August 30, 2011

Ray Stevens discusses Obama and other issues...

Good Tuesday morning all you Ray Stevens fans!! I came home from work to find that at some point yesterday Ray submitted an opinion/commentary to Fox News and it was published in their opinion section. To read Ray's commentary on Obama all you have to do is click here and read it for yourselves. I was thrilled to read the commentary and enjoyed it greatly. It will no doubt make it's way onto the liberal blogs and afterward will predictably become maligned and trashed and called everything you can think of. I was surprised to find that Ray wrote an opinion piece since it's something that I never would've thought he'd do considering his songs and videos speak for themselves but it was great seeing him enter the commentary realm in this sort of way, too. Who knows if he'll do this regularly or not?! In the meantime his current music video, "Obama Budget Plan", has enjoyed 592,445 on-line views so far!

August 29, 2011

Revisiting Ray Stevens, Part 9...

Released in 1988 is this comedy album that I've written about before...the collection of songs is called I Never Made a Record I Didn't Like as you can see. The album was almost overshadowed by the on-going success of his 1987 topical single, "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?". In previous blog entries I've mentioned the fact that a lot of newspaper columnists and commentators outside of country music were discovering Ray's 1987 single months after it had been a hit. Paul Harvey, for example, wrote a column about the song in early 1988 (nearly a year after it's release). In the meantime Ray's 1988 album featured 10 comical recordings...some of the recordings were adventurous in that their sound and production were unlike anything on previous Ray Stevens comedy albums of the era. The album's main attraction, at the time, was "Surfin' U.S.S.R." which Ray sang in the style of the Beach Boys. The music video offers visual gags...particularly a scene where Ray, dressed as a sailor, holds up a picture of John Lennon whereas his ship mates hold up pictures of Vladimir Lenin. The John Lennon reference is a nod to The Beatles song "Back in the U.S.S.R.". I've often felt that "Surfin' U.S.S.R." was inspired by the two extreme sounds of the Beach Boys "Surfin' U.S.A." and The Beatles "Back in the U.S.S.R.". The video contains other exclusive content not found on the audio recording...specifically the opening scene where Ray plays the part of an off-camera news broadcaster informing us about a meeting between Reagan and Gorbachev. In the exclusive content life-size puppets of Reagan and Gorbachev (along with their wives) appear on screen. Ray does vocal impressions of both Reagan and Gorbachev.

As you can see this is the 1988 vinyl record resting on top of my record player. These pictures are from 3 years ago and I've since gotten a different record player. Of course, I listened to the album once I stopped taking pictures! At the time that the pictures were taken the 1988 release had been around for 20 years. I may have posted these pictures in 2008 but again I may not have. I often like to spotlight albums and singles from Ray that reach a milestone of sorts and 2008 would've been this album's 20th anniversary. In addition to "Surfin' U.S.S.R." the other commercial single was "The Day I Tried To Teach Charlene MacKenzie How To Drive". That particular single made the country charts for a few weeks in 1988...ironically, though, the first single didn't reach the charts in spite of the Cold War topicality of the music video. Those were the only two songs issued as commercial singles from the album. In hindsight there should have been emphasis put on his wicked parody of the Michael Jackson song, "Bad". Ray covers the song and turns it into a country free-for-all. A song that appeared originally on 1987's Greatest Hits, Volume Two titled "Mama's in the Sky With Elvis" makes an appearance on this 1988 album. The dark humor of the song and it's melody fit in perfectly with the various styles heard on this collection. On this 1988 album Ray dabbles in the sounds of the Beach Boys, plays around with the blues on "The Booger Man", spoofs Michael Jackson, incorporates Jordanaire-type harmony vocals in "Mama's in the Sky With Elvis", plays the part of a bewildered husband and father in "Language, Nudity, Violence, and Sex", and closes out the collection playing a couple of hippies commenting about their silver anniversary on the "Old Hippie Class Reunion". If all this wasn't exciting enough we get to hear "Blood and Suede"...a comical story dressed up as a haunting tale of a car wreck in Los Angeles. The song comes complete with Ray as the gruff, history laden storyteller. The serious, escalating music and hushed tone vocal delivery masks the obvious hilarity of the lyrics.

Track List:

1. Surfin' U.S.S.R.
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

Ray Stevens and Comedy Music...

A few days ago a brief article on Ray Stevens appeared in a newspaper. The article gave some spotlight on the upcoming comedy song Encyclopedia that Ray's working on plus it mentioned the enormous success he's been having on You Tube with his political music videos. I wasn't going to spotlight it because it is a brief write-up but then I decided that since I want this blog to be rather thorough then I should include any write-up I come across, large or small, that's been written about Ray since late 2008.

Upon reading that article return here and click the following links to hear audio interviews from Ray.

The first interview is what I'm calling a contemporary classic that took place on WSM radio with Eddie Stubbs earlier this month. The Intimate Evenings series featured Ray as a special guest on August 1st and the audio archive is available below. The show ran 2 hours in real time, including commercial breaks. The archives don't include commercials but there are edits where commercials originally aired...

Ray Stevens: 8-1-11.

