February 17, 2020

Ray Stevens: Temporary Exhibit at CMHOF...

Hello one and all...about an hour ago it was revealed that a brand new exhibit is on display at the Country Music Hall of Fame centering around Ray Stevens. He previously had a temporary exhibit on display surrounding his 1970 single, "Everything is Beautiful", but some other items associated with his music were also on display. That temporary display/exhibit was unveiled in September of 2017...it was still on display in March 2018 when I made my first and, to date, only trip to Nashville but since that time it's been removed from exhibition. I had my picture taken next to that display and I've posted it several times in blog's past. The 2017 exhibit was in recognition of Ray's 60th year as a professional recording artist. My previous blog entry discusses Ray's earliest years as a regional entertainer in Albany, Georgia and Atlanta, Georgia in the mid 1950s.

This newest temporary exhibit centers around Ray's 1984 comedy album, He Thinks He's Ray Stevens, and it features the Napoleon costume Ray wore during the photo session for the album. There's also his two Grammy Awards...which were also part of the 2017-2018 exhibit. In addition there's the toy squirrel from his Branson, Missouri theater...upon the conclusion of a performance of "Mississippi Squirrel Revival" a small squirrel toy would be let loose off stage and it would roll out onto the main stage at top speed and it would start chasing after Ray. An image of the display was posted on one of Ray's social media pages and you can see that image when you click HERE. That link will take you to Twitter. He also posted the image on his Facebook page.

He gets much more interaction on Facebook and I think that has to do with the fact that it's message friendly...on Twitter you're limited to so many characters that you're unable to fully express your thoughts without posting several Tweets in a row...but yet Twitter wasn't designed, I don't think, to be used as a 'message board' in the traditional sense...it's meant to be used as a  messaging service composed of acronyms, abbreviations, and brisk dialogue. You can also see the display by clicking HERE. That link will take you to the photo that was posted on Facebook. If you're planning on going to the Country Music Hall of Fame soon be on the lookout for Ray's newest exhibit and be sure to look for his plaque inside the Rotunda. The staff/caretakers rearrange the plaques every so often and if you've visited there recently to see his Hall of Fame plaque, the next time you visit, the plaque more than likely will be on display somewhere else on the Rotunda wall. A message on Ray's Facebook page stated that this newest exhibit will only be on display through the end of March of this year...so it's a very temporary exhibit indeed.

February 16, 2020

Ray Stevens: Snap Shot of a Georgia Teen...

Ray Stevens, 1956
Hello all...this photo of teenage Ray Stevens was posted on his social media sites last Thursday. The information surrounding the photo states that it's from the mid 1950s when Ray was still a resident of Albany, Georgia before his family moved to Atlanta, Georgia in 1956. I label the photo as having been taken in 1956 but it could have been 1955...the social media posts state he was 16 and so that would have been some point between January 24, 1955 and January 23, 1956. So, yes, it's more than likely the photo originated in 1955. Whatever the specific month and year the point is that it's a snap shot of a Georgia teenager that became a legendary figure in the music industry and ultimately found himself elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2019. In the formative years he was known by his birth name, Harold Ragsdale. His middle name being Ray he would use the name 'Ray Ragsdale'. As a teenager in Albany, Georgia he formed a Rhythm and Blues band called The Barons and they would perform at various events throughout the region. In addition to this he would find himself on local radio station, WGPC, hosting a Saturday afternoon show called The Record Hop with co-host Mary Dale Vansant. This radio program, according to an interview Mary Dale Vansant gave, aired from 1pm to 4pm beginning in the summer of 1954 and that she and Ray often worked on the show for three to four hours ahead of air-time. In the radio industry it's called show preparation. The interview is great and it offers insight and recollection of Ray's early years prior to his national breakthrough in the early 1960s. The webpage features several pages about Ray's career including snippets from newspaper articles. Ray, as many of you should know, was born in Clarkdale, Georgia on January 24, 1939. He and his family (father Willis, mother Frances, and brother John) moved from Clarkdale to Albany in 1949.

