September 30, 2012

Let's Discuss Ray Stevens, Part 37...

Hello all the fans of Ray Stevens!! On this final day of September 2012 it's also the day after a concert from Ray Stevens in Renfro Valley, Kentucky. I came across a picture of Ray and a few of the fans from Saturday night's concert and I also came across some reaction on a certain social network site from those who enjoyed the concert. The venue was officially sold-out but I don't know if it were completely sold-out because the seating chart on September 27th shown just two open seats still available for sale. I assume those final two open seats were taken at the last minute but whether they were or weren't it was indeed a packed venue.

I was not able to make the trek to Renfro Valley this time around but I did see him there in 2008 and then I saw him in the summer of 2009 in Nashville, Indiana. This concert appearance was a few months before the on-line music video explosion of "We The People" on You Tube and so there wasn't an official political segment to his concerts at that point in time.

That particular music video, released on-line in December 2009, and it's equally successful subsequent follow-up releases allowed him to insert a political segment into his concerts. When I saw him in concert a few years ago, one of the songs he performed was "Thank You", a salute to the military, and another was "If 10% Is Good Enough For Jesus", a song about taxes. Those were the only topical/political songs of the night...but he did tell some politically oriented jokes from a conservative point of view.

Now, obviously, none of us in attendance at either the 2008 or 2009 concerts had any idea of just how submerged in political humor that Ray would become...but by the late summer of 2010 with his two massively popular political music videos garnering millions of on-line views simultaneously it was crystal clear that Ray Stevens had found himself another creative outlet to experiment with as well as a new avenue for musical expression. The series of politically oriented music video releases spawned an audio release, We The People, which contains 22 songs on 1 CD and a bonus DVD of a few of those music video releases.

Ray hasn't issued a CD of new political songs for 2012 but he has issued a double project, available in both CD and DVD format, of a fairly recent concert. The two projects are titled Such a Night: 50 Years of Hits and Hilarity and Patriots and Politics. The first project is the first half of a concert while the second project is the second half of the same concert. His recent concerts have been split between the non-political half and the political half. The Patriots and Politics DVD can be found HERE. Once there you can navigate around and search for all the other projects at his store, too.

September 28, 2012

Ray Stevens: Obama Nation, Part 19...

"Obama Nation" by Ray Stevens has increased by a total of 15,770 on-line views to bring it's total number of views to 623,409. The video, of course, is available on You Tube along with several other Ray Stevens music videos. The song, as I've mentioned before, comes from his We The People release. That particular CD, as well as Spirit of '76, both found Here, are a must-have for those who identify themselves as members of the Tea Party and those with conservative points of view. The link takes you to the store at Ray's web-site where both CD's, a flag lapel, and his Let's Get Political essay/opinion book are being sold together. The book and flag lapel come free and so you're actually only paying for the two CD's in that order. We The People contains 22 songs on one CD and 4 music videos on a bonus DVD. Spirit of '76 is a more conventional CD release with 11 songs. The book features the lyrics of all 33 songs on both releases as well as essay and commentary from Ray Stevens and his songwriter friend, Buddy Kalb.

It seems as if the current trend from the mainstream media is to play sour grapes when it comes to the Romney campaign...more so than in times past. A local radio personality gave an observation that I found to be 100% accurate when he stated that the mainstream media is hoping that the Romney-Ryan supporters will become discouraged from voting based upon first-glance "negative" polling numbers that the media is all too eager to highlight, emphasize, and promote. By my using the phrase first-glance, of course, it means that some people look only at the numbers and do not research and find out how the numbers were generated or who was polled and at what time of the day or which demographic was targeted for replies, etc. etc.

There is early voting going on in several states and it's the perfect opportunity for the Obama supporters in the mainstream media to create a cloud of discouragement for those who support Romney. I assume, as the radio personality said, the Obama backers hope to discourage the Romney supporters from voting early.

It's one of the oldest political tricks in the book and, in general, it works like this: create insecurity and discouragement in the opposition's voting base and attempt to plant the idea in their heads that there's no reason to show up to vote since their candidate "doesn't have a chance at winning".

Admittedly there may be some people who fall for this tactic and it's a shame if they do.

If voters stick to the facts and base Obama's time in the White House on their final decision this coming Election Day then he doesn't have a chance of re-election. You can't sweep away or hide much as Obama wants to...and as much as his supporters gallantly strive to keep the facts hidden under the surface.

This election, as it's been said by many others, mirrors the 1980 election campaigns between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan where Reagan was constantly losing in the polls and being painted as a long shot at becoming President by the mainstream media. It wasn't until the head-to-head debates that Reagan was able to strip away all the negatives heaped upon him by his opponents and those in the media. Once the people saw the contrast between Carter and Reagan it was obvious that Carter's policies and visions were Utopian based and not rooted in reality.

In my opinion, based on factual rather than revisionist history, Carter won the 1976 election because of the public sentiment about Watergate and you had the current President, Gerald Ford, voted out because of the scandal's impact on practically anybody associated with Nixon regardless whether the associates were directly involved or had any knowledge of the happenings. The Democrats also had what they may have considered an ace in the hole due to Ford's not having been "elected by the people" to either the Vice-Presidency or the Presidency. He was and still remains the only person to hold those positions without having been voted in by a national election. He was appointed Vice-President when Spiro Agnew resigned from office and then Ford became President when Richard Nixon resigned. Once Ford pardoned Nixon for any alleged crimes or other wrong doing, it pretty much doomed his Presidential election chances in 1976. History books often cite that the most positive thing that happened during Ford's presidency (1974-1976) was America's Bicentennial celebrations during the mid '70s leading up to July 4, 1976. The 2011 Ray Stevens CD, Spirit of '76, is named for the art work of the same name recalling the imagery of the Revolutionary War. 

But let's fast-forward from Ford's defeat in 1976 to McCain's defeat in 2008. Obama becomes the President on the heels of negative public sentiment surrounding the conflicts taking place in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Democrats of 2008, much like those in 1976, used the public sentiment to rally the voters to their side. John McCain lost to Obama in 2008 based upon negative Republican sentiment across the board. To this day many Obama supporters like to engage in the "blame Bush" tactic in the hopes that it'll re-create in 2012 the sentiment it had in 2008 when it worked against McCain. I don't feel it will work in 2012 because, mainly, Obama is an incumbent. He's the Incompetent Incumbent. The facts are simple: you don't blame a former President on your own failures after you've been President the last three and a half years. Obama tries to...his supporters try to...but you end up looking foolish and they've had a lot of practice at that. Obama has no victories that he can proudly tout and play up...any 'victory' he has enjoyed have long since proven to be detrimental to the American people either economically or socially. His Obamacare, strangely enough, hasn't been a focal point of the re-election commercials and neither has any of the pet projects with the EPA, etc. etc. In a twist of irony, Obama really can't campaign on any solid issue he holds near and dear to his heart because the general public, in reality, do not support those issues with the same kind of zeal that he does.

This leaves the Obama campaign to resemble more or less a long-running attack ad.

