December 23, 2013

Ray Stevens: '80s Singles, Part 2...

In this second installment, a certain Ray Stevens single from early 1985 became one of his biggest selling singles of the decade. "Mississippi Squirrel Revival" became one of those kinds of hit songs that are forced off an album, according to an interview with songwriter Buddy Kalb. The LP containing the song, He Thinks He's Ray Stevens, wasn't released until November 1984 and by that time 2 singles had already been released from the LP: the uptempo novelty love song "I'm Kissin' You Goodbye" and another single that I'll be writing about later. "Mississippi Squirrel Revival" became the third single release and ultimately became the bigger radio hit...even though the LP's second single release has matched the Mississippi Squirrel for durability and popularity in the long and varied career of Ray Stevens. By the way, in case you missed it, you can read the first blog entry in this short series of Ray Stevens '80s Singles HERE.  This song deals with a squirrel that causes miracles at a rural church in Pascagoula.

The music video's been seen on-line by more than 3.4 million people since it's summer 2009 upload on You Tube. Millions had seen the music video during it's original release back in 1992 when it was part of Ray's million selling home video project, Comedy Video Classics, and briefly part of the music video rotation on The Nashville Network...but of course it's been seen by millions upon millions of people since 2009 thanks to the internet...

The LP's second single, "It's Me Again, Margaret", has also become closely identified with Ray ever since it's release late in 1984 (in spite of the fact that it never made the 'Top 40' of any music chart). That particular single, about an obscene phone caller, has delighted fans of Ray Stevens for decades and never a concert goes by without a performance. It's long been a visual song...and a music video seemed a perfect choice years later. Ray sings about Willard McBain, a man that has a fixation on a woman named Margaret...every chance he gets he calls her up and asks her personal questions. This song became a music video in 1992 as part of Ray's award winning Comedy Video Classics. The video arrived on You Tube in 2009 and since then more than 700,000 people have seen it. In performance Ray often mimics a telephone dialing up Margaret's number (as you'll see in the video) but for even more comedic effect, in concert, he has the 'phone' ring almost endlessly...building and building the anticipation before finally making a connection to Margaret and delivering the line that the audience is waiting to hear... "It's Me AGAIN, Margaret...hehehehheheheeee!!!". Just like the "Mississippi Squirrel Revival" video, Ray's friends and his brother, John, make appearances in "It's Me Again, Margaret".

Ray Stevens: '80s Singles...

This is going to be a brief series of blogs that I'm titling "'80s singles". I'm leading things off with one of Ray Stevens' all-time best of that decade. Issued as a single in 1981, "One More Last Chance" is an excellent love ballad and it features lots and lots of steel guitar work. This, however, is a promo copy in blue vinyl. It's also the B-side. The promo featured the same song on side A and side B with minor differences. Sometimes side A would be the stereo recording and the B side the mono recording. Here, both sides are stereo but the B side features more music solo's than the radio edit on the A side. There's also several seconds of steel guitar glory throughout the longer performance. The single comes from Ray's 1981 album of the same name, One More Last Chance. It technically is the album's second single, though. The first single arrived in the latter half of 1980 even though at that point in time the song was considered a single-only release from "a forthcoming LP". The 1981 album's first single? It's a sing-a-long ballad called "Night Games" and it reached the Top-20 of the country music charts. I've written extensively about the RCA years in the career of Ray Stevens (1979-1983). If I'm not mistaken I wrote a blog entry in 2011 celebrating the 30th anniversary of the 1981 album and the songs on it. In fact, I looked it up and found that I posted that particular blog entry on March 13, 2011 under the title 'Ray Stevens Nostalgia Valley, Part 24'. Here's The Link to that specific blog entry. It includes an image of the LP and some other images except the one above, which I came across recently. As mentioned, each side of the blue vinyl single contains "One More Last Chance". The A side is 2 minutes, 39 seconds and the B side is 3 minutes, 34 seconds. The song kicks off with a rocking guitar and then blends with a symphonic kind of musical production and a steel guitar added on top of all of this. The commercially released single has "One More Last Chance" as the A side (obviously!) and "I Believe You Love Me" as the B side. Ray performed this song on the short-lived soap opera, Texas, during his June 1981 guest appearance. The video clip of his appearance used to be available on-line but it's long been off the internet. In the soap opera there was a club called 'The Coop' and every so often a country music singer would travel through the area and make a visit. I wish the clip was still available...Ray's acting as always is top notch but that performance of "One More Last Chance" is thrilling. I encourage those reading this to seek out Ray's RCA material...the music, production, and vocalizations are crisp and we've come to expect from Ray Stevens.

December 20, 2013

Ray Stevens offers Red Hot Chili...

In these cold days of December one of the things you can do is enjoy a big bowl of chili. In the spring of 2013 Ray Stevens emerged with this novelty song/music video, "Red Hot Chili Cook Off". To date that particular song has not, to my knowledge, appeared on any CD or become available as an Mp3. The song takes a comical look at Texas chili and the fame it possesses all over the country but for the purposes of comedy Ray plays the role of a man that writes his mother to alert her that he thinks he's on his deathbed after eating so much spicy chili. There are some nice special effect graphics in the video and in one scene Ray unleashes one of his comical screams.

The upload date for the video is March 20th and so it's exactly 9 months old today. There was no publicity surrounding this video and it's been seen by almost 70,000 in that 9 month time span. The actual number of unique views is 69,969 but I'm pretty sure a lot of people simply do not realize that the video's out there given it's lack of publicity and the fact that his political music videos and his Christmas music videos have obtained the bulk of attention over the last several years...but here it is... 

It's been almost 2 years since the release of The Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music, the great box set from Ray Stevens that featured his versions of other artist's novelty songs from the last 50+ years. He covers everyone from Spike Jones, The Coasters, and Roger Miller to Phil Harris, Little Jimmy Dickens, and Johnny Cash. In the video clip below, Buddy Kalb 'hosts' a short infomercial that runs 4 minutes. In it you'll see and hear Ray talk about the collection and hear snippets of some of the songs in the Encyclopedia. The original release date for this project was February 28, 2012. Since it contains 9 CD's, 108 songs, and a booklet, the price is more expensive than your standard CD but it's a definite must-have project for any Ray Stevens fan to seriously think about purchasing...

In this video clip, Ray is in the studio. Those that are interested in purchasing it in 2014 can easily get in contact with Ray's office in Nashville, Tennessee by visiting his official website.

December 16, 2013

Ray Stevens 1970 Summer Program...

An early Monday morning...and a reminder that those that may want to purchase any Ray Stevens item and have it potentially arrive before Christmas, place your orders by December 18th...that's this coming Wednesday! Ideally, these orders are for credit/debit card holders. If you don't mind if something arrives after Christmas then simply send a money order or a check through the mail.

In all likelihood, though, if you plan on placing an order today, tomorrow, or Wednesday but mailing in the payment (check or money order) then that payment more than likely is going to arrive at Ray's office after the 18th of December cut off date (unless you live local). The reason for the December 18th cut off date is because that's the latest one can place an order and have it in transit ahead of Christmas.

Ray's web-store has their annual shipping disclaimer posted in red letters at the store's Main Page.

My CD suggestions for those last minute shoppers are: The Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music; The Spirit of '76; We the People; both of the Christmas CD's; plus Ray Stevens Sings Sinatra...Say What??; New Orleans Moon; and Bozo's Back Again. There's a DVD section, too, that you should explore.

Several days ago I received in the mail my copy of a magazine titled Southwest Georgia Living. I purchased this magazine because Ray Stevens appears on the cover and the hype surrounded the accompanying article and obscure pictures. It's a delightful article/story, featuring several pictures of Ray that you can't find anyplace on the internet. The magazine's cover has Ray as Santa during a photo session for his 1997 Christmas CD. If you visit their Facebook page you'll see the magazine's cover. This is a time sensitive comment so if you come across this months from today chances are their Facebook page will be showcasing the current issue at that particular time but for now it's the Ray Stevens issue. Is this magazine for sale on-line? The answer is no! Is this magazine available at all book stores? The answer is no! How did I get a copy of it? The answer is simple: I took the initiative and e-mailed the magazine's office staff as soon as I found out that the magazine existed and asked how could I get a copy of this magazine considering that I don't live in Georgia. I received a reply that provided a mailing address and total cost and so being the obnoxious fan that I am, I didn't hesitate...and off I sent a check to the magazine. I would not be surprised, though, if the issue with Ray turns up on eBay at some point...magazine back issues often do.

