April 30, 2014

This week in Ray Stevens History: 1974...

Good late afternoon...the last day of April and this week in Ray Stevens history looks at 1974. Ray dominated the music media in the spring and summer of 1974 with his novelty song "The Streak". This past Sunday morning I was in my car driving to work and listening to AT40: The '70s, a syndicated radio program that re-airs classic countdown programs hosted by Casey Kasem. There's a companion series, AT40: The '80s, a re-airing of a 1980's countdown program, that I listen to on Saturday mornings on my way home from work.

Well, this past Sunday they aired the April 27, 1974 episode of AT40...and debuting in the Top-40 all the way up at #19 happened to "The Streak" by the one and only Ray Stevens. Casey remarked that the single had been positioned on the Hot 100 the previous week (April 20th) at #54 and it streaked up 35 spots to #19. Obviously the single was declared "the highest debuting song" of the week. Casey remarked, after the song had ended, that "it's on it's way to #1".

If I remember correctly from a chart that had been posted on-line several years ago, during the single's fourth week on the Hot 100, it leaped up closer to the Top-10 and then in the fourth week it was near the top and then in it's sixth week on the Hot 100 (it's 5th in the Top-40), "The Streak" reached #1. The date happened to be May 18, 1974. It stayed at #1 for 3 weeks. It reached #1 in Canada, the United Kingdom, and in New Zealand and the Top-5 in Ireland and Australia. It also reached the Top-5 on the Country Music chart in America (it hit #1 on Canada's Country Music chart and their Adult-Contemporary chart). On America's Adult-Contemporary chart, the novelty single hit the Top-15. The single reportedly sold more than five million copies and it ranked among the Top-10 singles of the year.

April 29, 2014

Ray Stevens Unchained...6 Months later...

A great big good morning to all the fans of Ray Stevens! I'd been going through some of Ray's You Tube music videos in my Favorites list and realized that his last long form music video arrived half a year ago in October 2013. Of course, Ray's been uploading other kinds of video content in the interim but October 2013 is the last time a music video by him became available for on-line viewing.

Ray's version of "Unchained Melody" (an internationally famous recording associated with The Righteous Brothers) debuted on You Tube on October 2, 2013 and since that time it's received 32,373 unique views. Ever since it's October debut there has not been much official publicity surrounding it and so it's gotten over 30,000 unique views through on-line sharing such as what I'm doing right now. Since it's been half a year since it's debut there might be some people out there that will be seeing this for the first time...

In the comments section for the music video, one of the people appearing in the band identified mostly everyone, except the identities of the drummer and the guitar player: Banjo (Ned Luberecki), Dobro (Ron Ickes), Fiddle (Shad Cobb), Mandolin (Brent Mason), and the Bass (Ben Surratt). The latter's name should be familiar to Ray's fans. If you look at the credits on a lot of Ray's recent projects you'll see Surratt's name listed as the recording engineer.

I have no idea if he plays the Bass on Ray's contemporary recordings but for whatever reason the musician credits aren't listed on Ray's projects as consistently anymore. Ray mentions several of his band members in his autobiography, both former and current, as well as the various producers and engineers that have worked on his albums over the decades.

April 25, 2014

Ray Stevens: Rayality TV webisode 6...

Good late afternoon Ray Stevens fans...yes, it's Friday and that means a brand new installment of Rayality TV. Yesterday Ray posted a clip of himself performing "Crazy" from a 1997 episode of Prime Time Country. Staying in that theme, today's webisode of Rayality TV is titled "Downright Crazy". This particular installment has several video snippets from his 1992 project, Amazing Rolling Revue, edited together with other clips to spotlight various kinds of comical nuttiness. This one, more than the first 5 installments, plays out more like an episode of Hee-Haw. There's fast-paced sketch comedy strung together and sandwiched in between the sketches is the music video "Gone For Good" (one of the videos that Ray did in the early 2000's where he used a limited animation background). The music video originated on the home video, Cartoon Video Collection.

Here's today's installment...

Also  keep in mind that Ray has an autobiography out, Ray Stevens' Nashville. I posted about it a couple of times last week and included my thoughts/review. I didn't give a 100 percent thorough examination of the book and since I posted my initial commentary I haven't added any additional thoughts, on purpose. I'd prefer the fans to purchase his book and discover a lot of the things that I didn't point out. You can get your copy of Ray's book at the Amazon page HERE. That's a link to the physical copy of the book...there's an option for purchasing a Kindle/eBook. Once you click the link I posted and you arrive at the Amazon product page, you can click on the Kindle link and be taken to that product page. I noticed that my previous blog posts that made mention of this book had been buried underneath my most recent blog posts and so I decided to make mention of the book's availability once more.

April 24, 2014

Ray Stevens Sings the Patsy Cline classic, "Crazy"...

Debuting on You Tube today is a performance and an interview of Ray Stevens that took place on August 7, 1997. The appearance took place on an episode of Prime Time Country, a program that aired on The Nashville Network during the latter half of the 1990s. The host of the program during pretty much all of it's run was Gary Chapman (the original host was Tom Wopat).

The episode happened to be a tribute to Patsy Cline. It should be noted that this August 7th airing occurred nearly one month to the day on what would have been Patsy Cline's 65th birthday (she was born on September 8, 1932).

Here's Ray Stevens singing "Crazy", a huge hit for Patsy from the pen of Willie Nelson, followed by a great interview segment. Gary refers to Ray as a genius after Ray mentions that the performance he just did of "Crazy" is his own arrangement. It's great to see reference made to one of Ray's most overlooked talents: music arranging.

