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!

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