March 31, 2010

Ray Stevens: Pop Goes the Country follow-up...

It doesn't appear that I can contain my excitement over receiving these DVD's in the mail today. I sent away for them this past Saturday...I wasn't expecting them to arrive this soon after the disclaimer alerted me it would take 5-7 days for delivery. Anyway, they arrived in the mail today and I watched the Ray Stevens sections of the DVD's which were the main reason why I purchased them. I'll no doubt watch other sections of the DVD, too, because I like watching old/vintage/classic country music programs. Although this program was designed to tie in with the pop influences in country music the show still gave a national spotlight to well-established country music acts. On Volume 15, Ray is incredible in my opinion. He walks out and immediately launches into "You Are So Beautiful", his Top-20 country hit from 1976. After the performance he has his interview segment with Ralph where Dolly Parton is brought up. Ray talks about once being Dolly's record producer and how he envisioned her as an R&B singer, saying the vibrato effect of her voice in the mid '60s sounded closer to R&B than to what country audiences were used to at the time. This can also be said about Willie Nelson, too, who himself had a voice that didn't become marketable in country music until the 1970's. Ray's next song was "Save Me From Myself", in which he sang the first verse and the chorus. The song originated from 1977. Later, Ralph highlights various groups that Ray has sang about in various songs and then tells the audience that Shriners can now be added to that list.

Ray explains the idea behind the song and then performs "Shriner's Convention" in it's entirety. This episode I believe was taped in 1979 because the first two songs that he performed were both recorded for Warner Brothers, the label he was on during 1976-1979, while "Shriner's Convention" would become his debut single on RCA Records in February of 1980. This very well could be the first time he performed the song on television. An interesting fact about that song is there were two recordings of it cut relatively close to one recording credits 1979 as the copyright year and another recording credits 1980 as the copyright year. The 1979 recording can be found on MCA's Greatest Hits from 1987 and CURB Records His All-Time Greatest Comic Hits from 1990. Most of the other albums that feature that song use the 1980 recording.

Toward the end of the show Ralph asks Ray about his idols and about piano players. Ray does a few lines of "Hallelujah, I Love You So", a Ray Charles hit. Ralph brings up Floyd Cramer and Ray performs "Last Date".

Moving on to Volume 17...this episode was hosted by Tom T Hall. Ray opens the show singing a much different take on "You've Got the Music Inside" complete with hand-claps and an up-tempo arrangement. Midway through this hand-clapping frenzy he slows the song down but then goes back into the up-tempo sing-a-long style. For those familiar with the song it was written and recorded by Ray as a slow ballad. Tom later has Ray perform "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down". Ray sings the first verse and the chorus. Later, Ray and Tom play a game where audience members call out their favorite Ray Stevens and Tom T Hall songs and the object of the game was to sing a line or two from the songs. Ray performed a couple of lines from "The Streak" and "Everything is Beautiful". Tom sang a few lines of "Old Dogs, Children, and Watermelon Wine" and "Harper Valley, PTA". Ray and Tom sing a duet together, "It's Hard To be Humble", which I first heard by Mac Davis. The duet is hilarious, I think, with the two of them intentionally belting out a lot of the words. The instrumentation behind the song is like a polka almost...maybe it is a polka.

On Volume 15 the other guest of the show was a singer known as Dottsy. On Volume 17 the other guest of the show was teenager Wendy Holcombe who performed several banjo numbers and sang "Rocky Top".

Pop! Goes the Country was a half hour show and so a lot of times the guests would sing one or two songs in their entirety and then sing a shortened version of another song. The show moved along quickly, too, and there was hardly ever more than 3 guests per show...most episodes featured 2 guests. Some critics say this program was sort of like country music's version of The Midnight Special and Solid Gold rolled into one.

March 30, 2010

Ray Stevens: Opry Country Classics

This Thursday, April Fool's Day, Ray Stevens will be the spotlight artist on WSM radio's program, Opry Country Classics. The show will feature eight guests and host, Larry Gatlin. Well, technically, there will be more than eight guests when you count the number of people in the Opry Square Dance group. April Fool's Day usually marks the time where comedy in country music and novelty songs in general are spotlighted or promoted in some way or another. This spotlight is mostly relegated to classic country radio stations and, or, public radio stations. Top-40 country radio stations don't participate in the fun.

A couple of entertainers in country music known for comical material appear on Opry Country Classics this April 1st. Mike Snider will be featured as will Ray Stevens. The show airs from 8-10pm Eastern time and 7-9pm Central time on 650 WSM radio. I am assuming that the program will also be streamed on-line at WSM's web-site. I hope so! If it isn't streamed on-line I think I'll plan a 2 hour drive somewhere Thursday night and listen to the show in my car. I can pick up WSM much better in my car radio in the evening and night hours...for whatever reason my portable radio can't pick the station up that well. Here is the line-up for Opry Country Classics for April 1st:

7pm-9pm Central; 8pm-10pm Eastern

Larry Gatlin: Host

Spotlight Artist: Ray Stevens

Other guests will include: Jeff Bates, Jim Ed Brown, Helen Cornelius, Jack Greene, Opry Square Dancers, Mike Snider, and The Wrights.

