March 30, 2009

I've been scanning Ray Stevens...again...

Double click or single click the picture below for a super-size image.


I scanned my cassette copy of Collector's Series. I purchased this cassette quite a few years ago...and when I say quite a few I mean more than a few...cassette's aren't even offered in stores that shows you how long ago I bought this cassette. This is an alternate version of Collector's Series containing his Top-40 single, "One More Last Chance", from 1981. There is another release by the same name which omits that song in favor of a 1980 comedy recording, "Put It In Your Ear". It's hard to believe but this is still the only official release by RCA to spotlight the material he recorded for them during this day and age of MP3's and CD's it's hard to fathom why this RCA material remains out of print. I have the RCA material on vinyl...and they were transferred onto CD/MP3 for my own personal use by a friend of mine. I have the cassette copy of Shriner's Convention also but even though I have the material I realize not all Ray Stevens fans have the sort of collection that I do and that is why I still harp about the lack of material in print for the latter-day fans.

I know a couple of Ray Stevens fans who I post these somewhat bigger pictures for...I think they know who I'm referring to...but I know all of his fans like the pictures as well.

Like the above picture, click this one for a bigger image. I originally had the bigger images posted but they were just too big and so I made them thumbnails so they wouldn't be difficult for dial-up users.


Now, of course, any self-respecting Ray Stevens fan will know that this release on RCA spotlights two RCA songs...can you guess which ones were on the RCA label? Although this release came along in 1983 near the end of his RCA stay, this featured just two songs from 1980 on the RCA the 1981 and 1982 offerings. Give up? The RCA songs on the above release are "Shriner's Convention", which you should have known if you were paying attention at the top of the blog. The other RCA song is "The Dooright Family".

March 29, 2009

Ray Stevens...there's something in a Sunday...

Ray Stevens and a photo shoot advertising the upcoming single, "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down". I am pretty certain that's Ray standing up in front of the table judging by the structure of the eyes and the put-on sorrowful facial expression and then off to his left in the white suit I think is Fred Foster and then next to him is Jim Malloy. Ray, Fred, and Jim were the producers of the albums that Ray recorded during his stay at Monument Records. If i'm correct in guessing those three, that's a pretty good round of guessing...the other men in the picture I have no idea who they are. On my computer I enlarged the picture several times to attempt a better's a very young Ray, of course, with a beard...notoriously clean-shaven during that time period but several pictures have emerged through the years showing him sporting a beard.

"Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down" is a song from the pen of Kris Kristofferson. Ray is noted as the first artist to record the song although the hit recording belongs to Johnny Cash. Ray's recording appears on his album Have a Little Talk With Myself which I wrote a blog about awhile ago. The recording was Ray's debut on the country music charts...rising into the Top-60 that year while peaking in the lower portion of the Hot 100. It's less than stellar performance on pop radio was ironic because that was the format in which Ray was closely associated with...1969 was also the year he had a Gold record with "Gitarzan", a Top-10 pop hit...but the content of the Sunday morning song clashed with Ray's clean-cut image and therefore wasn't a big seller and as a result of low sales it didn't chart as high on the Hot 100. It's connection to Nashville songwriter, Kris Kristofferson, helped the song gain some exposure on the country charts and helped Ray cross over to country for the first time.

It's important for newer fans of Ray to keep in mind that he was grouped in with the pop music scene throughout the 1960's and into the early 1970's. Ray made infrequent appearances on the country music charts and on country music programs in the early 1970's but his label, Barnaby, was still marketing his music to the pop and international audience. Not until the mid 1970's was there a concentrated effort made into promoting Ray as a country artist...his move to the Warner Brothers label in 1976 kick-started the move toward country. Ray's career time-line is documented in my first few blog entries. Anyway, this promo ad for "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down" is an image I've had in my collection for a period of years and I scanned it and uploaded it onto my computer tonight.

March 27, 2009

Ray Stevens Greatest Hits: UK LP and more...

I don't have this particular LP in my possession but I like the picture on the album and I believe it was issued in 1975 or 1976...I see that "Misty" is one of the songs on the LP and that was a single in 1975 and so I'd say the album was released at some point in the mid 1970's. The photo of Ray was a publicity picture for several years. One of the unique traits about Ray happens to be the Clyde ring he often wore. This picture has appeared on various other compilation projects including a massive collection that was issued in 1979 called The Ray Stevens Greatest Hits Collection which has a different album design but the same picture is used. That LP was issued on the Pickwick label. I have not looked at a lot of recent pictures of Ray's hands to see if he still wears the Clyde pinky ring or not. Clyde, of course, is the name of the famous camel in his 1962 hit "Ahab the Arab".