Stay tuned for Friday's installment of Rayality TV...as soon as I see that it's been uploaded to Ray's You Tube channel I'll make mention of it on this blog (of course!).

April 21, 2014

Ray Stevens sees Elvis in a U.F.O...

A Silver Anniversary approaches the 1989 Ray Stevens album, Beside Myself. This particular album has long been one of my favorites and was something of a departure for Ray during that time period. The album began with five ballads...followed by five comedy songs on Side 2 of the LP and cassette. It represented a departure because the previous five studio albums from Ray all featured comedy songs. He had joined MCA in 1984 as a comedy performer...and from the release of He Thinks He's Ray Stevens later in the year through 1988's I Never Made a Record I Didn't Like Ray filled his studio albums with comedy/novelty songs. All of his previous LP's for MCA (including 2 compilation releases in 1987) entered the Billboard Country Albums chart. Beside Myself also reached the national Country Album chart. Fans were treated to newly recorded ballads from Ray Stevens on a commercial recording for the first time in 6 years. Ray had, at that time, last recorded an LP featuring ballads in 1983 for the Mercury label...an LP titled Me.

By the time Beside Myself had arrived, though, Ray had long since become familiar to a rather large fan base seeing him several times a year on The Nashville Network singing a wide variety of comedy songs and as a frequent guest and co-host of the nationally syndicated series, Hee Haw, singing and displaying his comedic skills in sketches. Also, from 1987 onward, a double LP collection released by MCA titled Get The Best of Ray Stevens, had become something of a mail-order success on TV and in print advertisements.

The song that's become the most popular from the 1989 Beside Myself album is the comical "I Saw Elvis in a U.F.O.". The song is a send-up of tabloid magazines that continually report to have seen Elvis here, there, and everywhere long after his 1977 death. Ray plays several roles in the recording. First up he portrays the anchorman of the evening news, second he portrays the roving reporter on the scene, third he portrays the rural eyewitness stating he and his wife seen the U.F.O. while camping in their Winnebago, and lastly he portrays the singer belting out this zany, otherworldly novelty song.

He performed this song, maybe for the first time on TV, on the 1989 Music City News awards...amusing all in attendance. The song incorporated the use of pink aliens dancing/prancing around and the topper happened to be the giant replica of a flying saucer that came hovering above the stage. The performance was quite a production for a television awards program...ending with a life size puppet of Ray being lifted off stage and up into the flying saucer amidst flashing lights and loud electric guitars and other effects. Later on, after he opened up his Branson, Missouri theatre in 1991 he performed a much more elaborate presentation and it became part of his 1993 home video, Ray Stevens Live!.

That performance, featuring a taped sequence at the start and even more visual effects than on display in the 1989 performance, became a highlight of his Branson show.

You can see a 1992 performance that was placed on the 1993 home video below...

If TNN, Hee Haw, the commercial for the double album, and spotting Elvis in a U.F.O. wasn't enough excitement in 1989, Ray, at the fan-voted Music City News awards in 1989 was named 'Comedian of the Year' for the fourth year in a row. His first win came in the summer of 1986...and after his fourth consecutive win in 1989 he'd pick up this trophy each summer for 5 more consecutive years (through 1994).

In all, Ray placed 8 albums on the charts during his MCA years (1984-1989). A lot of work from a lot of people behind the scenes helped make those years highly successful, too.

Ray co-wrote 9 of the 10 songs found on Beside Myself. That, too, represented something of a departure...you'd have to go back to his 1983 Me album to find a project featuring a heavy amount of songs written/co-written by Ray.

Most of his MCA albums featured at least 2 songs with a Ray Stevens co-writer credit while the rest of the material was written by Buddy Kalb or others that wrote songs for Ray's publishing companies. I only know the names of 2 publishing companies associated with Ray. The reason I know of them is because they appear the most frequently in the song credits: Ahab Music Company and Ray Stevens Music. I think he has other publishing names, too...but those are the ones I am familiar with.

Layng Martine, Jr. used to write for Ray's publishing company. If you look at the single releases by artists on songs that Layng had a hand in writing during much of the '70s you'll see Ahab Music Company as the publisher...later in the decade the publishing fell under the title of Ray Stevens Music. If you purchase LP's from the '70s and see album tracks written by Layng, chances are Ray Stevens' company published the song. In Layng's acceptance speech at the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame ceremony in 2013, he thanked and cited Ray as an important person in his career. Some of Reba McEntire's earliest LP's for Mercury in the late '70s featured songs from Layng Martine...Ray Stevens published them. The biggest, as far as I'm aware of, happened to be Reba's Top-20 hit from early 1981 called "I Don't Think Love Oughta Be That Way".

I've mentioned this before but Ray's publishing company has a connection to Elvis...Layng wrote the song "Way Down". Ray published the song. It became a huge hit in 1977...it's noted as being the song on the charts at the time of Elvis' death. The song, according to on-line sources, had been recorded by Elvis in October of 1976. His label released it June 1977 and originally it peaked in the Top-30 on the Hot 100...but then after Elvis died everything he had recorded in his lifetime, singles and LP's (from the obscure to the well known), racked up huge sales almost instantly.

This song Layng wrote and that Ray published was no exception and it did an about face, according to Elvis historians, and moved back up the Hot 100 to reach a new peak position in the Top-20 in the aftermath of Elvis' death in August 1977. The song became an international #1 hit in the fall of 1977...and it hit #1 on the Country music chart, too. The recording is also famous for J.D. Sumner's incredible bass notes.