This is an image of a poster but it could pass for the image of Ray's 1988 comedy album, I Never Made a Record I Didn't Like. I wrote about this album's the album that features his hilarious version of Michael Jackson's song, "Bad". This is also the album that features "Surfin' USSR" and it's also the album that features "Old Hippie Class Reunion". If any of you are a member of Ray Stevens Backstage as I am you're very familiar with Ray's on-line sit-com, We Ain't Dead Yet. On this show several catch-phrases from the hippie song can be heard during segments where a couple of hippies sit around making commentary on society and of their own misadventures. The hippies sit in the dark where their faces aren't seen too good. Ray's 1988 comedy album is one of my has high-brow, low-brow, and mainstream comedy along with parody and irony. Songs included on the 1988 album are...

1. Surfin' USSR
2. The Booger Man
3. Mama's in the Sky With Elvis
4. Language, Nudity, Violence, and Sex
5. Bad
6. The Day I Tried To Teach Charlene MacKenzie How To Drive
7. Blood and Suede
8. Ethelene the Truckstop Queen
9. I Don't Need None of That
10. Old Hippie Class Reunion

"Throw the Bums Out!" is now up to 57,152 hits on You Tube. Although it isn't a competition, this is several hundred more hits than "Caribou Barbie" which currently sits at 56,321. To be specific, 831 hits separate both music videos. Each of these music videos were released around the same time..."Caribou Barbie" was released 11 days prior to "Throw the Bums Out!". The attention grabbing title of "Throw the Bums Out!" of course has helped it gain more ground on "Caribou Barbie". I'm sure Ray doesn't mind at all that his two new music videos are both having strong reaction on You Tube.

March 28, 2010

Ray Stevens: Pop Goes the Country

Welcome once again to the journey...this time around I'm playing the part of a salesman as I shine the light on a couple of DVD collections that feature the one and only Ray Stevens. The first collection I want to spotlight is Pop Goes the Country, Volume 15. A web-site is selling a 20 volume DVD collection of the famed country music series which ran in syndication from 1974 through 1982. Ray is among the many guests featured on Volume 15. Those who are not familiar with the series, it was hosted by Ralph Emery for six years, 1974-1980. Singer Tom T Hall became the new host in 1980 and he continued in this role through the end of the series in 1983. Jim Varney became a series regular during the final season. Ray's performances on Volume 15 include: "You Are So Beautiful", "Save Me From Myself", and "Shriner's Convention". The time span for those three songs are 1976, 1977, and 1980 but I do not know if the DVD will feature clips from those years or if it's an episode from 1980 and Ray's singing all three of those songs.

Ray is also a featured performer on Pop Goes the Country, Volume 17. It is on this collection of performances that you'll see Ray perform "You've Got the Music Inside", "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down", "The Streak", "Everything Is Beautiful", and an obscure duet with host Tom T Hall on "It's Hard To Be Humble". I do not own these DVD collections...yet. Once I get them in my possession I'll be able to write more about them. If you want to order them for yourselves all you have to do is do an internet search for "Classic Country DVD" or and once there you'll be able to navigate through the site easily. The DVD titles will be listed off to the left of the page as there are more DVD collections available besides Pop Goes the Country but since this is my Ray Stevens blog page I'm of course only spotlighting the DVD's with significant Ray Stevens participation.

After all this talk about classic Ray Stevens from the late '70s and early '80s let's jump 30 plus years into the future to the present year, 2010. Ray continues to heat up the You Tube airwaves with his series of political music videos. His most recent, "Throw the Bums Out!", is nearing 50,000 hits in it's first 6 days on-line. "Caribou Barbie" at the moment has more than 52,000 hits in it's first 17 days on-line. These You Tube play counts will continue to rise and so I'll lay off from reporting the totals for awhile. Those two music videos have a combined total right now of 99,259 hits. When you put it into perspective, this means that over the course of 2 weeks Ray Stevens has gotten close to 100,000 video hits...and that's just counting those two music videos. The big one, "We The People", is currently in the 2.8 million range and it also continues to get strong play on You Tube. It's 150,000 or so hits away from topping 3,000,000! As I said in my previous blog, it's exciting to see all of this Ray Stevens activity!!

March 26, 2010

Ray Stevens: Throw The Bums Out!!

It's been quite an interesting week in Congress and all things politics. As you all know ObamaCare became law this week. This has predictably set off an entire segment of the country who were opposed to the legislation from the very beginning. The thing that often gets lost in all the political talk is nobody in his or her right mind approved of the health care industry's policies and practices. This is the single most thing everyone, I think, can agree on. The specifics of this legislation is where all of the anger and the division resides. The supporters of this law argue that "millions of people will now have health care" while the opponents argue that this is another step toward socialism and Government control over the private sector. I agree with the opposition. I, too, think that this ObamaCare is another step toward socialism. It's just such a shame that health care reform, which all political parties agree needed to be addressed, was used as a stepping stone for a complete overhaul of the health care system where the Government will have much more control than they should have. Another sad part of this whole process is Republicans are painted as "evil" and "inhumane" because ObamaCare, in the minds of liberals and Democrats, is essentially 'health care reform'. They're painting the Republicans into being a party that isn't for health care reform since the Republicans opposed ObamaCare. This insidious accusation is played up in the liberal blog world and on certain cable television channels where certain hosts sympathize with liberal thinkers. The truth is, Republicans also wanted health care reform, but the Democrats created the ObamaCare bill which is so extreme and mired in socialist language that Republicans had no choice but to oppose it. If people want the truth, that's it. There's too many negatives in ObamaCare and taxpayers will find this out rather quick. In other words, the negatives of ObamaCare far outweigh the positives.

The most recent hits for Ray Stevens latest music videos on You Tube are as follows...