Ray Stevens makes the cover of the Pasadena, California issue of TV Week, June 14, 1970. This is the first time I have seen this and as a result it's the first time it's been posted on this fan created blog. As soon as I seen this on-line I immediately saved the image thinking that it'll soon become unavailable and just as obscure in months, years to come just as it's been since 1970. Thankfully there are those such as myself and others that deliberately collect and save any image of Ray they come across because of just how obscure his vintage appearances truly are. Speaking of his 1970 summer program for Andy can still take in all the fun and laughs on his You Tube channel. The clips from his summer program continue to be discovered daily but if you haven't seen these clips yet, go to You Tube or better yet click This Link and explore his videos. His most recent uploads are the first 2 and then the various clips from the 1970 summer program are listed. I posted most of the clips back in the late summer/early fall of this year but there had never been any sort of national publicity campaign from Ray about those clips being available for You Tube viewing and so for those most part the clips have garnered less than 2,000 views a piece. There are 3 uploads from the summer program that have gotten more than 2,000 and those are the performances of "Gitarzan" (4,684), "Ahab the Arab" (3,715), and "Everything Is Beautiful" (4,352). This, if anything, demonstrates perfectly the power of familiarity...those three songs are among his biggest recordings and so it's no surprise that the performances of those specific songs from his 1970 summer program would net the most viewers. Technically, "Ahab the Arab" is performed along side a cast performance of the Beatles "Let It Be" but it goes to show that out of all the clips posted from his summer program, the familiar song titles are the ones that captured the most action.

December 7, 2013

Havin' a Ray Stevens Christmas...

It's a cold, blustery December morning in this part of the country. 18 days left until Christmas 2013. It's December 7th, Pearl Harbor Day. It's long been the norm that every 5 years there's typically a national memorial of some kind...this being the 72nd anniversary of the 1941 attacks perhaps explains why there's not been much coverage of it in the national media like there had been in 2011 during the 70th anniversary (2011 also marked the 10th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks). As the day goes on there probably is going to be some stories about December 7, 1941...I don't think a total overlook is going to happen...

This blog entry is about some more Christmas music videos that fans of Ray Stevens can enjoy. In my previous installment I mentioned the "Blue Christmas" (comedy version) available as a music video. It's really a neat video...even more perfect on a cold morning around breakfast time.

Ray made the rounds of several television programs last Christmas season and performed the comical version of "Blue Christmas" in a medley with other Christmas songs. It's been available on You Tube ever since the local channel uploaded it around this time in 2012. You can see that particular video HERE. It's from a local station in the Nashville area. In the performance he does "White Christmas", "Blue Christmas", and "Redneck Christmas".

The official music video of "Redneck Christmas" is located below...

The at-a-glance unique views for all of the Ray Stevens Christmas music videos, as of December 7, 2013 are here:

1. Santa Claus Is Watching You; 2009:  463,881

2. Nightmare Before Christmas; 2010:  325,544

3. Merry Christmas; 2012:  132,003

4. Redneck Christmas; 2012:  114,129

5. White Christmas; 2012:  21,961

6. Blue Christmas (comic version); 2012:  14,259

7. Guilt For Christmas; 2013  5,683

Some explanations are in order, though. The music videos that emerged in 2012 all arrived in December. As you can see "Merry Christmas" has the most views among the ones that arrived in December 2012. A lot of this has to do with the song's politically correct theme and the commentary on the politically correct influence during Christmas season. The fact that a music video can debut just 3 days before Christmas (and hardly no major publicity) and be able to reach more than 100,000 people is still something to be proud of, in my opinion. "White Christmas" arrived on December 3, 2012 while "Blue Christmas" (comic version) arrived on December 21, 2012. A day later both "Redneck Christmas" and "Merry Christmas" hit the internet. The video that has the least views, "Guilt for Christmas", arrived in the summer of this year and has 5,683. The Christmas video, arriving in May, fully explains the reason for the small turn viewer out. There's not a lot of people that search for Christmas songs and videos in the spring/summer months.

The thing that the music video has going for it (besides the appearance of Ray Stevens) is that it's also a musical jab at political correctness, following in the snowy path of "Merry Christmas" and "Nightmare Before Christmas".

Share the video with those that have not yet seen it..."Guilt For Christmas"...

I don't know if Ray is waiting until it gets more closer to Christmas to start re-introducing these videos once more but I decided to start a little bit early during the last several blogs I've written.

Oh yes, the Christmas CD's from Ray Stevens are still available for purchase. Don't forget, he has 2 Christmas CD's chock full of the sounds of the season.

The comical Christmas CD can be found by clicking Christmas Through a Different Window.

The non-comical Christmas CD can be found by clicking Ray Stevens Christmas.

December 5, 2013

Ray Stevens Christmas Fun...

Hello to all the Ray Stevens fans out there...some are still learning about the interview that took place yesterday on Mike Huckabee's radio program. It was a great interview of Ray giving details about his upcoming CD and there is even a poignant moment as he discusses the time of his mother's funeral. His mother passed away in 1997. I knew that it had happened at some point in the late '90s because he mentioned it during the Life and Times special that the original TNN had aired in 1999. I did some research for this blog entry, rather than relying on my memory, given the nature of that particular subject matter. His mother passed away on February 11, 1997. Her headstone, shared with her husband (Ray's father passed away in 2001), can be found on-line but I'm not going to post it. Those that want to see it can find it on their own. In the meantime, those that missed the Huckabee interview, you can still hear it (for the time being) at this LOCATION. Mike's radio program comes to an end on December 12th and it's not certain if any of the audio links and other things associated with the program are still going to be accessible after that date and so if you haven't yet heard the interview, which also contains a snippet of "If Jesus is a Stranger", one of the songs on Ray's upcoming CD, I highly recommend any Ray Stevens fan to listen to the interview before it's potentially removed for all time.

This is one of the Christmas music videos that Ray put on You Tube in the summer time this year. It hit You Tube on May 1, 2013 and it's gotten a little more than 5,000 unique views. It's called "Guilt For Christmas" and it's a stinging attack on political correctness. I had posted about this back in the summer but considering it's now December and 20 days before Christmas it's the perfect time to spotlight it again and create new awareness for it...

The video carries some exclusivity in that Ray performs it in an Americanized dialect (German/Austrian)...the original recording from 1997 lacks this and is recorded in his natural voice.

Almost a year to the day, actually December 3, 2012, Ray unleashed "White Christmas" in video form. His version includes a vocal salute to The Drifters, too.

You can get an audio copy of this on his Ray Stevens Christmas CD from a couple of years ago. The video's gotten more than 20,000 views but it's become overshadowed by a couple of other Christmas music videos from Ray that have taken on lives of their own: "Merry Christmas" (more than 130,000 views!) and the bouncy "Redneck Christmas" (more than 110,000 views so far!) plus the annual favorites "Nightmare Before Christmas" (more than 300,000 views since it's November 2010 debut). The actual number as of today is 324,527...I'd say that works out roughly to a little more than 100,000 views per year. Then there's the classic "Santa Claus Is Watching You" and it's gotten 461,656 views so far. It debuted on You Tube in July 2009, one of Ray's first video uploads to his then-new You Tube channel. The actual video itself is Ray's first ever music video...and it originated back in 1985...the year that he re-recorded the song with different lyrics and changed it from a children's Christmas song (the original from 1962) to a tale of suspected adultery. He'd re-record that particular adultery version once again in 1997 for his first and only comedy Christmas album.

There's a music video for "Blue Christmas" (comical version) that debuted one day before "Redneck Christmas" in December 2012. I'll post those videos next time. The "Blue Christmas" music video features Ray stuttering the song in the vein of a fictional group called Seymour Swine and the Squealers. In essence, it's a cover song from Ray. There's the non-comical recording of "Blue Christmas" on the Ray Stevens Christmas CD, by the way. The 2 separate recordings are referred to as "Blue Christmas" (serious version) and "Blue Christmas" (comical version).

December 4, 2013

Ray Stevens upcoming CD...

As a third shift worker I am typically asleep at this time of the day but about an hour ago I woke up and decided to visit the internet and see if anything was happening in the world of Ray Stevens. I visited a social media site and sure enough an interview had taken place during my nap. This interview happened during a call to the Mike Huckabee Show. The interview dealt with the announcement that an upcoming CD is to be released in January 2014 titled Onward Christian Soldiers. Ray had spoke of this CD before and a couple of articles on various internet sites made mention of this CD but this is the first time a definitive announcement's been made regarding it's release. As soon as I found out that Ray had been interviewed I immediately began searching for any audio link...even though the interview had taken place an hour earlier I was able to find an audio link posted on Huckabee's Twitter page. Typically, audio links rarely become available so soon after an interview has taken place but this time there's a link. The clip runs a little more than 10 minutes and you'll hear Ray discuss the idea behind the CD and he mentions the image that'll appear on the CD's picture sleeve. Long time fans will immediately recognize the image that Ray describes but according to the interview a Cross symbol will be edited into the picture.

The audio link of the Mike Huckabee interview with Ray Stevens is located HERE and near the end there's a small sampling of an upcoming song from the Onward Christian Soldiers CD, "If Jesus is a Stranger".

