January 28, 2010

Ray Stevens' You Tube success

Welcome to my latest Ray Stevens blog. I thought it would be fun and interesting to dissect the play totals of Ray Stevens' music videos on You Tube. Ray began uploading his popular music videos on You Tube half a year ago and each of the music videos have obtained a level of popularity on-line as a result. Admittedly the music videos had long been available on You Tube from other users who had uploaded them from their own personal collections and those uploads scored hundreds of thousands of hits on You Tube months, in some cases years, before Ray and his people got involved and launched their own You Tube channel. Ray didn't upload many music videos during the last seven months...a bulk of the available music videos you can watch were uploaded 6 months ago. "We The People" was uploaded a month ago and "Thank You" was uploaded 3 weeks ago. The military salute, "Thank You", isn't the official follow-up to "We The People" and that's why he hasn't promoted the song as much. "Thank You" has received thousands of hits nonetheless.

To date, the music videos on You Tube that have been uploaded by Ray's people have obtained a combined 2,965,631 plays if my math is accurate and I didn't punch any wrong numbers on my calculator. While it's true 95% of that total can be traced to just one music video in particular the fact remains that before long Ray will crack the 3,000,000 mark. The reason I make a big deal about that is because Ray isn't a mainstream artist...and anytime a non-mainstream artist can tap into that mainstream audience I consider it impressive. Usually artists who are considered not among the mainstream continue to have success within their audience reach...but once mainstream publicity occurs it's like you've successfully maneuvered around a roadblock of sorts...that roadblock being the mainstream music media and music video channels on television.

So this is why I come across as "too excited" or "easily excited" to those of you who happen to stumble across this blog and wonder why I'm making such a big deal about video airplay on You Tube and the exposure on the Fox News channel. I hope Ray continues to use You Tube to get his music to the masses who otherwise would not hear it if he went through the conventional channels. Ray, being an Independent artist and free from major record label constraints, is able to use You Tube to market his music. He records for his own label and he publishes nearly every song he records...even when he was signed to a major label he published nearly everything he recorded.

The major labels, though, usually use You Tube to market a mainstream artist's music video but with little to no control from the artist. Ray, on the contrary, has much more artistic freedom and control of his music than your typical mainstream artist does and I hope he continues to use You Tube in that manner.

Here is a list of the music videos officially uploaded by Ray Stevens on You Tube and a total, to date, of their hit count. I've listed them from most hits to the fewest...

1. We The People: 2,525,082

2. Osama Yo' Mama: 131,725

3. Jeremiah Peabody's Green and Purple Pills: 72,941

4. Thank You: 61,900

5. Mississippi Squirrel Revival: 55,653

6. Everything Is Beautiful: 30,709

7. The Streak: 23,314

8. Teenage Mutant Kung Fu Chickens: 21,518

9. Santa Claus Is Watching You: 13,307

10. It's Me Again, Margaret: 12,938

11. Misty: 12,931

12. Ahab the Arab: 7,691

13. Shriner's Convention: 5,812

14. Sittin' Up With the Dead: 110

The 110 plays of "Sittin' Up With the Dead" interest me because none of his other music video uploads have failed to achieve at least 1,000 or more hits. Music video 13 at 5,812 dwarfs the 110 plays of "Sittin' Up With the Dead".

The music video had been uploaded by numerous users prior to Ray uploading it onto You Tube and that could play a factor as to why that particular upload has such a low hit count.

Ray Stevens: We The People music video, Part Three

The latest play total for the Ray Stevens music video, "We The People", sits at 2,523,232 hits which is close to 25,000 more plays since my previous blog.

We welcome a fifth follower of this blog, too. I don't get e-mails alerting me that someone chooses to follow this blog and so when I checked my previous blog entry about Ray returning to Branson, Missouri I was thrilled to see another follower latch onto this blog. Ray commented on his Twitter page that he's still working on his upcoming CD but didn't put an official release date on it yet. Late February is the general time-frame that Ray hopes to have it released according to some of his interviews this month. A local Nashville television station did a promo piece on Ray and this song and you can find that segment at his web-site in the "News" section and on his Facebook page a link exists.

The commercial peak of the Mp3 digital download of the single arose a couple of weeks ago in mid January, almost a month after it's release, when it latched onto the #4 best-selling spot for several days on Amazon's list of country Mp3's. The Mp3 was released on December 17, 2009 six days after the music video debuted on You Tube. Right now the Mp3 sits at #80 among the best-selling country songs and #52 among best selling Mp3 comedy recordings. This isn't any cause for concern or alarm, though.

In spite of the inevitable commercial decline on Amazon's best-selling lists, the Mp3 remains high among the Hot New Releases list...ranking at #10 among country music Mp3's. This is the 27th day of the single being ranked on Amazon's Top-100 best-seller lists. This works out to be a day shy of 4 weeks, a month, so the slide in chart placing at Amazon isn't something to be alarmed over. Why? Well, it's because they rank items hourly instead of weekly...and logging 27 consecutive days in the Top-100 is quite impressive because it's all based on sales.

The biggest publicity and promotion "We The People" attracted was through social network sites, namely You Tube, where it had gained over 1,000,000 hits prior to it's exposure on O'Reilly's program on Fox News channel. Some people are quick to forget that it was because of the million or so hits the video obtained on You Tube is why O'Reilly did a couple of features on the song. There are some people who mistakenly believe it was the exposure on Fox News that enabled the music video to become popular when, in truth, the music video had reached a million hits on it's own prior to the Fox News exposure...and now it's at 2.5 million hits.

January 27, 2010

Ray Stevens returns to Branson...

Ray Stevens is making a return to Branson, Missouri beginning in September and running through late October. The official time frame is September 15 - October 23. He will be what I call a resident singer of The Welk Theatre and judging by it's appearance it appears to be a rather elegant setting. The actual venue is called The Welk Resort Theatre. I mentioned this concert series in my previous blog celebrating his birthday but a video commercial was uploaded onto You Tube on Tuesday and so I thought that I'd copy and paste it here so that it could get some publicity through this blog, too.

It's my understanding that the publicity for these concerts are starting quite a few months early is because there's an anticipation that the tickets will go quickly and if they were to wait until the middle of summer to offer tickets there could potentially be a situation arise where the ticket office would be swamped with orders and have a little window of time to mail the tickets out in a timely manner. So, by starting the publicity 7 months in advance it eliminates any problems with ticket delivery caused by "last minute shoppers". I assume this video upload plays locally in Branson, Missouri and all points in between. I don't think it will air up in my part of the country and so I'm glad that the video commercial/promo was uploaded for the country and the world to see. I like that publicity picture they use with Ray in the red jacket.

2,506,382 is the play total for "We The People". The music video has officially been on You Tube for 1 month and 16 days. It was uploaded on December 11, 2009 and as a result of this song Ray thrust himself into the national spotlight. For those who have been long-time fans of Ray you may become annoyed or irritated by the mainstream music critics who make it appear that Ray's been quiet for decades. We all know that isn't true...Ray's been active in country music and country comedy for years and I suspect because those music formats aren't closely covered on a national level that's why the mainstream audience genuinely assumes Ray has been silent for years and years. It's annoying to me to read those kinds of statements and if it's annoying to me then chances are it's annoying to a lot of you as well.

I hope those who are able to see Ray in concert this year at whatever venue will enjoy the experience! In one performer you'll get an array of musical styles in a fast-moving show that, as the cliché goes, will leave you begging for more. I've been to a couple of his concerts and I know that feeling well.

January 24, 2010

The Birthday of Ray Stevens

The day is here!! January 24th...a day in 1939 that saw the birth of Ray Stevens. At the time he was known as Harold Ray Ragsdale. A lot of the background information that I may slip in here and there on my various blog entries are things that I picked up and remembered throughout my long tenure as a Ray Stevens fan. The fandom that exists for Ray Stevens is one that I think is unique. A lot of the fans could be people who remember when Ray burst onto the pop music scene in the '60s. Some of his fans may have discovered him in the late '60s thanks to numerous exposure on Andy Williams' television program. A lot of people got a large dose of Ray Stevens in the summer of 1970 when he hosted a once a week program during the summer months...filling in for Andy Williams. There are also the fans who discovered Ray through his movement into country music almost full-time in the late '70s. By the early '80s Ray was continuing to produce serious material...a string of albums with wonderful love ballads and other mood music had really been a focal point of a lot of his albums...the comedy songs, though, are what stood out and endured. By the mid '80s Ray began a highly successful move into the area of country comedy. Some critics, of course, would say that Ray had always been a country comic masquerading as a pop and country singer.

