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".
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!