This Obama re-election campaign, the way I see it, is based pretty much on attacking Romney first and foremost and then filling the airwaves with more Utopian fantasies, flat out lies, and insidious goals for "the next four years" rather than telling the voters why he deserves "the next four years" in the first place. In my opinion you should get re-elected if you've done a good job and he certainly hasn't done so which is why he can't fill his re-election commercials with any positives that he's accomplished. It's all attack, attack, attack as he blames others for his own incompetence.

September 27, 2012

Ray Stevens: Nostalgia Valley, Part 44...

In this installments of the Nostalgia Valley we take a look at the connection between Ray Stevens and the late Andy Williams. As many people familiar with this blog are aware, Andy played a pivotal role in the ultimate success of Ray Stevens. A lot of media stories report on the fact that Ray hosted a summer 1970 series for Andy on NBC-TV...I've written about this as well. Prior to the deal being made, Ray joined Barnaby Records. If it weren't for this event in Ray's professional life who knows how the rest of the decade would've played out.

Barnaby was owned by Andy Williams and it was a label that was home to Ray for six years, 1970-1976. His last single releases for the label occurred early in 1976...later on that year Ray moved to the Warner Brothers label. Barnaby went through a series of distribution entities, for domestic and international releases, during the time Ray was on the label: CBS, MGM, Janus, GRT. Another Ray Stevens connection to Andy Williams the general public is most certainly not aware of is the fact that Ray's manager for the longest of time was Andy's brother, Don.

The facts are simple: You simply can't write about Ray Stevens or talk about Ray's career at any great detail and not include Andy's involvement somewhere.  

In the video embed above, a clip from 1969, you'll see Ray, Andy, Danny Thomas, Jimmy and Olive Osmond perform "Along Came Jones". The single was Ray's current hit at the time.

September 19, 2012

Ray Stevens: Obama Nation, Part 18...

In a pick-up of 15,406 on-line views, "Obama Nation" by Ray Stevens currently sits with 607,639 views. I saw that the video vaulted past the 600,000 mark on Monday evening but I didn't create a blog entry about it and afterward I had my computer off until this morning due to storms that were passing through. In Part 17 of this blog series the video had obtained by that time 592,233 unique views and as mentioned the video received more than 15,000 additional views bringing it to it's current total of 607,639.

I'll only say a couple of things about the perceived mini-controversy surrounding the Romney video that liberal bloggers are having a feast with...the video is irrelevant. It's more or less an addition to a long list of distraction stories being pushed to keep the focus away from Obama's dismal failures. It's as simple as that. The liberals will probably come up with a different distraction story a little more than a month from now when the 2012 Election is a week or so away so be ready for it.

Am I the only one that can see through this liberal-created story for what it is?

Since I had my computer off for a day and a half I was not aware until this morning that Ray had an interview with the radio duo, Rick and Bubba, about The Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music. The interview took place this morning at 9:30am but it wasn't specific if that was Central or Eastern time. I work nights and was asleep at that time and there hadn't been any podcast made available. I also saw a post on Twitter that Ray had a radio interview on a station in Effingham, Illinois with their morning program.


Ray Stevens will be appearing in Shipshewana, Indiana on September 21st and in Effingham, Illinois on September 22nd.

Those in the area take advantage of seeing the music entertainment legend. His concerts are highly entertaining and engaging, too.

September 15, 2012

Ray Stevens: Nostalgia Valley, Part 43...

Oh what a year we have on today's stroll through Nostalgia Valley as we look at the career of the legendary singer/songwriter/musician/comedian and pop/country/political humorist and artist, Ray Stevens.

As ironic as it sounds, Ray Stevens is an under-rated superstar, and 1969 was one of the key years of his career.

"Freddie Feelgood", a very hilarious song, has a unique history in Ray's career. Ray recorded it in 1966 and his label at the time, Monument, released it as a single. The single charted in the lower 10 of the Hot 100 but it's still a great performance in spite of the chart finish.

As I've pointed out many, many, many times over the last several years, chart placings are more or less irrelevant and do not exactly tell the Ray Stevens story at all. His career has thrived for decades without the crutch or aid of a popularity chart. The value of a song and it's true measure of greatness can easily be determined by a simple method of subtraction. If you were to take away any Grammy or any award that a song has won or take away it's sales achievements or any other type of industry or non-industry award, the song would still be the same song as before, only without the awards or praise.

Down through the decades it's become commonplace to elevate songs into higher places based upon any award or sales success associated with it. It's also become equally commonplace to look down or diminish a song if it doesn't win any awards or receive hefty doses of radio airplay.

Ray Stevens' masterful "Everything Is Beautiful" would still be the great song it is even without the Grammy awards that it won or it's #1 finish on the pop chart. Those awards are like the icing on the cake.

"Freddie Feelgood and His Funky little Five Piece Band", as mentioned earlier, debuted in 1966. It was written by Ray and he does a heavy amount of scat singing in various places in the recording. Well, actually, he vocally mimics the sounds of four of the five instruments featured in this performance. The names of the band members, by introduction, are: Yum-Yum, Ace, Tyrone, Percy, and Freddie. In 1969, while still on Monument, an all-new novelty album was released, Gitarzan. Ray had a short string of pop hits in the early '60s with Mercury Records but then the novelty single releases slowed down, mostly due to what's known in American pop music as the British invasion with the meteoric rise in popularity of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Dusty Springfield, Herman's Hermits, and others. Post-1963 Ray started putting more time in the numerous recording studios in Nashville as a session musician and music arranger. In fact, Dusty Springfield was one of the artists whose recording sessions Ray often played on. Concurrent with this he also found the time to be a record producer/music arranger for a group of artists on the Monument label. Even though Ray had become known as a novelty artist, the b-sides of many of his Mercury singles featured non-comical love ballads. Ray's first release for Monument as a recording artist arrived in 1965 with the release of "Party People" backed with "A-B-C". "Freddie Feelgood" arrived in 1966 followed by a few other love ballad single-only releases later on in 1966 and into 1967. "Unwind", in 1968, charted in the Top-60 of the Hot 100, more closer to the Top-50, and had become the highest chart hit for Ray since 1963. 1968's "Unwind" had also become the first non-comical single release from Ray to make that kind of impact on the Hot 100. His very next release, "Mr. Businessman", went even higher and finished in the pop Top-30. The follow-up, "The Great Escape", didn't make the Hot 100 but it appeared on the Bubbling Under chart, indicating that it had the potential of breaking into the Hot 100 but ultimately it didn't happen. Nevertheless, it was a Top-50 single in Canada.

Ray's first studio album for Monument, Even Stevens, arrived in 1968 and it featured "Unwind", "Mr. Businessman", "Isn't It Lonely Together", and "The Great Escape" among the selections. The Gitarzan album came along the following year which reinforced his novelty/comedy image.

The album featured just two single releases, the million selling Top-10 title track, "Gitarzan", and the Top-30 pop hit, "Along Came Jones", which had been a huge hit for one of Ray's favorite groups, The Coasters, in 1959. "Freddie Feelgood" and "Bagpipes, That's My Bag", from 1966, were placed on this 1969 album and it's on this collection where "Freddie Feelgood", in particular, started to attain something of a quiet appreciation. The enhanced recording...which was in reality the same 1966 recording with electronic laughter dubbed over top...became a fixture on countless compilation albums released on Ray Stevens through the decades. Ray performed the song in concert several times and once on a television special hosted by Jerry Reed in 1979. The music video, embedded above, come along in 2000 and was uploaded onto You Tube in 2011.