You visitors/readers can do the math for yourselves. Born on January 24, 1939 Ray hits the seven one mark today...in other words, 71. Ray hardly comes across as a 71 year old...if you see him in performance today all the energy, enthusiasm, and exuberance is still there. The only difference is he's gotten older...but he hasn't shown hardly any signs of slowing down. He's got quite a list of concert dates scheduled for this year...including a month long stay at The Welk Theatre in Branson, Missouri later this year.

How do you celebrate a birthday on-line? I did so last January on this blog when he hit 70...but things have changed just a tad bit from that point in time. 2009 started off fine...but the last month of the year was absolutely crazy, in a good way...with all the attention and hype of "We The People". To date, the music video has gotten 2,440,674 plays on You Tube. I think the video can hit the three million mark by the middle of this year...but play may slow down should Ray issue a follow-up. I can't imagine that the follow-up would be able to out-do "We The People" as far as viral music videos are concerned but should the follow-up be along the same lines of the ObamaCare song it probably could.

One of the things that most newcomers often ask is if Ray is in the country music Hall of Fame. The answer is no...for the moment. I keep hoping the voters will elect Ray because the Hall already has several artists primarily known for humor as members: Whitey Ford, Little Jimmy Dickens, Minnie Pearl, Grandpa Jones, Rod Brasfield...so I'm hoping one day Ray Stevens and two other comics, the late Jerry Clower and the late Archie Campbell, get their recognition for their impact with country humor. Although Ray isn't a member of the country music Hall of Fame he is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.

In some of my other blog entries I've listed Ray's awards and shown the albums and the singles that he's released. One of the over-looked things are his awards. Ray is one of the most awarded, if not the most awarded, country comedy acts of all-time. He sets himself apart from other country comedians due to his heavy emphasis on the music and the production of a song and the album. Some country comics don't put as much detail into their recordings.

The good times for Ray continued throughout the '80s and into the mid '90s thanks in large part to the wildly popular channel, The Nashville Network. Hand in hand with this were the myriad number of country music programs that aired on the weekends, usually, in syndication: Pop! Goes the Country, That Nashville Music, Nashville On the Road, Hee-Haw, The Porter Wagoner Show, and several other programs that had shorter life-spans but were rooted in country music and usually followed the same pattern all helped at some point or another expose Ray's material nationally whenever radio seemed to show little interest. Sad times occurred a decade ago...it was during this time that The Nashville Network left the airwaves. It had been on the air for 17 years, 1983-2000. In many ways that network was the last refuge available for a lot of artists deemed "too country" for country radio and it was also a place for a lot of non-mainstream country artists to get some national exposure...by-passing country radio in the process. I will admit that since that time, Ray's exposure pales by comparison. The Nashville Network's biggest competitor, CMT, had become the #1 country music channel for this over-rated 18-35 age group during the last half of the '90s and since 2000, CMT and later, GAC, have catered to each successive 18-35 audience...giving limited or no exposure to Ray Stevens or other artists of his generation.

What do you suspect Ray Stevens will be doing on his 71st birthday? We're all anticipating his upcoming album...as of now I have no idea if he'll be releasing it on his own label or if Curb Records will distribute it. Usually what happens is Curb will handle distribution of an album or a DVD a year after it's been released on his own label, Clyde Records. What with "We The People" being so topical I think Curb, if they were to release the album, would issue it next month. February is the month his album is to be released...but it was never revealed if it would be an exclusive on-line release on his own label or if we'd see it in stores.

Whatever the case, I can't wait for the album's release and I hope you all wish Ray a happy birthday on his web-site, RayStevens.com, or Twitter, Facebook, You Tube, and or My Space...whichever social network of your choice.

January 23, 2010

Ray Stevens: The Greatest Hits

Let's dust off a pair of 1987 albums that MCA Records released on Ray Stevens. The albums contain 10 songs each and both releases have become known among fans as "his greatest" because all of the songs tend to be what the public remembers the most...give or take a few omissions. The first release is a Platinum album...achieving sales of a million copies or more. This feat happened in 1990...prior to this declaration it was awarded Gold selling status of half a million copies sold. I believe both certifications happened in 1990. A lot of times the RIAA won't declare an album or single a Gold or Platinum seller unless a record label puts in an application. I think this is why MCA, in 1990, put in an application and the RIAA recognized the sales figures of the album. This is all speculation, of course. In a Life and Times television special that aired on The Nashville Network in 1997, Ray remarked that his albums became successful in time due to word of mouth and that the albums "eeked along..." and became Gold and Platinum through one person telling the other about a song or album they've bought and it spreads from there. I know nobody needs me to explain what "eek along" means but I'll do so anyway. Eek along means to go slowly. In other words, Ray's albums slowly reach Gold or Platinum status.

Depending on who's being asked the question some artists and record labels would prefer an album instantly strike Gold and Platinum but others take the approach that if an album takes it's time to achieve those sales plateau's then it provides longevity for that artist because it side-steps the "fast-burn" or "quick-hit" label often given to any singer or album that grabs the public's attention rather quickly. The quicker a song or album becomes a hit the sooner it'll peak. So there's valid arguments for both sets of beliefs when it comes to Gold and Platinum achievements.

The songs featured on these two 1987 albums are as follows...

1. The Streak; 1974
2. Shriner's Convention; 1980
3. It's Me Again, Margaret; 1984
4. Turn Your Radio On; 1971
5. Misty; 1975
6. Mississippi Squirrel Revival; 1984
7. Gitarzan; 1969
8. Ahab the Arab; 1969 {re-recording}
9. Along Came Jones; 1969
10. Everything Is Beautiful; 1970
11. Would Jesus Wear a Rolex; 1987
12. Can He Love You Half as Much as I?; 1986
13. The Blue Cyclone; 1985 {radio edit}
14. I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow; 1979
15. Mama's in the Sky with Elvis; 1987
16. Mr. Businessman; 1968
17. The Haircut song; 1985
18. Jeremiah Peabody's Green and Purple Pills; 1961
19. Freddie Feelgood; 1969
20. In The Mood; 1976

January 22, 2010

Ray Stevens: Nostalgia Valley, Part 3

The most recent play count on You Tube of the Ray Stevens music video, "We The People", currently sits at 2,412,796. I like to add an update every so often because the music video continues to climb in play counts and it's much like watching a CD climb in sales...there's an excitement about it, make no mistake, of watching the music video climb in viewer totals. It's anyone's guess if the music video will reach 3 million or more...but I think I remember saying something similar several days ago when I wondered if the video would reach 2 million. So now it's at 2.4 million and it's long been declared a major hit among social networks and I believe that Ray and company will continue to ride the music video at least another month...February 2010 is supposed to be the month that the album of patriotic and political songs is to be released. I wish I knew what was on the album now...as far as song titles...but amazingly in this day and age it's been able to be kept secret. I have an idea of what one of the songs will be and that's only because his web-page had mentioned the song as a possible follow-up but it's not been officially announced yet.

I continue to do my part in defending the song from it's slate of vicious critics and I'll continue to do so. I feel the criticisms are more or less on a personal level and they have no real substance. The national conversation is slowly navigating toward the economy and unemployment but the state of health care is on life-support until an actual final vote is reached...which may not happen for awhile...but we shall see. This Democratically controlled Congress is the same one who pushed through ObamaCare on Christmas Eve in the Senate so I'm not completely optimistic that those same people aren't coming up with another got'cha move when we least expect it.

In my third trip to Nostalgia Valley we come across a certain Ray Stevens song that should fill all your hearts with laughter...the wild and hilarious...hold on to your seats...the totally nuts "I Used To Be Crazy". The comical song comes from the 1989 Ray Stevens album, Beside Myself, which I've written a lot about. This particular song closes out the album and leaves the listener wanting more. The song can best be described as the rantings of a depressed entertainer who has a reputation for being slightly off-beat and has a public perception of being a nut-case. The man admits that he used to be crazy but feels that he's making improvements. This is a song that I really can't explain much about because doing so would spoil the song for those who hadn't heard it. Ray gets crazy in this song...and the appreciators of comical songs will grin from ear to ear when they hear it.

