February 19, 2017

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

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



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


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

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

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

February 12, 2017

Ray Stevens: Such a Night at 35...

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

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

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

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

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



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