In a previous blog I mentioned a recent interview Ray gave...that recent interview took place on WLAC radio on Devon O'Day's program entitled Plain Jane Wisdom. The audio link is below...

Ray Stevens: 8-15-11.

Strangely enough Devon O'Day co-wrote one of Ray's songs but it wasn't brought up in the conversation. Devon co-wrote the love ballad "Meanwhile" with fellow DJ Gerry House and singer Billy Dean. The song can be found on Ray's 1993 CD, Classic Ray Stevens. It was during the WLAC interview that Ray named quite a few of the songs that'll be on the Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music.

Ray Stevens On Hee-Haw, Part 3!!!

Early Monday morning here...a few minutes past midnight...August 29th. On Sunday night the 1972 Hee-Haw episode with Ray Stevens re-aired on RFD-TV. This particular episode first aired on RFD-TV back in late February of this year. After it's February air-date RFD, for whatever reason, began re-running the 1971-1972 season for a second time. Here's hoping that the rest of the 1972-1973 season airs this time around. Ray will appear for a second time during this season. Ray appeared on episode's 78 and 88 in 1972...a 10 week span between looking at this year's calendar if all goes well and my math is correct that second 1972 episode featuring Ray will air on November 6th.

As I touched upon in previous blog entries about this episode it marked the arrival of several key cast-members: Misty Row, Marianne Gordon, and Gailord Sartain. In the case of Sartain he wasn't mentioned in the opening credits but he appeared several times in police uniform on the show.

George Lindsey, who'd been appearing on and off as Goober throughout the 1971-1972 season, appeared several times on the 1972-1973 season opener but wasn't featured in the opening cast call either. Ray Stevens performed "Turn Your Radio On" and "Along Came Jones" but didn't participate in any of the comedy sketches. A lot of this happened due to the fact that a lot of the comedy sketches were taped during sessions in which the guest stars weren't at the studio. By the mid '70s and especially throughout the '80s the guest stars were often featured in quite a few of the sing-a-long comedy sketches but in the earliest episodes of the program many of the guest stars were on hand to sing their songs and that was it. The season opener for 1972, with Ray Stevens as a guest, will re-air on RFD-TV later this morning at 10am Eastern.

Arlene Harden and Dizzy Dean are the other guests. Check out my previous entries titled "Ray Stevens on Hee-Haw" and "Ray Stevens on Hee-Haw, Part 2!!!" for further commentary about that particular episode.

In the meantime, Ray's current Spirit of '76 CD is ranked among the Top-40 best selling Amazon Mp3's in the Singer-Songwriter category.

As you can tell I did a redecoration project on this blog page. I removed the Ray Stevens time-line that ran along the right side of the page to only showcase a few items. I did this because the time-line was rather lengthy and it ran quite a long way down the side of the page. Even though I've always known the time-line was lengthy I decided to shorten it up considerably to where it ends right around where the third blog entry ends. This way the blog page looks a lot more concise and compact which is how I prefer it looking for awhile.

August 28, 2011

Revisiting Ray Stevens, Part 8...

Good Sunday afternoon! As August winds down it'll soon be September, of course, and in case you all hadn't stopped by I'm here to inform everyone that Ray Stevens' web-site has gotten a major overhaul as far as the design is concerned. Here's the link to the New Web Page. It's still but for those who frequently visited the site you'll notice the design change immediately. One of the additions to the page is what they're calling "Ray TV". This section of the site contains all of the music videos that he's uploaded onto You Tube over the last 2 years. This allows people to watch his videos on his own web-site without actually having to visit his You Tube channel. Another change is the Twitter feed. On the former web-page the tweets would be live and any tweet that mentioned 'Ray Stevens' would be visible on the Twitter feed. However, on the new page, only the recent tweets from Ray's account are shown. From the looks of it the Twitter box will feature just 4 updates at a time.

The Ray Stevens web-store has also been revamped. Also, it may just be my imagination, but it looks as if a lot of items that once were for sale are now unavailable. The background, which used to be a light blue, is now white which makes the lettering and graphics stand out a lot more and it makes things look sharp and more crisp. There are multiple tabs, just like on the previous web-page, indicating the various sections of the site. The tabs at his site are:

Home, About, News, Events, Ray TV, Music, and Store.

Obviously, "Store" is where you purchase his items. "Events" is the new tab name for the previously named "Tour" which lists the concerts Ray will be giving this year. The section will also, I assume, be used to promote TV or radio interviews that he'll participate in next year. Ray has four concerts scheduled for later this year...1 in October and 3 in November. Two of those November concerts will take place up in Canada. He is scheduled to appear in Florida in February 2012. When you visit his web-page and click "Events" you'll be able to see a more detailed over-view of where he'll be appearing. The home page contains a big banner advertising his current CD, Spirit of '76. Later this year he is suppose to release the much-anticipated novelty/comedy song salute which will feature at least 100 songs. The Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music should be available soon. No release date's been announced but in a recent interview Ray listed quite a few songs that he recorded that'll be on the collection. Among those mentioned were "Mairzy Doats", "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah", "Haunted House", and "Dang Me" just to name a few. He's re-recorded a few of his own songs for this collection, too. In other interviews he mentioned "Open the Door, Richard", "Three Little Fishes", and "The King is Gone and So Are You" as songs that'll be on the Encyclopedia.