Another song that'll have you grinning ear to ear is Ray's early 1971 smash hit in England, "Bridget the Midget, the Queen of the Blues". In one of the most lop-sided statistics, this single peaked in the runner-up position in the United Kingdom in early 1971...peaking at #2. In America the single peaked in the Top-50 of the Hot 100. I don't know if the Top-50 finish in America was a statement being made by Top-40 radio at the time or if the song appealed more to the international audience by comparison because Ray in fact is and was an America-generated artist so it always surprised me why a novelty single, which is what Ray is known for releasing, would hit bigger in England by such a wide margin. The song spoofs go-go dance clubs and the patrons...and maybe the satire wasn't well embraced in America by radio DJ's who probably feared alienating a segment of the audience that frequented those clubs. It's anyone's guess but the single if heard today draws flack because of the high-sped vocals being used as Ray portrays the title character. I think that gimmick is perhaps what made it such a novelty sensation in England in early 1971. The song was impeccably produced and featured high quality sound...and the throng of activity that's presented within the song is incredible. It's like theater of the mind...letting the words paint the scene. When you hear the song you can picture yourself inside one of those go-go clubs watching it all play out.

Ray Stevens: Osama Yo' Mama

One of the interesting things that has taken place since the release of "We The People" late in 2009 are those who either weren't aware of "Osama Yo' Mama" in 2002 or those who simply forgot about it's existence. The song is an expression of anger and patriotism dressed up as a comedy/novelty song. It's something that Ray has often done throughout his career to hammer home a point or an idea. The reason why I say it's interesting that people are quick to forget this recording is because in it's day it was a huge recording...one of, if not the only, major hit recording pointed directly at terrorist Osama bin Laden. I have heard a lot of comical songs about bin Laden but Ray's is by far the best lyrically, comically, musically, and verbally sounding recording to skewer the terrorist. The single itself remained a top seller for months. I do not have the official chart run that it enjoyed but it was a Gold selling single and a #1 sales hit in early 2002. Throughout 2002 it remained one of the nation's top two country singles, in terms of sales, according to Billboard magazine.

As far as airplay is concerned the single reached the Top-50 on the country charts. An album of the same name was issued in 2002 as well and it reached the country Top-30. The thing that was remarkable about all of this is Ray achieved a lot of the sales success from word-of-mouth and internet advertising/publicity. This is mainly why on country radio the single soared into the Top-50 but was off the airplay charts just as quick.

Another reason why I say it's interesting that a lot of people have seemed to forget this song is because of the backlash in some circles over Ray's current hit, "We The People". I'm highlighting "Osama Yo' Mama" to hopefully show critics that "We The People" isn't the first song Ray has ever recorded with a political overtone. If the critics cared to really research his career they would see that Ray has always recorded songs with political overtones. It isn't his fault that "We The People" struck a nerve with people.

There is a b-side to "Osama Yo' Mama" and it's his take on "United We Stand", a song that was a hit during the time Ray had out "Everything Is Beautiful". The image you see in this blog entry is of Osama Yo' Mama: The Album. It is called this because the CD single features the same cover design and to distinguish each one from the other, without having to look up the song selections, a consumer would be able to see The Album written underneath his name. The music video can be viewed on You Tube. There was a sequel that was released called "Hello Mama" and it, too, was made into a music video. The music video of that song was once available on-line but it's since been taken down. The video is featured on a 2-set DVD release called The Complete Comedy Video Collection that you can find at Ray's on-line shopping store at his web-site.

Ray Stevens: 30 years ago in Hahira, Georgia

30 years ago Ray Stevens told us a funny story about a couple of Shriner's inside a hotel in Hahira, Georgia. The story was filled with satire and innuendo as one of the most intriguing facets of the song at the time was that most of it took place during a one-sided phone conversation...meaning the listener was only hearing the reactions of one person instead of the voice of two. The music video was filmed in 1995 and the song itself was released in early 1980. At the time of the song's release, of course, there wasn't such a thing as widespread use of cell-phones, pagers, and other devices and so a lot of the charm of the song is in the use of a land-line phone...with a cord...and this was visually depicted on the music video. In my opinion a lot of the charm of the song deals with the gentle satire that's heard throughout as the names of fraternities are spoofed and the "rules" of such organizations are also spoofed as Bubba is depicted as the strict Shriner behaving himself.

Coy, on the other hand, is seen as the goofball who just wants to have fun. The concept of satirizing organizational self-importance can be interpreted as well due to Bubba threatening to throw Coy out of the Shrine if he continues to act up...going as far as saying Coy could face public shunning as a result. Although the Shriner's are who get the focus in this song you can apply these same set of beliefs of all-importance to just about any social club. Prior to the song's 1980 release it's been reported that Ray had the local Shriner's in and around Nashville, Tennessee listen to the song before he released it. Ray got the okay sign that the satire wasn't offensive or harsh and it was released in early 1980 on the RCA label. The single reached the Top-10 on the country music charts proving that the country music audiences across the nation accepted the song and found it hysterical. The album of the same name also placed in the Top-10 on the country music album charts. Check my blog entry called "Ray Stevens: 45 at 30" for detailed information about the song and album.

January 21, 2010

Ray Stevens: Nostalgia Valley Revisited

Welcome to my fan-created blog focusing on Ray Stevens. I know that I've gotten a lot more visitors than usual and most of that is because of Ray's hit single, "We The People". This blog site isn't associated with Ray Stevens or anyone else. I say this because some out there may in fact think Ray has something to do with this blog and he doesn't. I created it several years ago to spotlight what I felt was an under-appreciation of Ray Stevens. The last month and a half, though, I've seen just how vicious and hateful people can get if they have an issue with something or somebody. In this case it's Ray's current hit, "We The People". There is also an element of resentment shown toward Ray for merely singing a song that expresses feelings and opinions that so many people feel. As I mentioned before, at the beginning of this song's surgence on You Tube, the opposition mocked and laughed at it and viewed it as harmless. Now, 2,357,956 plays later, these same people and others who only ridiculed the song and called it harmless are now spewing hate for the music video, the song, Ray Stevens, and his fans. Obviously the reason is tied up in the song having an impact with people...which threatens the agenda of the liberal left or else they wouldn't be posting the sort of things they do at You Tube. You can check the music video to see for yourself how outrageous the supporters of ObamaCare are.

Well, I call this blog entry 'Nostalgia Valley' because amidst all the chaos and excitement of Ray's current hit I don't want his catalog of music to be pushed aside. I also hope to expose a lot of Ray's music to people that visit this blog site via social networks. I've seen URL links to my blog entries pop up several times on Twitter and I welcome all those who seriously want to learn about Ray Stevens' career. In order to really understand a situation in the present you have to find out where it started and this blog covers all aspects of his career. Obviously this month has been dominated by "We The People"...not all months are quite like this one! So for those who pop in from a Twitter or Facebook link check out the entire blog. I never approve comments from readers that I feel are insulting to Ray, insulting to me, insulting to his fans, and I never approve comments that have nothing to do with Ray Stevens or my blogs. I see other blogs where the author's approve commentary that a reader wants to say and arguments erupt as a result. Since I do not like that approach I simply don't publish any comment from readers that come off negative toward Ray, me, or his fans.

The picture of Ray in this blog I believe originated from 1969 or 1970...it was in that time frame. This was the period in his career that he was becoming a recurring guest on Andy Williams' television program. The appearances in 1969 led to Ray hosting the summer replacement program in 1970 and this in turn led to Ray writing his 1970 #1 pop hit "Everything Is Beautiful". At that time Ray was all but 31 years old and some unsavory characters on-line have taken it upon themselves during the last several weeks to wonder whatever happened to 1970 Ray Stevens because "We The People" in their opinion is a 100% shift in another direction. For starters, 1970 was 40 years ago and Ray was 40 years younger. Secondly, the Ray in 1970 is pretty much the same as the Ray in 2010 only older and not as mainstream. Lastly, the message that was contained in his 1970 #1 was what he felt the country needed at the time.