We The People: 2,849,658
Thank You: 95,006
Caribou Barbie: 50,602
Throw The Bums Out!: 38,598

"Throw the Bums Out!" has gotten more hits/feedback in it's first few days than "Caribou Barbie", surprising enough. I have some theories as to why. Caribou Barbie is a well-known derogatory nick-name for Sarah Palin...and I think those who do not like her have no intention or desire to watch anything that has to do with her. On the other hand, "Throw the Bums Out!" is much more ambiguous until someone watches the video to see what it's all about. That's just one of my theories. Another theory is "Caribou Barbie" was was uploaded on You Tube on March 11th and then less than two weeks later, on March 22, Ray uploaded "Throw the Bums Out!". As I touched upon in a previous blog entry, the culmination of the House passing ObamaCare on March 21 obviously hastened the release of "Throw the Bums Out!". Ray has the best of both worlds, though, as all three of his political music videos are continuing to do well and his patriotic one, "Thank You", is nearing 100,000 hits. Last year, on July 15, 2009 Ray uploaded his 2002 music video "Osama Yo' Mama" onto You Tube. Since it's upload date it's gotten 171,076 hits. For those who've never seen that music video you should definitely check it out at You Tube and leave your comments.

The cassette tape I'm holding was released in 1990 on the Curb Records label. I've spotlighted it before but I feel like spotlighting it again. It's a collection of ten comedy songs that Ray recorded through the years. The collection as mentioned was released in 1990 and at the time what one might refer to as the only recent recording found on here is 1987's "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?". The object of the collection was to reintroduce Ray's classic songs but this time on a new record label and the start of a new decade: the 1990's. The picture used is from was a publicity picture that was circulated in magazines promoting the single, "It's Me Again, Margaret". You can click the image for a bigger inspection. The album was certified Gold several years after it's release. I do not have an exact year, though.

1. The Streak; 1974
2. Shriner's Convention; 1980
3. Would Jesus Wear a Rolex; 1987
4. Mississippi Squirrel Revival; 1984
5. Gitarzan; 1969
6. It's Me Again, Margaret; 1984
7. Ahab the Arab; 1969 re-recording
8. In the Mood; 1976
9. Freddie Feelgood; 1966
10. Bridget the Midget; 1970

March 22, 2010

Ray Stevens spotlights those Congressional Bums...

It's truly fantastic being a Ray Stevens fan...although my enthusiasm hardly, if ever, has diminished through the years it's always kicked into high gear, obviously, whenever something new comes out concerning Ray. A week ago Ray gave us the music video entitled "Caribou Barbie" and as of now it's pulling in strong hits at You Tube. As of this blog entry, that music video is sitting at 42,824 hits. His military music video, "Thank You", is sitting at 91,577 hits. The big one, "We The People", enjoys 2,818,489 hits. Ray has since given us a new music, too, is highly political. This time around he offers a battle-cry in the form of "Throw The Bums Out!". The song itself is catchy and it's music arrangement I'm wanting to say is rooted in jazz, perhaps flavoring traditional pop music. Whichever musical flavor one defines it as being, it immediately catches the ear before the lyrics are even sung...and what about those lyrics??!

The lyrics drive home a sentiment that a lot of people, a lot of frustrated and annoyed people, seem to share. It's timely in that it comes in the aftermath of the House of Representatives passing ObamaCare by a vote of 219-212. It passed by a mere 7 votes. The song's title should become a theme for the mid-term elections this November. The campaigns during election years often kick off in the late spring/early summer and they run non-stop through the fall...picking up even more momentum by election day in November...and so by the summer of 2010 expect to see a lot of rallies become even more intensified with a sizable majority of the voting public on a mission to Throw the Bums Out!

March 19, 2010

Ray Stevens: Caribou Barbie, Part Four

Ray Stevens and the Caribou Barbie continue to obtain strong hits on video hosting sites across the internet. You Tube, of course, is where the music video originates and it's the You Tube video that's embedded across the internet in blogs and web-sites. To date there have been 35,690 hits. I decided to embed the music video once again in this blog. In the previous blog entry I copied the URL code. In essence, Ray has three video hits happening at the same time and each three have their own audience pretty much. Starting with the current one, "Caribou Barbie", and the big one, "We The People", and then there's the military tribute of "Thank You". In the latter's case, that particular song originates from 2004 but Ray never uploaded the actual music video onto You Tube until January 4, 2010. As of this writing the hit totals for those three music videos are as follows...the date on the left of each video title is it's upload date:

3/11/2010: Caribou Barbie: 35,690
1/4/2010: Thank You: 89,936
12/11/2009: We The People: 2,802,478

"We The People" as you can see from the hit count has passed the 2.7 million mark and it's into 2.8 million hits. It will more than likely reach 3 million hits and this coming Sunday March 21, 2010 there is suppose to be one last major vote on ObamaCare. It's a convoluted legislation and political mess that will no doubt surface at some point on Sunday when Democrat leaders in Congress are going to maneuver and sneak in ObamaCare without actually having an up or down vote. Afterward, the Democrats in favor of ObamaCare will proclaim that ObamaCare has passed even though there wouldn't have been a vote on the actual bill. It's a trick called "deem and pass" where, I think, the Senate bill will have been "deemed" to have passed in the House and then the Senate will certify it's so-called "passage" and send it to Obama for him to sign into law. I'll stop while I'm ahead because it's starting to sound confusing even to me! ObamaCare, for some who still don't know, is a socialist program centered around health care that lays the foundation for more and more Government expansion over private enterprise. The goal isn't to offer health care to those who don't have it.