November 29, 2013

Ray Stevens: Christmas Sale...

Good day after Thanksgiving all Ray Stevens fans!! There's a discount sale going on at the Ray Stevens on-line store...purchases that total, prior to shipping and handling, $20.00 or more, you'll be able to get a 20 percent discount off the purchase. You can read about the offer HERE. The sale began on November 20th but it lasts through December 18, 2013, so it's basically a month long special offer. That link takes you to Ray's main site. Once there, you can navigate around and enter the "Store" section by clicking on the tab in the upper right side of his page.  

*** Keep in mind, for those that come across this blog entry days or months from today, this blog is being composed on November 29, 2013. ***

It happened about one year ago, December 22, 2012 to be specific, Ray Stevens released a powerful music video (in my opinion) simply titled "Merry Christmas" in which he shined the spotlight on the assault on Christianity that seems to have become the norm and the uneasiness people seem to have nowadays of saying the phrase, 'Merry Christmas', but rather offer 'happy holidays' or 'seasons greetings'.

That particular music video struck a nerve and in a matter of days more than 100,000 unique views had been tabulated for the on-line video. Released just days before Christmas 2012, it didn't have a longer 'shelf life' beyond the end of the year but seeing that we're officially in the Christmas season it's time to bring out the Ray Stevens Christmas festivities once more and I'll start it off with none other than "Merry Christmas".

I'll embed other Christmas related music videos as we get closer to Christmas Day.

Wasn't that fabulous?? So far the song isn't commercially available on any CD or Mp3. I imagine that it'll come up for sale this time around, though!

Once more, here's the link to the Ray Stevens Christmas Offer.

November 25, 2013

Ray Stevens: Losin' Streak on cassette...

I sometimes, but not all the time, provide links to eBay items. This is one of those times. I came across an interesting Ray Stevens item on eBay a few minutes ago. My first blog post of 2013 dealt with a 1973 album from Ray titled Losin' Streak turning 40 this year. I have no doubt seen this item at some point in the past and probably even posted about it but it's not something that always comes up for sale on eBay and so when it does I make mention of it. Given how obscure the LP of Losin' Streak is, a cassette copy is even more obscure...but yet that's what I seen up for sale on eBay! It's described as a private listing but you can read all about the cassette copy of Losin' Streak HERE. The shipper resides in Australia.

Ray Stevens took part in the star studded tribute to George Jones this past Friday. He sang in a group that included the likes of John Conlee, Larry Gatlin, Bobby Bare, Stonewall Jackson, and several others. The group sang "When The Last Curtain Falls", "Still Doin' Time", and "Someday My Day Will Come". A piece of this performance is on You Tube, the last part of song one and the complete song two. The home made video's sound is okay to'll see Ray only a couple of times, though, and only once is it a close-up. Be sure to look at the big video screen to see the much clearer, up-close picture of Ray a few seconds into the start of the video. He's standing the middle of Larry Gatlin and John Conlee.

November 18, 2013

Ray Stevens and the Politics of the Situation...

Yes, I'm still around...and so is Ray Stevens...but it's been a lengthy drought as far as anything brand new to discuss and create awareness for. A couple of months ago I had been creating blog entries all about the clips of Ray Stevens taped during his 1970 summer TV program that were popping up on You Tube with frequency. It was during that point in time that a recent appearance from Ray Stevens on a Fox News Channel program hit You Tube. August 15th...a little more than 3 months upload titled The World According to Ray Stevens appeared on You Tube. I watched it several times and posted a link on my Facebook page back then. I didn't post the link on my blog page at that time because I felt that the subject matter (hard hitting political commentary) would clash rather heavily with the lighthearted 1970 clips I was posting.

Obamacare is front and center in political discussion once more and the canceled health care policies of millions upon millions of Americans has become a harsh reality. Those that studied Obamacare and stated all that's bad about it consistently remarked that there is language in it in the form of Federal mandates that private insurance companies have to meet, or else, those companies have no choice but to drop customers. The idea that Obamacare would have no effect on people's health care coverage had long been pointed out as a lie ("if you like your current heath care coverage, you can keep it").

After all of the cancellations had been sent out and therefore had taken effect, Obama once again shown his penchant for ignoring existing laws while creating new laws out of thin air (Congress/the Legislative Branch is the only branch of Government that can make laws or amend previous laws, a President doesn't have this authority! Obama should have learned this, as we all did, in grade school Social Studies or even a junior high Government/Civics class).

Anyway, in his usual dictatorial style, Obama demanded that private insurance companies "reinstate the policies they canceled as a result of the health care mandates and simply ignore what the law states"; given all of this it's a perfect opportunity to spotlight the Ray Stevens interview from a couple of months ago where he speaks about politics and his humorous approach at dealing with all the madness. 

Ray's heavy involvement in political humor and commentary began late in 2009, around this point in time, during the first year of Obama's time in the White House while the looming Obamacare was making it's way through Congress. A video, "We the People", became an on-line video hit and throughout 2010 and on into 2012 Ray supplied the on-line video community with a series of politically charged music videos. His videos have reached more than 25,000,000 people during the last 4 years and there's no telling how many times the videos have been watched by those millions of people. You Tube only counts 1 view per computer, commonly referred to as a unique view or a unique visitor. Multiple visits to the same video aren't counted in the visitor/view totals.

This means, you could watch one of his videos, "Mr. President - Mr. President", 3 times in a row, every day for a year straight, but only that first initial view is ever counted toward the view total that appears just below the video screen on it's main page. This system is in place to deliver accuracy for advertisers and to display accurate totals based on visitor total, rather than play totals, for the artists and or record companies. Play totals skew things too much. If You Tube used play totals, for example, a Ray Stevens video that has more than 4 million visitors could realistically have 20 million plays if you factor in multiple plays from the same visitor. See how skewed and misleading "play totals" can be? That is why "unique visitor" totals are used on You Tube instead of play totals.

The "Obama Budget Plan" has more than 2 million visits so far. The specific total is 2,729,860. This video, debuting on April 25, 2011, had it's biggest impact during the budget debates and all of the fiasco surrounding the debt limit and debt ceiling and the constant back and fourth among Obama, the Republicans in the House and the Senate, and the officials that make up the Congressional Budget Office. Given that the reputation of Obama and mostly all Democratic Presidents through history is to spend enormous amounts of money that the nation doesn't have and then raise taxes "on the rich" in an attempt to make up the loss is at the heart of this particular song/video. The humor, or painful truth, is displayed in the plot of an average American family that decides to emulate the Federal Government and print as much money as possible using a printing press. However, reality sets in for this family and the outcome is played out in video form...but yet members of the Federal Government that participate in the same thing aren't treated as criminal, unethical or immoral.

The video for "Obama Nation" the moment it's gotten 949,434 unique views. It hit You Tube on July 23, 2012...

Voter fraud's become an underlying theme in a lot of elections in recent history. Accusations of it or factual proof of it no doubt inspired "Grandpa Voted Democrat". The video hit You Tube on November 3, 2012 prior to the 2012 Election cycle and it's been seen by 335,103 people. To date, this is the last political song that Ray Stevens has issued in video format...

There have been a couple of politically themed commentaries from Ray that have appeared since November 2012, titled 'Politically Speaking', plus several interviews of Ray discussing political issues such as the one at the start of this blog entry, but as far as a conventional music video is concerned, "Grandpa Voted Democrat" is the last political one as of November 18, 2013. This was an off year, too, as far as major national elections, but I look for this video to bounce back again during the 2014 Election cycle.

One of his videos is close to entering the million visitor realm, "Mr. President - Mr. President". This video hit You Tube on September 27, 2011 and it current has 998,494 unique views...

As more and more of Obamacare is unleashed on people the mood is certainly favorable for a new video/song directed toward the situation.

October 10, 2013

Ray Stevens: A spring 2013 TV appearance...

 Hello all...I had seen pictures of Ray and the host of this program on-line but could never find a video link or podcast of the show until now. Ray appeared on a television program called Behind the Scene with Kenny and Friends back in April of 2013. I've provided a LINK containing the video clip. I originally had the video embedded but I couldn't get the measurements to fit correctly and so I edited out the embed altogether.

The interview runs for almost half an hour. In the interview Ray speaks about his TV program on TNN. It had been airing since January 2013 and by that time had been on the air for just 3 months when this interview took place. Unfortunately, I looked at the most recent television schedule for the new version of The Nashville Network (now calling itself Heartland TV) and I didn't see Ray's clip-fest television program, Ray-ality TV, listed. I don't know if it's on hiatus or if it's not part of the channel anymore. There hasn't been any information about it's fate that I've been able to find.