The song has religious over-tones and it has a sense of brotherhood and tolerance...sentiments that weren't exactly being felt in 1970 simply because you had all those riots, protests, picketing, attempted assassinations, assassinations, the anti-war crowd, and on and on and on. Some feel that Ray's 1970 hit was a political plug for the liberal left because of it's "brotherhood and tolerance" theme. The fact is you could, and still can be, a conservative and still feel that tolerance and brotherhood are character traits one should strive for. Shift to 2010 and Ray feels that "We The People" is a song that the country needs at this time and so I really can't see any difference between 1970 Ray and 2010 Ray other than the obvious physical and vocal differences.

January 20, 2010

Ray Stevens: The O'Reilly Interview

Click the link below to see the interview between O'Reilly and Ray Stevens...if the link doesn't work and a video doesn't start playing you can always visit the Fox News web-page and do a search for "Ray Stevens" and the video will come up.

Opposing Obamacare

Hello all you Ray Stevens fans out there!! Isn't it interesting that when "We The People" was beginning it's phenomenal rise on You Tube that you didn't hardly see much concentrated opposition to the song AND Ray Stevens as you do now. What a difference an interview with O'Reilly makes. WOW! Now you have the usual parasites who trash O'Reilly on a daily basis going after Ray Stevens, too! The interview, straight from the Fox web-site, is also on You Tube uploaded by someone not affiliated with Fox News. That video upload is of lesser sound quality and the replies are mostly comments from the far-left, which is ironic, seeing the "We The People" has a broad spectrum of beliefs from all political ideologies.

So, as a response, I've decided to upload the better quality video from Fox's own web-site. The site allows visitors to embed their videos onto blogs and so I'm taking advantage of that opportunity. I feel the comments and insults thrown at Ray Stevens, specifically after his O'Reilly interview, are uncalled for. It doesn't help matters when the Messiah of the mundane, Keith Olbermann, decides to single out the interview and in his own way egg on the harsh criticisms directed at the song. He'll never be Steve Allen so he should stop while he's ahead. I shouldn't let it bother me because his show gets trounced in the cable ratings day after day because everyone's watching Fox News since people want to know what's going on and not hear the latest liberal wisecrack. The reason things like that get to me sometimes is because of the arrogance in which the criticisms are delivered. Those who oppose Fox News and all of that have a touch of arrogance to them which I've yet to understand, not that I'd want to. So, enjoy the video.

January 19, 2010

Massachusetts Senate Race

The play count now for Ray Stevens smash music video hit, "We The People", is 2,304,413. I suspect that play count will rise much more higher in the hours ahead and in the days ahead following the outcome of this Massachusetts Senate special election. The leading candidate is the Republican, Scott Brown, and should he win the election he'll be the 41st Republican in the Senate and that'll knock the Democrat filibuster proof super-majority of 60 down to 59. This means that should Brown win, ObamaCare in it's current state will more than likely die a quick death...but it could pass as I was mentioning in previous blog entries should one of the several options that the Democrats have at their disposal be implemented. I predict if the Democrats lose the Senate seat in Massachusetts and they don't elect to use one of their options of pushing through ObamaCare I feel that the bill will be re-written or it'll not be an issue for several years.

It's a little after 8pm here in my part of the country and so the polls in Massachusetts have officially closed and so now it's just a wait and see process. O'Reilly mentioned at the start of his program that there are no exit polls and so it'll not be like most elections where poll results are updated second by second or minute by minute like you see in other elections after the public has voted. I don't know if this is going to slow down an already anxious situation or if it'll indirectly lead to accusations of voter fraud of some sort because of the lack of exit polling.

Ray Stevens: The New Battle of New Orleans

In what seems like a never ending quest today I'm going to attempt, once again, to explain away the claims of racism by those who hear this song. I have owned this single for several years and when I heard it for the first time I chuckled at it because I always chuckle whenever I hear a Ray Stevens comical effort for the first time. When listening to the song for that first time and all the subsequent times I loved the song even more. I came across a web-site a couple years ago and the reason why it's still fresh on my mind is because it's the very first time I had actually seen racial accusations being charged at Ray. It was certainly an eye-opening rant by someone royally ticked off because in his or her mind Ray had no right to sing about the Hurricane Katrina tragedy in a light-hearted way. First off...the song is satiric...there isn't anything "light hearted" about it. Secondly, the song isn't making fun of the hurricane victims as some people have come to believe. Lastly, there's not one thing racially charged within the lyrics but yet even today you may come across web-sites and blogs where racist accusations are thrown in the direction of Ray Stevens.

The lyrics are loud and clear...the song is satirizing the looters and the politicians of that area during the aftermath of Katrina...and yes, there's a jab at Jesse Jackson but it isn't race based. The comment deals with Jackson's personality. However, because it's a jab at an "African-American", people on the far-left see it as racial or racist. That kind of madness where people accuse one other of being racists back and fourth hopefully comes to an end this year! There is a much different version of the song by it's writer, Chuck Redden, that you can find if you Google the name of the song. Ray's version doesn't include all of those lyrics found in the Chuck Redden version but because bloggers, I think, find the full and un-edited lyrics on-line they ignorantly have passed along the misinformation that Ray recorded those lyrics when he didn't. The writer even admitted back in 2006 that Ray recorded a "much tamer version" of the song. Ray's recording was released in 2006 but it wasn't widely distributed. I found my copy of the song on-line. Check eBay for those who want to own a copy of the song...it's very hard to find.

Ray Stevens: We The People music video, Part Two

2,270,220 hits have been obtained for the Ray Stevens music video, "We The People". As I touched on in previous blog entries this month this song has rattled the cages of more than a few who until this song came along had never even heard of Ray Stevens before. I came across a blog earlier today where the writer resorted to the usual racism stand-by. I won't directly quote the line but it came across that Ray's song, in that blogger's opinion, was racially based. The blog goes on to say that Ray has the nerve to vilify the first African-American president. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but what does Obama's race have to do with objecting his policies? The blogger made it appear that Obama is above criticism because of his race. Now...doesn't that sound racist to you? Here you have a blogger slamming "We The People" and country people in general and remarking that the first African-American president shouldn't be criticized. Since when did Obama receive immunity from criticism and since when did criticizing someone who's an African-American become a form of racism? I think these people assume everyone who criticizes African-Americans are racists in some kind of way. It's the only thing I can come up with to explain their logic.

One of the funniest Ray Stevens albums from the 1980's is this one, Crackin' Up. At any opportunity I like to promote that album because of the wild and crazy novelty songs that are featured. The album actually starts off rather biting...the religious satire, "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?" gets things underway. Now, if you think the fuss by some over "We The People" is out of hand you should have seen some of the comments hurled at Ray back in 1987 when "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?" was released. Those with no sense of humor, or, those who didn't appreciate the satire, called Ray everything from sacrilegious to a devil in Saint's clothing because the song mocked televangelists and it pondered the question of whether or not Jesus would be decked in jewelery when he comes back to Earth to resemble many of the televangelists of that era. A lot of the evangelists lived lavish lives and the scrutiny came as a result of how ministers who supposedly are doing their evangelical work for next to nothing and speak out against excesses end up living the life of millionaires. The song was written by Chet Atkins and Margaret Archer. It was the only single from the album to make the country music charts. The single hit early in May of 1987 and in January of 1988 it was nominated for a Grammy in the "Comedy Recording of the Year" category. Ray's single was up against albums by Weird Al Yankovic, Robin Williams, Bob and Ray, and Jackie Mason. The album hit the Top-30 on the country albums chart and remained a significant best-seller for 15 weeks.

Although they had little impact there were some critics of the album's comedic tone. There were some critics who complained about the so-called "adult humor" found on the album and these critics chastised Ray for not being "family friendly". To explain what these misguided souls were referring to I suspect it had to do with "Three Legged Man", for example. In the song Ray tells of a comical scenario between a two men and a woman. One man steals a woman away from the other guy, who has a peg leg. The other man decides to not only take the woman but also take the peg leg and therefore he becomes a "Three Legged Man". I saw some vintage reviews of the album and seen a comment that the song was too mature for families. Another song that was questioned was "The Day That Clancy Drowned". This song is about a man who works at the brewery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and by accident fell into a vat of beer...and drowned. We're given a step by step account of the aftermath including a brief eulogy by a preacher. "Cool Down Willard" is one of the so-called mature songs where Ray plays the part of a frustrated husband fed up with his wife's fixation on Willard Scott. Ray gets to do his popular old lady vocal characterization at various points in the song, playing the role of Grandma who can't control her lust for Willard. Ray's spoof of the unlikely duo of Willie and Julio came alive on "Sex Symbols", a song where Ray sings a 'duet' with Julio. Of course Ray mimics a Latin-type voice while playing the Julio role. Ray and Julio brag about their prowess and good looks to one another. As you can tell it was one of the songs deemed "too mature" and not family friendly.