The goal of ObamaCare is to slowly but surely destroy private enterprise because those private sector companies are not going to have the power to compete with Government run health care. The Government is going to entice free health care and what will that do to insurance companies across the country? Consumers are going to say to themselves "hey, why am I paying for insurance when I can get it for free through the Government??". The other side of the equation are the insurance companies...they'll no doubt lower premiums and costs, etc etc in order to keep customers from fleeing them and hooking up with ObamaCare, but, ultimately, the private insurance companies are not going to be able to make a profit and they'll go out of business. There are even sound-bytes of Obama declaring his visions of private industry health care being eliminated. Now do you see where I'm heading with this? ObamaCare is much more than health's a path to socialism as we've said all along.

Edit 3/21/2010: The House has decided not to vote on ObamaCare using the 'deem and pass' tactic and will instead have a conventional yes or no vote.

March 14, 2010

Ray Stevens: Caribou Barbie, Part Three

Well here we are once again in Ray Stevens world! The play count at the moment for his latest music video about Sarah Palin, "Caribou Barbie", sits at 16,618. This is an increase since my last blog entry earlier this morning of 4,418 plays. I'm sure the blog world is becoming familiar with the music video even as I write this. It seemed as if word didn't spread as quick as before, referring to "We The People", but word spread quickly at some point on Saturday and it continued into Sunday with quite a few blogs picking up on the music video. The video was officially uploaded on March 11th and so it took 3 days for people to start spreading the video around on the internet at a much more rapid rate. Now all that's left is to continue to enjoy "Caribou Barbie" and witness it's play count continue to rise...and eagerly anticipate Ray's full-length CD.

I am sure I can speak for all Ray Stevens fans when I say we hope that Fox News will help promote the music video/song. His previous video, "We The People", had already topped the 1,000,000 play count before he began appearing on mainstream cable news programs and on radio shows. As I was commenting elsewhere, Ray at some point will need that exposure on Fox News again...and the fact that Sarah Palin is a contributor to Fox News it looks as if it's only a matter of time before the channel mentions the music video, at least that's what we're hoping for. Ray's appearance on The O'Reilly Factor was such a success that viewers stormed Ray's web-site, causing it to crash.

Speaking of his previous music video..."We The People" continues to receive activity on a consistent basis. That video has obtained nearly 50,000 additional plays in a couple of weeks time and it sits at the moment at 2,780,473. The video could still reach 3,000,000 hits before it's all said and done especially since ObamaCare is becoming a hot news item once again.

"Caribou Barbie" in the meantime is a funny music video parodying Sarah Palin's public image in a good-natured way and taking jabs at Obama and delivering visual jabs at mostly liberal personalities on cable television, all wearing lip-stick, both male and female. Once you see the video you'll understand. There are several catch-phrases that can be lifted from this song, too. "You bet'cha!" I think will be one of them as well as "I'm votin' Caribou" but probably more than any "Obama shelved in 2012". The link will take you to the video. If the video skips it's probably due to some kind of technical issue. I've watched the video quite a few times and sometimes it'll start and stop and sometimes it'll play clear through. Highlight the URL and copy and paste it in your individual search engine. The video will show up in the search results.

Ray Stevens and the Caribou Barbie, Part Two...

It's a wonderful time to be a Ray Stevens fan. You all know who I'm talking to! The latest music video smash hit from Ray Stevens, "Caribou Barbie", is pulling in healthy numbers at You Tube in 2 days time. It's fun to see the progression of play totals to higher and higher. Yesterday the video was sitting at 1,138 hits. Well, in a matter of hours that number rose to 7,019 which indicated more than 5,000 people had viewed the music video in a few hours time. This kind of reaction is good but it got even better as the day and night wore on. It jumped from 7,019 to 8,670...and then throughout March 12th and March 13th it continued to steadily rise in play counts: 9,528...10,528...11,384...and currently "Caribou Barbie" is sitting at 12,200 hits. A lot of the success of this music video is thanks in large part to social network and video hosting web-sites. This means that traditional methods of getting music exposed, such as radio airplay, has more bolder competition than before. The fact that record companies are actively using places like You Tube and Facebook and Twitter, among others, to promote songs and artists, it gives on-line exposure credibility and a force to be reckoned with. Obviously the social network publicity is mostly, but not always, used by artists who can't get exposure on mainstream radio stations. This new way of getting around radio is becoming something of the norm. Ray currently is enjoying that success!!

March 11, 2010

Ray Stevens: Caribou Barbie

Hello all you fans of Ray Stevens! I was pleasantly surprised a few minutes ago when I made my way over to You Tube and found that Ray has uploaded a new music video. This one is hot off the presses as the saying goes. According to the statistics it was uploaded 3 hours ago. "Caribou Barbie" is the name of the new video and I'll give you three guesses as to who the song is about. Give up? The song is about Sarah Palin, of course, and I have only viewed the music video once because I wanted to quickly get the word out through this blog that Ray has a new music video available. After I post this blog entry I'll re-watch the video.

Will this music video rise to the 2.7 million hits of "We The People"? It's hard to might...considering how popular Sarah Palin is regardless of whether you agree with her politics or not. I don't want to spoil the video for anyone and so I won't go into detail about the sight gags or anything just yet. I'll no doubt make commentary as the days and weeks go by once a lot of people have seen the video. It should become another major video hit for Ray Stevens.

I suspect the video will jump in play totals as the hours/days go by. Remember, though, "We The People" came along at a time when ObamaCare was on just about everyone's mind. This "Caribou Barbie" is not about ObamaCare or health care as you'll see when you watch the video. This music video may attract an entirely different audience at You Tube than those who gathered to watch and comment on the "We The People" video. 3 hours into it's upload life, however, it's tough to tell...after listening to it once I can tell it's a catchy song and so I'm going to go watch it again.

