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.