Song contents:

1. Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?
2. Three Legged Man
3. Cool Down, Willard
4. I'm My Own Grandpaw
5. The Ballad of Cactus Pete and Lefty
6. Sex Symbols
7. Gourmet Restaurant
8. The Flies of Texas Are Upon You
9. Doctor, Doctor Have Mercy On Me
10. The Day That Clancy Drowned

Ray Stevens: 45 at 34

I don't necessarily have an image of a 45 RPM to showcase in this blog entry but I do have an image as you can see centering around a Ray Stevens single from 1976 called "Honky Tonk Waltz". The single reached the Top-30 on the country music charts and it was written by Paul Craft. The song is about a couple that breaks up in a bar, or honky-tonk. Ray sings about a man who falls in love with a woman, they become a pair, and they break-up all in one night. The reason why? Well, as the old story goes...two's a party, three's a crowd. Another man came along and stole the woman away. It's almost like a reversal of Patti Page's hit song "Tennessee Waltz" but this time instead of the woman watching a girlfriend steal away a boyfriend, Ray watches a man come along and steal his woman away. "Honky Tonk Waltz" is not a comedy song in spite of the idea that honky-tonk and waltzes are being blended together. I first heard the song on the 1995 Warner Brothers compilation I wrote of several blog entries ago, Do You Wanna Dance?. The song was originally released on the 1976 album, Just For The Record. The picture of Ray on this music booklet matches the picture on that 1976 album.

January 18, 2010

Have You Gotten the Ray Stevens T-shirt Yet?

A few days ago T-shirts became available for purchase featuring Ray Stevens in costume underneath the "We The People" title. The American flag is also in the background. The T-shirts are black and there are two kinds being offered at his web-site store. There is the shirt with his picture and then there's a shirt with just the name of the song written at the top. The price is the same for either shirt. The T-shirts became available last week...I should say the last couple of days is when they appeared on his web-site. Previously there hadn't been a "clothing" section at his web-site store and so I think they're planning ahead. The actual clothing section isn't functional at this point...so I'm assuming that as the weeks go by they'll be adding additional clothing or hats to the store and create a clothing section. As of now you can see the t-shirts on full display if you visit his on-line music store at his web-site.

I haven't bought a t-shirt...yet. I hope they'll still be in stock when I get the chance to send off for one. They saying that they're in limited quantity and so it'll be my luck I finally get around to sending off for a t-shirt and I find out they've sold-out.

I'm waiting for a "We The People" ball cap!! Hopefully such an item will be forthcoming. Ray will be on the road at select venue's this year and if there's a merchandise counter I'm sure the "We The People" merchandise will be in full display. Now, of course, a lot of this planning ahead isn't set in stone because there hasn't been a final vote on ObamaCare yet. The House and the Senate are suppose to merge their bills together for passage as one all-encompassing health care bill...and in both the House and Senate those who are in favor of ObamaCare greatly outnumber those who oppose it. So, it's likely that ObamaCare will pass by a slim margin...and should that happen expect "We The People" to continue to generate discussion leading up to election time in November.

Should this upcoming Massachusetts Senate race go in favor of the Republican candidate, the Democrats will lose their 60 vote super-majority and it'll be a 59-41 Democrat-Republican ratio in the Senate. This is crucially important because without a 60 vote super-majority, the Democrats would not be able to just pass the bill through Congress swiftly. It's true that even if the Republican is elected, the Democrats would still have a majority 59-41...but given that the Democrats could potentially lose their 60 vote super-majority it means that the Republicans would then be able to rightfully delay and filibuster and prolong the inevitable in hopes that some Democrats will crack under pressure and vote against ObamaCare when it's all said and done. So, yes, if the Democrat wins, ObamaCare is certain to pass rather quickly but should the Republican win, ObamaCare will be put on hold for awhile because of a filibuster that'll likely take effect once the Republican becomes certified. There's an option called "Reconciliation" where all Congress would need is 51 votes to pass the bill...so the Democrats have a couple of plans I imagine being plotted out should the Republican win in Massachusetts and in theory their plans would backfire because of how they would come across in the mind's of the voters.

January 17, 2010

Ray Stevens: Get Serious!

I touched upon this direct-to-video movie a few blog entries ago when I was discussing 1995 in the time-line of Ray Stevens. It's been 15 years since this project was brand new and as far as I know it's never been issued as a DVD. The music videos that are contained in this movie, though, have been lifted and placed on several compilations and some of the music videos have appeared on You Tube. The most widely distributed music video from the movie is "Ahab the Arab". That music video appears as the final scene in the movie, by the way. This music video was highlighted a few days ago on The O'Reilly Factor. You can tell that Get Serious isn't widely known because some people wondered if the "Ahab the Arab" music video was new or if it was something from the 1980's. It's funny how when people think of Ray Stevens they usually connect him to the 1970's or the 1980's as if he wasn't active during the 1990's or the first 10 years of this millennium. Readers of this blog, though, become well aware of how active Ray Stevens remained in spite of limited publicity among the mainstream.

The movie runs about 110 minutes...1 hour and 40 minutes in other words. It's a fast-paced movie...several scenes come off in the tradition of the Smokey and the Bandit series. The movie's first scene is set in the mid to late 1940's where we see an actor portraying Ray as a kid taking piano lessons. We see how Ray, even at a young age, had more interest in the jazzy and boogie-woogie style of piano playing than the strict classical style approach. Ray provides a voice-over during this scene and also appears from the waste down speaking in German-Austrian dialect as the strict music professor warning the kid to stop playing that jazzy boogie-woogie stuff and to "GET SERIOUS!!!". A key-word is monkey business...which by then the movie has shifted from the mid 1940's to the present day and the opening music video, "Gitarzan", begins to air.

The movie, as I was mentioning in a previous blog, features cameo appearances by several country music personalities. The one who'd be considered a supporting player is Jerry Clower. He played the part of Ray's manager, named the Colonel, who'd pop up several times in the movie relaying to Ray all the latest show dates he'd secured and consistently remind him to not forget about Florida.

After the "Gitarzan" music video, Ray, still dressed in the jungle man outfit, goes to meet his new boss at Integrity Records where he's informed that the company's policies have changed and they no longer will be supporting a comedy act. The music executive has plans of turning Ray into the Pavarotti of country music. After an encounter/argument with the executive, Ray exits the office and later we see a short scene of "Ahab the Arab" in the process of being made into a music video. The music executive, now on Ray's enemy list, plots to ruin Ray's career by staging fake protests. These protesters claim that Ray's songs are politically incorrect and offensive to just about everyone. After Ray and Jerry Clower witness this protest from afar, Clower proceeds to wade through the raucous crowd. In slow motion Clower and Ray wade through the people while someone unseen throws a banana peel onto the street. Yes...you guessed it...Ray slips on it, much like in a cartoon, and he falls backward and it fades to black. Seconds later Ray opens his eyes and he finds himself in a tent...an India carpet seller with a thick accent, also played by Ray, welcomes him to Chattanooga. These scenes build up to the eventual music video, "The Woogie Boogie".

Ray and company are dressed in full Indian attire but by the time the music video is over, he's been found out, and on the run he goes again. Later on he finds himself in a hotel where George Lindsay, dressed as a Shriner, confronts Ray in the lobby. Lindsay and other Shriner's inform him that they aren't offended by the song and in fact they've decided to make him the Grand Marshall of their parade...which leads into the "Shriner's Convention" music video. After the music video Ray is at a luncheon where he's given a gift...a yellow dune buggy that's been dubbed the Mone Mobile. Somewhere along the way the characters from Ray's comedy songs are shown to be real people...and they form a posse, led by Dudley Dorite. The music video for "Dudley Dorite of the Highway Patrol" is shown around this time.