The current view count for the "Obama Budget Plan" music video is 584,041.

August 22, 2011

He's Still Ray Stevens To Us!!

If I were super-talented I'd write a song called "He's Still Ray Stevens To Us" because that's what I often feel like saying anytime I come across a blog or read a comment left on some social network site that doesn't have positive or flattering words to say about Ray or his music. Now, due to my not having the patience or the discipline to write a song with such a title I decided to use that for the name of this latest blog entry. He's still Ray Stevens to us...the fans...those who appreciate the music, the laughs, the concerts, the TV and radio appearances he's done in his career. A big reason why I say he's still Ray Stevens to us is because there's some who've made commentary over the course of the last several years suggesting that Ray's somehow changed and isn't the same anymore. I happen to feel that Ray's the same...only difference is he's more vocal about topical issues now than he ever was. Who's to say that Ray never held these same views years ago? Who's to say the Ray Stevens of 1980 didn't hold a lot of the same economic and social views he does today? The only difference, as I said, is he's more vocal about his viewpoints now than he was then.

Does that make his music no good because he's decided to incorporate a political element to his recordings now? He's still Ray Stevens to us...he's still funny, he can still sing, he still produces and arranges his own albums which obviously shows that he's still heavily involved in the making of his records whereas most of his peers (the ones who are still recording) don't get that involved. All of these things the long-time, hardcore Ray Stevens fans already know...but that can't be said for those who really aren't long-time fans but pretend they are just to either stir up trouble or to, well, stir up trouble. It exists mostly on social media sites and occasionally it bleeds over onto places like Amazon, too, where quite a few customer reviews turn much more into artist bashing than a legitimate review...and you guessed it...most of the "bashing" takes place from those who position themselves as "long-time fans". I've read plenty of comments from 'long-time Ray Stevens fans' who didn't really know much about Ray at all beyond a couple of songs. So, because of those experiences and several others through the years, I continue to doubt people's sincerity when they use the "I've been a long-time fan..." routine. In my way of thinking you can't possibly be a "long-time fan" of anybody or anything and not know quite a lot about whatever or whoever you're a fan of. It defies the entire concept of being a fan if you know very little about a singer or an actor/actress or athlete that you profess to be a "long-time fan" of.

He's Still Ray Stevens to Us...and with the release of this 22 song CD in 2010 Ray Stevens cemented his new-found reputation as a political entertainer and the numbers speak for themselves. Two of his politically themed music videos have gotten more than 3 million on-line views. "Come to the U.S.A." satirizes the illegal immigration problem in America by sarcastically welcoming illegals to the country because once they get in they'll have a great ol' time. This particular music video has it's share of's a highly emotional topic...and so far it's gotten 5,463,343 on-line views. The video hit in the summer of 2010. "We The People", on the other hand, is the video that launched Ray's journey into political entertainment. The song emerged late in 2009 followed soon after by a music video. The song's lyrics deal with opposing Obama Care. The critics tried to marginalize the song and it's video but when that wasn't working they tried to make Ray out to be some sort of "right wing kook" and when that didn't work they finally moved on. Interestingly, when "Come to the U.S.A." was issued as a video the critics tried and tried to label Ray as a right-wing zealot but that accusation fell on deaf ear's too, just as it should. "We The People" so far has gotten 4,499,002 on-line views.

He's still Ray Stevens to us!! This is his most recent's the Spirit of '76. The CD contains "God Save Arizona" in which the music video has gotten 792,233 on-line views which is quite amazing when you consider the video's uniquely topical in that it deals with the Federal Government's lawsuit of Arizona over it's illegal immigration policies. So it was more about a specific court action rather than something political...even though politics is never far away when it comes to these kinds of things. In my opinion the far-left political stance of the Attorney General and Obama ignited a lot of the turmoil for their out-right refusal to respect Arizona's law and I put the blame on those two for the drama that followed. For those who yet haven't heard the song it's a serious's not funny or remotely humorous. The song gives his serious side a chance to shine for one of the few times in a music video. Illegal immigration has always been a hot topic but among the mainstream media it became a top news story throughout much of the summer and early fall in 2010 and as a result this music video and "Come to the U.S.A." musically commented on the activity.

Elsewhere on the CD there's "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore" which also deals with a topic that was hot and seemingly on everyone's minds for a period of a couple of months but then the topic suddenly vanished. By that account it's a novelty song in the truest sense of the word! The song/video spoofs the TSA's airport security procedures. The video is quite comical and it takes some jabs at some political figures along the way. The video was going along great (earlier in the year) but then, as the topic started to fade from attention, the same thing happened with the video's impact as it currently sits just below the 200,000 mark in on-line views. The exact number is 199,857. He 'bounced back' with the following video aimed at the Federal budget. The "Obama Budget Plan" has gotten more than half a million on-line views so's current total is 558,490. The video's been on-line since late April and so it's not like it's brand new but it's the most recent one he's uploaded. A lot of the reason why that video got much more on-line activity than the TSA song is because the budget and the deficit is something that affects everyone in some way or another. The economic/fiscal policies of the Obama Administration impact all Americans and the "Obama Budget Plan" humorously skewers the mishandling of the economy. On the other hand not everyone's had an experience with the TSA...and for some segments of the public the humorous song wasn't connecting with them as much.

