January 13, 2019

Ray Stevens returns to RFD-TV...

Well, hello all of you fans of Ray Stevens!! I have a feeling you all have heard the news that Ray's two television programs have returned to the RFD-TV airwaves. I found out last weekend when the station aired episode three of Season Three (guest starring gospel artist Michael W. Smith). The cable channel had aired the first two episodes of Season Three in the middle part of December before abruptly removing both programs from their line-up. I speculated several reasons for it's sudden departure in one of my final blog entries of 2018 (the one I wrote on Christmas Day) but in that blog entry I kept an open mind and wondered if the cable channel would return either series, or both, to the line-up in 2019 and sure enough both Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville and Rayality TV made their return to the weekend prime-time line-up on RFD-TV last weekend (January 5th/January 6th) but I never made mention of this in my January 6th or January 8th blog posts because I wasn't too sure if either show had returned on a permanent basis or if it was another false alarm but it looks as if both programs will be part of the RFD-TV line-up for the foreseeable future given that I looked ahead to next weekend's schedule on their webpage and RFD has the fifth episode of Season Three (guest starring Rhonda Vincent) scheduled to air next Saturday night (January 19th)...and this will make three consecutive weekends that the cable channel will have aired the two programs...and so I'm cautiously optimistic that, as I mentioned, each show will be on the weekend line-up on RFD-TV for the foreseeable future with no abrupt removal. Last night's episode guest starred B.J. Thomas.

On January 10th several video clips were uploaded onto YouTube promoting Ray's return to the RFD-TV airwaves. One clip features Ray at the piano inside the CabaRay discussing each series and then there are several video clips that promote a specific episode of Rayality TV. The clip-filled Rayality series features not only a mixture of music videos and live performances but clips from various programs from his extensive library of video footage are also inserted...each episode has a recurring theme...if an episode is titled 'chickens', just as an example, then pretty much all of the clips shown will center around the subject matter of chickens. The first video clip is the one featuring Ray discussing both television programs...



There have been four video clips uploaded to promote the first four episodes of Raylity TV. Seen below is clip one and clip four...





In my previous blog entry I focused on the single release of "Gitarzan" and how last week marked the 50th anniversary of it's chart debut (hitting the weekly music charts on January 6, 1969). I remarked that at some point this year I'll be posting blog entries focusing on the Gitarzan album as well as his second studio album from 1969, Have a Little Talk with Myself. At the moment I'm going to focus on the single release of "Have a Little Talk with Myself". Ray wrote it and it became the title track of his second studio album of 1969...and Monument released it as a single in the latter half of the year and it entered the charts early in 1970. There isn't any video clip of Ray performing the song on camera from the era in which it was recorded but you can find audio clips on YouTube of the 1969 recording. He re-recorded the song more than 40 years later with a different arrangement, and in abbreviated form, for a medley titled "Have a Little Talk with Myself/Just a Little Talk with Jesus" on his Gospel Collection CD. An audio clip of that particular 2014 recording can also be found on YouTube. The song originally appeared on the country charts early in 1970 (his second entry on the country music charts following "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down" late in 1969).

On the pop chart "Have a Little Talk with Myself", strangely enough, didn't crack the Hot 100 at all...it Bubbled Under the Hot 100...meaning that the single never managed to even make it past the promotional stage. The unique chart is an extension of the Hot 100: for example...if a single hits number one on the Bubbling Under chart but doesn't make it onto the Hot 100 then it's official chart position is number 101. The chart consists of songs that are speculated to become hits on the Hot 100, specifically, but there have been a lot of instances where singles appear on the Bubbling Under chart but then go on to have chart runs in other music formats (such as country, rhythm and blues, soul). "Have a Little Talk with Myself" peaked in the lower half of the Bubbling Under chart (it consisted of 35 positions at the time) and so it's pop music peak position would have a triple digit number because of it peaking on the Bubbling Under chart. In the country music market the single managed to make it into the Top 100 but it peaked outside of the radio heavy Top-40 rankings. If you search the internet you'll find that several recording artists have recorded the song...including the likes of Sammy Davis, Jr. (just to name the most notable) but there have been other recordings of the song. It's an inspirational song and therefore it's often found on the gospel albums released on Ray Stevens...there have only been three gospel albums recorded by Ray anyhow...the gospel songs from his Turn Your Radio On album (from 1972) are the ones that had been reissued several times by a variety of different record labels and on many compilation albums you're usually going to find "Have a Little Talk with Myself" and "Turn Your Radio On" featured in the track lists. The Have a Little Talk with Myself studio album has never been issued in CD or Mp3 format. You can listen to the songs from that album on YouTube...but as a fan I'd love to see the studio album get the CD reissue treatment complete with liner notes and perhaps personal recollections/quotes from Ray Stevens himself...one can always wish. Later on this year I'll highlight the studio album since it, like the Gitarzan album, both turn 50 this year.

January 8, 2019

Ray Stevens: Jungle Gold...

