December 8, 2022

Ray Stevens: Year End Spotify Stats

Hello Ray Stevens fans!! The year-end Spotify statistics were revealed several days ago. The legendary Ray Stevens enjoyed another massive year on Spotify. The stats show that Ray received 6.1 million streams on the platform with 1 million listeners for the year. Spotify also provides hour data...according to their stats the music of Ray Stevens accounted for 321.8K hours. I have no idea how they come up with that type of statistic but it's posted on Ray's year-end numbers for the Spotify site and therefore I'm sharing the stats here in this blog entry. Also, the music of Ray Stevens was accessed on Spotify by people in 175 countries. The year-end numbers are officially billed as Spotify Wrapped and are revealed in early December. Some more stats for Ray is the amount of times people have saved his songs. His songs have been saved by Spotify listeners more than 270,000 times. The top track of Ray's on Spotify is "Mississippi Squirrel Revival". When the numbers were revealed for 2022 the track was revealed to have been played 1,190,468 times. Some of the lesser reported stats are less about streaming and more about artist ranking. For example: 1,565 people voted Ray as their Number One Spotify Artist. 7,393 people placed Ray among their Top-5 Spotify Artists. 14,558 people had Ray among their Top-10 Spotify Artists. Spotify listeners added Ray's songs to 110,230 playlists in 2022. You can visit Ray's Spotify page by clicking HERE. Once there you'll find many, many songs...including some fairly recent songs Ray performed on the television show, Larry's Country Diner. Take a listen to all kinds of Ray Stevens songs on Spotify. You'll be thoroughly entertained. 

December 5, 2022

Ray Stevens: CabaRay Nashville on YouTube E-2, S-3

Hello fans of Ray Stevens...this time around I'm giving an overview of Episode 2, Season 3 of the Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville show. The episodes make their debut each Friday night on Ray's YouTube channel at 8pm Eastern/7pm Central. This past Friday's episode guest starred the country music band, Shenandoah. 

Ray opens the show with a hilarious performance of "Ned Nostril". In the performance his backing band get to act out the wheezing, coughing, and sneezing. It's Ray's vocals we hear but the camera is on the band as they take out tissues and play the part of Ned's backing band. We get some close-up's of the trio of harmony singers as they not only pretend to be sneezing, coughing, and wheezing into tissues but they're also repeating the "ikky-ikky, ukky-ukky" nonsense phrase. The full title of the comedy song which Ray wrote and originally recorded in 1984 is "Ned Nostril and His South Seas Paradise Puts Your Blues on Ice Cheap at Twice the Price Band, Ikky-Ikky Ukky-Ukky". Ray recorded it as a Johnny Cash parody...complete with hum interjections, a Cash-style music arrangement, and Ray doing a broad vocal impression of Johnny Cash. Ray then introduces Shenandoah.   

This band was founded in 1984 and it broke through in 1987. In country music at that point in time there were only a few groups/bands with major success. The long established Statler Brothers as well as The Oak Ridge Boys were technically billed as vocal groups whereas Alabama, Sawyer Brown, and Highway 101 were billed as vocal bands. Alabama had been formed in the late 1960's, actually, as a regional country/rock band but they didn't have national success until 1980. Sawyer Brown, formed in 1981, began it's run of national success when they joined Capitol Records, ironically, in 1984...the year Shenandoah was being formed. Highway 101 was formed in 1986 and they had instant success a year later. Shenandoah, however, tasted some success in 1987 but it wouldn't be until the latter half of 1988 and especially into 1989 that the vocal band launched into their run of successes. 

Once Shenandoah hit the big time as a national act it either coincided, or was the impetus, for the explosion of country music bands and groups. As the 1990's got underway the vocal bands I mentioned were joined by another band, Diamond Rio, in 1991. The Oak Ridge Boys were also part of the lengthy group acts vying for radio's attention. The Statler Brothers moved to television in 1991 and began a long running variety show which put their recording career in the backseat for much of the decade.