A lot of record labels have released compilation albums on Ray Stevens through the years. It's one of the more puzzling things that I've ever seen. There are at least 40 albums from a wide variety of labels both major and independent that have issued "greatest hits" and "best of" collections on Ray. I say 40...and that's an estimate...there are probably way more than that. The reason for this kind of thing may depend on the label's themselves. Ray recorded for what would be considered now an independent label, Barnaby Records, throughout the majority of the 1970's. 1970-1975 to be exact. Their distribution as I discussed in a previous blog was handled by CBS Records followed by other distributors in 1973. The songs on The Ray Stevens Greatest Hits Collection are as you can tell by the amount of songs, it was issued as a double album, 2 LP's:

1. Everything Is Beautiful
2. Nashville
3. Mr. Businessman
4. Little Egypt {album track}
5. Sir Thanks-A-Lot {album track}
6. Turn Your Radio On
7. Misty
8. Don't Boogie Woogie {album track}
9. Gitarzan
10. The Moonlight Special
11. Sunshine {album track}
12. Ahab The Arab
13. Bridget The Midget
14. Isn't It Lonely Together {album track}
15. Unwind
16. You've Got The Music Inside {album track}
17. Just So Proud To Be Here {album track}
18. Along Came Jones
19. The Streak
20. All My Trials
21. Have A Little Talk With Myself
22. Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down
23. Freddie Feelgood
24. Lady Of Spain {album track}

A lot of the songs on that collection, as well as many of the other "hits" collections out there on Ray, contain songs that were never even released as singles. I touched upon this in a previous blog entry. There are quite a few album songs among the 24 tracks I posted above. The funny thing is, though, they all sound like actual hit songs...and I feel that this is due to the repetitious inclusion of many of them on various "greatest hits" projects through the years. It's like a lot of the album songs that have been featured on countless hits collections gain just as much fame and popularity among Ray's fan base as the actual hit singles do. I think that this sort of thing helps create familiarity among the fan-base. For instance, a new fan is introduced to vintage Ray Stevens material by the various hits compilations about there and since a lot of his material is out of print, it's a plus when labels add in non-hits because it gives exposure to songs not typically spotlighted. In 1997 Rhino Records released The Best of Ray Stevens. My copy is about worn-out...but I'm not getting rid of it because it has some good liner notes from Dr. Demento, a DJ who plays novelty songs on a 2 hour radio program. The publicity picture of Ray that I've been writing about in this blog appears in the pages of the liner notes and appears on the back of the CD cover underneath the list of songs and producer credits. 1997 was the 40th anniversary of Ray's first recordings.

Fast-forward to 2001. Varese Sarabande, an independent label that issues out-of-print LP's and songs onto CD, issued a 23 track collection on Ray titled All-Time Greatest Hits. The cover photo is the same one you see here but there's a yellow tint covering the's okay...but I'd prefer they leave the photo the way it appeared on the album above.

The Varese Sarabande CD with the yellow tint over Ray's photo contained 23 songs, with the highlight being a couple of songs that rarely appear on compilation projects done on Ray. First there was the inclusion of his feel-good Top-40 country hit, "Everybody Needs a Rainbow", which I love...and another highlight is "Sgt. Preston of the Yukon", his 1960 single that nearly got him into trouble with King Features Syndicate over his using the Sgt. Preston character without their permission.

Getting back to the pinky ring...

This picture of Ray comes from 1988. He is performing his 1980 single, "Shriner's Convention". There is no pinky ring in this performance...but that doesn't mean he stopped wearing it. But I happen to think the ring was just a piece of jewelry he wore during the 1970's and early 1980's and eventually stopped wearing...maybe it became too tight? Isn't it interesting what topic I eventually end up writing about!?!?

March 24, 2009

Ray Stevens: TV Week, June 1970

Delving into my collection of Ray Stevens items once again we come across a June 1970 issue of a local magazine equivalent to TV Guide. This particular magazine, which you can click and see bigger, is called TV Week. A magazine issued in the New England area, subtitled "The Hartford Courant". The week covered is June 14-20, 1970. Ray is on the cover...sitting on a beach...with a blond beach sun bather walking up behind him. You can also click the program listing and see Ray's program at 7:30pm.