Hello once more...as one could perhaps guess from the blog entry title this particular installment puts "Gitarzan" front and center. It was this week in 1969 that the Ray Stevens single seen it's release. The official release date was January 6, 1969 and so this is the song's Golden Anniversary week (50 years). The song itself is a comical parody of the Tarzan character featuring vocal impressions from Ray of the leading character as well as Jane and their pet chimp. The merging of Tarzan and pop music came together in this novelty record from the pen of Ray Stevens while the song's title, which merged guitar with Tarzan, came from the mind of session musician and recording artist, Bill Justis. He's credited as a co-writer under his birth name of William Everette.

Over the years the song's become, of course, a staple of his concerts...it reached the Top-10 on the pop charts and sold more than a million copies which earned it a Gold Record from the music industry. The success of the single wasn't limited to American audiences...it hit the pop music charts internationally. The single's peak arrived in the spring of 1969 (the April/May time frame). I was doing a little bit of further research and discovered that in the latter half of May 1969 the weekly chart publication, Billboard, debut it's Canadian music charts. In the first ever Canadian pop music singles chart "Gitarzan" was ranked among the week's Top-10 singles.

I'll be posting a couple of performances of the song in chronological order from several television appearances. The first one being from his 1970 summer television show. In each presentation the song grows more and more into a comedy sketch.



In a performance from nearly a year later, in 1971...



The early 1990s performance from his Branson, Missouri theater represents the often performed presentation of the song in which Ray enlists a female actress or one of his back-up singers to portray the part of Jane while the chimp is either performed vocally by Ray, or, some unidentified person is on stage dressed as an ape prancing around to Ray's monkey vocalizations.



I'm not insisting you all should view every video clip...you can pick and choose...or if you want to you can certainly watch each of them. The reason I'm inserting various performances of the song is I find it interesting how the song is performed in each time period...some performances are more elaborate, vocally, while others incorporate a lot of additional dialogue not heard in the original recording. In that sense I think you should view each of the video clips so you can see the various performances of the song. I'm focusing on the live performances which is why the official music video (from 1995) isn't part of this video clip time-line.

The fourth video clip is from last year and it comes from an episode of his CabaRay Nashville television series. It was uploaded onto YouTube in September of 2018.

Ray Stevens vinyl Singles I came Across...

Over the weekend I made a visit to an area flea market. Some may not take the time to frequent them as often as they used to with so many on-line sites, most of time, offering the same kind of items: used books, crafts, machinery, music, memorabilia, etc. Anyway, I like to visit flea markets every so often because sometimes I come across things that I'd probably never come across on eBay or if I do come across things on eBay more than likely they'll be a whole lot cheaper at a traditional flea market or antique mall. I often come across vinyl copies of the Ray Stevens single, "Funny Man", on eBay and a lot of the time it's either an international release, a promo copy, or another similar kind of offering. The copy I came across is indeed a promo copy but there's a couple of markings on the label which, in the eyes of professional collectors, probably immediately decreases the single's value. However, because I'm not a professional collector/dealer and since I don't purchase Ray Stevens items or any other item for the purpose of selling it I decided to go ahead and purchase the single for my own collection. The song was released as a single by Mercury Records in 1963 and it hit the Top-20 on the pop chart in Canada. The B-side, "Just One of Life's Little Tragedies", is one of the many under-rated, under-appreciated ballads...by saying that I mean there's long been a popular misconception that Ray only sings comedy songs...but if one actually listens to his albums in their entirety rather than searching for, or focusing solely on, the 'hit' recording (which is often comical) you'd be surprised to learn just how many non-comedic songs he's actually recorded in his 60 plus year career.

In addition to the 1963 vinyl single I also came across a copy of Ray's 1980 single on RCA, "Shriner's Convention". This copy is also a promo featuring the edited take on one side and the unedited take on the other side. The short version has a length of 4 minutes, 10 seconds while the long version has a length of 5 minutes, 33 seconds. As is the case with a lot of single releases there were promo copies, international copies, domestic copies, alternate domestic copies, alternate promo copies often referred to as DJ copies, etc. There's a red vinyl copy of the single that was manufactured as well. It, too, features the short version of "Shriner's Convention" on Side A and the long version of the song on Side B. The single hit the Top-10 on the country chart early in 1980. In addition to the promo single of "Shriner's Convention" that I purchased at the flea market over the weekend I already had the commercial single that was issued to the general public in my personal collection. It's B-side is "You're Never Goin' To Tampa With Me". I'm not actively seeking the red vinyl copy of "Shriner's Convention" but if it ever comes into my possession I'd then have a copy of all the various single releases of that particular recording. There were a number of vinyl albums of Ray at the flea market that I already have. Here's an observation I made concerning the various vinyl album booths that I visited: in one of the booths at the flea market they had his vinyl albums in the country music section. In another music vendor's booth they had some of his vinyl albums mixed in with random vinyl albums of stand-up comedians.