKenzie How To Drive") B.J. sings his biggest country music hit, "Hey Won't You Play Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song". Strangely enough there's no mention made of B.J.'s award winning gospel career. For a period of time in the late '70s and into the early '80s B.J. had a very strong association with gospel music. In a 4 year span (1978-1982) B.J. racked up 10 gospel hits (6 of them hitting the Top-10 of Radio and Records Christian music chart) and he won 8 Grammy awards for gospel performances.

Ray closes the show in an Elvis vein...just as he opened the show...but this time it's a stripped down performance of "I Saw Elvis in a U.F.O.". I say stripped down because it doesn't feature a lot of the big production that the recording featured...but it does contain some outer space music effects. Is there such a thing as outer space music effects?? I should say Sci-Fi music effects...specifically the sound effect of the U.F.O. soaring and hovering. If you're familiar with the recording (from 1989's Beside Myself album) then you know the sound effect I'm referring to. Even stripped down performances from Ray Stevens are still entertaining because he's a natural Entertainer.

I've written about this in some of my other blog entries. Season One of Ray's television program is on DVD. The project contains the first 13 episodes that originally aired on RFD beginning in November 2015. Some trivia: during it's run on RFD (2015-2016) it was called Ray Stevens' Nashville. Once it joined PBS stations it's title was slightly changed to Ray Stevens' CabaRay Nashville as a tie-in to his upcoming venue (set to open either late August or early September). The episodes on this DVD serve as a wonderful introduction to the series as a whole. I think that the episodes that started to air on PBS this month will eventually get repeated but I have no idea. His RFD episodes (26 total) had gotten re-aired several times during the RFD run and they were the first episodes to air once the program moved to PBS this past January but only time will tell if the rest of the RFD episodes make it to DVD or if any of the PBS episodes make it to DVD. As of now there are 26 episodes available to air on PBS affiliates based upon a program guide provided by the show's distributor, OETA. The air-dates cover the months of July through December of this year. The local affiliate in my area, KET2, has a schedule of upcoming episodes listed on their site. They are scheduled to air episodes through September 30th. There is no episodes listed beyond the 30th of September...so, for me, it's a small mystery of why the rest of the episodes aren't listed. KET2, like other local PBS stations, began airing episodes of the show that originally ran on RFD. KET2 picked the show up in late March and they aired a handful of the 26 episodes that originally ran on RFD. Starting in July of this year PBS began airing first-run episodes. September 30th will be the 13 episode mark of first-run shows...will KET2 add the remaining 13 first-run episodes to their schedule (taking up the months of October through December)...as we get closer to the end of August or September perhaps we'll have a more clearer picture.

Ray has long been known as an artist that is predictably unpredictable...you can't guess or make assumptions...if he gets an out of left field idea he may run with it or just when you think you have his music direction figured out he'll do something that'll surprise you...even after 60 years as a recording artist.

Next week's episode is going to guest star Rhonda Vincent!

July 23, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Michael W. Smith...

Hello once more...last night Ray Stevens happened to be in Renfro Valley, Kentucky performing at the venue in Mount Vernon. I wasn't able to attend this time around but I've attended several of his previous concerts in Renfro Valley. I was, of course, seated in front of my television at 8pm last night catching the latest episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville. This particular episode carried a gospel theme and it guest starred a Contemporary Christian icon, Michael W. Smith.

Ray opened the show singing "Dry Bones". Now, this is a song that I first heard Ray perform at a telethon hosted by Gary Chapman several years ago. I did some research and it was actually 6 years ago (2011) on a telethon called Somebody Cares for the Southeast. Ray eventually recorded the song and it appears on 2012's The Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music and the Gospel Collection CD from 2014. It appeared on the Encyclopedia project because of it's lighthearted and whimsical overtone...and how some consider it a gospel novelty song. Ray also performed "This Old House", a legendary hit by Rosemary Clooney and other recording artists but she had the biggest hit (featuring bass vocals from Thurl Ravenscroft) and then there's the recording by the song's writer, Stuart Hamblen, which wasn't a hit but it's a recording I also love to hear. It's been recorded by numerous artists and other performer's have had hits with the song but I singled out those 2 recordings from Rosemary Clooney and Stuart Hamblen because those are the recordings I was more familiar with...that is until Ray recorded his version of the song! Ray's version appears on Just a Closer Walk with Thee/Gospel Favorites, a CD from the summer of last year.

Michael W. Smith is brought out after Ray makes mention of Smith's legendary career in gospel music. He cited that Michael had won a lot of Dove Awards (the leading awards organization in gospel music...winning 45 as of 2015) and he also made mention that Michael has racked up 31 number one hits in his career and sold millions of albums (14 gold and 5 platinum albums). They spoke about a couple of CD's...Hymns and Hymns II-Shine On Us. Michael made mention of the exclusive sale of the CD's through the Cracker Barrel chain of restaurants. Ray mentioned that his latest gospel recordings had originally been meant as a double CD of 24 songs but at the last minute they decided to break them up into 2 separate volumes: Gospel Collection (2014) and Just a Closer Walk with Thee/Gospel Favorites (2016).

Ray speaks about his first gospel album in 1972, Turn Your Radio On, after Albert Brumley is brought up in a conversation. He tells Michael that the record company (Barnaby) didn't want him to issue a gospel song or an entire gospel album "because you're not a gospel singer, etc." and at the time they didn't feel a gospel recording would go over well with a pop music audience. Ray mentioned that he recorded "I'll Fly Away" for that record, too. They both perform "I'll Fly Away" (Ray sang background vocals and played piano as Michael sang) and this was followed by a solo performance from Michael seated at Ray's piano performing "Shine On Us".

After the stirring performance of "Shine On Us" it was time for some lighthearted fun with a presentation of the animated music video of "Can He Love You Half as Much as I?". This was followed by the Professor Cusic segment. He gave some background on one of the writers of "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?", Margaret Archer, and he delivered one of the funniest exit lines by asking if anyone's ever heard of Ray's television show. Some of his commentary went something like this: "Did you know that one of the writers of Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?, Margaret Archer, is a part of the staff of Ray's CabaRay Nashville television show. Have you seen it?". The poker face he gives the camera is priceless. Chet Atkins and Margaret Archer are the writers of the song, by the way.

Upon that introduction Ray performs "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?" standing up. I say that because he's usually seated at the piano when he performs the song. There happened to be just a slight re-arrangement (to my ears) but the overall execution of the song remained the same as Ray's original recording from 1987 during the various televangelist scandals.

Next week's episode is going to guest star B.J. Thomas. Those of you who are long time fans of Ray should know the unique connection between Ray and B.J. but if you don't I'll briefly inform you that it has to do with "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" (a song from the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid movie) but B.J. had also recorded one of Ray's songs, too, before that. Stay tuned!

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??