This Week in Ray Stevens History: 1965

Hello to all the Ray Stevens fans...in this installment of the blog I'm taking a look at this week in Ray Stevens history...1965...almost 49 years ago to the day. I happened to be doing my usual searching and scouring of the internet for anything about Ray Stevens that I may find interesting to highlight and I came across a brief article detailing April 1965. It was during this week in 1965 that news surfaced of Ray signing a contract with Monument Records...but there's more to the story.

The article points out that the contract was an exclusive record producing contract. His recordings would still be issued on Mercury Records. I assume this special and unusual contract (an artist signed by 2 record labels) lasted perhaps half a year because a commercial single from Ray, on Monument Records, surfaced later on in 1965. That single happened to be "Party People"...from the pen of Joe South. The single was also released overseas in the United Kingdom and Australia and it clearly shows 1965 as the year of release on the 45rpm. Some on-line sources say the single was released in America in November 1965 and overseas in January 1966. The other side of the single is "A-B-C", a sing-a-long penned by Ray Stevens.

If you search You Tube there are several channels that upload obscure and regional pop and R&B songs of the mid and late '60s. Several uploads of songs that Ray either produced, arranged, or wrote for Monument (sometimes he did all three in one single release) have popped up on You Tube over the years. I have shared some of them on this blog. Some may still be available and some may have vanished...that's the nature of video uploading...but I did a check and a couple of them are still on-line. Search You Tube for "Ray Stevens Monument Records" or do a Google Video search using the same key phrase and you'll find whatever is still on-line to see.

Fast forwarding from 1965 to 2014...

I posted a review of the Ray Stevens Nashville book here and then copied/pasted it over on Amazon's product page. I posted it back on April 16th. You can read my review, in case you missed it, HERE. Of course, since you're a fan of Ray Stevens, I assume you'll also decide whether or not you'll purchase the book now or wait until later. It's $13.30 plus shipping and handling. Ray had written and released a song called "Nashville" in 1973...

He made a music video of it some 40 years later, in September 2013. He changed some of the lyrics, which was necessary, because the original lyrics featured some dated references to people/places.

If you're familiar with Ray's Nashville book by now, pay close attention to the skyline behind Ray in the opening seconds of the video...and then look at the cover of Ray's book.

Ray Stevens...The Ninth Million...

Good early Monday morning Ray Stevens fans...yesterday before going to bed I checked the You Tube numbers for "God Save Arizona". The video, around 8:30 Sunday night, had 999,968 unique views. A mere 32 additional first time views from hitting the million mark. I checked the numbers a couple of minutes ago and...drum roll, please...the updated total is 1,000,025! So, with that, Ray can add another on-line video to the Million Views club. 9 of his You Tube music videos have now reached 1,000,000 or more unique views...most of those 9 have gotten more than 3,000,000.

In internet speak, a unique view (or unique visitor) is the number of individual first-time plays of a video with each visit counted only once (further visits by the same computer/mobile device aren't counted).

I had thought about editing this picture into my earlier blog entry about Ray's book but I decided to post the image in this blog. The main reason is because this is my current blog entry and if I were to have edited the earlier one to include that picture chances are it would've gone unnoticed. It had been awhile since I used my digital camera...the date of the image should have read 04/19/2014 but I forgot to change the date stamp settings. It instead reads 19/04/2014. Another reason I decided to take a picture of the book is because there may be some people out there that think the book really doesn't exist and is some sort of internet hoax (due to the lack of publicity for it from Ray) but as you can see in the picture the book is genuine and real. At the moment my review is the only one at Amazon...and it isn't surprising...I assume once the book starts to get some heavy promotion from Ray that the awareness factor will kick in and there will be additional reviews. For now, though, Amazon's customers will have to rely on my commentary until others make their reactions known. A lot of people typically never think to search the 'book' section for Ray Stevens items...I am one of those people...I never thought to do a book search because, after all, there wasn't any announcement of this item's availability. Thanks to someone that made a comment on one of my recent blog posts I wouldn't have thought to search for a Ray Stevens book, either.

The Amazon link to purchase your copy of Ray's book is HERE. The link takes you to the product page for the paperback copy. There is an e-book, too. Once at Amazon you can click the e-book format link. I personally prefer a paperback copy...I wouldn't really get much enjoyment out of reading a 250+ page book while seated at a computer. That's just me, though.

April 19, 2014

Ray Stevens: Rayality TV webisode 5...

Good early Saturday morning!! I didn't have much time to post webisode 5 of Rayality TV yesterday because it was posted late in the day and I'm usually not awake during much of the afternoon and early evening. Be on the look out for the funny sketch starring 'The 4 Codgers'. The character of Robert is played by Norro Wilson...and you'll see clips taken from the 1993 home video More Ray Stevens Live! featuring Janice Copeland (in costume) singing "R-E-S-P-E-C-T". Ray's brother, John Ragsdale, plays the straight man in the sketch. However, I'm referring to the scene that appears in the 1993 home video. The clip on this installment of Rayality TV begins right as the two of them end their comical routine and she launches into the song. Janice, out of costume, sings "Love Can Build a Bridge" on that home video.

Here's webisode 5...

As you could imagine, I've been busy looking for any information I can get on the Ray Stevens book that I posted about in my previous blog entry. Although I have it, I'm still baffled by the under the radar release.