The music executive, upset that his plans to control Ray's image and music are being foiled, catches the protests on television of Sister Bertha, Clyde, Harv Newland, Ethel, Coy, and Dudley Dorite. He is stunned to realize that the people are "real" and he hatches an even more elaborate plan of getting even with Ray by using the real people to make the case that Ray used real people's names in songs, without permission, and as a result of how much of a laughing stock they'd become, it ruined the individual's reputations. By now Ray had become reunited with a former lover, Charlene MacKenzie, who was hard of hearing. I don't want to give away the entire plot or every little scene but for a movie that's 1 hour and 40 minutes there is a lot of action and scenes to enjoy. I hadn't even barely scratched the surface about what all is in the movie!! If you look on the film strip you'll see screen shots from different scenes in the movie. The top scene is Ray in costume as the India rug seller. The next is Ray in Indian attire during "The Woogie Boogie" music video. The third shot shows Ray and an actress in the roles of Ahab and Fatima. They wore some kind of powder make-up to lighten their skin because some scenes in the "Ahab the Arab" music video were shot in black and white as if it was 1921...an indirect reference to The Sheik starring Rudolph Valentino. The fourth shot is Ray dressed as psychiatrist Sickmind Fraud liking what he see's in his assistant. Sickmind didn't hide his sexual appetite and he'd groan and lust and leer at his nurse several times during his scenes. He rode a toy horse and acted crazy...but yet he was considered to be a brilliant mind at understanding human behavior. The satire drips heavy in these scenes with the doctor. Ray, in Sickmind's German-American dialect, sang "I Used To Be Crazy". Sickmind Fraud, of course, is a parody of Sigmund Freud.

The final screen shot in that film strip is Ray in his jungle man costume having a conversation with his manager, The Colonel, played by Jerry Clower in stereotypical Southern attire from the Civil War. In one scene in the film we see The Colonel lounging pool side sipping on what could be a mint julep.

After this home video movie was released, sold through television commercials mostly on The Nashville Network with little exposure on network television, but after the home video was released, Ray, along with those who made cameo appearances in the movie, all appeared on Music City Tonight. This television show aired on the former Nashville Network during the mid 1990's. It was hosted by Crook and Chase. The entire episode was devoted to Ray and his movie. The show ran 90 minutes...and Ray sang several songs from the movie and a lot of clips were played. The sales were consistent...earning Double-Platinum certifications based upon the direct-mail qualifications. Something like 200,000 give or take a few hundred home videos were sold throughout 1995 and into 1996 which qualifies for a Double-Platinum certification. Home videos, and now DVDs, don't have to sell half a million or more than a million to obtain Gold or Platinum or Multi-Platinum recognition. Due to it not being a quote, "million seller", it didn't achieve the mainstream recognition or hype that his 1992 and 1993 home videos acquired. By comparison, Get Serious! wasn't advertised much at all outside of The Nashville Network. As most people know, The Nashville Network ceased to air country music programs after 2000. The network had been on the air since 1983. Eventually the name changed to The National Network after 2000 and I believe it's called Spike TV now!?!

If any of you want to see the movie based upon my short synopsis you can find VHS copies of it at on-line auction sites. There is no DVD version as far as I know. The VHS version is sold-out at Ray's web-site store.

January 15, 2010

Where's the Country Music Coverage for Ray Stevens?

It's been a month and four days since "We The People" from Ray Stevens was uploaded onto You Tube. December 11, 2009 is the exact date and since then it's gotten 2,071,569 hits, or plays, whichever term one uses. The commercial single is also a hit on Amazon as it's been among the Top-50 Mp3 singles for several weeks. There is a physical copy of the single available for purchase, too, and it can be found at Ray's web-site store. Given that it's a physical copy it'll cost just a bit higher because you'll be paying for the actual CD and it's case.

Anyway, the subject of this specific blog entry is about my confusion over why "We The People" isn't heavily publicized among country music circles. The last I remember I thought Ray Stevens was considered a country comedian and given the phenomenal success of the music video doesn't it seem a bit strange that the two leading country music outlets, CMT and GAC, have nothing on their web-sites about Ray's accomplishment...not even in their news sections...

When you search CMT for Ray Stevens news it'll bring up news from March 2009 in which Ray's name is mentioned in passing as an act associated with Curb Records. To date that's the last news item they've added about Ray Stevens. If you're at GAC's web-site and search for news about Ray Stevens it'll take you to a page where his name is tagged within stories that don't really have anything to do with him, much like CMT's news section on Ray Stevens. At the GAC web-site, the last time Ray's name was mentioned in a news item was an October 2009 article and it wasn't about his music or his latest happenings.

So, you see, there's not been any coverage among country music media that I'm aware of for "We The People" and I'm wondering why. Even though I know that the single isn't going to get mainstream airplay on country radio it still doesn't mean that the country music media should also ignore the song...the fact is there are plenty of write-up's in country music publications about songs and albums by acts marketed as "country" that won't get embraced by radio so why is Ray's song any different. It isn't that he needs the publicity from country music's media but it just looks odd that he hasn't gotten any coverage at all about the song from the country music media and it's been over a month since the music video debuted.

Maybe because CMT and GAC are known as music video channels they feel awkward if they'd publicize Ray's success on You Tube? That's a possibility but what excuse do the country music critics and columnists have for not talking about it? Is it the overt political nature of the song that makes the country media nervous? If this is the case, Toby Keith's been quite political for years and he's gotten coverage.

January 14, 2010

Ray Stevens: Nostalgia Valley

I gave this video upload five stars and added it to my favorites. It's one of the various television commercials that used to run during the mid 1990's often during late-night or on the weekends. When people today read about Ray being the king of the home videos it's nice to see someone upload one of the commercials on You Tube. I'm sure some remember when Ray Stevens commercials were all over television and for those who don't remember because you weren't much of a fan at the time this video will whisk you away to a different time. This commercial aired at some point in 1994 I think because the two home videos that are being offered were released in 1992 and 1993 respectively and neither collection had made it's way into the shopping stores yet...once a home video had been released to retail stores the television commercials would stop airing. I had uploaded a video awhile ago for a commercial advertising Ray Stevens Live! and the one I've included in this blog entry is newly uploaded to You Tube. Here's the commercial from 1993 of Ray Stevens Live! in case anyone missed my blog entry the first time around...

Ray Stevens: 15 Years Ago

This blog entry takes a look at 1995 and as a result I title the blog entry 15 Years Ago. Half of the reason why I title this entry with that name is obviously I'll be writing about 1995 but also because it's a reference to a 1970 #1 country hit by Conway Twitty. I am a fan of his and some others but by and large Ray Stevens is who I'm the most expressive about.

1995 was notable for several releases...three of the releases were compilation projects released by Warner Brothers. I assume that enough time had passed and so those in charge at the label decided to finally put some spotlight onto Ray's songs from that time period. By the time 1995 had rolled around it had been 16 years since Warner Brothers had released it's last album on Ray. It was the 1979 album, The Feeling's Not Right Again, which tied in with a Barry Manilow reference in song called "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow". If you readers detect frustration in my writing style it's because I'd always been baffled, puzzled, amazed, confused, and all the other adjectives when it came to the lack of Warner Brothers material available. I don't know if it was a label's decision or Ray's decision to keep the material out of print. Aside from a trio of 1995 albums that Warner Brothers released on Ray, it's been 15 years since anything a bit more comprehensive was released detailing the 1976-1979 period.

One of the things that excited me at the time of the 1995 CD's debut was the notion of hearing songs that the project's compiler states are "previously unreleased". To my way of thinking those songs had never been available anywhere until now. There are quite a few songs that are tagged "previously unreleased" but it wasn't until later that I learned that the songs had been released before. The songs that are referenced as being previously unreleased on those 1995 collections actually come from his 1978 salute to classic R&B music, There Is Something On Your Mind. Why those particular songs are referred to as previously unreleased is anyone's guess. When you look through the songs you'll see a lot from 1978. Ray issued two albums that year. The R&B tribute I just mentioned plus an album called Be Your Own Best Friend.