I was never able to get the new TNN anyway but I'd sure like to know if his TV program is still a part of their channel or not. I guess I could e-mail Ray's people or inquire about the program on the Heartland site. Early on-line stories about the program stated that 26 episodes had been put together. This is a typical number for a TV season. Since there's 52 weeks in a year, and the program airs weekly, 26 first-runs plus 26 re-runs adds up to 52. It appears that the 26 completed episodes have since aired and the powers that be have decided not to re-run those 26 episodes (giving the program a life-span of half a TV season).

October 4, 2013

Ray Stevens and the eBay Songbooks...

Hello fans of Ray Stevens...yesterday there happened to be an announcement of five song books being put up for sale by Ray's company on eBay. The books focus on just one song per copy but the allure of the items happen to be his signature and the fact that the books have his image on the cover. As mentioned there are five of these: 1968's "Mr. Businessman", 1969's "Gitarzan", 1970's "Bridget the Midget the Queen of the Blues", "Everything Is Beautiful", and 1984's "Mississippi Squirrel Revival".

The original asking price for each of the five books was $10.00 but once word got out on social media sites there have been multiple bids on several of the items and the selling price has accordingly gone up. I think most of it is due to having Ray's signature on each item but there's also the nostalgic factor and the images of Ray that appear on each book. The "Everything Is Beautiful" sheet music now has a price of $26.00 and 3 bids. The most popular item is the sheet music for one of his most enduring comical songs, 1984's "Mississippi Squirrel Revival". Even today the fans and the general public alike cite lyrics and catch-phrases from the song as evidenced in posts from social media sites. That particular sheet music book has the most bids so far with 11 and a price of $76.00!! 

At the moment there are 6 bids for "Mr. Businessman" and as a result the current price is $40.00. The prices, I assume, are going to continue to go up considering there's 6 days left to place a bid. Ray started an eBay page in the summer and I vaguely remember hearing about it at the time but it turned out to be something that wasn't publicized that much but these 5 song books are the first items he's offered for sale and you can see them HERE.

October 3, 2013

Ray Stevens...Unchained...

Oh what great music video news I bring this morning...the brand new Ray Stevens music video to "Unchained Melody". This is a taste of things to come on an upcoming CD from Ray...a collection that I've often mentioned for about a year or so. I received an e-mail alert and became aware of a new video from Ray. The CD is going to be titled Melancholy Fescue and as you could perhaps tell from it's title it's going to be a Bluegrass-tinged CD. The things that I've read over the course of the last year indicate that the songs are more than likely going to be pop standards (love ballads) and early rock and roll songs done in a bluegrass style.

It was about a year ago, October 6th 2012 to be exact, Ray appeared as a guest during the Grand Ole Opry's 87th birthday broadcast. He appeared during both Opry shows on the 6th. In his first appearance of the night he performed "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore" and "Everything Is Beautiful". In the second appearance he performed "Misty" and a bluegrass version of "Pretty Woman". The latter performance was said to be part of an upcoming experimental bluegrass CD he'd been working on titled Melancholy Fescue.

Okay, to keep things straight, that Opry appearance/performance happened on October 6, 2012...and almost 1 year has passed and as if on (fes)cue here comes a video for "Unchained Melody"...

Once the CD becomes available for purchase I'll put in an order for it ASAP!! In the e-mail the language alluded to a digital download...but I hope a physical CD will also become available. I prefer having a CD of music that I can hold in my hands.

So far the unique views for the latest music video release are 2,453. The totals for the "Nashville" music video are 12,331.

October 2, 2013

Ray Stevens and Nashville...

Here we find that the calendar has turned to October and at the moment the news surrounding Ray Stevens continues to be his "Nashville" music video. In my previous blog entry I had mentioned that the video had gotten a little more than 2,000 unique's been a little more than 1 week since the video hit You Tube and the totals as of this minute are 11,633. The video arrived on September 23rd and it's been available, specifically, for a week and two days.

On September 30th, a web-site called Nashville Country Club posted a copy of the article that appeared on the day that the music video debuted. I'm often finding or becoming aware of articles about Ray Stevens that originate on one site and then appear on another. I sometimes offer links and sometimes I just make references. The September 30th publicity piece can be seen HERE. It's nice to see other sites latch onto and share news about Ray Stevens and promote his videos at the same time but, admittedly, when I saw the link to this story with it's headline of 'Ray Stevens Debuts New Video' I assumed it would've been something brand new but as I mentioned it's great to see other sites pick up on Ray's videos.

The Fall Clearance Sale at Ray's music store ended a couple of days ago. I'm glad I finally decided to purchase New Orleans Moon during that sale because it's back at it's normal selling price. During the sale it was available for less than $6.00 but since the sale ended it's sitting at it's usual $10.95 selling price. The bonus items that I received included several CD singles, one I already had, but several that I didn't have. Another free item arriving with the order was the Let's Get Political book. Again, it's something I already had, but that particular free copy that came with the CD is now put away in my collection while the other one that I purchased last year remains at arm's reach. Also part of the bonus gifts was an extended play CD containing selected songs from The Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music.

The EP, referred to as a sampler, is something that I didn't already have but I had those songs on the Encyclopedia release. Casual fans that perhaps purchased items during the sale no doubt added to their individual collections with items that are obscure and often not being offered for sale anymore.

September 26, 2013

Ray Stevens 2007 CD...

Yesterday evening I checked my mail box and the item that I ordered from the Ray Stevens store had arrived. I had purchased 2007's New Orleans Moon and the first thing I noticed when I opened up the CD's case is that there is no picture of Ray. Obviously I knew that the image on the front of the CD shown the New Orleans night life but all this time I had thought Ray's picture perhaps appears on the back of the CD or at the very least inside the fold-out sleeve but, surprisingly, his face doesn't appear anywhere. I had the songs on my previous computer from the time I had bought the digital download but I never had a physical copy of the CD until now.

The Fall Clearance Sale at Ray's store is still going on. It lasts through September 30th and you can visit Ray's store by way of his official web-site or by clicking HERE to visit the store directly. There's a 'free gift' being sent with every order. I don't know if the gift is the same for each order or if every order receives a different free gift and so I'm hesitant to state what came along, for free, with my order just in case it isn't the same as someone else.

The unique views for the latest on-line music video from Ray Stevens, "Nashville", is a little more than 2,000 at 2,151 and climbing. The video is great but you all don't need to just take my word for it. I assume those that are reading this have either already seen the video by now or have heard of it but in case you hadn't seen it yet you can see it HERE.

September 23, 2013

The Ray Stevens Nashville video...

Earlier this year I did a 40th anniversary blog about a particular album from Ray Stevens titled Nashville. That album, if you do the math, hit the market in 1973. Today, about an hour ago, Ray Stevens emerged with a new You Tube video, "Nashville". I became aware of this through an internet friend and so I quickly visited You Tube and saw the video for myself. It's a great video and a marvelous salute to Music City, U.S.A.

If you're familiar with the 1973 original you'll already know that in the recording he used a lot of topical references and mentioned several country music entertainers. In this updated recording he obviously changed the topical references from 1973 but inserted some new lyrics that might not become as easily dated. He kept the reference to Chet Atkins, though, and in the music video you'll see the salute to Chet when that specific lyric is sung.

Ray Stevens is not a member of the Grand Ole Opry but he has performed there many times over the years and has appeared in concert many times at various venues with ties to the Opry. In recent years, if April Fool's Day happens to be close to a Friday or a Saturday night, the roster often has several comedians as guest stars.

September 20, 2013

Ray Stevens Fall Clearance Sale...

Hallelujah...I have at long last placed an order for the 2007 Ray Stevens CD, New Orleans Moon. I put in the order about an hour ago at Ray's web store. There is an unbelievable, in my opinion, Fall Clearance Sale going on at his store and there are several items that have been reduced in price. Also, if you type in a promo code at the checkout, you'll get 15 percent off the total. This special is only good through September 30th  and so you all have 10 more days to take advantage of any products that you may have been putting off purchasing. I've been a fan of his for so long but there are a couple of things for sale at his store that I don't have. I purchased one of those items, as mentioned at the top of the blog entry, earlier today. You'd think I would already have that in my collection but I didn't. I had the digital download on my previous computer but I'd never purchased the physical copy of the CD until today. I have no idea if I'll ever be on my previous computer again and if not I won't have access to my music libraries. Fortunately, years ago, I had copied a lot the Mp3's I had purchased onto blank CD's just in case of a future computer problem, but some of the digital downloads I didn't get around to and Ray's 2007 project was one of them.

The thing that caused me to go ahead and purchase the CD was my belief that it would no longer be available in the near future. If you've been a frequent visitor of Ray's on-line store you'll perhaps be a little stunned to see that a lot of the items that were once for sale have been taken down. The Misc. section used to offer several T-shirts and several hats, a political book, and a songbook. Today the only things in that section are the songbook and the hats. I'm sure those removed items can still be purchased if you e-mail or contact Ray's office but they're no longer appearing on-line for a world wide audience to see.