Also on the horizon is the 31 track CD import from the United Kingdom that I posted about several blogs ago. It's release date is this Tuesday April 22, 2014. It contains a lot of Ray's earliest recordings for the Prep, Capitol, NRC, and Mercury labels (1957-1962). The Amazon page in the United Kingdom has an Mp3 for sale...it became available on April 13 and there are song samples on the Amazon.com.uk Mp3 site. You can see/hear those HERE.

"God Save Arizona" is ever so close to joining the Million-Views club! At the moment it sits with 999,814 unique views. It needs just 186 additional first-time plays on You Tube to crack the million mark. In case you hadn't heard the song, it's from 2010, but the message is still current as of 2014 and this is the You Tube video nearing the million plateau...

April 16, 2014

Ray Stevens' Nashville...

Good Wednesday morning Ray Stevens fans!! I come this morning with a review of a Ray Stevens book! No, it isn't Let's Get Political from a couple of years ago. This particular review is of a book that could very well be described as a career autobiography. 

I use such a term because there's nothing extremely personal found in the book but it features the basics that are in an autobiography. The name of the book is Ray Stevens' Nashville. The cover has Ray wearing a small cowboy hat, standing in front of the Nashville, TN skyline. He isn't in a denim jacket as he is in the music video of "Nashville", but it's a great image nonetheless. 

The book became available for sale last month!! I became aware of it's existence earlier this month. In one of my recent blog entries I had gotten a reply. The reply made mention of this book...to which I had no idea existed. Once I visited Amazon and some other on-line stores, searched the book areas for Ray Stevens, I come to find out that the book had a release date of March 5, 2014...and so it's been commercially available for more than 1 month. 

Ironically, though, there isn't any acknowledgement of the book at Ray's internet store. There hasn't even been any Facebook posts or Tweets regarding it's existence in the days after March 5th. 

This blog post may create awareness of it's availability...here's the review...

This is such a fascinating book on many levels. One of the things that I love about it is how easy it is to read. There isn't a lot of confusion or contradictions that I've often seen in a lot of books of this kind. Ray Stevens tells of his experiences in Music City, U.S.A (Nashville, TN) dating back to the early '60s. Not only that, he tells about his entire career from it's earliest stages in the late '50s on through his current music video successes on You Tube. As an easy to read book you can read it out of order...as I did. I looked in the table of contents and deliberately jumped to certain parts of the book first and then read other parts of the book.

I cite pages 196 through 199 due to it containing some of the most candid commentary...you rarely hear these thoughts from 'Ray Stevens' when he's on TV or being interviewed on a talk radio program. Why? Because, I assume, it isn't the proper setting or format. Yet, this book gives him a place to speak a bit more open about his thoughts and attitudes about the music industry, in general (all formats), and he discusses public image and the typecasting that takes place...and freely admits how difficult it must have been to "market Ray Stevens" due to his ever changing musical expressions.

A lot of discussion is made of 'The Powers that Be' in the media, too.

Does the book have anything too controversial? It all depends on a person's idea of controversial. Ray says how he felt seeing "The Streak" sell millions upon millions of singles in 1974, hit #1 pop and go #1 internationally, plus reach the Top-5 on the country charts...but when it came awards time, the song was either completely ignored or passed over as other recordings of lesser success took the trophies.

Some of the highlights of the book, other than reading his experiences in the music business, are his memories of his years in Branson, Missouri and the huge success he had with mail-order VHS tapes. I especially like his choice of expression remembering on the fall of 1993 and the anticipation he felt giving up the daily grind at his theatre. He goes into lots of detail about the early years of the Branson Boom and explains how lucky he was to have had a theatre in operation just as the town was becoming a huge tourist attraction. He discusses his return trips to Branson in 1996, 2005-2006, the 2010 series at The Welk Theater, and the memorial concerts for Andy Williams in 2012.

His love of Nashville is made crystal clear in many places in the book. He considers it his adopted home town given that he's lived in the Nashville area since 1962. Fear not, though! He still loves his birth place and the area he grew up in. He discusses Clarkdale, Albany, and Atlanta, Georgia in the pages numbering 25 to 69.

Ever wondered the inspiration of "Mr. Businessman"? As a long time fan of his I've had a feeling of what the song could be about...in the book Ray describes some of the things happening that led up to his writing the song. It became a Top-30 pop hit in 1968. One of the curiosities is he mentions that Fred Foster never got a chance to produce his sessions...but yet Fred's name, as well as Jim Malloy, appear as co-producers on 2 of Ray's Monument LP's in 1969. "Gitarzan" became a million selling hit in America and a hit internationally in 1969. Ray relates the reluctance on Fred Foster's part to release the single, at first.

Elsewhere in the book, Ray states something that some fans have been curious about for years. First off, he states that the book is just about his career and his experiences in the music business and not a tell-all that includes commentary about his family or anything else personal. That may disappoint some but he does relate something, in print, that should satisfy some of his fans who've long been wondering about a certain aspect of his life.

Pages 227 to 248 are chock full of pictures. Some have become recognizable on the internet but many more are obscure and haven't been shared publicly until this book. There's several family pictures...one picture has Ray and Ralph Emery during a radio program at some point in the '70s.

Some of the people Ray discusses at length or in brief recollections are: Shelby Singleton, Chet Atkins, Bill Lowery, Owen Bradley, Ralph Emery, Jerry Clower, and a host of behind-the-scenes people that have been part of his career for decades. In the latter part of Chapter 24 he discusses his diagnosis of prostate cancer in 1999 and his sudden development of diabetes. He kicks off Chapter 25 discussing his 9-CD project, The Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music. Also, he mentions several projects he hopes to have out at some point in the not too distant future.