March 10, 2010

Ray Stevens: Those Towns across the Country...

Throughout much of the 1980's Ray Stevens put several small towns on the map that otherwise would have remained anonymous. Not all of the towns that have been mentioned in Ray's songs are small, though. Hahira, Georgia immediately comes to mind. This is where the fictional "Shriner's Convention" took place that Ray had a hit with in 1980. Hahira is also mentioned in Ray's song, "Erik the Awful", as one of the places that the vikings conquer on their journey. Valdosta, Georgia is mentioned in 1987's "Sex Symbols". Ray mentioned his hometown of Clarkdale, Georgia in the 1988 song "The Day I Tried To Teach Charlene MacKenzie How To Drive". Throughout "The Haircut Song" Ray mentions Butte, Montana and Coos Bay, Oregon plus Los Angeles, California as well as an un-named small town in which the only barbershop in town was one with a steeple with a barber that doubled as a preacher. A 1985 comedy song, "Vacation Bible School", takes place in Tallapoosa, Georgia. In the 1986 song, "Southern Air", Ray mentions that the flight is non-stop from Hahira, Georgia to Jerry Clower's famed Yazoo City, Mississippi. Another town that Ray has sung about is Pascagoula, Mississippi in 1984's "The Mississippi Squirrel Revival".

This brings us to "Family Funeral Fight", a comedy song Ray recorded and put on his 2005 Box Set collection. The song takes place in Ducktown, Tennessee at a funeral but chaos ensues instead. A lot of the fun is hearing Ray describe the action and hearing the banjo plucking away in the background. You can purchase the song for only 99 cents at many on-line music stores, specifically, Amazon.

March 5, 2010

Ray Stevens on Larry's Country Diner

Howdy there all you fans of Ray Stevens! Well, I didn't have any advanced warning to promote an upcoming Ray Stevens appearance because I found out about it at the last minute. Ray appeared on the RFD-TV program, Larry's Country Diner, a program hosted by Larry Black. It's set inside a diner and it has a reality feel to it. Throughout an episode people walk around and cut in front of the camera, etc etc. It has an intimate feeling at the same time. Keith Bilbrey is the show's announcer and he remains on-camera throughout. A regular character is a woman named Nadine. Her appearances and interactions made the scene come off like a Hee-Haw sketch.

On Thursday's episode with Ray Stevens, the first episode of Season Two, it featured a couple of long-time friends and associates of Ray's who were seated at the same table in the diner. The two men were songwriter/record producer Norro Wilson and Ray's long-time songwriting and business partner, Buddy Kalb. The three of them sat at a table eating and conversing back and fourth with Larry and Keith for much of the show's first 3 or 4 minutes. Larry did a short interview with Buddy and Norro prior to turning the focus on Ray. Larry mentioned that he loved the song about the Squirrel going berserk in the church and for laughs he praised Buddy for using the town 'Spartanburg' in the song. Buddy said it was 'Pascagoula' and Ray quickly shot back that Buddy used the name of the town because it was the only thing that rhymed with 'hallelujah!' and everyone laughed.

After this segment, Ray sings "Mississippi Squirrel Revival" at the keyboard. Larry and Ray talk about "Sgt. Preston the Yukon" and Ray talks about the story behind that song. Elsewhere in the episode Larry plays a vintage clip of Minnie Pearl and Rod Brasfield. Ray remarks that he once produced a recording on Minnie but the record label was too afraid to release it. The recording was of Minnie singing "Tutti Frutti". Ray performs the song, "Safe at Home". Elsewhere, Larry recites the opening verse of "Mr. Businessman" and Ray talks a little bit about the song and how it took him an hour to write it because the lyrics came flowing out of him real quick. He doesn't perform the song, though. Throughout the episode Larry often named off his favorite Ray Stevens songs. Ray told the story about "Misty" and Larry mentioned that it won an award. Ray specifies that it won a Grammy for Best Arrangement. The regular character, Nadine, becomes a factor in the episode and she gushes over Ray and gets a hug out of him as well. She mentions "We The People". He mentions O'Reilly's program and mentions that the music video is usually what gets played in bits and pieces on talk-shows that he's appeared on. He apologized at the start of the song in case he messes up the lyrics since he'd never sang it live before. He sang the opening verse and the chorus.

He remarked that he'd be appearing at a Tea Party later in Nashville in which he'd be singing the song in it's entirety and he thanked Larry for allowing him to use the opportunity to rehearse part of the song prior to the National Tea Party convention. The convention took place during the first weekend in February and so this episode had to have been taped at some point in late January because on the 15th of January that's when Ray appeared on The O'Reilly Factor. Larry brought up Get Serious, the direct-to-video movie that Ray starred in. Larry played the part of Virgil Dooright in the music video, "The Dooright Family". Larry asked Ray to sing "Turn Your Radio On". Ray and Larry discuss Ray's web-page and they talk about the backstage portion, simply called RayStevensBackstage.

All in all it was a wonderful appearance and I loved that Ray was featured off and on throughout the entire hour. If you all want to know more about Larry's show you can check out his web-site or his Facebook page. Search: Larry's Country Diner on the internet and you're bound to find the web-page.

Ray performed the following songs:

1. Mississippi Squirrel Revival
2. Safe at Home
3. We The People {partial performance}
4. Turn Your Radio On

If I'm not mistaken this episode will repeat Saturday night, March 6th, at 11pm Eastern time on RFD-TV.