There is a little article contained inside the magazine promoting Ray's summer TV show. In fact, this was the debut episode of Ray's summer show for Andy Williams. The guests on the debut show were: Andy Williams himself plus Lulu and Mama Cass plus Solari and Carr, Billy Van, and The Flying Silvermans. It describes a skit called "Who is Ray Stevens??" and says the show is taped in Toronto, Canada. The replacement show for Andy is officially called Andy Williams Presents: The Ray Stevens Show??. Apparently a lot of jokes were used centered around the concept of Ray's rise to fame and low-key demeanor in spite of his world-wide popularity thanks to "Everything Is Beautiful". Although Ray had Top-40 pop hits prior to 1970, including two Gold records for a pair of novelty songs, "Ahab the Arab" in 1962 and "Gitarzan" in 1969, this particular song made him a super-star and it won him a Grammy, became a multi-million seller, plus it was heard every week on his TV show throughout the summer months.

The program aired on NBC-TV at 7:30pm on Saturday evening for 1 hour. His competition on CBS was The Jackie Gleason Show plus a major league baseball game between The Red Sox and the New York Yankee's. At 8pm, at the start of the second half hour of Ray's show, you had a New York Met's baseball game between the Philadelphia Phillies get underway on an ABC-TV there was The Newlywed Game on another ABC affiliate. So, on Ray's debut week he was up against some long-standing programs. I wonder what the weekly rating's report looked like back then? I know that had I been around in 1970 I certainly would've been watching Ray's show.

I looked in the program listings for Hee-Haw of which I am a fan, and I knew that the show in 1970 was still on CBS-TV. I searched the world over and finally found Hee-Haw listed on Wednesday nights at 7:30pm. Of course, when the show left CBS in 1971, it went into syndication for 21 more years. This TV Week starts off with Sunday and ends on Saturday. I was born in 1976 but I'm an amateur collector of TV Guide and in all of my time reading/collecting TV Guide, it's always started on Saturday and ran through Friday. This magazine, however, isn't exactly TV Guide so that's probably why it's put together differently. Some more interesting things is during this point in time movies filled the airwaves at night. I knew of the phrase "late, late movie" but this issue shows just exactly why that phrase came into being. Each day of the week there's a section set aside to promote the late night movies. One of the things that will be noticed right away on this late night movie section is that every movie has a series of X's after them. Now, now...this doesn't mean the movies are X-rated...i'll explain...

When I first glanced at the section and saw of these movies and after their description it would have an X or an XX or an XXX or an XXXX. Well...I knew it wasn't a rating of how good or bad an X-rated film may I looked in the front of the magazine and an X is how this magazine rated typical movies: A one X is "poor" and five X's means "excellent". Nevertheless, it would certainly grab a person's eyes if they casually looked at the movie section and they see all of those X's showing up after the movie without reading the description's first. It's curious as to why the magazine would choose to use an X to rate mainstream movies.

In my younger say 8 and 9...10 years old...back in the mid 1980's we had a late, late movie program called Nite Owl Theatre hosted by a man named Fritz, who goes by the name "Nite Owl". He would show movies late at night on Friday following the local newscasts. You click this image and you will be able to see those ratings that were given to movies that were certainly not X-rated...

March 7, 2009

Me thinks it's a Silver Anniversary


This was the debut album for Ray Stevens on MCA Records back in 1984...if my math is correct that was 25 years ago. Of course, I know my math is correct but I felt like using that phrase. He Thinks He's Ray Stevens was a perfect name for a comedy album and it was the beginning of a long association with MCA, that lasted for five years, running up through 1989. It was on MCA that his albums started to sell even more than they had in previous points of his career and it was also a time when The Nashville Network was just an infant...and that network went a long way at continuing the exposure of a number of did the syndicated TV program, Hee-Haw. This album has since gone Platinum and like most Ray Stevens albums it contains songs that became popular over the course of time. "It's Me Again, Margaret" is the song that came to define this particular album even though "The Mississippi Squirrel Revival" was the bigger chart hit, reaching the Top-20 in early 1985. As time went on "It's Me Again, Margaret" became one of his signature songs and the title itself has often been lifted as a catch-phrase among people who speak of obscene phone can find the title on-line in web-sites that have nothing to do with Ray Stevens. Another catch-phrase from the single is "Are you naked??" but in Ray's delivery it sounds like "Are ya nekkid??" {translation: neck id}. As I previously mentioned, this single charted lower than "Mississippi Squirrel" and it goes a long way at spotlighting the fact that chart numbers do not necessarily indicate the popularity of a single...not with Ray Stevens, I should specify, since nearly all of the songs he's known for over the last decade and a half have become popular through word of mouth and consistent exposure in concerts and on compilation albums. This album set the stage for the country comedy path and it proved to be a successful turning point in his career.