Considering that a lot of the items have been removed and the fact that the 2007 CD is priced insanely low right now...less than $6.00!!!...I decided that today is as good a day as any to finally purchase it. A link to the store is below.

Ray Stevens Store

September 14, 2013

Even more Ray Stevens Show Clips...

Well, hello fans of Ray Stevens! I've been enjoying all of the clips that have been surfacing on You Tube over the last month from the 1970 summer program that Ray hosted for Andy Williams. I noticed, by way of my frequent look-in's, that quite a few have visited Ray's You Tube channel (I posted a link to it in my previous blog nearly 1 month ago) and so I'm sure many of you have seen most of the uploads by now. Ray's 1970 summer program lasted a brief 8 episodes. Like many that have seen the clips and are fans of Ray Stevens we've all basically formed the same opinion that the show was way too brief in it's episode count. I looked up the show's air dates months ago and refreshing my memory I looked them up again and it debuted in late June and stayed on the air through early August: June 20, 1970 through August 8, 1970. Strategic air-dates is how the network was able to stretch 8 episodes into a summer season.

Here's Ray Stevens performing his version of "Proud Mary". I assume it's labeled 'Rolling on a River' after the repeated use of that phrase and the fact that many people may think the song's called that...

The summer of 1970 also meant that the Vietnam War was raging and protest music, from all sides, filled the airwaves. I'm a self-described nostalgia nut and generally write positively about the music and entertainment from a bygone time period and that's how any nostalgic minded person should be. I don't necessarily believe that a person HAD to have lived through an era to have 'nostalgia' feelings for it. A 35 year old can easily read a reference book or a history book, for example, and wish they lived 20 or 30 years earlier to experience or enjoy something that had happened in history. War is something that no sane person should ever feel nostalgia for...but there DOES happen to be some great feel-good music to come out of that era that shouldn't be lost to time.

There's a perception today, as there happened to be then, that only those of a liberal point of view can enjoy feel-good songs. I reject that perception. There's another perception that conservatives are war mongers and that liberals are pacifists. There's still yet another common belief that a pacifist is the most desirable role than the one that chooses to use military action. The facts remain that no matter the political philosophy, there's a time and a place for diplomacy and military action, no matter which political affiliation a President aligns himself with.

An extreme hawk or an extreme dove is just one of those kinds of things that Ray Stevens wrote and sang about in this stunning clip from 1970. The clip begins with Ray and company performing "Save the Country", a protest-era song originally released by The 5th Dimension in 1970. This is followed by Ray's take on the extremists of both political parties in "America, Communicate with Me". He cites a couple of bumper stickers as the main inspiration for the song. It's a great performance all around.

The single cut through on the adult-oriented Middle of the Road/Easy-Listening charts in 1970. It nearly made the Top-10 in that format after just a few weeks in the stores. The format, now known as Adult-Contemporary, at that point in time was the stomping ground for many, MANY pop singers that were enormously popular but they didn't have a lot of rock and roll in their music to fit the dominated rock and roll playlists. In other words, artists that had a significant following and sold a steady stream of singles but didn't fit Top-40 pop radio were usually pushed into the Easy-Listening formats. These artists, because their singles were selling, still managed to make appearances in the lower portions of Billboard's Hot 100 which had quickly been taken over by rock music by 1960.

"America, Communicate with Me", while being a major Easy-Listening hit for Ray Stevens in 1970, wasn't able to crack into the Top-40 of the Hot 100 as easily. It came close...but I suspect that the middle of the road, Independent stance on social issues heard throughout the song created such a dilemma with Top-40 radio stations that DJ's perhaps thought that there could be a negative reaction, of some kind, from ardent supporters of liberal politics and those in the anti-war crowd...perhaps a major listening base...that Top-40 stations were too scared to play it. As mentioned, Easy-Listening radio formats played the song...

A lot of the artists in Easy-Listening format had seen their Top-40 airplay reduced or stopped altogether after the advent of rock music in the mid '50s. The artists that still sold concert tickets and singles, but happened to be over a certain age and declared 'uncool' and not hip by teenagers, were now able to continue to make a decent living as recording stars for an additional 10-15 years after rock and roll came along thanks to the creation of an Easy-Listening/Adult-Contemporary radio market. Ray was unique in that he happened to have been born in 1939 and so in January 1970 he had turned 31. Image wise he wasn't seen as some sort of a culture threat or bad influence on kids while his youthful appearance and socially aware demeanor, as you clearly see in these 1970 clips, appealed to younger audiences and that's a big reason why, in my opinion, he was able to straddle both the younger and older audiences simultaneously.

Cast members of Ray's summer show included Mama Cass from The Mamas and the Papas, English singer Lulu, comedian/writer Steve Martin, Billy Van, Tom Solari, and Clark Carr. In the clip below enjoy "Ahab the Arab" followed by Ray and the cast singing "Let it Be"!

August 26, 2013

More 1970 Ray Stevens Show clips...

Hello once again!! In my previous blog entry I supplied news about some 1970 Ray Stevens Show clips that had surfaced on You Tube. In the days since, Ray has uploaded a whole lot more from his summer 1970 program. When I  wrote the previous blog entry there were five uploads from the 1970 has increased by 11 as of August 26th. So, then, there's a grand total at the moment of 16 clips from his 1970 television program. Available on his You Tube Video Channel are the clips. Keep that link saved so that you can check back and see if new clips have become available in the days ahead. At the moment the latest upload is a 1970 performance of "Freddie Feelgood". There's also a clip of Ray singing "I Got a Woman", a cover of a Ray Charles song, and it's probably one of the most surprising/revealing performances if you're not too familiar with Ray Stevens' vocal versatility and just how much of an influence early rock, R&B, jazz, and classic pop music played a part in his earlier recordings before adding country-flavored styles later on in the '70s. In a message on a social media site, Ray gave some information about a possible DVD becoming available featuring clips from the 1970 summer show. Since it's late August, it probably won't become available for a few months...hopefully a DVD arrives sooner than that but my guess is, if there's a DVD on the way, it'll be here a month from now or probably in October. 

August 19, 2013

It's the 1970 Ray Stevens Show...

Good early afternoon all the Ray Stevens fans!! Since my computer's been out of commission I've been using a relative's laptop and it just doesn't have the same feel as my computer and so I've been inactive on this blog and at other places. Also, because I'm not on my computer, I no longer have access to the various images of Ray Stevens that had been stored on my computer. Luckily I saved a lot in the various photo hosting sites that I'm a member of but there are a lot of other images that were exclusive to my computer and they're, in effect, gone. Once I get a different computer it'll take no time at all to track down the images I once had and save them again but being on a laptop is not like being on a computer (at least from my experience). 

Ray Stevens has uploaded five new videos onto You Tube recently! Two of those videos were uploaded about half an hour ago. The videos are classics...scenes taken from his 1970 television show!! Yes, you read that right!! Ray's 1970 summer television program that has never, ever, ever seen the light of day on DVD has now surfaced, in bits and pieces, on You Tube. The other great thing about these is that they come from Ray's channel which means that they're official.

In the above clip you'll see Ray interact with himself...three images of Ray appear on the screen together. As mentioned, Ray's show aired in 1970, and this was great use of special effects at a time when very little was being used on variety shows of the era.

In the clip below you'll see Ray and George Lindsey having a chuckle or two...

Here's another upload from Ray's summer program...

Nobody knows if these clips are part of a future DVD release or if they're simply for on-line availability. I'd certainly love to see every episode of Ray's show become available on DVD!! Time will tell!! You can check out the other two uploads at his'll love them, too!!

July 22, 2013

Ray Stevens and those Unfriendly Skies...

Several blogs ago I wrote about an upcoming appearance by Ray Stevens at the CMA Music Fest. This event, known as Fan Fair for decades, is held each June in Nashville, Tennessee. I had hoped that footage of Ray's appearance would surface on-line and it finally has. In the clip below you'll see Ray perform one of his modern-day classics, "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore".


I don't have any idea if he performed more songs than just that one...but at the moment it's the only one I came across. At the start of the clip you'll see the emcee make mention of a couple of long awaited CD's from Ray. Although there wasn't any release dates announced, she did make reference to the title of the gospel CD (the first time I'd heard of a possible title for that project!). I hope those CD's arrive this year. He hasn't issued a studio album since the mammoth Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music back in early 2012. 

July 8, 2013

Ray Stevens and the Politics of Comedy, Part 2...

How is this for irony? I wrote a blog entry this morning about Ray's most recent video upload on You Tube, Politically Speaking: Obama Budget Plan, and within that entry I mentioned that it was the last thing that had been made available on Ray's You Tube channel. I returned to the internet and found out that an hour ago something new had been uploaded to his channel...a follow-up commentary. This time around the commentary centers around his most popular video upload, "Come to the U.S.A.", the illegal immigration song. Like the previous installment, this one is 31 seconds in length as well.