In addition to the comedy album, Ray issued a mostly covers project titled Have a Little Talk With Myself in 1969. The album contains his versions of contemporary pop songs with a few original songs added to the line-up. One of the new songs at the time, "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down", appeared on this album. Ray holds the distinction of being the first recording artist to cover the song. It was written by Kris Kristofferson. Ray's recording reached the Hot 100 and it made the country music chart, his first ever appearance, and it reached the Top-50 on the country chart in Canada. The album's title track, "Have a Little Talk With Myself", hit the country music singles chart early in 1970 and it was followed by his version of "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" which Bubbled Under and became his final single release for Monument.

It was during this same time period, 1969-1970, that Ray began his association with Andy Williams. Initially starting out as a recurring guest star on Andy's television program in 1969, Ray ultimately joined Andy's Barnaby Records in 1970. The same year Andy chose Ray to host a summer fill-in television program...airing nationally every week on NBC during the summer months of enormous exposure to his music, most notably the show's theme song, "Everything Is Beautiful", which would go on to win a Grammy, sell more than three million copies, and reach #1 internationally.

To date, Have a Little Talk With Myself has never been issued in CD or Mp3 format. I own a vinyl album and it appears as if a CD or Mp3 of this album will never see the light of day as I discussed in a recent blog entry. 

September 14, 2012

Ray Stevens: The Pop Goes the Country DVD's...

I hope the makers of the Pop! Goes the Country DVD's come out with a disc devoted to the many Ray Stevens appearances...preferably episodes that haven't been issued on DVD yet. Ray appeared on the show quite a few times and in many cases these programs are the only televised appearances of Ray Stevens during key moments of his earlier career.

In addition to the performances, which are a treat, you'll also see the interview segments. Ralph Emery hosted the program during the first 6 years (1974-1980) and upon Emery's departure in 1980 Tom T. Hall took over as host and remained with the program until it's end a few seasons later. Here is another chance to get your Pop! Goes the Country DVD collections featuring episodes starring Ray Stevens. In the links below you'll be taken to the Classic Country DVD item page where you can read in more detail.

Each DVD features multiple episodes starring various country artists but I'm singling out which Volumes, so far, contain a Ray Stevens episode...

Volume 4 (1975 episode)

Volume 9 (1977 episode)

Volume 15 (1979 episode)

Volume 17 (1981 episode)

Volume 24 (1978 episode)

The Volume 24 release is the most recent offering. Ray is clean-shaven in the 1977 episode. It is in this 1977 episode where he and Ralph Emery discuss at length the success of the fictional Henhouse Five Plus Too and their chicken clucking country/pop single, "In The Mood". I mention that because it isn't referenced in the DVD item description. In the 1979 episode Ray, I'm assuming, performs "Shriner's Convention" for the very first time on television weeks before it was issued as a single early in 1980. He opens the show with a performance of his 1976 Top-20 hit, "You Are So Beautiful". I'm barely scratching the surface...he also performs medley's of previous hits in addition to his interview segments with the host. In the 1979 episode he demonstrates the various styles of piano playing by offering the styles of Floyd Cramer, Ray Charles, and a brief Jerry Lee Lewis. In the 1975 episode Ray performs "Misty", "Indian Love Call", and "Twilight Time" in their entirety in addition to delivering a cultured version of "The Streak" which leaves Ralph Emery and the other guest, Sammi Smith, in fits of hysterical laughter. I hadn't purchased the DVD with the 1978 episode on it and so I can't go into detail about that one...yet...but I should have it in my possession sooner rather than later.

September 13, 2012

Ray Stevens: Obama Nation, Part 17...

During the last several days, the Ray Stevens "Obama Nation" music video's obtained more than 11,000 additional views. In part 16 of this series I mentioned that the view total was sitting at 580,730. Right now it's sitting at 592,233! It's inching closer to the 600,000 level. His previous video, "Mr. President - Mr. President", has 673,695 total views at the moment. That particular music video was released almost 1 year ago while "Obama Nation", released a couple of months ago, is nearing that 600,000 mark at a much more quicker rate. The previous video/song is just as great but the anticipation and build up of the 2012 Presidential election has apparently helped the current video close in on the 600,000 mark in a much shorter time span.

In a couple of weeks are the Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates: Romney vs. Obama, Ryan vs. Biden. I may or may not I've written before in other blog entries I can't stomach Obama's lies, his arrogance, and his condescending demeanor...which will obviously be on full display during those debates. I often associate an Obama speech with the anticipation of root canal surgery.

Biden is full of himself, too, but not on the same level as Obama and I think Paul Ryan will run circles around Biden during their debate.

I've spotlighted this particular Ray Stevens interview before but I've decided to post a link to it again because it's so informative, in my opinion, and it's one of those rare interviews with a recording artist where the artist comes off as the top priority and is treated with respect. There are various kinds of interviews with various objectives and most of the time the 'celebrity interview' nowadays comes off more like a gossipy tabloid-style tell-all than a serious, let's stick to business, interview. One such serious interview was conducted by a writer named Jeremy Roberts and it took place in 2011 in the months following the April release of Spirit of '76. You can read the full interview/write-up HERE.

September 12, 2012

Ray Stevens: The Everything Is Beautiful CD's

Good Wednesday afternoon! I decided to write a blog entry at a more unusual time for me. I'm usually asleep during this time of the day but I found myself awake and I now find myself here. For those who frequent on-line music stores you've no doubt come across various CD's released on Ray Stevens with the title, Everything Is Beautiful. Recently there has been quite a bit of confusion from consumers due to the track listings of those various CD's being erroneously placed on the wrong project at on-line stores. The consumer reviews add to the confusion because the web-masters probably assume any Ray Stevens CD titled Everything Is Beautiful has the same songs on it and so you'll see a review for a CD with that title being placed in the customer review section of another CD with the same title...even though each CD has different song selections. Ray has no control over these releases. Once upon a time people thought that every singer gave their permission to have a CD of their music released, and, when they'd see 5 or 6 CD's of the artist with the same CD title, consumers automatically assumed that the artist was responsible for it. Some people still might think this way but the reality is a lot of artists have no control over the CD's that are released on them, especially artists with considerable longevity whose recordings have become owned by various music companies over the decades. Newer artists, and those who've been in the business the last 15 or so years, have much more say so in their careers and perhaps have special language in their recording contracts that prevent the label from flooding the market with compilation CD's.

In 1990 there came a compilation titled Everything Is Beautiful and Other Hits. I was attracted to the collection when I first saw it sitting in a cassette tape rack at a local truck stop. What was the attraction? Well, it has a green color design which was new to me at the time. I also liked the lightning bolt design shooting from the RCA logo. I loved the songs and I also liked the picture sleeve. The collection only features 8 tracks...the cassette copy features 5 songs on Side 1 and 3 songs on Side 2. A close-up picture of Ray on this release was later used on a 1999 collection titled The Last Laugh. This collection was later re-released in 2004 with different album art and a different picture of Ray.

