October 21, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Charley Pride

It's me once more...and the recent episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville ended about half an hour ago from this writing. Ray opened the show seated at the piano and he performed "Be Your Own Best Friend". This is a song that I'd never seen him perform on television but I know that he re-recorded the song for inclusion on his Thank You CD in 2004...but for historical purposes the song originally hit in 1978 and made the Country Top-40. It's the title track of one of his albums that year (the other album being There Is Something On Your Mind). He kept the same arrangement and it was just like the recording note for note.

He brings out Charley Pride and the two of them discuss Texas. Charley mentions that he's lived in Texas since 1969. Ray mentioned that he asked about Texas because there's a follow-up to it involving the Texas Rangers. Charley speaks of his involvement with the baseball team and he brings up his life long love of baseball. He relates a story about Gene Autry and the California Angels and says that during his years in the Minor League he met Gene at a restaurant and tried to persuade Gene into bringing him onto the Major League roster of the Angels. Charley, with his familiar smile, told the audience that Gene looked at him and said that he just owns the team but doesn't make any operational decisions as far as the line-up/roster is concerned and so music became his life's profession from then on.

Upon the conclusion of the baseball talk from both (Ray himself once inspired to be a baseball player, too, but never took it as far as Charley did), Charley performs "Kiss An Angel Good Morning".

After the performance Ray makes mention of the fact that after Elvis the act on RCA that's sold the most records happened to be Charley. Ken Nelson, of Capitol, was mentioned when Charley brought up Ray's birth name. Ray tells about Ken suggesting a name change from Ray Ragsdale to Ray Stevens. Charley then performs one of my favorites, "Roll On Mississippi" and then "Is Anybody Goin' To San Antone?".

After the performances Charley and Ray have some parting words...and Charley makes an exit for backstage. This is a rarity...the guests usually exit during a break in the recording and it's not captured on tape. That is why there's always an edit from the time Ray thanks the guest for being on the show and the performance of the closing song. In another instance of breaking formula an instrumental is offered by The A-Team (the group of musicians that accompany Ray and the guests). Two of the members, Jerry Kimbrough and Jim Ferguson, perform an instrumental that Ray calls "Work Song". The members of the band usually perform on Ray's albums, too. Ray closes the show singing "Family Funeral Fight", a song from his Box Set project in 2005. It was one of the new songs recorded for the Box Set. This is probably the first time he's performed it on a television program.

Yesterday evening I checked the local PBS site and they added more episodes of Ray's show. In a couple of previous blog entries I mentioned that the site had episodes listed through November 18th. To my surprise, though, the local PBS station will not be airing episodes on November 25th or December 2nd. The reason is because of their Winter Pledge Drive and they'll be airing special programming. Those episodes will still air on other PBS stations on those weekends but not on the PBS channel in this area. The guests for those episodes are Jeannie Seely (November 25) and Don McLean (December 2). I'll be envious of others that will be able to see those episodes...particularly the December 2nd episode...Don is to perform his version of "Crying" and to miss out on hearing the stories that Don might tell is going to be tough. The local PBS station will resume airing the show the following Saturday (December 9th) and the guest will be Felix Cavaliere.

But returning to the present day rather than jumping ahead a month, coming up next weekend is the episode guest starring Janie Fricke...billed as the Halloween Show...it'll air October 28th. If I'm not mistaken this is one of the episodes from the RFD years. This will mark the first time an RFD episode has aired since the series changed to PBS exclusives in July. Episodes originally airing on RFD used to air on PBS stations during his early months on their airwaves before the brand new episodes began to air in the late summer.

Some Vintage/New Ray Stevens Items...

Hello all...it's an early Saturday morning here as I type up this latest blog entry. This time around I'm blogging about a couple of vintage but new to me items from Ray Stevens. First off is a CD that Ray released 10 years ago that I never owned a copy of until now!! In 2007 he released a CD titled Hurricane. The CD features 12 songs...five of which are re-recordings of previous songs. At the time of the release I purchased the 7 original recordings, as Mp3's, but lately I began thinking of the physical copy of the CD...plus the fact that the Mp3's that I had previously purchased were lost on a computer I no longer operate...and so I purchased a CD copy of Hurricane about a week ago during one of Ray's web-store discount sales and it arrived in the mail yesterday.

The first six songs on the CD had never appeared on any previous Ray Stevens album and the same goes for track eleven. Tracks seven through ten and track twelve are the re-recordings. In order: "Hurricane", "Sucking Sound", "The Cure", "Bubba the Wine Connoisseur", "Hey Bubba Watch This!", and "Rub It In". Dedicated fans of Ray Stevens may take a moment and ponder over "Rub It In". Ray has long been linked to this song but until this 2007 CD was released he had never recorded it. In the early '70s Ray produced a version of the song recorded by it's writer, Layng Martine, Jr., and released it on Barnaby Records. Ray also published the song...which proved very beneficial...because the publisher of a song tags along with any artist that records the song. The version by it's writer didn't became a big hit but later on Billy "Crash" Craddock recorded the song and it became a monster hit. If you have the single or if you come across an image of it on-line you'll see Ray's publishing company credited as Ahab Music Company on the upper left hand side of the label sleeve. In the '80s and '90s the song's title was parodied in a long series of television commercials for Glade...their jingle was called 'Plug it In, Plug it In!". The seventh never before available song on the CD is "Down Home Beach". The re-recordings include: "Smokey Mountain Rattlesnake Retreat", "The Camping Trip", "Makin' The Best of a Bad Situation", "Stuck on You", and "Hugo the Human Cannonball". Four of those re-recordings were turned into limited animation music videos. For those that have seen those videos the recordings you hear originated on this Hurricane CD.

