January 24, 2014

Happy Birthday to Ray Stevens...

Happy Birthday wishes go out to Ray Stevens! On this day Ray Stevens turns 75...a diamond celebration of sorts. Diamonds are a singer's best friend. Throughout the decades many of his songs and music videos have become diamonds in their own right. One of those gems is a 1974 single titled "Everybody Needs a Rainbow". It's a great sing-a-long and I love the entire performance. The song happened to be written by Layng Martine, Jr. but it became one of Ray's hits during the year of "The Streak". I have the song on a vinyl single and on CD but it's never actually been a part of any secular Ray Stevens project. It made an appearance on an early '90s gospel compilation from Ray titled A Brighter Day that he issued on his own label, Clyde Records. There are suppose to be several new CD projects from Ray emerging this year...one of them is a much-anticipated bluegrass project. Another release that's been talked about is a gospel project. The project's have working titles already: Melancholy Fescue and Onward Christian Soldiers. I mentioned that they're working titles but I think those are the official titles of each CD. In addition to those upcoming releases that I can't wait to hear there is also a musical/play in the beginning stages centering around Ray's 1984 song "Mississippi Squirrel Revival". There's a Facebook page about it and based on what I've read it sounds like local playhouse and theater owners that may be looking for brand new musicals can contact Buddy Kalb and his associates to finalize an adaptation of the official musical/revue. If there's a local playhouse or theater in your area and you'd love to see a musical adaptation of "Mississippi Squirrel Revival" check out the Facebook page. You can read all about it HERE. Credited songwriters for that particular single are Buddy Kalb and Carlene Kalb. Once at the site you'll see a piece of the production. Buddy takes center stage in the video. You'll no doubt recognize Buddy from any number of Ray's music videos. Buddy played Harv Newland in the 1992 official music video of "Mississippi Squirrel Revival".

January 20, 2014

Ray Stevens: The 40 Year Streak...

Usually in my first blog post(s) of a new year I spotlight specific songs/albums from Ray Stevens that are going to reach some sort of milestone. 2014 is no exception! This is the year that "The Streak" hits 40...debuting in the spring of 1974 comes a song that ultimately became the biggest selling single of his career and has taken on a life of it's own. "The Streak" might seem outrageous to the ears of politically correct consumers, baffling to others, and annoying to some...but the idea of the song ties directly to a real life trend taking place at college campuses and eventually at sporting events where people ran nude through a crowd and although history loves to state that the trend/fad had no real impact on society, the truth is it did...millions upon millions of people talked about streakers, perhaps even thought about streaking themselves, or became aware of streaking by way of the Academy Awards (a streaker ran behind David Nivens). I've never read too much about the ordeal in any in depth sort of way (which might sound surprising considering how streaking impacted Ray's career at the time).

There has long been a feeling that the streaker had been planted for shock value by the producers; but whether or not the streaker was planned or if it was spontaneous, the reaction and attention it gained impacted "The Streak" in a profound way. The humor is decidedly low-brow, which, believe it or not, is one of the chief criticisms leveled against it from music critics both professional and amateur. I feel that the humor and it's delivery is perfect for the subject matter.

Ray's single hit on March 27, 1974 and the Oscar streaker ordeal aired on April 2, 1974...talk about incredible timing, luck, and good fortune on Ray's part!! The single entered the pop chart on April 7, 1974 and reached #1 for the first of three weeks on May 18th.

The song became an international hit. Here in the United States, as mentioned, it reached #1 on the Pop chart and stayed at the top for 3 weeks. It also reached the Top-5 on the Country Music chart and the Top-20 on the Adult-Contemporary chart. Internationally it hit #1 in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and on Canada's three music charts ranking the Pop, Country, and Adult-Contemporary singles. It reached the runner up position in Australia and Ireland.

An official music video emerged in 1992 when it became one of the eight music videos contained in a home video from Ray titled Comedy Video Classics. Technically there are 7 comedy videos and then there's the final one of the collection, "Everything is Beautiful", the only serious song of the group.