Recently, an Everything Is Beautiful CD's become available from a company known as Margate Entertainment and released under the Applause Records label. This release utilizes recordings Ray did from the late '60s through the early '70s chosen at random. If you find yourself at Amazon, the CD's picture sleeve shows a lot of pink flowers.  

Released in 1992, this Everything Is Beautiful CD features 10 songs. A cassette version features 8 songs. This will seldom show up on eBay and in various on-line stores in the "out of stock" section. The limited release collection features a good dose of his MCA material from the mid to late '80s. There is a secondary CD titled The Legendary Ray Stevens which further explores the MCA years and it features a similar image of Ray, too. The selections on the CD compilation are as follows: "Vacation Bible School", "Kiss a Pig", "Everything Is Beautiful", "Santa Claus Is Watching You", Smokey Mountain Rattlesnake Retreat", "People's Court", "Surfin' U.S.S.R.", "The Streak", "Fat", and "Armchair Quarterback". The cassette release doesn't include the final two selections. As mentioned, this compilation uses the title of Ray's 1970 album but the selections are lifted mostly from the MCA period of his career. Ray was on the MCA label from 1984 through 1989 and although it was one of his most commercially successful periods the label rarely issued compilation projects showcasing the recordings he did for the label and they never kept his studio albums in print for very long (with the exception of a couple releases). This out of print and limited availability factor is why sellers often have expensive prices for CD versions of Ray's MCA albums. A CD version of his 1986 album, Surely You Joust, often appears on eBay with an asking/selling price of more than $30.00!! I've seen the CD version of his 1988 album, I Never Made a Record I Didn't Like, go for more than a $40.00 price. Some of the MCA material has become available in Mp3 format, thankfully, but CD versions are extremely rare.

September 11, 2012

Ray Stevens: Osama Yo' Mama...hilarious!!

It seems as if, without fail, that each and every year that passes and the hilarious Ray Stevens song, "Osama Yo' Mama", is discovered on You Tube, that there always seems to be people out there that take exception to the song. The song is great and it's message and sentiments are crystal clear.

In case anyone's been living under a rock, Ray Stevens is known for his comical recordings and chances are you're going to get a comical presentation from him with just the right amount of seriousness underlying the entire performance. His current political recordings, with the comical overtones seen in the music videos, are in reality very serious lyrically but he takes a comical approach, visually, since comedy is what he's known for.

Anyway, it's baffling why some dislike "Osama Yo' Mama" but yet there are those certain ones out there that do. It must have something to do with novelty songs, in general, and how the more serious of music listeners disdain the novelty song genre entirely.

"Osama Yo' Mama" came about late in 2001. Country artists, specifically, were issuing patriotic music and songs reflecting on the 9/11 terror attacks. Ray Stevens issues "Osama Yo' Mama" as his contribution to all the other anti-bin Laden recordings that were hitting the market. In a scenario highly reminiscent of "The Streak" in 1974, albeit with a much more serious topic of terrorism this time around, Ray's bin Laden song was really the only one to make it commercially. His single sold half a million copies throughout 2002, reached #1 on the Country Single Sales chart for multiple weeks, and the album that came along later in 2002, Osama Yo' Mama: The Album, reached the Top-30 on the Country Album chart.

It's very clear that the people who love the song far outnumber the ones who dislike it.

September 10, 2012

Ray Stevens: Obama Nation, Part 16...

580,730 unique views so far for the Ray Stevens "Obama Nation" video. This is a pick-up of 5,531 views since my previous blog entry. Ray will be appearing later this month in Shipshewana, Indiana on September 21st. He'll be doing two concerts at the Blue Gate Theater. The first show is at 3:30pm and the second is at 7:30pm. On September 22 he'll appear in Effingham, Illinois at the Effingham Performance Center at 8pm. Ray has a couple of releases that he's simultaneously been creating awareness for. We The People features quite a few recordings and Ray's been going back and fourth between it and it's follow-up, Spirit of '76, over the last couple of years. There's not been any full-length music videos made from any of the recordings from the Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music but there's been snippets of performances filmed for a series of on-line commercials for that 9-CD collection. "Obama Nation", the current video, comes from We the People. It's predecessor, "Mr. President - Mr. President", is from Spirit of '76. There's been a lot of premature discussion on various cable news outlets and talk radio programs about the effects of the Democrat Convention. While there's no doubt the event sparked some enthusiasm for Obama, once reality returns and the failures of the Administration are brought to the surface once more, it isn't going to be all thrills and smiles as it's been the last several days. There are various competing web-sites and organizations touting all kinds of numbers and polling much so that you don't know the true pulse of the country from hour to hour, day to day, or week to week. One day there's data that shows Obama leads Romney in certain swing states but other data shows Romney ahead. There's data that shows Romney leads on economic issues but then there's data that says Obama leads with social issues.

I'd never bought into the storyline that members of his own party had turned on him and so the partisan cheering that was going on at the Democrat Convention wasn't anything shocking or surprising to me and it certainly didn't energize his base because they've always been in step with every mandate he's dictated and zealots have always been energized. The elevated attention his speech got makes it appear that his campaign is "re-energized" but in reality it isn't. It's the same as before. He's still going to attack any and every issue Romney champions and Obama's still at the end of the day going to be the far-left ideologue advancing his own agenda rather than a nation's. That speech was no different than any other he's given before...only it's setting dictated the saturated media coverage that it got. While the convention adoration wasn't anything surprising, the thing that is surprising to me is in the aftermath how the more responsible media outlets have taken it to mean that the country's eager to re-elect him...

Here's a reminder of why Obama needs voted out in November...


Even though Ray Stevens is heard in just one line, it nevertheless is a song that speaks right to the political and social issues of the times. The song I'm referring to is titled "If You Want My Vote" and it's by songwriter-singer, Matt Cline, whose written quite a few songs that Ray's recorded over the last several years. The song not only features Ray Stevens but it also features vocals from the likes of Steve Cropper, Buddy Jewell, and Andy Griggs. The song is available as an Mp3 Here.

How fitting is it that this is Part 16 of this particular blog series...why do I say that...well, I just learned that 2016: Obama's America out-performed a slate of other films over the weekend. The jaded critics perhaps will say this is because of the film's overall curiosity with an inquiring public and so the numbers reflected that scenario. Maybe...but then maybe not. The film's chances of becoming a really, really big hit (a film taking in more than $100 million) depend on publicity and from my point of view I don't believe it's going to get the red carpet treatment from Hollywood the way a certain other politically-themed movie received a few years ago. Predictably, liberal blogs across the internet have trashed 2016. The movie has grossed close to $30,000,000 so far.

The Matt Cline "If You Want My Vote" song can also be seen Here.

September 9, 2012

Ray Stevens: Nostalgia Valley, Part 42...

As it's become somewhat of a tradition on this blog, I always make mention of "Armchair Quarterback", a song that Ray Stevens recorded in 1985. The song can be found on the I Have Returned album. The album itself is a classic in his career...not only was it certified Gold but it reached #1 on the Country Album chart early in 1986. The album features 10 comedy of those recordings is the chicken flavored "Thus Cacked Henrietta", also known as Thus Spoke Zarathustra as well as a few other names. Lasting just over 1 minute it's a super brief, but tasty, rendition of a familiar motion picture theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey. On the album it's referred to as "Thus Cacked Henrietta A/K/A Also Sprach Zarathustra". In actuality it could be considered a further performance by The Henhouse Five Plus Too, the fictional all-clucking group Ray invented in 1976 when he released "In the Mood". The group performed "Classical Cluck" as that single's b-side. So, this 1985 performance marked the fictional group's third and to date, final, clucking.