Starting with 1957's "Silver Bracelet" and going through his most recent recordings in 2011 no matter what comes and goes and no matter which music style he's singing you're bound to be entertained by Ray Stevens. No matter what a hip music critic might say or what some far left political blogger might say, deep down, He's Still Ray Stevens To Us!!

August 19, 2011

Ray Stevens and Obama Money, Part 14...

A couple of days ago Country Weekly published a brief review of the current Ray Stevens CD, Spirit of '76. The review can be found here. The review is positive...rating the CD 3 and a half out of 4 stars. The review mentions three songs from the CD and it mentions Ray's You Tube success. The on-line review also includes an embedded video of "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore", also known as the TSA song. Also, there's a link to purchase the digital download at either Amazon or Itunes. I highly recommend it! This Spirit of '76 is a companion piece to the collection he put out last year, We The People. That collection features 22 songs and the current one features 11 songs.

The "Obama Budget Plan", the current video, sits with 547,380 views so far. Ray's video from last year about illegal immigration, "Come to the U.S.A.", is mentioned in the review as is "Mi Casa Su Casa"...which is a further tale of illegal immigration found on the Spirit of '76 CD.

Expect the topic of illegal immigration to heat up again as Obama and company (Department of Justice and Homeland Security) enact shades of the proposed Dream Act. The plan is to offer amnesty to all illegal immigrants...turning a blind eye to the obvious fact that they're here illegally. Obviously this plan is part of Obama's re-election campaign. You don't need 10 years in college to figure out Obama's agenda and strategies.

It seems as if the Democrats care more and more about shoring up votes than seriously trying to solve the country's problems. Is it any wonder why Obama's really never been off the campaign trail? In my opinion and probably the opinions of millions of others the President is an arrogant, vain, out of touch, incompetent man-child whose answer to everything is blame this and blame that but never can the blame, in his mind, be put on him. It must be nice being the President for nearly 3 years but feel entirely blameless and fail to see that your policies are the result of this dismal atmosphere in America and overseas.

August 14, 2011

Revisiting Ray Stevens, Part 7...

In the previous blog entry I posted a vinyl promo single of a Ray Stevens song. Today's blog entry spotlights a CD promo single. These are what were typically sent to radio stations beginning at some point in the late '80s and all throughout the '90s. CD promo singles are still being manufactured today but with more and more consumers purchasing music on-line it's becoming increasingly rare to find a CD single. This particular CD promo single comes from 1991 and it's for the Ray Stevens hit "Working for the Japanese". Note the clever way that the arrow on the single begins in front of Ray's name and it points to the song title and then the arrow continues onward and ends at the songwriter's name. Ron DeLacy wrote the song and another clever use of the arrow ties in with the subject matter of the song: economics! Unfortunately for this single it fell victim to the very subject it was satirizing. A lot of advertisers, sensitive to the song's satire, threatened to pull their ads off various radio stations if the song continued to get airplay. As a result the song was removed from quite a few stations spelling an end to it's meteoric rise in popularity. In one written account of what had happened it was made clear by a DJ in Texas that his listeners didn't have any objections about the song and that it was one of their biggest requests. It was quite clear that as early as 1991 DJ's, nor the listeners, had any say on what was being heard on the radio anymore. It was now becoming crystal clear that radio consultants and advertisers were clearly calling the shots and that the days of listener feedback and DJ input was long gone when it came to what songs were heard on the radio. Is it any coincidence that around this same point in time, 1991/1992, a lot of established, popular country singers were having increasing difficulty getting their current songs on the radio? No, it wasn't a was a deliberate plan...but that's a topic for another time. Around the time of Ray's 1991 single he was just starting his incredible run in Branson, Missouri at his famed theater. He'd experiment with and conquer the home video market from 1992 through 1996 before returning to audio recordings. Ironically 20 years after "Working For the Japanese" Ray has a current video single about economics...this time it's all about the out of control debt and deficit titled the "Obama Budget Plan" which has more than 523,000 on-line views as of this writing.

Revisiting Ray Stevens, Part 6...

From the pen of Layng Martine, Jr. comes this 1974 hit from Ray Stevens entitled "Everybody Needs a Rainbow". As you can see from the color of the label this is what was considered a promo single...only sent to radio stations. The commercial release featured a much more colorful image of the tree branch with the melted vinyl record on display. The melted vinyl is on this label, too, but the all-white backdrop doesn't necessarily highlight it too much. As I discussed previously the "melted vinyl" look is in my opinion the record company's way of saying their music is hot. Anyway...the promo singles had a white backdrop and over the last several decades they've become commonplace at flea markets both on-line and off-line as a lot of radio station material found it's way to the public domain. "Everybody Needs a Rainbow" reached the country music Top-40 in addition to charting in the Adult-Contemporary format. On AC radio (known as Easy-Listening and, or, Middle-of-the-Road at the time) the single peaked inside the format's Top-20...clearly indicating that it was a much bigger hit with slightly older pop audiences than mainstream country fans. That kind of thing is something I've always pointed out through the years of having this blog in publication and it's always a fascinating study in how a song that can be a smash in one format can fall on deaf ears in another. The song's title sums up what it's's an uplifting song about always having goals or dreams because it would be too boring if everything came easy. The b-side of "Everybody Needs a Rainbow" is a song called "Inside" from the 1973 Losin' Streak album. "Everybody Needs a Rainbow" wouldn't appear on an album until a compilation album came along in 1992 called A Brighter Day which featured more than 15 gospel and inspirational recordings by Ray. Incidentally, "A Brighter Day" was originally found on his 1970 album, Everything Is Beautiful. Later on "Everybody Needs a Rainbow" was featured on the Varese Sarabande CD entitled All-Time Greatest Hits in 2002. "Everybody Needs a Rainbow" and "Inside" both get AAA+ ratings from me!