Do I have any complaints about the book? No, I don't exactly have any complaints in the traditional sense but I have some minor issues to bring up. There wasn't much discussion about his time with Warner Brothers or RCA as I had hoped. In the book he mentions several recordings he did for Warner Brothers but doesn't mention his biggest single for them, "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow". He speaks of recording for RCA but mentions only the 1980 Shriner's Convention album he did for them...he recorded a couple more albums for them, one in 1981 and another in 1982...but he omits those LP's, as if they don't exist, and jumps to his 'one album deal' for Mercury in 1983 before signing with MCA in 1984. 

He spends a great length of time discussing his MCA years (1984-1989) and rightfully so...it's the point in his career that he decided to market himself exclusively comedy and his first 5 studio albums for the label feature comedy, comedy, and more comedy and the sales and profits spoke loudly throughout the rest of the decade. In the '90s he became involved in the Branson, Missouri scene and added VHS/mail-order projects to his list of successes.

As I started off saying, this is a fascinating book!! It's Nashville, Tennessee and the music industry as seen through the eyes of Ray Stevens.

You can get your copy of the book HERE.

April 14, 2014

Ray Stevens and the Tax Songs...

I've long since mailed off my tax forms and have gotten my refund but some still wait until this week and leading up until midnight on April 15th to mail their income tax forms. It's like an annual game to some...the fun (?) of waiting until the last minute. It's time to spotlight some tax songs from Ray Stevens...I have also included songs that deal with money/economics, in general, since it all ties in with the Treasury department.

The one that stands out as far as the title goes is this one...

"If Ten Percent is Good Enough for Jesus (It Oughta Be Enough for Uncle Sam)" is a mouthful, yes? The song has had a very interesting life span. Ray recorded it in 1993 and it's on his Curb Records CD that year, Classic Ray Stevens. The recording, as you can tell from the year it was issued, came at a time before the explosions of cable TV news outlets and the internet. CNN was the major player but then by the mid and late '90s cable news exploded in popularity, as did the Internet. Ray performed this song on the 1993 presentation of the Music City News Country Awards in June. As such, that June 1993 performance and a few additional performance later that year, were the only publicity opportunities for the song and it's forthcoming CD. Ray stopped performing the song after several years but re-recorded it more than a decade later. The second go 'round for the song had a much bigger impact compared to the 1993 original.

Ray had commented that practically all songs tend to have their day and that the original recording was ahead of it's time. By the time 2008 came along, Government spending, the budget, and taxes had become such a voter priority (and an emotionally charged national debate) that the re-recording/re-release found a much larger audience. In 2010 Ray did a series of concerts in Branson, Missouri at The Welk Theater. Some of his performances were captured on tape and one of those is "If Ten Percent Is Good Enough For Jesus", the performance you see in the embed above. The video was uploaded on May 1, 2012 and it's been seen by more than 100,000 people so far...115,188 to be specific. My guess is the video's reached more people than the 1993 single was able to.

A couple of years before 1993, Ray recorded the unofficial Income Tax anthem. I call it the Income Tax anthem but, obviously, my calling it that means it's an unofficial title...nevertheless, 1991 is the origin year of "Juanita and the Kids". It's a very funny and dark comical tale of a man that plots to get larger refund checks from the Government. His method at getting these refunds each year is memorable...you'll discover all about Juanita in the video below...

Disclaimer: The recording heard in the video is an exclusive for the video. In the 1991 recording, found on his Curb Records CD, #1 with a Bullet, he doesn't use an exaggerated accent but instead sings the song in his natural voice. The video originated in 1999 and became a You Tube video on May 25, 2011.

Speaking of his 1991 CD, Ray closed the project with the economic ballad "Workin' For the Japanese". This song became a single in the latter part of 1991 and would you believe that it shown all signs of becoming a radio hit when several radio stations grew nervous at a possible boycott by Japanese-friendly advertisers and, in typical knee-jerk reaction, the radio programmers pulled it off their stations. The song then, and now, is totally harmless...but "the truth hurts" as the expression goes...

The 1991 project, released on cassette and CD, and re-released on CD in 2005 and ultimately a digital download (Mp3) became available, too. You can purchase an Mp3 of "Workin' for the Japanese" HERE.

In recent times Ray has performed songs about the nation's economy and Government out of control spending. I have recently posted videos directly involved in those subjects...I have posted "Obama Nation", "Mr. President - Mr. President", and "Obama Budget Plan". One last song I want to spotlight...and though it has nothing to do with income taxes or Government spending...it fits the overall tone of this blog post.

On the 2011 CD, Spirit of '76, Ray included a song called "My Uncle Sam". It's a reflective song about a man's uncle, named Sam, and the issues he's facing and how it appears he's on his last legs and there's no light at the end of the tunnel. The song acts as a comparison to the nation's problems and the easily discouraged feeling that people get as they see a Federal Government become more and more big and powerful. The bigger and powerful the Federal Government gets the less freedom and liberty the citizen's have. If you want to hear this ballad for yourselves, it's part of his Spirit of '76 project. You can either get the CD or the digital Mp3.

The Mp3 is located HERE.