"Armchair Quarterback" tells the story of what's perceived to be the typical football fan...lounging in an armchair, complete with snacks and drinks, and yelling at the TV over the plays he sees or the commentary being made by the broadcasters. I love watching football, mostly NFL, but I sometimes will catch a college game on Saturdays...I don't yell or shout at the TV and I don't make football watching into a party...but I do have the snacks and the non-alcoholic drinks at my side. In the song, Ray sings of the typical football fan and the impact that the season has on his life as well as his family. The song was never issued as an A-side but it did accompany his famed re-recording of "Santa Claus Is Watching You" in late 1985. The single came with a picture sleeve, shown below, of Ray dressed as Santa...with a look of mischief on his face...peeking over at some hidden activity to his right. The song became his first-ever music video.

Ray Stevens: Nostalgia Valley, Part 41...

In our 41st stroll through Nostalgia Valley as we spotlight the career of Ray Stevens we re-visit 1971. This was the year that Ray placed three vastly different singles onto several Top-10 charts...but if you're a casual fan or one that is familiar with a lot of the various career bio's floating around on Ray Stevens you wouldn't know about that because 1971 was also the year that came in the shadows of a massive #1 million selling hit single a year earlier in 1970. There's never been too much exploration into what was happening in Ray's career in 1971 because a lot of the more professional authors, writers, critics, etc. like to skip around too much when they offer information. Typically what we get is a commentary that highlights specific years...for example: a writer might mention Ray's 1970 #1 hit but then jump ahead 4 years to 1974 and pick up the commentary from there. If a reader of the commentary, or the essay, happens to be a fan of Ray Stevens or happens to be someone that's interested in Ray's music and in time becomes a devoted fan, I feel the reader is being cheated out of 4 years of information and music due to those omissions. I know that when I'd read essays and liner notes in a variety of albums and CD's issued on Ray through the years there always seemed to be a pattern to the information and that pattern was to simply highlight only "the big songs" and pretty much ignore the rest. Now this isn't the case all the time. There are some liner notes and some bio's on Ray that go beyond hitting the obvious but those are few and far between unfortunately. I've written about liner notes before and so search the archive section off to the right for more expansive commentary on the subject.

You may be asking: okay, what exactly are those three vastly differently Top-10 hits from Ray Stevens in 1971??

The first Top-10 of 1971 for Ray Stevens happened to be a single that was issued in December 1970 but had it's successful chart run in the early months of 1971. "Bridget the Midget", the mysterious hit single from Ray Stevens, reached the Top-50 on the pop chart in America and the Top-5 in the United Kingdom. I call it the mysterious single because a lot of people who hear of the song don't really believe such a song exists until they find it. The single, which features sped up vocals in the tradition of the Chipmunks, is a brilliant send-up of Go-Go dance clubs. Ray plays the part of the singer/narrator/announcer as well as a customer who seems under the influence and clearly infatuated with the star attraction, Bridget, whose also voiced by Ray. It's a comic vignette in song. The single never appeared on any album until the label, Barnaby, issued a Greatest Hits collection on Ray. The song, ironically, would be a featured track on just about every greatest hits-type collection issued on Ray through the 1970's but then it's availability on compilation releases started to diminish by the mid 1980's and in my mind a shroud of mystery began to form around it. It returned to a compilation project in 1990 on the release of His All-Time Greatest Comic Hits, which is where I first heard the song. That 1990 project from Curb Records was later certified a Gold album for sales exceeding 500,000 copies.

The other two Top-10 hits for Ray in 1971 were what became the first two releases from a soon to be released gospel project, Turn Your Radio On. "A Mama and a Papa" became a major Top-5 Easy-Listening hit in America as well as in Canada. It's a story about the importance of having a mother figure and a father figure in any child's life. Gospel music rarely has any kind of support from what's called mainstream radio and it's chart performance on America's Hot 100 and Canada's pop chart is reflective of this. Nevertheless, the single became a hit anyway. The other Top-10 hit for Ray in 1971 was the total opposite of "A Mama and a Papa" in both mood and delivery. "A Mama and a Papa" has a subdued vocalization while "All My Trials" showcases a glorious, triumphant vocalization with wonderful use of multi-tracking and overdubbed harmonies. It, too, became a Top-5 hit on the Easy-Listening chart. There are two versions of this recording. The shorter version omits a lot of the instrumental breaks as well as some of the lyrics found on the longer version. The reason for this was simple: to shorten the song for radio airplay. The longer version, which runs 4 minutes and 33 seconds, can be found on a 1996 compilation from Curb Records, Great Gospel Songs. The shorter version clocks in at just over 3 minutes, a far cry from 4 minutes, 33 seconds. The shorter version is what appears on most compilations but sometimes the longer version is chosen instead.

September 7, 2012

Ray Stevens: Obama Nation, Part 15...

Good Friday morning!! The numbers for "Obama Nation" this morning see it at 575,199 on-line views. I assume a lot of the Ray Stevens fans are aware of Joe South's death a few days ago. In case you hadn't heard about it, South passed away at the age of 72 in Atlanta, Georgia. Long-time fans or those who've studied Ray's career should already know the connection between the two. South was among a handful of teenagers and young adults who came up in the business, all around the mid and late '50s time frame, with a helping hand from Bill Lowery. Georgia music superstars from that era included the one and only Ray Stevens of course...but there was Jerry Reed, Billy Joe Royal, Tommy Roe, and Joe South. Each of those artists found stardom in the pop and or country music formats as they grew into adulthood. The future stardom arose mostly from the artists being singer/songwriters as well as top-notch session musicians. Freddy Weller emerged to stardom in the mid/late '60s as a session musician and later, artist, and he definitely has ties to Georgia as well.

In the mid '60s Ray Stevens covered a few Joe South songs: 1965's "Party People" and 1966's "Devil May Care". Ray would later cover two more Joe South compositions: "Games People Play" in 1969 and "Walk a Mile In My Shoes" in 1970.

In another that's tied to the name of this blog entry... 

Apparently the name of the re-election game this year is self-pity and the yearning for a sympathy vote. In my opinion, the Obama political machine has decided to highlight the President's failings in a strategy that calls for ~honesty~ about the failed policies and the broken promises over the last 3+ years...promises to unite a nation and restore America to greatness. Instead, what we've gotten is division amongst the public and tightfisted, thuggish edicts and mandates from an over sized Government. Add to that the huge unemployment numbers and the debt and deficit that's accumulated since 2009...I could go on and on as many of you readers are more than familiar and aware. The icing on the cake...or the sickest part of this Obama that they seriously believe that the country is going to give them 4 more years all in the name of sympathy. Bill Clinton said as much a few days ago during the Democrat get his speech he stated that Obama deserves 4 more years. Such a statement isn't that surprising coming from a fellow Democrat...but it just doesn't mesh with reality and the facts. Obama doesn't deserve another 4 years. The Democrat party has basically dissolved into a throng of people who cater to special interests rather than cater to the good of the country and the people as a whole. They vilify anyone and everything that doesn't adhere to their standards and they pander to special interest groups at the drop of a hat.