The Serious Side of Ray Stevens as I mentioned in a few other blog entries is a misleading title because all of the collections are filled with mostly serious material with the exception of three novelty songs. This serious side includes ten love ballads of various emotion recorded during 1976-1978. The bulk of the recordings on the collection come from 1978...five of the ten songs are from 1978 while 1976 and 1977 fill out what's left. There is no songs from 1979 because technically he only recorded/released one single for the label in 1979 and that particular release appears on another collection. As I am always likely to do...I won't pick a favorite song. I like them all!! Song contents:

1. One and Only You; 1976
2. Talk To Me; 1978
3. Alone With You; 1977
4. Daydream Romance; 1977
5. Once In A While; 1976
6. Set The Children Free; 1977
7. The Feeling's Not Right Again; 1978
8. Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right; 1978
9. L'amour; 1978
10. Be Your Own Best Friend; 1978 {Top-40 country hit}

Do You Wanna Dance is self-explanatory. The songs that are featured on this collection have something to with music in some way or another. There are nine songs on this collection. I assume the lengthy inclusion of a couple of medleys make up for a tenth song. 1976 has the lion's share of songs this time around. Ray's 1976 album being titled Just For The Record features several songs whose subject matter is music oriented in their title. The collection opens up with "Feel The Music" as one of two songs from 1977 to grace the collection. The other song from 1977 is "Blues Love Affair". The medley songs run about 4 minutes each. "Dance Trilogy" features a medley of "Do You Wanna Dance?", "When You Dance", and "Save The Last Dance For Me". "Old Faithful Trilogy" features "Shake a Hand", "Since I Met You Baby", and "Always". Song contents:

1. Feel The Music; 1977
2. Dance Trilogy; 1978
3. Blues Love Affair; 1977
4. Country Licks; 1976
5. Honky Tonk Waltz; 1976 {Top-30 country hit}
6. One Man Band; 1976
7. Can't Stop Dancing; 1976
8. Old Faithful Trilogy; 1978
9. You've Got The Music Inside; 1978

The collection titled Cornball was the first release of the series. It's catalog number is 9 45890-4 and the following two releases have nearly identical numbers 9 45891-4 and 9 45892-4. The collection features three novelty songs amongst the ten that are spotlighted on this set. Ironically the title track, "Cornball", isn't a comedy song. It's a love ballad. The collection opens and closes with two chicken clucking recordings, the A and B sides of a single Ray released as The Henhouse Five Plus Too in late 1976. The songs on here aren't part of any pattern or theme and of the three collections released in 1995 this one features the most hit singles and perhaps this is due to this collection being the first in the series? Song contents:

1. In The Mood; 1976 {Top-40 pop and country hit}
2. I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow; 1979 {Top-50 pop; Top-20 Adult-Contemporary}
3. You Are So Beautiful; 1976 {Top-20 country hit}
4. Money Honey; 1978
5. Cornball; 1976
6. Dixie Hummingbird; 1977 {Top-50 country hit}
7. One Mint Julep; 1978
8. Your Cash Ain't Nothin' But Trash; 1978
9. Save Me From Myself; 1977
10. Classical Cluck; 1976 {b-side of "In The Mood"}

Aside from those three collections being issued in 1995, the major project that year was Ray's direct-to-video movie, Get Serious! The movie contains ten music videos interwoven around dialogue to tell a story of Ray being on the run from the law. The crime? Politically incorrectness of course. I think a lot of people who have issues with Ray's style of comedy should check the movie out because he addresses the politically correct movement head-on gently poking fun at the overly sensitive along the way.

January 13, 2010

Ray Stevens: 45 at 45

Yes...those who have read some of my blog entries will know that I do a "45 at..." series. For kicks I thought I'd do a 45 at 45 entry and open the blog writing about a 1965 single by Ray Stevens on the Mercury label called "Rockin' Teenage Mummies". I personally think the song is funny and cute but it's hard to tell what the public would have thought of it had the song been given a chance at radio nationwide. The single started to make an entrance onto radio around the first month of 1965. The big songs on pop radio when Ray's novelty single was released were "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" by the Righteous Brothers; "Love Potion #9" by the Searchers; "Downtown" by Petula Clark; "This Diamond Ring" by Gary Lewis...

Ray's single tells the story of a group of mummies who play in a band...the group becomes popular and they're all bandaged up with flesh colored band-aids. You could probably guess what the groupies and screaming girls do when they get near the mummies. Yes...you guessed it!! It's one of his novelty songs during this era to poke fun at pop music in general by pointing at fads or trends and commenting on the music business with a cynical "just about anyone can be famous these days" message. Ironically those same sentiments exist today...with the American Idol program thrusting hopeful singers from out of nowhere onto the national spotlight and having a biased audience vote for the ones they like each week. The end result is, if a singer with a terrible voice is declared the winner, the message is that "anyone can be famous these days". Ray does some nice scat-singing, as I call it, on "Rockin' Teenage Mummies" and then does an impression of Ed Sullivan near the end of the recording. The single became a Top-40 hit, based on requests more than likely, on various local radio station surveys but it never broke into the national Top-40. I believe during that point in time singles needed to spread from one locale to another until it attracted a majority of radio stations nationwide.

Today a single is usually a predetermined hit if a radio programmer or a focus group gives it the okay sign for airplay. Radio stations today, more now than ever, are so afraid of losing listeners that they don't take chances or risks and they'll only play what a researched study of demographics, usually 18-34, want to hear. So there isn't very much room for an artist to luck out anymore. Everything is planned to the very tee when it comes to breaking in an artist onto any radio format now. Radio simply won't play an artist that's not been tested to the fullest. So, "Rockin' Teenage Mummies" in today's jargon is said to have tested well in some AM radio markets but not enough to break out nationally. The catalog number for the single is #72382 for those who collect 45 singles.

This picture of Ray Stevens comes from 1977. It's a duplicate of the image of Ray that appears on the back of his album that year, Feel The Music. In one of the few times in any artist's career, Ray's image doesn't appear on the front of the album. What we have is a brown design of some kind...maybe it's braille illustration? Whatever it is, the front of the album only shows the name of the album and the artist and the front of the album is nothing but brown colorization. On the back of the album we see the larger snap shot of Ray seated upon a stool. This image as far as I know was used as a publicity picture during 1977 and into 1978 prior to Ray growing and keeping his beard.

This image of Ray has appeared on a couple of compilation albums that were released internationally. There was one collection, The Remarkable Ray Stevens, which featured an illustrated image of this picture. That album was issued on the Warwick label. During 1977 Ray was enjoying success with his publishing company...two songs in particular became hits that were associated with Ray. "Can't Stop Dancing" became a hit for the Captain and Tennille. Ray co-wrote that song and recorded it himself for his 1976 album, Just For the Record. Ray also became involved in the last hit single on the charts during Elvis Presley's life...a song called "Way Down". Ray was the publisher of that single and it became a country music hit. 1977 was also the year that Ray appeared on the syndicated country music program, Pop Goes the Country as well as other country music oriented programs. This foray into country music had begun in 1975 but when you listen to his albums there's nothing on them that sounds 'country' except for when he intentionally adds country instrumentation to his songs. When asked about this he usually responds that he was never interested in being labeled country or pop and that all he wanted was to make the best sounding music that he could. The emphasis would be on the word 'sounding'. This is an indication that he was much more interested in the production end of a song and making it sound as good as possible regardless of which music format it may appeal to. He also once said that he left it up to whatever record label he was with to deal with marketing the song.

The front of the album as I mentioned above shows a large brown design that I assume is suppose to resemble braille and the concept is for people to feel the music literally. I've got the album and the surface is flat...so it isn't real braille, obviously. The album, though, is middle-of-the-road. This album in my mind anyway was designed to appeal to that audience which had been a key factor in his successes that decade. The Adult-Contemporary audience is really who embraced quite a few singles of Ray's when Top-40 radio didn't have any idea of what to do with them. "Sunset Strip", for example, did well with adults in 1970...reaching the Top-20 on the Adult-Contemporary chart...but yet among the pop audience which consisted of mostly teenagers and younger adults the single peaked in the Top-85. Ray wrote all but one of the songs on the 1977 album. Here is the track-list...

1. Feel The Music
2. Daydream Romance
3. Blues Love Affair
4. Alone With You
5. Junkie For You
6. Get Crazy With Me
7. Save Me From Myself
8. Road Widow
9. Set The Children Free
10. Dixie Hummingbird

C.W. "Buddy" Kalb, Jr. wrote "Set The Children Free" and Ray wrote the rest of the songs. The biggest hit from the album was the album closer, "Dixie Hummingbird", which came ever so close to reaching the country Top-40. "Get Crazy With Me" charted a bit more modestly on the country charts while the title track, "Feel the Music", didn't reach the charts.