Ray Stevens and the Politics of Comedy...

It's been a rather quiet several weeks when it comes to activity from Ray Stevens. Well, I should re-state that it's been publicly quiet since he often is in the recording studio working on whatever it may be and then all of a sudden he emerges with a brand new music video or a brand new recording.

The planned Fox News appearance last month was canceled due to breaking news. Of course, that's why I didn't write a follow-up entry. I had written a blog entry promoting what was to be the upcoming appearance but the planned appearance, as I found out later, had been scrapped. There wasn't a mention of the cancellation on the air, though, so I was under the assumption that the appearance was still going to happen but had been pushed back to a later point in the show. Anyway, during a top of the hour commercial break I found out about the cancellation when I returned to the computer and saw commentary on one of Ray's social network sites alerting us to the canceled appearance. The alert came within a half an hour or so of the scheduled appearance and so if I had seen that message beforehand I wouldn't have been waiting for his appearance that entire previous hour. That experience taught me to take a glimpse at his Twitter and Facebook pages prior to any TV or radio appearance to see if there's been any sort of cancellation or not.

I think this may have been the third or fourth time within the last year (2012-2013) that he's had to cancel a national appearance due to breaking news of some kind or another. A few radio interviews on nationally syndicated programs were canceled "at the last minute" because of breaking news. This isn't to say everything he attempted during the last year resulted in cancellation it's just that those fairly recent abrupt cancellations were something I wasn't used to.

A couple of weeks ago he issued super brief video upload called Politically Speaking with the subject being the "Obama Budget Plan". The video consists of Ray delivering a political point of view that's all but 31 seconds long. I wish it would've been longer. The video commentary, I assume, will become an on-going series as a visual tie in with his book, Let's Get Political. The video closes with a photo of Ray that appeared on the book. Ray speaks a series of lines sandwiched between some video clips of "Obama Budget Plan". In case you hadn't seen it, you can watch it HERE. If there are to be future installments I hope Ray speaks a lot more than he did in the first one. "Obama Budget Plan", the music video, has a current view total of 2.4 million. To be more specific that's 2,439,468 unique views so far.

For those of you who may still have cassette tape devices but do not have a turntable, Ray's 1980 album Shriner's Convention, is available once more in cassette format. Of course, if you're like I am, you'll more than likely want a vinyl copy and a cassette copy. I came across a cassette version of this project at least 5 years ago, I think, and I purchased it. It's a rare item, in my opinion. The cassette versions of Ray's albums from the '70s and early '80s are an ultra rare find so if you come across one, and it's priced reasonably, by all means purchase it because chances are you'll never come across it again. I'm still looking forward to the day that his 1981 and 1982 albums show up for sale in either CD or Mp3 format. I won't hold my breath, of course, but it would still be great if those two albums were to see the light of day in a re-issue instead of having the material remained buried in the RCA vaults.

I've posted the picture of myself and the cassette version of Shriner's Convention before so I won't do it this time around but basically if you're a dedicated fan of Ray's and want something obscure then you definitely should take a look HERE.

June 16, 2013

Ray Stevens and the Video World...

As most of you may already know there's been a dramatic swing in the number of video uploads from Ray Stevens on his You Tube channel. He's gone into the archives and uploaded several music videos that the public at large may not have been aware of until recently. Some of the videos that Ray uploaded onto his channel had already been on You Tube for a number of years (uploaded by a wide array of You Tube members). However, since these particular performances have now become officially uploaded on Ray's You Tube channel, I've decided to make some commentary about some of the uploads in this blog.

"Surfin' U.S.S.R.", a novelty single from Ray in 1988, was uploaded several years ago. It wasn't until a few days ago that it was officially uploaded on Ray's channel. I recall that it had previously been available on Ray's channel but for whatever reason (?) it was removed soon after. That earlier upload has since been removed from his channel line-up. The song kind of blends "Surfin' U.S.A." with "Back in the U.S.S.R." with Ray delivering a spot on impression of Beach Boys-style harmony.

The Cold War between the United States and Russia was still underway and the talks between Reagan and Gorbachev were at an all-time high. That bit of news is perhaps why the music video takes a topical approach complete with Reagan and Gorbachev visual and vocal impressions, a feature which was missing on the album track. I don't have the 45 single and so I can't say for sure if this comical exchange was on the single release but it's definitely not on the album and so I assume it's an exclusive just for the music video.

As of now the "Surfin' U.S.S.R." video has more than 900 views and it can be seen HERE.

Between the years of 1990 and 1994, as longtime fans are well aware, Ray Stevens was one of the best selling attractions in Branson, Missouri. He may have been the biggest attraction at one point but he was definitely one of the most successful down there. He owned, operated, and performed at his own music theater, officially called The Ray Stevens Theatre, from 1991 until 1993. Three consecutive seasons. It was during this time period that home videos became a huge part of his career. The obscure release titled Ray Stevens Comedy Classics arrived in 1991, mostly as an experiment. It became a top seller at his theater and the next release was The Amazing Rolling Revue...which came along in 1992. This home video contained an un-aired television pilot titled 'The Amazing Rolling Revue'. The show's title was a reference to the show's performances being set inside a moving tour bus...being driven by race car driver Darrell Waltrip! To get the effect that the venue was on wheels, the camera would shake and the set would hover around in unison with Waltrip's 300mph tendencies. Soon after the releases of those projects Ray emerged with Comedy Video Classics in the spring of 1992. This collection became a monster sales hit, both in mail order and later in retail stores, during the next 2 and a half years. This project was followed up by Ray Stevens Live! and then More Ray Stevens Live!, both released in 1993. The concert itself was taped in 1992, split into two parts for home video release. Home video #1 was sold over television and in print advertisements while the second home video was sold exclusively at his theater and through his fan club. Ray Stevens Live! was another monster sales hit.

Performances from those two home videos have occasionally appeared on You Tube but never in any great abundance until now!

Can He Love You Half as Much as I, a song that originates from 1986's Surely You Joust album. Although the single never made the weekly charts, it's long been a part of Ray's concert set list, and obviously a fan favorite and a favorite of Ray's. I saw him in concert twice and the last one (as of now) was as recent as 2009...and the song was part of that show. He performed it in the first concert I saw, by the way, and so it's safe to say it's been in his set-list for the last 27 years, considering he was performing it at his theater in the early '90s. It's a comical love song. It was issued as a single early in 1987. The link takes you to a 1992 performance from Ray Stevens Live!.

Gitarzan, a song that originates from 1969, is a definite classic in Ray's career. This song has more than likely been part of Ray's set-list from 1969 onward. It was a Top-10 pop hit that year and it sold more than a million copies. It was also an international hit where it reached the Top-30 of several music charts all over the world. Ray would make a music video of this song in 1995, for the Get Serious! home video, but the particular link above will take you to his 1992 performance from Ray Stevens Live!. The song features resident singer, Janice Copeland, playing and singing the part of Jane.

I Saw Elvis in a U.F.O. is one of those zany novelty songs that Ray is well known for. This performance, also from Ray Stevens Live!, is his most visually detailed. The song, originating on 1989's Beside Myself, was released as a single and Ray performed this at the annual Music City News awards that year. The performance was one of the show's highlights and it's performance incorporated a giant replica of a flying saucer...a special effect that amazed the audience. You can see that performance in a video clip on You Tube but the link I provided, as mentioned, is from Ray's 1993 home video where he dresses like Elvis during the performance and gives more special effects not seen in his 1989 awards show performance.

Some may know of it but I bet a lot don't and that's Ray's song about using cell phones while driving. The song, titled Hang Up and Drive, was made into a music video in the early 2000's. The song originated on a 2000 release from Ray titled Ear Candy but it was re-released in 2002 on the more widely known project, Osama Yo' Mama. The video originated on a project known as The Cartoon Video Collection. That project featured music videos with limited animation backgrounds and a live-action Ray Stevens. Soon after it's release, however, his company would begin releasing cartoon music videos with a completely animated Ray Stevens...for example, Barbeque, a video to a song that Ray had recorded in 1990. In it, Ray appears in cartoon form, singing the praises of barbeque while obsessing over it's taste and his addiction to it.

There are more new uploads at Ray's You Tube channel besides the ones I've mentioned. Given that we're heading into the summer season, which means that there will likely be county fairs, festivals, and even circuses all over the place, I felt like closing this blog entry with Ray's music video of Hugo the Human Cannonball. That song, which originates from 1985's I Have Returned, was recently re-recorded by Ray.

May 31, 2013

Ray Stevens visits Fox News, June 1st...

Hello the title of the blog entry indicates, Ray Stevens will be appearing on the Fox News Channel tomorrow, June 1st. The appearance is scheduled to take place at some point during the 12pm EST hour on the America's News Headquarters program. The news of the appearance was released in the latter half of Thursday and by the time I had returned to the computer it was well past 11pm and so I decided to make mention of the Saturday appearance this morning.