August 12, 2011

Ray Stevens and Obama Money, Part 13...

Ray Stevens Spirit of '76 collection is ranked at #86 in sales on Amazon's Comedy CD list. The CD collection officially went on sale on Amazon this past Tuesday (August 9) where it had been on pre-order for a couple of months. The Mp3 digital download, however, had been available since April of this year so a lot of the more die-hard fans of Ray Stevens already had the collection on their computer's music program long before it went on sale in CD format. Some use Windows Media Player, some use Real player, some have their music sent to their Itunes library to hear the audio files they purchase. The "Obama Budget Plan" has 511,281 on-line views! With the video having over half a million views it allows it to join the ranks of several other videos that Ray's released on You Tube which have gotten half a million views and higher. The insipid budget plan that was signed by Obama recently has temporarily pushed the budget topic off to the sidelines but it'll be a hot topic once again. The economy will always be a priority...and with the economy in poor condition and unemployment still well over 10% nationally...the debt, deficit, and budget isn't too far off the radar.

That unemployment percentage I gave includes those who've stopped looking for work or are working part-time in low paying jobs or whose jobless benefits have ran out and therefore are no longer counted as "unemployed" given that they no longer can make a weekly or bi-weekly unemployment claim. When the jobs numbers come out and whenever there's a drop in unemployment it's not wise to foolishly believe it's because companies are hiring again. A lot of factors have to be weighed in before one reaches the conclusion that companies are hiring again. Chances are people are being dropped off the unemployment registry because they've reached a benefit deadline and are no longer able to draw unemployment.

In the latest attempt to divide people, Obama apparently is now going down the "let's all get along" route due to his realization that it's potentially the only way he can salvage his presidency. I don't know of anyone who'll fall for the scheme but I'll bet some out there (the absolute clueless) will feel empathy. His most recent sound-byte revolves around him bemoaning the political structure that's been in place for decades upon decades. All of the sudden when it looks as if he's starting to come across as vulnerable in the eyes of Independent voters the time has apparently come for the White House to kick start a divisive dialogue that places America's political landscape as being broken and in their opinion Obama's the right person to fix it.

Nothing's wrong with America's politics, Mr. President...but I feel there's something fundamentally wrong with you.

Obama's been in office since January's August 2011...he can't separate himself from what's taken place since he's became President. He and his campaign workers will no doubt try and spin his presidency as being a victim of a broken political system but the facts still remain that he's the President and it's his party which controls the Senate and up until January 2011 they also controlled the House of Representatives. Obama's Administration will no doubt use the Republican controlled House as a scapegoat and perhaps use it as a divisive tool but that doesn't erase the facts of what decisions and policies have been put in place since January 2009. Does he think that the American voters in 2012 are going to be dumb enough to believe that a Republican controlled House is responsible for things that took place prior to their arrival in Congress in 2010?!? Maybe he and his Administration thinks the voters have short-term memories?

The Democrats controlled both houses of Congress dating back to the middle of last decade. The smart and informed voters aren't going to fall victim to the "there's something wrong with America's politics" argument. The informed, smart voters will see that for what is: Nothing more than a campaign tool of which the desired result is to have people arguing over political discourse and spend less time fuming over Obama's policies and decisions. In other words, Obama would love it if the voters would just ignore the turmoil and problems going on and ignore the policies that he's responsible for and simply turn off all the politics and vote for him again for old time's sake. He won't be able to re-create a 2008 euphoria but apparently he feels if he can sour people on politics they'll ignore what's going on in Washington and as a result be ignorant to his unpopular policies. You see, if you're uninformed and, to put it bluntly, ignorant, you won't realize the damage and financial destruction that his Administration has heaped upon the country. Then, in theory, once an electorate is ignorant or is soured on politics Obama can act as a savior bent on "fixing" America's politics (for the better?) and the voters will cheer him on as a savior, prophet, God, messiah, etc.

So, for now, it looks as if he and his Administration (and the mainstream news media) are going to invent a problem (political discourse) and project it as some sort of social crisis and Obama will come riding to the rescue.

It says a lot about an Administration when they have to either invent a crisis or find a mundane topic and twist it into something vital in an effort to create potential positive publicity when a President's own record will do more harm than good.

If anyone reading this can't see this latest scheme for what it is then you're exactly who the Obama Administration is catering to.