Ray Stevens...Mi Casa Su Casa

Oh yes, the numbers for "God Save Arizona" continue to inch up to a million. If I'm able to help push the video in that direction by discussing it or embedding the video in my blog posts...great!! I always assume that there's somebody out there that may not know that something exists (whether it be a CD or a music video) and so I go ahead and discuss it.

Those numbers for the Arizona video are 999,345!! A couple of days ago it had just entered the 999,000 mark...so there's been an increase of at least 200 unique views since last week. As I touched upon in a recent blog post, the video's been around since the fall of 2010 and if I remember correctly the bulk of it's numbers came during it's first year and a half on-line. It's been steadily gaining numbers since mid 2012 and it's steadily rising to the 1,000,000 mark.

Illegal immigration is at the center of "God Save Arizona" but it also has another subject within it's story.

The opening verse is about the U.S.S. Arizona and it's destruction/sinking during World War Two. The video makes great use of black and white war footage as it shows the Arizona at sea. Later, the song then changes time periods from the 1940s to 2010 as Ray tells of a modern-day social and drug war going on, the profiteering of illegal immigration by American companies, as well as the blind eye of the American Federal Government when it comes to illegal immigration in general. It's a powerful song...one written by Ray and longtime friend, Buddy Kalb.

Right around the time Ray's CD, Spirit of '76, was released in 2011, I mentioned in my review that "God Save Arizona" wasn't the only song on the CD about illegal immigration. Ray and Buddy also supplied a more whimsical sing-a-long called "Mi Casa Su Casa". In that recording Ray's house is literally invaded by illegals and he's on the phone to 9-1-1. It takes the phrase "My house is your house" and applies it to illegal immigration in an effort to spotlight a common belief that many illegal immigrants have as they enter the United States. Once they enter, facts have shown that many of them assume they should have access to our rights, freedoms, and jobs simply due to their being in the United States. Yes, as I discussed a couple of blog posts ago, the illegal immigration issue is a hotly debated topic and highly emotional.

You can purchase the Mp3 of "Mi Casa Su Casa" from Amazon HERE.

The grandfather of illegal immigration songs from Ray Stevens is "Come to the U.S.A". This song and it's video seemingly have a life of their own...it just keeps getting more and more views...it's his biggest You Tube hit to date with more than 7,000,000 unique views!! That song originated on his 2010 CD, We the People.

April 11, 2014

Ray Stevens...CD import from the United Kingdom...

I came across an internet article about an hour ago indicating that an import CD on Ray Stevens is going to be released soon. The import, from the United Kingdom, has 31 tracks of Ray Stevens greatness. It consists of late '50s and early '60s recordings from Ray that have been commercially available before on long out of print collections...but never before in one comprehensive collection (or as close to comprehensive as you can get when you consider that his professional recordings date back to 1957).

The answer is "no", in case anyone may ask if there's ever been a detailed box set issued on his music. There has never, never NEVER been a career spanning box set of his recordings. It isn't for a "lack of hit songs" or anything...

Even artists that are referred to as pioneers in rock, pop, bluegrass, and country music and never had many or any 'radio hits' have had box sets released spotlighting their catalog of music. One of country music's earliest performers, Jimmie Rodgers, nicknamed The Father of Country Music (among other nick names) released music and had impact before there ever was a creation of a 'country music chart' in Billboard but yet there have been multiple box sets released on him.

The 31 track collection, though not a career spanning box set, assembles a good sampling of Ray's late '50s and early '60s recordings. Titled The Early Ray Stevens, it features eye catching cover art...but there's no information about the possible inclusion of liner notes or an essay of any kind. The music comes from his days at Prep, Capitol, and NRC (the first 15 tracks), and it includes the entire 1962 Mercury LP 1837 Seconds of Humor in addition to "Santa Claus is Watching You" and the single edit of "Ahab the Arab". The LP has 14 tracks on it and so you add up those 14, plus the 15 tracks from the late '50s/early '60s, and you get 29. Add in the single edit of "Ahab the Arab" and the holiday song and there you have the 31 tracks on the CD. America's Amazon site states that the CD is out of stock...it has a release date of April 11 (an error, obviously). On the United Kingdom Amazon site it has the CD available for pre-order but it isn't going to be released until April 22. If you feel comfortable purchasing items from overseas (I've done so only a couple of times) and you want some of Ray's earliest recordings on what appears to be a decently put together CD then visit the United Kingdom Amazon page located HERE and place an order.

You may be thinking to yourself: "...this is all great but what are the songs on the CD??!!"

I haven't forgotten...here's the 31 songs on the CD...

1. Rang Tang Ding Dong
2. Silver Bracelet
3. Cholly Wolly Chang
4. Five More Steps
5. Tingle
6. That's What She Means to Me
7. Chickie Chickie Wah Wah
8. Cat Pants
9. The Clown
10. The School
11. High School Yearbook
12. Truly True
13. What Would I Do without You
14. Sgt. Preston of the Yukon
15. Who Do You Love
16. Jeremiah Peabody's Green and Purple Pills
17. Teen Years
18. Scratch My Back
19. Ahab the Arab (single edit, Monaural)
20. It's Been So Long
21. Furthermore
22. Saturday Night at the Movies
23. Santa Claus Is Watching You
24. Loved and Lost
25. Ahab the Arab (LP version, Stereo)
26. Popeye and Olive Oil
27. Rockin' Boppin' Waltz
28. PFC Rhythm and Blues Jones
29. Rock and Roll Show
30. Julius Played the Trumpet
31. A Hermit Named Dave

If you want to see the CD's picture/cover art, click on the Amazon link above. The song's track list can be seen at the label's site. They also offer it for sale and they have both a United Kingdom and an American price list...click JASMINE LINK to be taken to their store page. They have the release posted as April 11, 2014 (11/04/14) but it should be April 22, 2014 (22/04/14).