There is much more about this from Absolute Publicity, the company that represents Ray.

His appearance tomorrow, as you'll read about in the link, deals with the various politically driven music videos he's issued on You Tube since December 2009. The unique view totals, according to the news release, have eclipsed 20,000,000. The accomplishment of this is noteworthy when you consider that the political music videos are seen as topical...but conventional wisdom would have you believe that anything topical has a short shelf life and therefore becomes irrelevant once the topic at hand loses priority to something else. The fact remains that Ray's "topical" music videos continue to attract views, clicks, and shares to this day and I share my opinion as to why this is happening further down the blog. While briefly looking through some of the tweets about Ray I saw links posted to "Obama Budget Plan" and I often find links to "Obama Nation" and "Throw the Bums Out!" too.

Often, political music in general are nostalgically placed in the late '60s/early '70s time frame. Also true is the fact that most artists who perform politically driven songs, for the most part, are politically liberal and therefore their music is skewed to please a liberal audience. Also true is most news outlets, both on television and on-line, are more likely to embrace political songs that cater to a liberal message of some kind.

Ray Stevens, who for some came out of nowhere in 2009, is one of the few artists that have broken through in a big way over the last several years with political music videos promoting the Tea Party, a smaller Government, and fiscal responsibility. These political issues aren't 'topical'...they're mainstays of a political message. The names of politicians certainly change but rarely do their methods and goals change. Therefore, in my opinion, Ray's political songs will be able to continue to entertain hundreds of thousands of people for months and years....which is exactly what's taking place now.

May 28, 2013

Sing a song of Ray Stevens, Volume Two...

One can never truly get enough Ray Stevens. In my previous blog entry, which came across more like a brief history on single releases, I mentioned that promo singles often featured the same song on both sides of the single. This is the A-side of "Love Me Longer", a wonderful recording from Ray originally found on his Losin' Streak album of 1973. The record company placed the Stereo recording on the A-side while on the B-side contained the Mono recording of the song. Mono recordings, as compared to Stereo, well, there's really no comparison. Once you hear two songs, the same recordings back to back, but one was released in Mono and one in Stereo, you'll prefer Stereo. To my ears, Mono recordings sound as if the artist is singing through a cardboard box. Their voice sounds compressed and lethargic. "Love Me Longer" didn't reach the country or pop chart, which was a shame, but as I remarked in other blogs the Losin' Streak album came between a string of albums from Ray that featured quite a few Top-40 pop and country hits. In addition to Losin' Streak in 1973 there was another release that same year from Ray titled Nashville. The Top-40 title track certainly brought attention to the LP...a year earlier he had issued the highly successful Turn Your Radio On LP. That album featured not only the hit title track, which reached the Top-20 on the country charts, but it also featured two Top-10 Easy-Listening hits from the latter half of 1971, "A Mama and a Papa" and "All My Trials". Following the releases of Nashville and Losin' Streak in 1973 Ray emerged with "The Streak" in early went on to sell more than 5,000,000 copies worldwide. The album issued later on in 1974, built around "The Streak", was titled Boogity-Boogity and it featured a future single release, "The Moonlight Special", a hilarious spoof of a late night television show from the '70s titled The Midnight Special.

Sing a song of Ray Stevens...

Single releases, not necessarily album releases, played a big role in the amount of sales racked up by Ray Stevens. This can be said for a wide variety of recording artists through the decades but if one looks at the earliest releases from Ray you'll notice that they were pretty much all singles. Album releases really didn't really become important until, of course, artists started selling much more albums than singles. Music historians often cite the late '60s as the era in which sales of albums and the importance of albums started to become appreciated even though albums (LP's) had been around for many years. For some, mostly those consumers in the late '60s, albums were meant to be complimentary to a current single release. By complimentary I mean that a single was in large part suppose to be part of an on-going storyline throughout the album and the thinking was if you purchase the album you'll get to hear more songs in the same vein as the single. LP purists, as I like to refer to them as, insist that an album follow a similar pattern or that each song has some sort of tie with another and that there shouldn't be a series of unrelated songs with varying tempo's. An overused expression by music critics, mostly purists, is what's referred to as "an uneven album". If you read many critical essays you may see that phrase come up a lot.

Albums were equally referred to as LP's and depending on who you ask, they still are. LP stood for "long playing". In the music industry there is also something called an EP which stands for "extended play". An EP was typically a single with more than two songs but fewer than six. One side of an EP may have 2 songs and the other side have 3 or each side may have 3 songs. A traditional single, a 45-RPM, typically had a song on side one and another song on side two. A promo single may have the same song on both sides. In the single above from 1969 they use the cover photo of Ray's 1968 album, Even Stevens. This particular single from Ray hit the Top-30 on the Hot 100 pop chart in 1969 but it's from the Gitarzan comedy album. "Along Cme Jones" and "Yakety Yak" had both been hit recordings by one of Ray's musical influences, The Coasters. You should be able to find Ray's 1972 performance of "Along Came Jones" on-line. If you look up the song's title and Ray's name it should be one of the first results that show up. The performance comes from the television show, Hee Haw.

May 26, 2013

Ray Stevens asks about Love...

In the last week or so Ray Stevens has uploaded several music videos from his 1995 movie, Get Serious!. I've mentioned/included some of the videos in the last couple of blogs. I'm sure most of you have seen this on the actual movie and I'm sure, by now, you've come across it on-line if you've watched any number of his other music videos. This happens to be the official music video of "Can He Love You Half as Much as I?". It's a love song with comical overtones. The video itself features Ray in several roles...and for those who aren't aware of why he's wearing a chicken costume that means you hadn't seen the movie.

That particular song, like most of the songs on the 1995 movie, come from Ray's vast catalog of recordings. "Can He Love You Half as Much as I?" originally came along in 1986, a full nine years before the music video made it's debut.

Ray's uploaded a couple of other clips from the 1995 movie since my previous blog entry. This time around the clips include a little bit more footage from the movie rather than a stand alone music video. A music video of "The Woogie Boogie", a song from 1989, was filmed for the project and it's featured below...

A scene between Ray and fictional Damien Darth was also uploaded. This scene sets up the overall storyline of the entire movie. It begins with a cameo appearance by Chet Atkins (one of several cameo appearances by Ray's music industry friends). Ray enters the scene dressed as Gitarzan as he had just wrapped up shooting the 'music video'...

Get Serious!, for those who didn't know, included the official music video of "Ahab the Arab" which Ray uploaded on You Tube a few years ago. The 1995 music video can be seen HERE. It's obtained more than 260,000 views since it's You Tube debut in July 2009. The description states that the video could be found on the DVD project titled The Complete Comedy Video Collection. At the time, Get Serious! was still only available on VHS and out of print. "Ahab the Arab" closes out the Get Serious! movie. For those who want to add Get Serious! to your collections it's available at the moment at Ray's web-store. Simply visit his web page,, and click the Store section.

May 23, 2013

Ray Stevens: Get Serious! on DVD...

I've written several blogs over the last several years about Ray's 1995 movie, Get Serious!, and I saw that one of the blogs I wrote back in 2010 has gotten quite a lot of traffic lately. That particular year happened to be the 15th anniversary of the home video's release and I'm sure that's why I wrote that blog entry. I didn't go back and read what I had written, though, but I'm sure the reason I wrote that particular entry was due to the movie's anniversary.

The movie had long been out of print...and the only available copies that shown up for sale were in VHS format. This is great if you still have a VCR in working condition. I have a VCR that's in pretty good shape and almost all of my VHS tapes are in good to great shape as well but of course I also have a DVD player and a boatload of DVD's...but I still have the VHS tapes I bought. I purchased the VHS copy of Get Serious! when it was still a brand new release in the latter half of 1995. I've posted images of my showing off the VHS tape before...I may have posted images of it in the 2010 blog entry I made a reference to in the opening paragraph.

The movie, Get Serious!, is the story of a maniacal music executive who envisions comedy artist Ray Stevens as a master at opera and Broadway (which goes against his commercial successes). When Ray refuses to go along with the executive's plan, the executive throws a fit and plot's Ray's downfall by labeling him 'politically incorrect'. As all of this is going on Ray attempts to make his way through a sea of protesters. Jerry Clower, in a supporting role as Ray's manager, helps Ray move through the crowd. This scene is in super slow motion. Ray, perhaps in a nod to Vaudeville and classic comedy in general, slips on a banana peel and passes out. He wakes up in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The first thing he sees is an overly zealous Calcutta Indian rug seller (played by Ray) and this encounter eventually leads into the movie's second music video, "The Woogie Boogie". The movie's first music video, "Gitarzan", opened up the movie as we see a flashback sequence of a young Ray practicing the piano and his instructor warning a young Ray to be serious with his music.