The people who attended the Democrat get together and experienced the train wreck firsthand...well, they're not the ones that put Obama in the White House in the first place. The Independents are who sided with the liberals in 2008 and voted for Obama...but fast-forward to 2012...I really don't believe the Independent voters are going to fall in line and rush to support Obama a second, yeah, the crowds at the Democrat convention were loud and characteristically obnoxious once the likes of Bill Clinton and Obama spoke but the fact is Obama needs the Independent voters and I'm not seeing any evidence that shows Independents are falling over themselves for an Obama second term. Obama has a record...something he did not have in 2008. It's incredibly naive and egotistical in some ways if Obama thinks that the voters are going to turn from the facts and simply re-elect him out of sympathy.

The mainstream media can spin it anyway they want...the people who attended the convention are dyed in the wool liberals and's no surprise that they'd be cheering and on the edge of their seats.

September 5, 2012

Ray Stevens: Obama Nation, Part 14...

In a pickup of more than 20,000 views, "Obama Nation" has risen to 566,818...up from 542,174 since my previous blog entry a week ago. The specifics are 24, it's more closer to 25,000 than 20,000 additional views. Obama and all his tax hiking friends are living it up this week during the Democrat Convention. Earlier the Republicans had their get far as the Democrat convention is concerned it's more or less a collection of race-baiting, wealth hating, envious and shallow people who in the face of cold hard facts about the economy collectively feel that "Obama just needs more time". Isn't that a disturbing thought? He doesn't need more time...he needs kicked out this November so that the crux of his bulldoze over America project can be stopped in it's tracks. There's an image of Obama in Ray's music video pertaining to the I've often said, and as I'll continue to say...Obama truly despises all that America stands for and he's hell bent on destroying it and reshaping it into his Utopian fantasy land.


While browsing various web-sites I found out that Ray Stevens is scheduled to participate in an interview later today on radio station, KTPK-FM, in Topeka, Kansas. The station is known on-air as Country Legends 106.9 and Ray is suppose to be interviewed at some point during the time-slot hosted by a radio personality known as Marlena. Those familiar with the station probably know about the upcoming interview but for those who don't I decided to pass it along. The station has a listen live feature. The time-slot Marlena hosts is from 10am-3pm. There was no indication which time the call-in was to take place but it'll be somewhere during that time-frame today. You can visit the station's web-site HERE.

September 2, 2012

Ray Stevens: Nostalgia Valley, Part 40...

One of the finest teen pop love ballads from Ray Stevens came along in 1967 on "Answer Me, My Love". This was among the several single releases that Monument Records issued on Ray Stevens throughout the mid and late '60s that never appeared on any full-length album. The love ballad was accompanied with the catchy sing-a-long "Mary, My Secretary" on the single release. Neither song would appear on any album until some 25 years or so later. "Answer Me, My Love" would appear in 1996 on a CD re-issue of Ray's 1968 Monument album, Even Stevens. That re-issue is on the Varese Sarabande label. Fans and music consumers in general may recognize that label as being prolific in it's treatment of Ray's catalog of music through the years. Varese, for a short period of time, was responsible for keeping Ray's earliest recordings for Monument and Barnaby in print. I researched their first release on Ray being the 1996 Even Stevens re-issue followed by the re-issue of 1969's Gitarzan. Those 1996 releases were soon followed by The Country Hits Collection, All-Time Greatest Hits, and 12 Hits in 1998, 2001, and 2002 respectively. The All-Time release features the super rare "Sgt. Preston of the Yukon" from 1960.

"Mary, My Secretary", also from 1967, wouldn't appear on any album until a 3-CD project titled The Incredible World of Ray Stevens came along. As mentioned in earlier blog entries, this title was released twice...both featuring 3 CD's...but the material was different on each collection. The overseas release features 30 recordings and the America release features 36 recordings. Also, the international release was a packaging of 3 previously issued CD's in one collection while the America release contained songs that appear to have been chosen at random on the first 2 CD's while the third CD is his 1987 release, Crackin' Up. To be clear, "Mary, My Secretary" appears on the 36 track version of The Incredible World of Ray Stevens which you see in the image above. I took this picture a few minutes ago and if you click this picture link you'll see the picture of Ray that was used for the 30 song version. You'll notice right away both releases have nearly the same art design and lettering concept but the images of Ray are different. As far as "Answer Me, My Love" goes, it doesn't appear on this collection...only "Mary, My Secretary" does. I think a lot of Ray Stevens fans agree with me that there needs to be proper CD or Mp3 releases of his Monument catalog. So far two of his studio albums for the label have been issued in their entirety: 1968's Even Stevens and 1969's Gitarzan. Several of his single-only releases for the label have become available in limited quantity on various limited release CD's through the years...all of those releases have long been out of print.

The Monument album that continues to get overlooked is 1969's Have a Little Talk With Myself. I've always felt for the longest time that the reason for the continued omission of that album is due to it's extremely topical feel. Nearly all the songs on that particular album are tied to the pop sounds and social messages of the late '60s...but recently I started to think that the bigger reason the album has never made it to CD or Mp3 in more than 40 years is that several of the songs may be tied up in copyright battles or other legal issues. If so, that could explain why his versions of quite a few of those songs have not seen the light of day during the last 43 years. Also, the license fees for those songs may be enormously expensive today as compared to back then which can also explain why there's been no Have a Little Talk With Myself re-issue. He covers the Beatles, Joe South, Bob Dylan, Blood Sweat and Tears, The 5th Dimension, The Cowsills...just to name a few...acts that certainly defined that era of pop/rock music. The songs that appear on the 1969 album are as follows:

1. I'll Be Your Baby Tonight
2. But You Know I Love You
3. Aquarius
4. The Fool on the Hill
5. Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down
6. Spinning Wheel
7. Games People Play
8. Help
9. Hair
10. Hey Jude
11. The Little Woman
12. Have a Little Talk With Myself

As you can see from the track list, this is the album that featured his version of a brand new song at the time, "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down". The song was written by Kris Kristofferson. Ray's recording was the first in a long line of recordings by other artists...most notably the hit recording by Johnny Cash in 1970. Ray issued his version as a single in 1969...which, of course, gave Ray the distinction of being the first major recording artist to issue it as a single in addition to being the first artist to record it. Ray's image was in sharp contrast with the song's lyrics...and to this day, when asked about the song, Ray refers to the image factor being a key ingredient in whether the same song can become a hit twice depending on whose singing it. Ray put a lot of production into his recording, too, while the Cash version was minimal in production but heavy on dramatics. I like both versions...but being a Ray Stevens fan I always point out that he introduced the song to the music world even if Johnny Cash had the bigger hit with it. Ray's version reached the lower half of the pop chart and the Top-60 on the country chart in 1969...his first ever appearance on a country music chart. "The Little Woman" and "Have a Little Talk With Myself" were written by Ray...the uptempo title track became a country music chart hit, too.