Ray Stevens, 1954
The seeds of Ray's career were planted in Albany and by the time he had found local popularity/fame through The Barons and on local radio he had to give it up in 1956 after the company his father worked for caused a mandatory relocation from Albany to Atlanta. Ray began his senior year in 1956 at Druid Hills High School...and graduated from there in 1957. Ray continued his music pursuits after the move to Atlanta and it's here that he began his lengthy association with music publisher Bill Lowery...eventually leading to Ray's first professional recording, "Silver Bracelet", on the Prep label in 1957. Prep was a subsidiary of Capitol Records. The pictorial time-line along the right hand side of my blog page shows an image of that single. The image off to the immediate right is a publicity photo of Ray during his disc jockey years in the mid 1950s. According to Mary's interview she decided to leave the show after a year and a half but remarked that Ray continued on with a new co-host named Diane Flowers. I have searched all over the internet down through the years and haven't been able to find anything regarding her connection to Ray's career. When I perform internet searches for her I most often type 'Ray Stevens + Diane Flowers + Georgia' or 'Ray Ragsdale + WGPC + Diane Flowers' but nothing ever comes up in the search results pertaining to Ray's months on the air with the new co-host. I refer to it as months on the air because when Mary stepped away from The Record Hop it would've been late 1955, she mentions in her interview about being Ray's co-host for a year and a half, and with Ray's move to Atlanta taking place at some point prior to the 1956-1957 school year that means Ray and new co-host, Diane, would've been on the air for less than half a year or maybe shorter than even that. Perhaps that's why there's no information on-line? Oh well...if just to settle my curiosity I'd love to have precise information surrounding Ray's years on WGPC radio.

When Ray was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2019 it sent shock waves throughout the country music community but it was mixture of shock waves. Some people shared the sentiment that "It's about time!! He's such a legendary entertainer!! It's long overdue!" and others shared the sentiment of "What??? How could they elect him?? It's such a joke!!". Those who carry the latter sentiment are a victim of their own perceptions of Ray Stevens. They don't see Ray as a legitimate performer, musician, record producer, music arranger, music publisher, or songwriter and they never will, I guess. To those people they see Ray as a grinning, Joker-like novelty singer unworthy of high praise, critical acclaim, or let alone being a recipient of the highest honor in country music.

I don't gamble or place bets but if I were a betting man I'd have to say that Ray's election to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2019 was the longest gap between the start of a professional career (1957) and induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame (2019). That's a time span of 62 years. I can't think of any act, without having to do some lengthy research, that had a longer time span between professional debut to induction. If you count his years as a regional act 2019 marked his 65th year as a performer/musician. The snap shot of a Georgia teen named Ray Ragsdale ultimately took his place in the Country Music Hall of Fame...and his career remains in high gear.

Ray Stevens: Renfro Valley Ticket Prices Revealed...

Hello once more...the mystery is over with as far as the Ray Stevens Renfro Valley ticket prices are concerned. In a couple of previous blog entries this month I made mention that the tickets for his concert go on sale on March 19th but there weren't any prices listed as there happened to be for the other performers appearing at the venue. The other day I decided to look up the headliner concert page, again, to see if there any updates and at long last they provided a ticket price for his concert this coming June 21st (a Sunday evening).

Renfro Valley Concert Ticket Prices
In a previous blog entry I posted this same image but at that time there wasn't any ticket prices listed. It had an acronym, TBD, which stands for To Be Determined. Now, after discovering what the ticket prices were for his concert, I did an overview of the other concert headliners. In doing so I put together a Top-5 list, based on top ticket pricing, and Ray is among the Top-5 in this category. I think it's a testament to his popularity that he commands an upper level price range. Here is the Top-5 by rank ticket pricing:

Number Five: Tracy Lawrence ($59.00, $54.00, $49.00, and $46.00)
Number Four: Ray Stevens ($59.00, $55.00, $52.00, and $49.00)
Number Three: Roots and Boots Tour ($62.00, $58.00, $55.00, and $49.00)
Runner Up: Don McLean ($62.00, $58.00, $55.00, and $52.00)
Number One: Josh Turner ($68.00, $62.00, $58.00, and $52.00)

I've been fortunate enough to see Ray Stevens in concert three times. You'd think I'd be someone that has seen him in concert hundreds of times but that isn't the case. I seen him at Renfro Valley in 2008 and that marked the first time I'd seen him in concert. I purchased a CD at the merchandise table, Ray Stevens Sings Sinatra...Say What?!?, prior to it being available on the internet. The second time I seen him happened to be at The Little Nashville Opry in Nashville, Indiana in 2009...that venue burned to the ground weeks after Ray's concert...but it was at that venue where the seats were lined with small advertisement cards for an upcoming CD from Ray titled One for the Road, available only at Pilot Truck Stops for several months, before it was released to the general public. The third time I seen Ray in concert was in 2018 at the CabaRay showroom. I wrote a blog entry review of my time in Nashville, Indiana attending Ray's concert back in May 2009. I've also written a blog entry review of my visit to the CabaRay in March 2018. Search the archives off to the right for those two blog entries if interested/curious about my opinion/commentary.