Ray, along with several others, play multiple roles in the movie.

The movie is a blend of music, adventure, fantasy, satire, and mockery. The music is a crucial part of the film as two plots against Ray play out independently of one another but merge toward the end of the movie with comical results.

One plot revolves around the music executive and his group of yes-men on a nationwide manhunt for Ray. He walked out on his contractual obligations when objecting to going serious. Another plot revolves around the fictional characters from Ray's comedy songs turning out to really exist and they are on an entirely different kind of pursuit. The satirical elements in the movie come from the messages about the music business and political correctness that are sprinkled throughout the movie. Obviously the adventure aspect comes from Ray and a former lover, Charlene MacKenzie, on the run from Tennessee to Florida. They take to the road with a yellow car given to Ray (in the movie) by the Shriners as a thank you for his charitable work and creating awareness for their hospitals. Charlene MacKenzie is portrayed by Connie Freeman while the overly enthusiastic and pompous music executive, Damien Darth, is portrayed by Michael Airington. The vocals of Airington are based on Paul'll notice it right away.  

Anyway...I plan on purchasing the Get Serious! DVD in the not too distant future. I have no idea if the DVD will include, as a bonus feature, the companion documentary titled Ray Stevens Made a Movie?? Get Serious!!. Once I purchase it and it arrives I'll be able to answer that a lot more accurately. However, based on the DVD's description located HERE it doesn't indicate that the documentary is part of the release. That link takes you to the DVD item page at Ray's web-store.

May 19, 2013

Ray Stevens brings us The Dooright Family!!

I have one of the funniest Ray Stevens songs to spotlight in this particular entry. The hilarious story of "The Dooright Family" is a classic from the mid-point of Ray's lengthy music career. The song was never a gigantic radio hit or anything but shrewd placement of the song by numerous record labels, both domestically and internationally, on a wide variety of compilation releases has made the song familiar to many latter day fans of Ray Stevens who perhaps otherwise would never have known of it's existence. The album it debuted on in 1980 has long been out of print and hadn't seen the light of day on CD or Mp3.

I've complained numerous times about the lack of commercial availability of Ray's RCA years (1980-1982) on this blog and elsewhere but for now, and maybe forever, the RCA songs will never become available for a new audience to discover. The only chance to hear an abundance of the early '80s period in Ray's career is to track down the vinyl albums on eBay. He recorded three studio albums for the label between the years of 1980 and 1982. The label issued a Greatest Hits project on him in 1983. Two years later they issued an eight song compilation titled Collector's Series. Given that the 1985 release is RCA material exclusively I consider it to remain an absolutely vital project given how scarce his early '80s recordings happen to be.   

The debut album for RCA was titled Shriner's Convention. The title track reached the Top-10 on the Country Singles chart. The album itself reached the Country Album Top-10. The "Shriner's Convention", as well as "The Dooright Family", became music videos in 1995 when they were featured as part of Ray's direct-to-video movie, Get Serious!.

The music video of "Shriner's Convention" had been uploaded onto You Tube in 2009 and has gotten more than half a million unique views. Meanwhile, "The Dooright Family" had remained exclusive to the movie until a couple of days ago. "The Dooright Family" official music video be seen HERE. There are a few lyrical changes in the 1995 recording but the overall feeling of the song and it's storyline remain the same. The three studio albums that Ray recorded for RCA are: Shriner's Convention (1980), One More Last Chance (1981), and Don't Laugh Now (1982). It was during this RCA period that Ray became involved in the soundtrack of the Cannonball Run movie. He performed the movie's theme song, "Cannonball", as well as the love ballad, "Just For the Hell of It".  

While looking through the archive section of this blog I came across an entry that I wrote back on July 1, 2009. The entry had mostly to do with the 40th anniversary of Ray's 1969 recordings. I included a picture sleeve of the "Have a Little Talk With Myself" single and then I moved into discussion about 1970's "Everything Is Beautiful" but the actual title of that entry focused on a magazine titled Challenge and the CD he had out at the time, One For the Road. You can read that particular entry HERE.

May 16, 2013

Ray Stevens and Blue Cyclone...

Good Thursday morning already! It's as if Ray's making up for his down time as not one, not two, but three music videos have been officially uploaded to You Tube. The videos come from a couple of VHS/DVD releases from the early 2000's that the public at large may not be as familiar with. The first video is The Blue Cyclone, Part One and once you watch it click this The Blue Cyclone, Part Two link. Obviously, though, once you open the link to the first video you can easily navigate to part two of the video. "The Ballad of the Blue Cyclone" came along at a time when wrestling had become enormously popular with a general audience. The concept of wrestling goes way back but it wasn't until the 1980's, the mid '80s specifically, that wrestling had become something of a phenomena. Acronyms like WCW, WWF, and WWE were soon to become as familiar as any number of broadcast networks. Wrestling boasted it's share of stars, too, which you can read about on-line. Hulk Hogan was the big star in wrestling...becoming iconic both physically and in performance...the tearing off of his popular yellow shirt during interviews was but one visual feature that he became famous for and who could ever forget the whole Hulk-a-mania craze? Wrestling, of course, still carries on but it's kind of drifted back into niche programming once more but if you happened to have been a child or teenager in the 1980's then you are well aware of how much wrestling impacted a lot of television programming and how much in the mainstream it was. Hulk Hogan and friends even appeared on their own Saturday morning cartoon show.

"The Ballad of the Blue Cyclone" tells the story of an encounter with a wrestler during a chaotic chain of events at a wrestling match. In the song Ray plays the part of a man who gets beaten up by The Blue Cyclone, one half of a tag-team wrestling combo. Ray's at the matches with a friend...the friend instigates the fight but he disappears before the Cyclone can come over and take action. Part 1 ends as Ray's being taken to a hospital. Throughout Part 2 Ray seeks revenge and he enlists the help of his fickle friend who in turn enlists the help of two weight lifters. Ray and the guys track down the Cyclone at a wrestling club/bar and history repeats itself as Ray's friends vanish while he's threatening the much stronger and violent Blue Cyclone with bodily harm. I'll go ahead and stop all can watch the videos to see all the hilarity for yourselves.

Ray's comedy recording, released as a single in 1986, reached the Top-50 on the Country music charts. The single release edited the full two part story into a concise and compact story. The edited version appears on the 1987 Greatest Hits, Volume Two collection. The full 2-part version appeared originally on 1985's I Have Returned.

Speaking of that LP, the music video of "The Haircut Song" was uploaded on You Tube around the same time as "The Ballad of the Blue Cyclone" the other day. Whereas the Cyclone video detailed both parts of the story, "The Haircut Song" spotlights the single release which edited out the second barber visit. In the video we have Ray visiting a Montana barber who sees himself as a macho man and this is followed by a visit to a barber down south that cuts hair inside a shop that looks like a church. The part of the song that was edited out featured a visit to a Los Angeles barber who dressed in Gothic attire. This barber was into punk rock and according to the song gave Ray a wild haircut but also stuck safety pins in his face. It would've been wildly hilarious if this section of the song was part of the music video but it isn't. You can watch "The Haircut Song" HERE.

A music video uploaded hours ago, "Erik the Awful", originally was part of an experimental home video where live action Ray performed in front of illustrated backgrounds. Two music videos with this same style became huge on You Tube: "Osama Yo' Mama" and "Hello Mama"; but the "Erik the Awful" video hadn't been released on-line by Ray until now. Isn't it ironic, as it was pointed out in the You Tube comment section for this video, that we currently have a professionally awful Attorney General that shares the same name as our Viking? Anyway, here's "Erik the Awful"...

May 10, 2013

Ray Stevens performs "Thank You"...

It's gotten a little more than 2,000 unique views since it's upload on You Tube and the video I speak of is the live performance of "Thank You", the patriotic song that's been a part of Ray's concerts for a period of years now. Ray did a music video of the song a number of years ago and it's been quite a success on You Tube since it's debut there a few years ago...capturing more than 450,000 unique views so far. While the music video is stirring and unforgettable once you see it, the live performance is even more emotional, and for a song like "Thank You", a live performance rendition is a perfect companion to the official music video.

Here is the music video, uploaded onto You Tube in January 2010...

In the audio recording above Ray sings pretty much the whole song while in the concert video he changes tempo and delivers the song as a narrative combined with singing. This concert performance comes from the DVD that I've written about several times, Patriots and Politics, which you can still purchase at the Ray Stevens Web-Store. You can purchase that DVD and get a free copy of his book, Let's Get Political, and a flag pin for only a limited time HERE. It's being offered as a Memorial Day special and so my guess is the offer will only be good through Memorial Day and so if you come across this blog entry after the holiday then chances are the link will not work and the special will have expired by then.

The DVD, by itself, has the same selling price but with this special offer you'll also be getting the book, which sells for $10.00 at his store, for free.