In other Ray Stevens news...

Sitting right on the edge of 1,000,000 unique views is the Ray Stevens ballad "God Save Arizona". You want to know just how close to a million it is? It's sitting at 999,015 as of 9am this morning!!! Hopefully by later today, or soon, I'll be able to celebrate the video's entry into the million view club which already contains several other You Tube videos from Ray Stevens.

Since it's Friday, there's a new webisode of Rayality TV posted on Ray's You Tube channel. Here is Webisode 4 of the series...this segment is titled "Back at The Encore" and it's a little more than 5 minutes total...

Yesterday Ray posted a video clip of an appearance he made on a 1990 episode of Funny Business, a series of specials Charlie Chase hosted on The Nashville Network throughout the '80s and '90s.

I'm not embedding it because the audio playback is super low...you'll have to increase your computer's speakers a lot in order to hear it. It's a shame about the audio because it's a really good appearance...most of it takes place on the golf course...and later on Ray performs "Can He Love You Half as Much as I?" (a single of his in late 1986 and into early 1987). Here's a LINK to the video clip...turn up your volume!

April 7, 2014

Ray Stevens...July 2012...

Hello once again Ray Stevens fans...and a look at July 2012 is on the agenda this time around. I singled out this particular month and year because it happened to be the time that Ray debuted his music video for "Obama Nation", a catchy sing-a-long about the destructive policies being pushed by the President up until that point in time. In a previous blog entry I mentioned some of the things that took place in April 2011 during Ray's career and so I decided to stay with that era and just fast forward to July the following year...

The video's gotten 1,027,396 unique views since it's July 23rd debut. It's one of several music videos from Ray that have gotten at least a million unique views...some video uploads have gotten more than 2,000,000. Political speech is highly emotional and personal...and therefore commentary about political music videos that fill the pages of blogs and in the comment sections of You Tube videos are obviously filled with passionate support or passionate hate (depending on a person's point of view). Considering that Ray's political music videos tend to speak from a conservative point of view it's no surprise that you're going to read ugly, personal attacks from those that oppose conservatism and insist on a Government-run society.

On some comment sections of Ray's videos extreme leftists demand that Obama use his Executive Order powers if his opponents (Conservatives/Tea Party members) stand in his way. He'd been doing this 2009 but it's been stepped up ever since the Republicans took over the House of Representatives in November 2010. Yes, President's of both political parties have used Executive Orders...so there's no need for anybody out there to make the statement "that Obama isn't the only President to do this".

The problems exist when the power is abused and over-used in an attempt to ignore the rule of law or bypass Congress altogether. Obama is always saying things like: "if Congress doesn't act, I WILL!!", "Congress needs to stop playing politics and pass this bill without delay". Again, a comment like that is mired in dictatorial arrogance and plays into his radicalism and phony Bi-Partisan persona. He's not even close to being bi-partisan...he expects his opponents to see things HIS way and then he'll cheer and applaud "bipartisanship". I see commentary insisting that Obama be impeached. He should be impeached and convicted for his deliberate evading of established laws and his disregard for the Justice system (specifically in cases that do not rule the way he sees fit). He's not above mocking and ridiculing the Supreme Court if they rule against anything he has a political interest in.

No, immaturity and acting like a spoiled brat isn't an impeachable offense...it just shows that you're an immature spoiled brat...but there's plenty of legitimate impeachable offenses made by Obama going back to 2009 if you decide to look them up for yourselves.

Obama's a terrible, awful, cold and calculating political hack...and it's disturbing that people still can't see it and it's right there in plain view...it isn't like he's hiding it...and that goes directly to the point of the Ray Stevens "Obama Nation" song.

This Week in Ray Stevens History: 2011

As I as looking through some of the music videos from Ray Stevens I came across a favorite from 2010 that is almost nearing the 1,000,000 plateau in unique views. The music video comes from August 2010 and it tackles the controversial subject matter of illegal immigration. "God Save Arizona" can be taken as a highly topical song considering that much of the national headlines throughout much of 2010 centered around border security. It can also be taken as a rallying cry for those fed up with the illegal immigration problems in the border states. Arizona stands out from the other states that border Mexico and some say it's because the state has the worst illegal immigration problem and some say it's because Arizona has the loudest public officials on the subject and therefore the state receives more national attention because of it.

The music video, released on You Tube, created a frenzy of sorts...if I recall correctly it had 2 debuts. The first upload mysteriously vanished from the site several hours after making it's national debut. I believe I even mentioned that fact in one of my blog entries of that time period (feel free to look through the August 2010 archives). Later on the music video re-emerged on You Tube. It's dramatic visuals and serious tone was in sharp contrast to the political music videos Ray had been uploading onto You Tube since late 2009. Although the illegal immigration issue has continued to dominate much of Arizona's local and state headlines, nationally it's not reported on with such fervor as it happened to be in 2009, 2010, and into 2011.

This week in April 2011, Ray Stevens issued the Spirit of '76 as a digital release exclusive. The Mp3 became available for sale on April 1, 2011 and then later on that year (August 9th to be exact) the physical CD became available for sale. I purchased the Mp3 (of course!) but I didn't get around to purchasing a physical copy of the CD until a year or so later (??). I have several blog entries scattered throughout 2011 about the project, it's Mp3 release, and it's eventual CD release...and my eventual purchase of the CD copy.