March 3, 2010

Ray Stevens: Nostalgia Valley, Part 7

The biggest hit song for Ray Stevens in 1969 was without question, "Gitarzan". The single was a million seller and it reached the Top-10 of the pop charts. The song continues to be part of Ray's stage shows and over the years he's had a multitude of different female singers play the part of Jane during concert performances...sometimes, though, he plays the role himself as he did on the 1969 recording. On the 1993 home video, Ray Stevens Live!, he enlists the help of a female assistant who came out on stage dressed in jungle attire. I believe the female was Janice Copeland. She played a more significant role in the sequel, More Ray Stevens Live!, by singing two songs: "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" and "Love Can Build a Bridge". Die-hard Ray Stevens fans oughta have those two home videos in their collection. I commented on the two releases in a previous blog...both of them were issued in 1993. "Gitarzan" didn't stop in the United States. The song crossed over all boundaries as it was released all over the world. I've got images of overseas releases of the song tucked away on my computer. Ray co-wrote the song with a guy by the name of Bill Everette. The title of the song, according to Ray, was given to him by Bill Justis. In a 1986 interview Ray remarked that he wrote the song with the aid of a rhyming dictionary by coming up with lines that deliberately had end rhymes and internal rhymes. Today it's impossible to imagine the song sounding any other way and it's the only song that I can think of from Ray that includes so many rhyme patterns.

April Fools Day is a time set aside for practical jokes and playing pranks on someone. In country music April Fools Day, and sometimes the entire month of April, is also a time when the country comedians tend to get a lot of coverage. This year will be no different as our favorite, Ray Stevens, is scheduled to appear on an April 1st radio broadcast. The program that Ray is appearing on is called Opry Country Classics. It's a series of programs that air on WSM radio, the audio home of the Grand Ole Opry. The show is hosted by Larry Gatlin and it will feature other performers as well. Ray is the main focus as he's been given the "spotlight artist" designation. I am making an assumption here by saying that I believe the show will be available on-line as well. The show will air at 7pm Nashville time and that means 8pm in most of the Eastern half of the country since Nashville, in particular, is in the Central timezone. So, at 8pm Eastern time, the radio show will commence. As I mentioned, I believe the show will be streamed on WSM's web-site and if that's the case people all over the country and the world will be able to listen to it. Lastly, I want to attempt to set the record straight about a few errors about Ray Stevens that are blindly passed along as fact on the internet.

First off...Ray Stevens is not the singer of "The Purple People Eater". The singer of that song is Sheb Wooley. I'm still baffled at countless comments on Twitter that erroneously credit Ray Stevens as a the singer of that song when he isn't. Another thing that's annoying as well is when I see comments from people crediting Ray with being the singer of "The Witch Doctor". That particular song was released by Ross Bagdasarian under his popular pseudonym, David Seville. So, whenever anyone comes across web-sites that credit Ray Stevens as the singer of either of those two songs, remember this blog entry for setting the record straight.

March 2, 2010

Ray Stevens: 45 at 20...

Welcome to my latest Ray Stevens blog entry! This time around I'm going to write about a certain song that was recorded and released by Ray in 1990. The song is "Help Me Make It Through the Night". The song had been around for decades prior to Ray recording his version of it. This marked the second time that Ray recorded a song written by Kris Kristofferson. The first time around was in 1969 when Ray became the first artist to record "Sunday Morning Coming Down". Ray's take on "Help Me Make It Through the Night" became much more popular as a music video in 1990 than it did a radio hit. His performance of the song is clearly the most wild interpretation and it's what the country music audience came to expect and appreciate from Ray. The song was also a sort of unofficial tip of the hat to Spike Jones...more than any previous novelty song from Ray Stevens, this one contained an abundant supply of sound effects and noises. A 45 RPM was released to disc jockey's only. Sometimes that DJ promo copy can be found for sale on-line. The promo features the same song on both sides of the single as was the custom for promo singles. The color of the paper is white...which is another indication that the single wasn't originally meant for commercial use. Ray rarely performed the song in concert and my guess is due to the over-dubbing and the sound effects that are heard. It's been said that on a television show it's difficult to time a song because of the nature of commercial breaks and the possibility a sound effect not working when it's suppose to, which can throw off a performance. I've only seen Ray perform the song once...and it wasn't technically a full-length performance. Here's the story...

Back in 1990 Ray appeared on an episode of Nashville Now. He was there to promote his latest album and his first for Curb Records, Lend Me Your Ears. While there, Ray began to croon the first few lines of "Help Me Make It Through the Night" and then out walks the host of the show, Ralph Emery, dressed up as the Southern Colonel. Ralph complained that the song was going too slow...afterward the screen faded to black and the music video of the song began playing. The song, for those who hadn't heard Ray's version, is an up-tempo performance. Then, just as the video was about to transition to the final scenes, the screen faded to black and we see Ray at the piano on the Nashville Now set closing out the song, in crooner style, and Southern Colonel Ralph expressing his appreciation at the upbeat tempo of the song. That was the first and only time I'd seen Ray perform the song anywhere and as I was mentioning it wasn't technically an actual performance because the music video was edited in and that's what the people at home and in the studio audience were watching.

Later on in this same episode Ray sang "Barbeque". How I wish I had the foresight to tape these programs where Ray Stevens made an appearance!! I'd love to see them over and over and over again.