Ray's biggest area of exposure came with his many appearances on the Andy Williams Show. Soon after, Ray departed from the Monument label. Ray was one of the most popular guests on Andy's program and due to this he was picked to be the host of a summer TV show in 1970 which aired during Andy's time-slot on NBC. Ray had by this time joined the Barnaby Records roster in 1970, a label owned by Andy Williams. Ray remained a frequent guest on Andy's television programs through 1970 and into 1971. Decades later the two of them became major attractions in Branson, Missouri. Andy owned and appeared in his Moon River Theater while Ray appeared at his own Ray Stevens Theatre. Ray owned and operated his theater from 1991 through the end of the 1993 season. When he stopped appearing at the theater he ventured off into other aspects of the music and entertainment business. A lot of his 1990's releases were home video projects. He would later perform a series of concerts at the Wayne Newton Theater. Sandwiched between his closing down of his theater in 1993 and the concerts at Wayne Newton's theater was the release, in 1995, of his home video movie, Get Serious!. The movie runs 1 hour, 50 minutes. The movie went without a title during it's first months of production and was known by the acronym: LFSDCMV. The acronym stands translates to the following: Long-Form Story-Driven Comedy Music Video. Later this year Ray will appear in a string of concerts saluting the life and career of Andy Williams. The concerts featuring Ray will take place in Here to read all about it.

Ray Stevens: Nostalgia Valley, 39...

In this particular trip into Nostalgia Valley we visit primarily the final years that Ray Stevens was on the Barnaby Records label. Ray joined the label in 1970 and remained on their roster on into early 1976. The label went through a series of distributors, both nationally and internationally, in the form of CBS, MGM, Janus, and GRT to name a few. Ray had become the top artist for Barnaby Records and in 1975 he recorded his last studio album for the label, Misty. On this particular album Ray does his versions of several pop standards with a few newly written songs added in. The new songs, referred to as original songs since they appear on a covers project, are "Take Care of Business" and "Sunshine". The former was written by Layng Martine, Jr. and is said that the title may have been inspired by a phrase in Ray's 1968 hit, "Mr. Businessman". The two songs are extremely different, though, in terms of storyline. "Sunshine" was written by Ray...and it features an uptempo arrangement similarly heard on the album's title, "Misty". The rest of the album contains Ray's versions of pop standards.

"Misty", one of Ray's biggest airplay hits, became a single in 1975 and it reached the Top-10 on the country chart. It would also reach the Top-20 on the pop chart and in early 1976 it won a Grammy in the Best Arrangement of the Year category. It's become what is known as a signature song and is performed in his concerts to this day. Although the album's award winning Top-10 title track easily became the biggest hit of the project that isn't to say the other recordings weren't as great. The second single from the album was his fancy, doo-wop take on "Indian Love Call" and it's unlike anything you'll ever hear. It reached the country Top-40 but it didn't have the staying power of "Misty" and it's become what is known as an obscure hit. Barnaby released two more singles from this album as 1975 came to a close and 1976 opened up. "Young Love", a former smash hit from Sonny James as well as Tab Hunter, became the third single release from Misty. It featured a dramatically different arrangement from the light and bouncy sing-a-long that the general public was accustomed to. Ray turned the song into a slow love ballad. Although the single missed the radio-friendly Top-40 it nevertheless charted a section below, in the country Top-50. As you can see from the single's picture sleeve, the b-side is Ray's version of "Deep Purple". For me, "Deep Purple" is one of the masterpieces of the album...not taking anything away from the vocal acrobatics of "Indian Love Call" or any of the other recordings on the album. Try singing any number of these songs the way Ray Stevens's nearly impossible. "Deep Purple" is one of those songs that I think would be nearly impossible to replicate by others. When the song begins I often think of Rudy Valle for some reason...but then the arrangement shifts and the vocalization from Ray leaps into a different range and it's become a full-on, upbeat pop song. Those who've heard Ray's version no doubt are aware of the glorious note that he puts onto the performance toward the end of the recording...and as an avid listener and as a fan you can't wait to hear it. Do you want to know another song from the album that you can't wait to hear? "Lady of Spain"!! Ray puts a lot into this recording, too. Traditionally performed as a love ballad, Ray changes things with the arrangement and urgent vocal delivery...singing like a man possessed for the Spanish woman he craves...and the Fats Domino vocalization that Ray uses is another treat you can't wait to hear again and again. "Mockingbird Hill" found it's way onto a single release in 1976. Ray used a lot of tra-la's and tweedle-de's during the song's chorus and it sounds nothing like the original recording from years earlier. The single didn't reach the charts but several compilation albums from the late '70s and early '80s from independent labels featured the song on their releases.

Fans can see Ray perform "Misty", "Indian Love Call" and several other songs by purchasing a Pop! Goes the Country DVD from an on-line store that I've written about in previous blog entries. The DVD features a 1975 episode and he performs "Misty", "Indian Love Call", and "Twilight Time". The latter song is not featured on the Misty album. You can purchase the DVD at This Web Page. That's the product page for the Volume Four includes a video embed of Ray and other artists featured in that volume. Now, for those new to that site, several other DVD volumes feature appearances from Ray Stevens. Volume Four, as mentioned, features a 1975 episode. Volume Nine features a Ray Stevens episode from 1977. Volume Fifteen features a Ray Stevens episode from 1979...he debuts "Shriner's Convention" on this episode...months before it was released as a single in early 1980. Volume Seventeen features a Ray Stevens episode from 1982. On that episode, hosted by Tom T. Hall, Ray opens up the show with an alternate version of "You've Got the Music Inside" but the remainder of his performances are in medley form, trading off with Tom T. Hall, as the two sing bits and pieces of their songs at the request of the audience. The two close the show singing a duet, "It's Hard To Be Humble". In the just released Volume Twenty-Four, it features a Ray Stevens episode from 1978. The item description states that Ray performs "Gitarzan", "Everything is Beautiful", and "Sweet Dreams". Since I don't own that DVD, yet, I obviously don't know whether or not the songs are performed in full length or in medley form. Once you see any of the episodes starring Ray Stevens you'll notice a lot of the memorable moments come not only from his performances but also from the interview segments with Ralph Emery and later, Tom T. Hall.

The songs listed below are on the 1975 Misty album:

1. Misty
2. Indian Love Call
3. Over the Rainbow
4. Oh Lonesome Me
5. Mockingbird Hill
6. Cow-Cow Boogie
7. Young Love
8. Take Care of Business
9. Sunshine
10. Deep Purple
11. Lady of Spain

September 1, 2012

Ray Stevens: Nostalgia Valley, 38...

It's hello September, goodbye August as we are in the midst of what's referred to as Labor Day weekend. We visit some specific years in this installment of the Nostalgia Valley as we look at 1987 and 2002...not necessarily in chronological order. The blog kicks off a decade 2002...