The second vintage item is truly a gem of obscurity and in very limited quantities. Long time readers of this fan created blog are aware of how I have complained over the years about the lack of cassette tape on eBay of studio albums Ray recorded during the hey day of cassette tape. I have a blue cassette tape of Boogity Boogity (the oldest cassette of Ray that I own; from 1974). Next in line is a 1980 cassette of Shriner's Convention. Then everything from 1984 to 2002 I have in cassette format, too...but that was until a couple of days ago...

Into my possession came a cassette copy of Don't Laugh Now, a 1982 Ray Stevens album. As you might know I already have all of Ray's studio albums in vinyl format starting with 1963's This is Ray Stevens and stopping with 1989's Beside Myself...but the cassette tape collection prior to 1984 is really small and I act like a kid in a candy store anytime I obtain something rare. I'm forever on the look out for cassette versions of 1981's One More Last Chance and 1983's Me. I know cassette tape was manufactured throughout the 1970s but I just never, hardly ever, come across anything on cassette from Ray during that time frame. Cassette versions of Losin' Streak, Nashville, and even Just For the Record have come up for sale on eBay but the prices are outrageous. Don't Laugh Now was just the right price! This is the album that contains the single releases "Written Down In My Heart" and "Where the Sun Don't Shine". The album opens up with "Such a Night"...a song that only recently became something of a staple in Ray's set lists during concerts. The album also includes "Country Boy, Country Club Girl" and one of my all-time favorites, "Oh, Leo Lady". I made the images small...you can always click them and a larger image should appear. If a larger image doesn't appear then the small image will just have to do.

As a reminder...tonight's episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville will guest star Charley Pride. I'll give my commentary about the episode in my next blog entry. I should have it up either late tonight or in the early morning. Here's the promo for the episode...

October 15, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Lari White

It's me once more...and Saturday night's episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville was another wonderful site to see. Ray opened the show singing "Unforgettable". Oh yes...it's the same song that became internationally famous for Nat King Cole and decades later, through the use of technology, as a duet with his daughter, Natalie Cole. That early '90s creation won 3 Grammy Awards. Based on research Nat King Cole issued the song as a single twice (the 1951 original and a re-recording in 1961). As I was watching Ray perform the song I was wondering if this will be another song from the Slow Dance project he made mention of awhile back. I had brought up that project back in a different blog entry when he performed "Can't Take My Eyes off You" on a previous episode.

This episode differed from most in that after the opening number he announced that he was walking to his red piano. He walked over, sat down, and introduced the episode's guest, Lari White. As one that hadn't really followed her career much I only knew what a casual music listener might know: the names of some of her songs. One that stands out is "Stepping Stone" but on tonight's episode she performed the song that was her biggest single release, "That's My Baby". Prior to her performing the song she spoke of her appearance in a movie called Cast Away. She said that her involvement in that movie was all based upon an encounter with a FedEx driver. She relates the various things she did and for those familiar with the movie she explains that there were two endings for the film but only one was given the go ahead for the final print.

Ray brings up that Lari is from Florida and she speaks of her upbringing a little bit. She and Sabrina (one of Ray's harmony singers) is also from Florida and for several seconds Lari and Sabrina trade commentary about Florida. Lari speaks of her producing career and even though it wasn't brought up in the show one of her projects was a Platinum selling CD by Toby Keith. She makes mention of her first impressions of her would-be husband, Chuck Cannon. This conversation about her husband leads into her performance of "That's My Baby". During the segue-way from conversation to performance Ray escorts her from the side of the piano to the red carpet down front. I had never seen him do that before with any other female guest.

After the performance Lari speaks of her current CD project and states that it's a 2-CD release. One features updated recordings of her hit songs and the other CD is of new songs. The project is titled Old Friends and New Loves. She name drops Cole Porter, for example, in the lead-up to her second performance on the show. Lari takes her seat at Ray's red piano and speaks of the crooner style of pop music...referring to it by the nickname of The Great American Songbook. She then launches into a slow ballad with light piano inflections titled "Champagne". She made a music video of the song and it's on YouTube. On the show she described the outfit that she pictured in her mind during the writing of the song. This episode was recorded earlier this year during one of the taping sessions. The CD was released in March of this year but you can only purchase it from select on-line music sites. It isn't available on Amazon, for example, but if you Google her name and the CD's title you'll find the various ways to purchase your copy.

After her performance of "Champagne" Ray walked out and complimented her and the song and thanked her for being on the show. In the next segment he closes the show with "Dropkick Me Jesus" and you can find his recording of the song on The Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music and on his gospel project, Just a Closer Walk With Thee.

On next week's episode the special guest will be Charley Pride. At the moment the local PBS station that airs Ray's show has the upcoming schedule listed through November 18th. I am hoping the website will add more shows to the page because that means more episodes are going to air. Anyway...the guests for the next five episodes are: Charley Pride (October 21); Janie Fricke (October 28); Gary Mule Deer (November 4); Gary Morris (November 11- billed as The Veteran's Day episode); and John Berry (November 18). The website has no more episodes listed but, as mentioned, hopefully the website adds more additional episodes.

There's still a lot of episodes already taped that have yet to air (including a couple of Christmas themed episodes). It'll be nerve racking as late November gets closer and closer...as I frequently visit the local PBS website...to see if additional episodes have been added (or not). At least it'll be airing for the next five Saturday nights...that much I'm sure of.