This is a song you don't hear much about. It was released as a single in 1968 and it's from, as you can see, his Even Stevens album. The song is about a man who's excited about heading home after a stress filled day at work. He considers being away from the city and out in the country as his great escape. The song has no connection to the movie of the same name from the early '60s. "The Great Escape" in hindsight should have been the B-side of the single but it was pushed as the A-side when it hit the market. This is not to be taken as a slam against the song but when you hear it and then hear the B-side, "Isn't It Lonely Together?", you may also come away thinking the same thing. The B-side is a tragic story of a couple who have to deal with the consequences of a one-night stand. The woman in the song becomes pregnant and the man wrestles with the idea of doing the right thing and marrying her. Modern-day listeners may cynically wonder why there's a dilemma at all when abortion is an option and the man or the woman can be independent from one another...but, don't forget, that kind of a mind set is of modern-day while this song is from 1968. Modern-day listeners should also realize that the song can be interpreted as being pro-family and anti-abortion...and modern-day listeners should also realize that this was five years before the landmark abortion case, Roe v. Wade, came to it's conclusion. In hindsight I think the reason why "The Great Escape" was pushed as the A-side is because the subject matter couldn't be construed as being controversial.

Speaking of care overhaul, also known as ObamaCare, seems to have a life of it's own, still. In spite of the common sense belief that the health care bill will do more harm than good and in spite of the fierce polarization that's taken place between the two political parties and among the American public in spite all of that and in spite of loud messages to Congress and to the President to start over on health care, the Congressional majority plan on continuing down the path they're on. Even a scaled-back version of ObamaCare is not what the doctor ordered. The entire thing needs scrapped. In the meantime, the ObamaCare song from Ray Stevens, also known as "We The People", is currently sitting with 2,730,025 views on You Tube.

March 1, 2010

Ray Stevens past television Appearances

On June 29, 1988 a lot of Ray Stevens fans were in for a treat that day. It was comedy night on Nashville Now, the talk-show that aired on The Nashville Network for ten years: 1983-1993. The network was commonly referred to as TNN for short. An even special treat was in store because our favorite, Ray Stevens, played the part of co-host. I remember some episodes of the show where Ralph Emery used a co-host. On these particular episodes Ralph would sit in the audience or be off-stage and the guest co-host would conduct an interview. I recall an episode where Ray was the guest host...on this episode the guests were Holly Dunn and a member of the show's band, Larry Sasser. I also recall Minnie Pearl as a guest on another episode that Ray played guest host on. The episodes that I'm recalling, though, are from 1990-1991 and not 1988.

Who was on the June 29, 1988 episode of Nashville Now you may be wondering? Along with co-host Ray Stevens there was Jerry Clower, Minnie Pearl, the Riders in the Sky, and Cousin Bubba. In the fall of 1988 Ray issued his comedy album, I Never Made a Record I Didn't Like. It was also during this point in time that some far out animal rights activists were crying foul over the so-called mistreatment of a hamster in the Ray Stevens recording, "The Old Hippie Class Reunion", the last song on Ray's just released album that year. I came across that non-story late last year while browsing the Google news archives and laughed when I read it. Can you imagine listening to a hilarious comedy song like that and then zero in on a hamster reference...and as a result, throw a fit. Ray, also, found the outrage laughable.

On February 22, 1985 Ray was called on to host a Pre-Awards Grammy special. The program ran 1 hour and it was a nationally televised wasn't a program that aired on TNN. An introduction of this 1985 special can be seen on You Tube. The Grammy Awards honor material recorded in the previous the Grammy awards of 1985 would focus on music from late 1983 into the cut-off date in 1984. This meant that if a song debuted late in 1983 it could possibly win a Grammy in 1985 if nominated. In the You Tube clip Ray only gets to speak for a few seconds before the clip ends. I wish the clip were longer. The program was taped during that transition period in Ray's career where he shifted from recording serious songs and began his gradual slide into the realm of country comedy.

On December 28, 1985 Ray appeared as one of the artists on a PBS show called Country Express. I have no idea if this was a continuing series or a program that aired as a special. It was a Christmas themed program which also featured Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, Deborah Allen, and The Statler Brothers. It's my guess that Ray performed "Santa Claus Is Watching You" and, or, "Greatest Little Christmas Ever Wuz".

On January 2, 1986 Ray appeared on an outdoor sportsman program on TNN. During the days of TNN, sports programs typically filled the airwaves on Sunday. Racing, fishing, hunting, and other outdoors activities were all featured on TNN on Sundays. Country Sportsman was the name of the program Ray appeared on. The program details indicate that others were part of the show, too: Chet Atkins, Irlene Mandrell, Boots Randolph, and Jeanne Pruett. Bobby Lord was the star...the episode was billed as Bobby Lord at the LaBelle Celebrity Fishing Tournament. Several days later, on January 13, Ray was a featured performer/presenter on the Music City News Songwriters Awards. An appearance on The Tommy Hunter Show came along for Ray in the fall of 1986. Also appearing on the September 27, 1986 episode was Johnny Lee, Reba McEntire, and Charley McClain. Hunter's program was an import from Canada where it had been on the air since 1960, first on radio and then on television beginning in 1965. TNN began airing episodes in 1983 but then stopped airing the program in 1989. Hunter's show continued to air in Canada until 1992. The reason that the program left TNN, and a reason why a couple of other programs ended in 1989, had to do with TNN's schedule shake-up. The morning hours were taken over by music video programming as were the late afternoon hours. VideoMorning and VideoPM to be specific. Ray appeared on those programs during the mid 1990's when he was promoting his home video releases. Anyway, 1990 marked a kind of new direction for TNN, and a lot of the programs that had been a part of the network since it's debut in 1983 came to an end in 1989. A few shows stayed but quite a few went out of production.