Ray Stevens fans certainly will never forget his contribution, in song, to the aftermath of 9/11. Songs bashing and celebrating the capture and defeat of Osama bin Laden were all the rage in the latter half of 2001 and into 2002. The fervor seemed to peak around 2003, though, but not before a gallery of artists put out music reflecting the country's mood. The single, "Osama Yo' Mama", was a major success and it sold more than half a million copies throughout 2002 and was often ranked in the Top-5 on the Country Singles Sales chart. It had peaked at #1 early in it's chart run but remained in the Top-5 for over half a year. The song, it should be pointed out, was released in December 2001 and hit the sales charts early in 2002. The image you see is the CD single which is backed with his version of "United We Stand". The song reached the Country airplay chart in early 2002...peaking in the Top-50...his first chart appearance there since early 1992. In between 1992 and 2002 Ray's biggest successes were his home videos and his concerts. This is reflective in the fact that between 1992 and 2002 only FOUR studio albums were released in that 10 year period: Classic Ray Stevens, Hum It, Christmas Through a Different Window, and Ear Candy; whereas, in that same time frame, SEVEN home videos hit the market, either sold exclusively through his fan club or through TV commercials and print ads: Amazing Rolling Revue, Comedy Video Classics, Ray Stevens Live!, More Ray Stevens Live!, Get Serious!, Ray Stevens Made a Movie?? Get Serious!!, and Funniest Video Characters. Once "Osama Yo' Mama" had become a major sales and modest airplay hit, a full-length CD soon followed as 2002 progressed. The CD's cover was exactly like the image on the CD single...the only difference being the phrase The Album written behind the illustration of Ray as Uncle Sam. Some critics mistakenly referred to the CD as The Album since that's what's shown directly under Ray's name. The actual title is Osama Yo' Mama: The Album to differentiate it from the CD single. As you can see from the image below, the cover art for both the CD single and full-length CD are exactly the same. The full-length CD is more or less a re-issue of Ear Candy with a few changes. Seven of the ten songs on the 2002 CD originated on 2000's Ear Candy release. The 2000 release was available on Ray's own label, Clyde Records, but then the brand new Osama single hit big in late 2001/early 2002. When Curb decided to put out a full-length CD to support the single, I assume Ray wanted to give exposure, to a wider audience, the songs he had released in 2000 in limited quantity. The songs from Ear Candy that didn't make it onto the Osama Yo' Mama: The Album release were "The King of Christmas", "No Lawyers in Heaven", and "The Dog Song". In their place were "Osama Yo' Mama", "United We Stand", and the previously unavailable "Freudian Slip".

Strangely enough, Ray never performed the Osama song that much. I'm sure he performed it wherever he was appearing in concert but I've never saw him perform it on any television programs of that time period. Perhaps a big reason for that was due to the recent death of The Nashville Network...which had by 2002 become a channel for reruns of 1970's and 1980's programs, wrestling programs, and other programming designed for an under 40 audience. The country music format had left the channel by 2000...putting an end to the last major national outlet for artists of Ray's generation, not counting the Grand Ole Opry radio series, which by 2002 had been on the air for 77 years. Now, this was long before select radio stations began to seriously cater to traditional country music and to artists that were over 45. In 2002 there weren't as many niche channels/stations on satellite radio or what's called terrestrial radio that catered specifically to an older audience and in a lot of ways The Nashville Network, even as late as 1998, could still be counted on for giving national exposure to artists that had long been given the boot on Top-40 country radio. So, as mentioned previously, when The Nashville Network as a country music dominated channel ceased to exist, a lot of the product from the over 40 artists who'd typically appear on the channel for exposure suddenly found themselves 'starting over' as the Internet craze swept the country. Several artists created web-sites to promote their music and concert well as sell merchandise. Fast-forward 10 years, 2012, on-line sales are much more commonplace today and it's fairly easy for practically anybody to sell their product on-line without having to mess with the unwritten rule of kissing up to radio programmers or TV show producers in order to get the latest song heard by the masses. Ray Stevens, as you all know, eventually discovered a way to use on-line exposure to his advantage and introduce himself to an entirely different audience in the process...but I'm getting ahead of myself...I was discussing 2002 but now let's travel back 25 years to 1987...

I can't say enough about this nutty 1987 album from Ray Stevens. I've written about it before and I'll more than likely write about it again at some future date. For this is an album that features nutty comedy songs...the few albums leading up to this one, plus the ones that immediately followed for the label, never contained the kind of humor found in these recordings. The cover art for Crackin' Up is obviously based upon Humpty Dumpty. The back of the album has no additional picture of would've been comical to have Ray peaking up from behind the wall or shown him attempting to climb back up after falling off...but that wasn't to be. Instead, the back of the album shows the song list. One of the oddities about the song title lettering is that they used a kind of purple on a blue backdrop...the cassette version has this touch. You can easily open up the cassette and read the titles on the actual tape cartridge or on the inside of the cover sleeve once you've purchased it but back in the day if you were browsing through cassette tapes at the local shopping store and came across Crackin' Up...well, you'd have to strain to see the song titles. Fortunately later pressings/re-releases have fixed the letter coloring issue but if you happen to have the cassette release from the first few years it was in print (1987-1990) then you'll know what I'm talking about! The big song from this album was the topical, satiric "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?". Would you believe that the single created such a stir that commentators were writing entire opinion columns in the newspapers centered around the song. Would you believe that some people misunderstood the song and felt it mocked religion in general? Did you know it was in the running for a Grammy? Did you know that Ray performed the song several times on different episodes of Hee-Haw? Ray, unlike many of the artists that appeared on the show, was able to perform the song on several different episodes. I think a lot of this had to do with the fact that he co-hosted quite a few episodes throughout 1987 in addition to appearing as a guest on a few other episodes in 1987 and 1988. The taping sessions I think afforded him that rare opportunity to create awareness for the song, on a highly rated syndicated show, multiple times. The song also afforded him appearances on non-country oriented programs of the day. That's how big the song had become. In a bizarre twist of fate the single came one spot short of achieving a Top-40 ranking on the country charts. It was more or less the result of the topicality and controversy surrounding the's sales success no doubt was a big reason it performed as well as it did on the country singles chart. It was during this time that sales and airplay determined chart placings. If a single attained strong sales but lacked strong airplay chances were it would come close to breaking into the Top-40 portion of the chart...of course, if a single achieved a hefty amount of airplay but modest sales it would more than likely achieve a Top-40 placing but not have the staying power to climb into the Top-20. Sales and Airplay pretty much had to be equal in order for practically any song to obtain a Top-10 or #1 finish. That's just the way it was. The single is just another example, in a long line of examples, where chart finishes fail to show a song's true popularity.

I'm happy to say that when I saw Ray Stevens in concert a couple of years ago he performed "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?" took me by complete surprise because it's a song that I didn't think he performed too much anymore considering the topicality of the song is more or less rooted in the mid and late '80s televangelist scandals. He performed it...sounding practically the same as he did on the original recording...and he hit all the spots perfectly. What do I mean by that? Well, it means that he emphasized the lyrics in concert as he had done on the recording. Maybe I was caught up in his performance to notice if he had actually changed anything in the delivery but let me tell you, seeing Ray Stevens in person and seeing him perform those songs in a concert setting, well, it's definitely memorable. Those going to his concerts later this year don't be surprised if you find yourself being caught up in the atmosphere, too! The 1987 album also features "Sex Symbols", "The Flies of Texas Are Upon You", "Cool Down Willard", the nutty "Three Legged Man" and his version of "I'm My Own Grandpaw"...among several more.