The lead singer of Shenandoah is a guy named Marty Raybon. In interviews he's often the one that speaks for the group even though any member is free to speak. He was their lead singer from the band's 1984 formation until 1997 but he returned to the band in 2014 following solo projects. They perform "Two Dozen Roses", one of their biggest hits. Ray and Marty do a comical exchange involving the numbers 30 and 60. Marty remarks that the band is in their 30th year...Ray replies that he's in his 60th year. Marty doesn't specify if he's referring to the band's formation in 1984 or their national breakthrough in 1987. I'd say he's referring to the band's breakthrough considering that CabaRay Nashville didn't make it's debut until November 2015...and Ray, in 2017, was definitely in his 60th year as a recording artist (having released his first recordings in 1957). 

The audience interacts a lot with the band's songs...and Marty tells the story of the love ballad "I Wanna Be Loved Like That" which is followed by their performance of the song. Ray follows this up with a spotlight on his band member, Tommy White. Ray tells a brief history "Sleep Walk" and how it became an instrumental pop hit in 1959...pointing out how ironic it was that a steel guitar instrumental, an instrument universally associated with country music, became a big pop hit. Tommy performs the instrumental and he's aided by the other members of Ray's band. Shenandoah makes a return and performs a third song...arguably their greatest hit of all time based on radio recurrent factor and general audience familiarization, "Church on Cumberland Road". 

Ray closes the show speaking of an album he said he was working on, Slow Dance, and he performs a song that he says will be on the album. He closes the show singing "Only You and You Alone". Slow Dance did indeed see a release...and "Only You and You Alone" is the opening number on the album. The Slow Dance album is one of the four albums eventually released in 2021 in his box set, Iconic Songs of the 20th Century

December 3, 2022

Ray Stevens: Musicians Hall of Fame photos...

Hello out there all you fans of Ray Stevens!! Several days ago Ray was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame. There was a shortage of photos from the event but this past Thursday a lot of photos from Ray's portion of the event were uploaded to his social media pages. I'm going to post a couple of the photos in this blog entry. They'll be part of a collage. The Musicians Hall of Fame honors music and those who play music...and it's not an organization that pushes one style of music. Ray Stevens has long been a recording artist that has performed pop music, country music, comedy music, gospel music, middle-of-the-road music, and he has a love for classic rhythm and blues which could be heard in many of his earlier recordings. Some of his music influences were Ray Charles, The Coasters, The Drifters, and numerous stand-up comedians and radio comedians. 

Ray Stevens; 2020

In the late 1990's The Nashville Network aired a television special on Ray called The Life and Times of Ray Stevens. The hour long television special was part of a recurring series of biographical programs on country music recording artists. When the special originally aired, in 1999, it was the longest look into the personal side of Ray Stevens to ever appear. If you're new to Ray's music/career then it's best for you to know that Ray isn't one of these artists that bares his soul and gets too detailed about his personal life in his interviews. The television special opened up a lot of what had been held back from public consumption including his feelings on music and his experiences as a piano player in guitar town (as Nashville is commonly referred to). The TV special enabled fans to hear Ray speak about his music influences, too, in a more relaxed format. 

The next opportunity for the public to learn more about Ray's off-stage goings on and his thoughts on an assortment of topics wouldn't arrive until 15 years later (2014) when he released his memoir, Ray Stevens' Nashville. The 1999 TV special and the 2014 memoir are vital for any Ray Stevens fan. Now, I'm sure some of you haven't seen the 1999 Life and Times special, but if you visit his CabaRay showroom in West Nashville you'll see Ray's career on full display through the presence of numerous publisher awards, Gold and Platinum album and VHS plaques for millions of sales; numerous certifications, awards, and photographs line the walls and fill various trophy cases. 

You'll see his 9 Music City News Comedian of the Year trophies; A Golden Pick award from Country Weekly magazine when their readers voted him Favorite Comedian; You'll see a replica Star from the Music City Walk of Fame; His Country Music Hall of Fame medallion is on display and I'm sure the latest Musicians Hall of Fame medallion will also be on display. You'll see him perform and you'll see the Piano Bar and the gift shop. Ray's career is on display under one roof...the CabaRay showroom. It's Christmas season at the CabaRay and all the information can be found HERE. Ray's concerts are held on Thursday and Saturday.

In the collage above, in panel one, we have Ray holding the trophy showing him as an inductee of the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2022 and wearing the medallion presented to him at the Musicians Hall of Fame last month. In panel two it's Ray and longtime friend/collaborator Buddy Kalb. In panel three we have Ray, hands gripped, looking debonair with the medallion peeking out from his jacket.