This comedy CD came along in January 2008. The official release date was January 31, 2008 through Ray's web-site store. An Mp3 digital album was then released nationally a month later...and then in late 2008 an audio CD hit the market. "Hurricane" closely resembles "The Streak" and I believe that was done on purpose. Aside from the title track there's political humor in "Sucking Sound" where Ray sings about NAFTA and the economic situation and predictions of Ross Perot. Ray offers some down-home flavor in two back to back Bubba songs. Track four is a talking routine, pretty much, about a man from the south who fancies himself as a world class wine taster. I bought seven of the twelve songs on-line. I already had five of the songs on other collections and so I bought tracks 1 through 6 and track 11.

1. Hurricane
2. Sucking Sound
3. The Cure
4. Bubba, the Wine Connoisseur
5. Hey Bubba, Watch This!
6. Rub It In
7. Smokey Mountain Rattlesnake Retreat
8. Camping Trip
9. Makin' the Best of a Bad Situation
10. Stuck on You
11. Down Home Beach
12. Hugo The Human Cannonball

Ray Stevens and the Music Video Market

To date the hit count for the most current Ray Stevens music video, "We The People", is sitting at 2,726,020. The play count that I'm using is for the official music video release from Ray Stevens' You Tube channel, also known as Ray Stevens Music. There have been other people who have uploaded the music video but I'm only citing the numbers from what is considered the official video release by Ray Stevens Music.

As the calendar flips over from February to March we're still eagerly anticipating a full-length CD of songs which will contain "We The People" among other selections. Given that there wasn't a new CD available in February it leaves me to think that March is the magic month. The music video will reach it's third month anniversary on the was December 11, 2009 that the music video made it's debut on You Tube. Music videos go hand in hand with Ray Stevens...his music videos, as I've commented on in previous blog entries, have gained millions of views on You Tube over the last decade. Ray, himself, only last year created a You Tube site but fans and the public in general had long since uploaded Ray's various music videos to where his music videos are commonplace on a myriad of video hosting sites.

This connection with music videos goes back to 1992 and the release of Comedy Video Classics. The 1990's were very successful for Ray Stevens in a way that could not have been predicted in the previous decade. In the 1980's Ray revamped his career and his image into that of a country comedian full-time. In the 1960's, 1970's, and the first half of the 1980's he fought against the comedy/novelty image in spite of his commercial successes and his seemingly natural comic abilities.

As the 1990's dawned Ray set in motion the music video era of his career. It began after he opened up his popular theater in Branson, Missouri in the summer of 1991. He decided to open up the theater after sensing that Branson was on the brink of becoming a major tourist attraction. Also, the idea that the fans would come to see the artist instead of the artist traveling all over the country to see the fans, may have had something to do with it, too.

He made a series of comedy sketches and music videos to play on the large screen at his theater and they became so in-demand that a home video was released and sold at his gift shop. This spawned Comedy Video Classics...a home video collection of eight music videos from Ray Stevens. The collection was sold on television and in newspaper advertisements throughout the latter half of 1992 and into mid 1993. The collection sold over two million copies and became a landmark in the mail-order industry. In the late summer of 1993 Ray issued two home videos: Ray Stevens Live! and More Ray Stevens Live!

The first collection was sold exactly the way Comedy Video Classics was sold. The live home video of one of his Branson concerts would go on to sell over a million copies at both television and retail outlets. The second live home video was exclusive to Ray's fan club and his theater gift shop. Sad news in the fall of 1993 arrived when Ray announced that the 1993 season was his final at the theater he opened in 1991. Ray remained visible in Branson, Missouri off and on throughout the rest of the 1990's, however, appearing at other theaters. He did a series of concerts at Wayne Newton's theater and then, if I'm not mistaken, did a series of concerts at the Grand Palace Theatre. Wayne's theater was formerly known as The Five Star Theatre.

In the meantime Ray had filmed and released another home video. This one, released in 1995, was titled Get Serious! and it followed the sales successes of his previous two mail-order collections. In the last few years of the 1990's Ray remained busy doing concerts at the Acuff Theater, which was across the street from the Opryland attraction in Nashville, Tennessee.

Opryland was in operation for 25 years: 1972-1997. As far as I know there are road signs in Nashville that point the way to where Opryland used to be but in it's place is OpryMills, a string of shopping stores, that opened to the public in the summer of 2000. I've heard stories that tourists who aren't terribly in the know when it comes to all things Nashville see those Opryland road signs and become baffled when it leads them to a shopping mall and not a theme park. I don't know if those signs are still up, though. The closing of Opryland wasn't well publicized, neither, which only adds to the confusion that exists. The lesson here is to those who don't pay much attention to country music. Since the mainstream media doesn't report on the goings-on in Nashville and they don't report on country music unless a country singer does something embarrassing, the lesson to be learned is to rely on your own research and rely on your own findings because you're not going to learn much from the mainstream media when it comes to country music.

However, this blog page as well as Ray's web-site, will teach you all you have to know when it comes to Ray Stevens.

By the way, the Acuff Theatre, where Ray did those series of concerts in the late 1990's, is now called the BellSouth Acuff Theatre. BellSouth is the name of a phone company that services the south. As always, this blog site is not affiliated with Ray Stevens. It's simply a fan-generated site. In whatever small way I feel as if I'm doing my part at promoting Ray's music and career, which is what I like doing.