My message to whoever gets the Republican nomination for President is to continue to rub Obama's nose in his own failures and make him defend his policies. When voters or candidates look at the facts it's a slam-dunk win for any Republican. As it's been said over and over and over Obama's the worst President since Jimmy Carter. Carter's time in office is strikingly similar to Obama: both had issues with oil companies and the oil business in general, there were high gas prices (cheap compared to 2011), high unemployment, big Government expansion, and massive entitlement incentives. Those who said Carter had personal charm were probably correct...but all the charm and all the talking couldn't get him re-elected in 1980. This same thing can happen in 2012...all the charm(?) and brow-beating that Obama revels in won't get him re-elected if the Republican nominee points out every single fault of Obama and points out all the negatives that happened since he took office in 2009.

Common sense and facts must win out over charisma, smooth talk, and mile wide grins. With a few exceptions the voters threw a lot of the bums out of Washington in 2010...but more work is needed in the Senate since a lot of those members will be up for re-election in 2012. In November 2012 it'll once again be time to "Throw the Bums Out!" as Ray Stevens suggests in this music video...

August 7, 2011

Revisiting Ray Stevens, Part 5...

In the career of Ray Stevens 1979 is highlighted by one song in particular...a satirical spoof entitled "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow". What you see is half of the lengths that the publicity department went to in their promotional campaign of Ray's song. The other half of the promotional campaign would feature an album on Ray in which the cover of the album would be another spoof of a Manilow release. The single was written by Dale Gonyea and it became a Top-50 pop hit in 1979 but it reached the Top-15 on the Adult-Contemporary lists. This is important to point out because the Adult-Contemporary format is where Barry was the airplay king...having a solid string of virtually uninterrupted Top-5 hits dating back to early 1975. Manilow's streak of Top-20 successes would continue on AC radio through 1986 but Ray's single came at a time (1979) when Manilow was reaching his peak on Top-40 pop radio even though he still had nearly 8 more years of AC success ahead of him. That's why it's so ironic that Ray's spoof of Manilow hit bigger on AC radio than on pop'd think the format that wasn't playing Manilow as much (pop) would've had a field day with "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow" but instead the exact opposite occurred: favorable AC radio played the Manilow spoof.

The hit single spawned the album I earlier mentioned...the album was a compilation project built to support Ray's unexpected hit single. That album, The Feeling's Not Right Again, mocks the album design of Manilow's 1975 release, Tryin' To Get The Feeling. This 1979 single and the chicken clucking "In The Mood" from late 1976/early 1977 are the two recordings that Ray Stevens did for Warner Brothers that often get included on compilation projects. He had more hits for Warner Brothers than just those two releases but given that those two are in the comical/novelty vein probably explains why compilers single out those two recordings in particular. Most compilers like to spotlight his comical recordings more than the non-comical...but then again, some projects feature more non-comical selections than all depends, I guess, on which record company is putting the collections together and which audience they're aiming to attract.

August 5, 2011

Ray Stevens and Obama Money, Part 12...

The following audio clips, broken into 3 parts, comes from a radio interview Ray Stevens did on the Clay and Marty Show on KERN radio (also known as Takin' Care of Business). The interview took place back on June 11, 2011 and so it's nearly 2 months old by now but it's chock full of funny commentary and topical humor from the hosts and Ray, too. As most are well aware the debt and deficit will continue to be a big story no matter the can kicking that went on in Congress the other the conversation between Ray and the KERN radio hosts is still "in the moment" as the saying goes. The interview is great!

Anyway...I don't believe I was aware of this interview back in June...maybe I knew of it but couldn't listen to it on-line and in the months since had forgotten about it...but whatever the case the audio clip was uploaded onto You Tube yesterday and I've listened to all 3 parts of the interview and like I said it's great and wonderful and any other positive adjective one wants to use.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

The "Obama Budget Plan" music video is slowly but surely reaching half a million on-line views. The most recent total is 471,145. I predicted mid August to be the time when it makes the half a million mark. On August 9 Ray's Spirit of '76 will become available all over the place. It's only been available as an Mp3 digital download at his web-store and a few other on-line stores but starting on August 9 the CD version will become readily available on Amazon and other places for those who prefer to purchase a CD rather than purchasing Mp3 audio files on-line. The CD has actually been available for purchase at Ray's web-store for a couple of weeks but the CD won't go on sale to the general public until August 9 (this coming Tuesday). The CD version's been available for Pre-Order at Amazon for a couple of weeks.

The songs featured on Spirit of '76 are:

1. The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore (music video on You Tube; 191,792 views)
2. Mr. President - Mr. President
3. God Save Arizona (music video on You Tube; 785,111 views)
4. Cap'n Trade the Pirate
5. My Uncle Sam
6. November Storm
7. Mi Casa Su Casa
8. Grandpa Voted Democrat
9. Obama Budget Plan (music video on You Tube; 471,145 views)
10. News Machine
11. New Normal

The on-line views of those music videos will obviously grow in total as the days, weeks, months, and years go by. I also predicted that Ray might emerge with a new on-line music video in the weeks to come. The current video, "Obama Budget Plan", is sitting on 3 months and so he's just about due for another music video so maybe a new one is in the works!? When it's released, of course, I'll blog about it!