This 2 album collection was released in the United Kingdom and it features random recordings, some hits and some album tracks, that Ray recorded between 1968 and 1975. 13 songs make up album one and 11 songs make up album two. The picture of Ray on the album cover was a publicity picture that was used for years during the '70s mostly overseas. This album features album tracks that usually do not appear on compilation albums. Songs like "Sunshine", "Just So Proud To Be Here", "Little Egypt", "Sir Thanks-a-Lot" get a chance to shine...and the obvious hit songs are located on here, too. I don't own this particular collection but I'd like to at some point. The only double album of Ray's that I own on vinyl is Get The Best of Ray Stevens, a collection released in 1987 on MCA Records.

Ray Stevens: We The People 1st Month...

As I take a belated note of the first month anniversary of "We The People" making it's debut as a music video on You Tube I've noticed that the opposition to the song isn't growing, but instead, they are manifesting themselves in little concentrated areas on the world wide web. Coincidence or not but lately most of the opposing views of this song provide a link to a certain web-site that shall go nameless which health care overhaul supporters gather to bash the song, the music video, Ray Stevens, Republicans and conservatives in general...and it dawned on me that lately some of the people who pop up on Twitter, for example, that oppose "We The People", provide a link to that same web-site that shall go nameless. It occurred to me that the critics really don't have a widespread base on-line if all they can do is provide a URL link over and over to the same pro-Obamacare page. It also dawned on me that the critics of the song know they're out-numbered, too. On You Tube you can browse through a myriad of comments ranging from the thoughtful to the inflammatory and everything in between when it comes to this song and it's broader reaching message.

The big news though is the music video has officially passed the two million mark. 2,005,636 hits have been obtained by the music video in a little over a month's time. I really don't see any end in sight in the near future...given that this is a mid-term election year. There are some who are marginalizing the music video's "popularity". To these people the music video's play total is deceptive because some people are clicking the song just to make comments. This is a flat-out ridiculous comment considering that the music video has gone beyond 2,000,000 hits but there's just a little over 5,000 comments in total. So, to those who think the comments are racking up the play, you're so wrong. At the same time, there are some pundits on the Democratic side who are hoping that the "people" will forget about health care by November. In my way of thinking they're nervous and they're anxious to have something else being discussed that isn't so threatening to their career.

Something that's really not being said is that even if this health care bill ultimately passes, those who oppose it now will still be opposing it afterward. Some people think that if the bill passes then it's done and over with and it shouldn't be talked about much or it shouldn't be a factor in November given that the bill's already passed. What those who hold that opinion fail to grasp, or are forgetting, is that actions bring about consequences. If people are angry come election time and are angry primarily because of the health care bill's tax hikes and want to vote those who supported the bill out of office that's perfectly fine. As a consequence for supporting ObamaCare, voters who oppose the bill will oppose the supporters at the ballot box. It's as simple as that.

The reason why several web-sites who oppose the bill will keep a list of those who supported or opposed the bill is because it'll allow voters to see who to support or who to vote against. Is that nice? No. Is it vindictive? Perhaps...but is it the right thing to do? Of course it is! In a system where you can vote your representatives in and out of office there's nothing wrong with voting people out because of something they support or don't support depending on the situation. This is Democracy 101 for those who aren't aware of why people vote. Just a reminder...Ray will appear on The O'Reilly Factor this Friday, January 15th. The show airs on the Fox News Channel but I'm sure millions of people already know that.

January 12, 2010

Ray Stevens: The Greatest Hits Mystery...Solved...maybe...

The name of this blog entry is in reference to similarly released albums which have caused some confusion amongst fans. This particular Greatest Hits album was released in 1971. The music that's covered on this compilation was recorded during the 1968-1970 time frame. The mysterious aspect about the album is that it became a hit country album in September of 1974...three years after it's release. The catalog number is 64446 for the UK release, Z-30770 and BR-5004 for the America release. Now, there's a possibility that the album wasn't released here in America until 1974 and that's why it didn't make the charts until then? There is a slightly different letter design in the re-issue of the album. Someone once told me that the album's were virtually the same only that there was a 1971 release in Monaural sound and a 1971 release in Stereo sound. I believe the second LP picture is the Stereo sound release, from 1971...but it could be from 1974...sounds confusing, doesn't it!!!

1. Everything Is Beautiful
2. Gitarzan
3. Isn't It Lonely Together
4. Harry The Hairy Ape
5. Have A Little Talk To Myself
6. America Communicate With Me
7. Mr. Businessman
8. Along Came Jones
9. Bridget The Midget
10. Unwind
11. Ahab The Arab

As you can see, the only difference in the picture sleeve is this picture of Ray is even more up-close than it appears on the above album. Also, there's a track list provided on the front of the album which is lacking in the other release. The track list on the front of this album features the same identical songs found on the other release I wrote about above. So, the more I write and think about it the more I come to believe that both of these albums were released in 1971 and the only difference is the sound quality and the graphic design/lettering. The songs that appear on the 1971 collection would be considered a sampling of his signature hits...although he still had several more years of pop success to enjoy before switching gears and becoming a country music mainstay.

The thing that may even be more confusing is the back of this particular album features a shadowy/silhouette style image of Ray at the piano. If you click on the dark image you'll notice that the songs are different...this album goes beyond 1970 to include singles that Ray issued in 1971, 1973, 1974, and 1975 and it indicates "Greatest Hits". Here's the trick, though. This album that says "Greatest Hits" and lists songs beyond 1970...well, that release mirrors a 1975 album called The Very Best of Ray Stevens. Still with me??

The front of The Very Best of Ray Stevens looks like this. There are 12 songs in total on here and if you count up the songs in the image above you'll see that there's 12 songs included on the "Greatest Hits" release. The 12 songs on the 1975 compilation are as follows...

1. Misty
2. Unwind
3. Turn Your Radio On
4. Everything Is Beautiful
5. Mr. Businessman
6. Indian Love Call
7. The Streak
8. Jeremiah Peabody's Green and Purple Pills
9. Nashville
10. The Moonlight Special
11. Gitarzan
12. Ahab the Arab

This is what the back of The Very Best of Ray Stevens looks like, the version that I have...with the 12 songs and Ray with a beard leaning up against a tree. The album became a hit obviously because of it's inclusion of several notable songs and the fact that it was a compilation album...some consumers prefer to hear songs that were 'hits' rather than listen to album songs that are just as good. The album hit the charts around this time in 1976...on it's way to a peak in the country Top-20. The album was more or less like a lot of Ray's albums and singles...they have meteoric rises in sales for several weeks before reaching a peak. Traditionally a single builds up slowly and then reaches a peak in it's 9th or 10th week before falling back down. In the case of Ray Stevens' pop albums he'd usually hit big during his second or third week and by the time an album is in it's 7th or 8th week, it's reached it's peak.

This album was charted on the country albums list for 8 weeks and it reached the Top-20. This means that it's more than likely that the album debuted just outside the Top-20 or inside the Top-20...or it debuted near the bottom of the list and soared the following week or two before peaking in the Top-20. This soaring is referred to as being "meteoric". Today, most CD's chart for nearly a year! If you take a look at the current country albums chart a lot of albums have been on the chart for 30 weeks or more. Ray's had some long charting albums in his career...several of the albums he did for MCA in the mid to late '80s had chart spans of 20 weeks or more...and the fact that those albums were strictly comical is even more impressive given that the singles received little to no airplay to expose the albums to the masses. But yes, a large bulk of Ray's albums and singles were the meteoric kind. The same thing can be said for his current music video/song "We The People". It's had a meteoric rise with over 2 million plays on You Tube in a little over a month. January 11th makes 1 full month that the music video's been available on You Tube. "We The People" is definitely a hit even though it isn't a hit in the conventional sense.

This is the United Kingdom version of The Very Best of Ray Stevens. It features 14 songs instead of 12. One of the additional songs was Ray's big hit in early 1971 over in England, "Bridget the Midget the Queen of the Blues" and you'll notice that the song is listed at the top on the front of the album. The single peaked in the runner-up spot on their national singles list. They don't have a splintered radio format over there in the same mold as we have here in America. They have country music fans over there but I've yet to see a country music chart based on England's tastes. If anything the country music here in America is what those in England are exposed to...and I assume the country music programmers in England base their song lists on the American country music charts...but that's just me guessing.