August 2, 2011

The 2-hour Ray Stevens interview...

On August 1st Ray Stevens was the special guest on WSM radio's Intimate Evenings series hosted by Eddie Stubbs. The show aired for 2 hours and was available for on-line streaming but for those who didn't hear it here's a run down of some of the things that went on...

The show took place at the Ford Theater at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

The program opened up with "Jeremiah Peabody's Green and Purple Pills". Eddie introduced Ray and the two of them spoke about the song becoming a chart hit in 1961 with Ray bringing up that he'd been recording and releasing songs for several years prior to his arrival on Mercury Records but none of his releases had reached the national charts until "Jeremiah Peabody" came along. He made mention that his earliest recordings made local radio station charts but didn't break out nationally. Ray spoke of his 1960's single, "Sgt. Preston of the Yukon", and how it led him to write "Jeremiah Peabody" given how the Sgt. Preston single (a novelty song) had racked up more sales than any of his previous releases to that point. Ray, around this time in the interview, also spoke of his desire to get back out on the road much more than he's been lately. A running joke throughout most of the first hour of the program had Ray playing the part of an artist desperate to do any kind of show...constant reminders of how available he is often found their way into the interview.

Eddie, a couple of times throughout the program, remarked on how packed the venue was and that they had to bring in extra chairs to accommodate all of the people who stopped in to hear Ray speak about his experiences in the music industry and hear tidbits about the songs he's written or recorded. Eddie asked Ray about the gospel songs he's recorded and this led into Ray speaking about his dad's favorite song being "Turn Your Radio On". Ray spoke of his days under the guidance of Bill Lowery and about the years he spent working on local radio programs in Georgia with Joe South, Jerry Reed, Billy Joe Royal, and Tommy Roe. Ray spoke of how Nashville has changed so much since the early '60s and commented that the easy-going, open-doors attitude of late '50s and early '60s recording studios is what enabled him to get his foot in the door. Ray remarks that his Sunday school teacher was instrumental in getting him in contact with Bill Lowery.

Ray recounts his first meeting with Ken Nelson, of Capitol Records, in the late '50s. Ray had made a demo recording at some point in 1957 which Lowery sent to Ken Nelson. One thing led to another and Ray found himself with a recording contract on Capitol's subsidiary, Prep Records, when he was still a teenager. Although not mentioned in the interview it was also during this time that it was suggested that Ray use a stage name. His birth name is Harold Ray Ragsdale...but neither "Harold" nor "Ragsdale" in the minds of the promotional department at Capitol had a lot of pizzaz and so the decision was made to have him use his middle name, Ray, and his mother's maiden name, Stevens, and from that moment on he would go by the name 'Ray Stevens'.

The conversation shifts to his modern-day recordings with Eddie remarking how incredible it is that at this point in Ray's career he's still highly active and working on multiple recording projects. Eddie only had to mention the phrase "Obama Budget Plan" and it sent the audience into applause and laughter...for the audience was well aware of the song's content and the music video. Eddie also asked about "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore" and this led into Ray speaking of his recent experience with political songs and mentioning his C-PAC appearance several months ago. The audience laughed and cheered during his humorous quips about the current situation in Washington. Eddie played "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore" and Ray commented afterward that during the C-PAC event he appeared on a political discussion panel. He remarked that he felt that a good number of the politicians on the panel, in general, perhaps only knew of him by way of the older songs from the '60s and '70s and probably weren't too sure why 'Ray Stevens' was sitting on a political panel discussing such heavy topics as the debt, deficit, and health care. He mentioned that as soon as he started into "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore" he could feel electricity in the air from the audience...he said that they enjoyed it and got a kick out of it. After speaking a little about the Spirit of '76 Eddie plays "Obama Budget Plan".

Eddie, in all seriousness, asked Ray where he comes up his song ideas...instant laughter from the audience resulted from that question. Eddie plays "It's Me Again, Margaret" and how the song's writer, Paul Craft, had released the song nearly a decade before Ray's more familiar version was recorded. Ray commented on the inclusion of the 'dirty laugh' and he re-created the laugh several times during the conversation surrounding the song. From there Eddie brings up "Misty" and Ray talks about how that recording and it's arrangement came into being. It was during this point in the program that Eddie gave some spotlight on Ray's arranging skills. He marveled at Ray's talents at being able to hear songs play out in his head and know which instrumentation to use and everything else that goes into arranging music. He credits Bill Justis with teaching him how to be a music arranger. Eddie brought up Ray's multi-instrumental talents and the numerous recording sessions for other artists that Ray participated in during the '50s, '60s, and early '70s. Ray said that he used to smoke...but quit in 1969. He also commented that session musicians were paid around $50.00 per session.

Hour 2 kicked off with "Ahab the Arab". Ray gave the history of the song and Eddie commented that during the same recording session as "Ahab the Arab" Ray played on LeRoy Van Dyke's "Walk On By" and Joe Dowell's "Wooden Heart". The recording, according to Ray's recollection, happened in January 1962 and it was released as a single in the spring. Out of the blue Ray mentioned that he was working on a book about his career and life with the help of his songwriting associate, friend, and business partner Buddy Kalb. He didn't give a release date but said that it's in the works!

Eddie named off several of Ray's songs. Eddie and the audience chuckled when he got to "Bridget the Midget the Queen of the Blues". Ray remarked that the single wasn't that big of a hit in America. He felt that it was possibly due to political correctness. It's a possibility because political correctness, in it's earliest stages, was starting to creep into television around the turn of the decade (1970-onward) and as the years went by more and more regulations on what could be seen on TV or heard on the radio became more and more prevalent. Ray, defending the song, commented that he was simply wanting to do a song with the Chipmunk sound effects...this caused laughter from Eddie and the audience...and then Ray commented that it became a big hit in England.

Ray's version of "Oh, Lonesome Me" is played. The conversation then turns to Ray's reputation for zany, comical recordings. Eddie brings up the One For the Road collection and the conversation of travel and being on the road leads to "Hang Up and Drive", a song Ray recorded about people driving and talking on their cell-phones.

Eddie brings up how busy Ray continues to be and this leads into a discussion about Ray's sit-com, We Ain't Dead Yet. The sit-com had a trial run on a former web-page that Ray's people operated called Ray Stevens Backstage. It was a premium web-page and it was up and running for nearly 2 years before it went off-line. Those who were members of this site were able to see a few episodes. I hope a general audience will be able to see the shows one day. They're funny, cute, and unique.

Eddie mentions that Ray won two Grammy for "Misty" and another for "Everything Is Beautiful". Streaking came up and this led into Ray talking about where the idea of the song came from and how he was able to get a jump on the fad nearly a month before it was all over the national news. "The Streak" was played and by then the program was nearly over. Eddie remarked that the Intimate Evenings series had never featured a performer primarily known for comedy but given that this was something new for the series he wanted Ray to have the honor of being the first comedian to make an appearance should they decide to have other comical entertainers stop by in the future. The show closed with Ray's song, "Thank You", from the We The People collection.

All in all the interview was great! Ray's had a varied career that encompasses just about every aspect of the music business: singing, songwriting, producing, arranging, and session playing. There were some highlights of his career that they didn't get around to discussing such as his You Tube music video successes; his revolutionary home video sales successes in the 1990's; his years in Branson, Missouri and the story behind "Shriner's Convention". I have no idea if the interview will be archived at WSM's web-site or not. I'll check their web-site periodically and see if an audio link becomes available.

August 1, 2011

Revisiting Ray Stevens, Part 4...

The Very Best of Ray Stevens, released in 1975, features 12 tracks recorded by Ray between the years of 1968 through one recording from 1961. The album was first released internationally in 1974 with a different picture of Ray...basically it was the picture of Ray that appears on his Turn Your Radio On album of 1972. That version features 14 tracks. In America the LP was released in 1975 with a bearded Ray Stevens on the cover and 12 tracks instead of 14. This wasn't the first appearance of a bearded Ray Stevens on an album, though...that distinction goes to 1973's Losin' Streak. One of the earliest pictures of him in his now well familiar bearded appearance was a 1969 publicity picture for "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down". As you can tell from the track list, the America release included emphasis on the early to mid '70s. The fact that the LP starts off with "Misty" and includes another 1975 hit, "Indian Love Call", indicated that the record label wanted to continue to spread the exposure of those two songs beyond the country format. Once upon a time a Greatest Hits or a Very Best of... collection was bought by casual fans and the public in general. Studio albums were often bought by the dedicated fans. This fact inspired a lot of record labels in the '80s, specifically, to fill out a lot of Greatest Hits releases with songs that didn't exactly reach the weekly music charts...but since the general public would most likely purchase a 'hits' collection rather than a studio album it enabled a lot of songs that otherwise wouldn't have gotten much attention the chance to shine and become familiar to listeners.

It wasn't uncommon for a song to become popular through exposure on compilation releases. Quite a few of the compilation CD's put out on Ray Stevens in the '80s and '90s contained a lot of non-hits but due to the exposure the songs continually got on a lot of compilation releases the songs became just as popular and familiar with listeners as the songs that made the charts. "I Saw Elvis In a U.F.O." is a single from Ray in didn't reach the charts but everyone in his fan-base knows of the song. Ray Stevens is one, if not the only, artist able to have popular songs and albums without the benefit of ranking among the Top-10 with each and every release. This is why I've constantly said chart rankings mean nothing to Ray's career. A lot of artists live and die with each chart ranking or agonize over why something peaked at #3 instead of #1...with Ray Stevens I've always gotten the feeling that he really doesn't care if one of his songs or albums charts at #1 or long as he's satisfied and his audience is pleased then all of the other stuff is just icing on the cake if it happens.

The track list for the America released Very Best of Ray Stevens is below:

1. Misty; 1975
2. Unwind; 1968
3. Turn Your Radio On; 1971
4. Everything Is Beautiful; 1970
5. Mr. Businessman; 1968
6. Indian Love Call; 1975
7. The Streak; 1974
8. Jeremiah Peabody's Green and Purple Pills; 1961
9. Nashville; 1973
10. The Moonlight Special; 1974
11. Gitarzan; 1969
12. Ahab The Arab