The CD features 11 songs.

By the time the CD copy arrived in August 2011 several of the songs had already been turned into music video hits on You Tube. "God Save Arizona" is track 3 and it hit You Tube in August 2010. The opening 2 numbers are "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore" (The TSA Song) and "Mr. President - Mr. President". A music video for track 1 debuted in February 2011 while track 2 had a music video debut in September 2011.

Ray made the rounds of various talk radio programs that had conservative/Tea Party friendly hosts and in some appearances he promoted "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore". Track 9, "Obama Budget Plan", had it's music video debut on You Tube in late April 2011. It's the song that, as you can see, became the focal point during the Mp3 April debut of Spirit of '76.

Although both "God Save Arizona" and "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore" preceded "Obama Budget Plan" in video release chronology, "Obama Budget Plan" became the main song that started getting performed and spoken about heavily by Ray on talk shows and in interviews. By the time late April 2011 rolled around the national topic had changed from the embarrassing airport security practices of The TSA to the budget battles in Congress and the huge spending demands of Obama.

Politics can become very predictable and obviously cyclical (if one studies it to some degree in their lives you'll find out it's true, too) and most of these songs had been written and recorded well in advance and call it good luck on Ray's part that national events lent themselves perfectly to the songs that found their way into music video form on You Tube. A fifth music video hit come from Spirit of '76 later in 2011...the voter fraud tale of how "Grandpa Voted Democrat".

That particular music video received a huge amount of plays...but for just a couple of days. It was uploaded on November 3, 2012...the nation, at the time, was in election mode...and the video had a good run leading up to the 2012 elections as the topic hit home with a lot of voters, too...but then after the 2012 elections the video's play dwindled. The midterm elections are coming up this year and let's see if the music video makes a comeback. I'll embed the video at that point in time.

The message of the song is timely and timeless. It's gotten a little more than 400,000 unique views so far. I'd take a guess and say that more than half of those views came during November 2012!

In the meantime, "God Save Arizona", as I started off this blog discussing, can be seen here...

I highly encourage you all to purchase Spirit of '76, too, if you hadn't done so already...

Spirit of '76 CD

April 4, 2014

Ray Stevens: Rayality TV webisode 3...

It's that time once again...time to embed the latest webisode from Ray Stevens. Today's upload if you're keeping track is Webisode 3. It keeps the chicken theme from the previous week but spotlights several beloved scenes from the early-mid '90s. If you're familiar with Ray's direct-to-video movie from 1995, Get Serious!, then you're in for a treat as a certain performance from that movie is inserted into this week's webisode. The memories that is brings back!!! I have the movie, yes, but it's fun to see performances from the movie inserted into a different setting.

Don't forget about the 9-CD box set sale...you all have 16 more days to get your order placed to ensure a price of $39.99! The regular price for the box set is $79.95 but you'll be getting it for $40.00 less until April 20th. As I pointed out in my previous blog entry this is perhaps going to be your only chance to get this incredible collection at such a low price.

Ray recorded more than 60 songs exclusively for the box set...his versions of classic novelty songs ranging from the 1930s through the 1980s and he even did a cover of Toby Keith's song, "I Wanna Talk About Me". The only place to find it is on the 9-CD box set. Some of the other songs that Ray recorded include a couple of Roger Miller classics "Chug a Lug", "Kansas City Star", and "Dang Me" plus his renditions on Spike Jones classics...he does additional recordings of many of The Coasters songs, too, and even tackles the funky half-sung, half-spoken classics of Phil Harris ("The Preacher and the Bear", "That's What I Like about the South", and several more).

A lot of the novelty songs predate the mid '50s and a lot of the time 'novelty song' simply meant 'unusual' or 'offbeat' rather than exclusively 'humorous' or 'laugh out loud hysterical'. Over the course of the last 30+ years, 'novelty songs' have come to be synonymous with any recording meant to entice laughter and so the original concept of the 'novelty song' has become murky and muddled over time.

Here's a link to the 9-CD novelty song extravaganza once more...

Ray Stevens 9-CD box set Sale

April 1, 2014

Ray Stevens 9-CD box set Discount Sale...

Hello all the Ray Stevens fans!! It's April Fool's Day 2014 and starting today and running through April 20th is an amazing sale/discount on the 9-CD box set from 2012. I'm sure you all remember the Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music project that Ray issued in February 2012?? Some of us purchased the project within days or weeks of it's original release but some waited until later...some still haven't purchased it yet. If you're signed up to receive e-mail alerts or have visited his Facebook page then you probably already seen this special discount ahead of time. I received an e-mail about it yesterday. The selling price for the box set had long been in the $80.00 price range and rarely did the sales price receive a mark down...if it did it must have been a brief one...but this is the first time I can recall a mark down price for this 9-CD project lasting 19 days. Yes, you read that correctly. From now until April 20th you can purchase this 9-CD project for a little more than $40.00 rather than the over $80.00 regular price. The consistent selling price for the project is $79.95 plus shipping and handling. For a 9-CD box set, even that price is extremely cheap...compared to other box set projects that have as much music as this one. But for much of this month the sales price is going to be $39.99 plus shipping and handling. A full $40.00 reduction in total price!!!!

Here is a link to the store... 9-CD box set DISCOUNT Sale

As a long time Ray Stevens fan I've learned to say 'never say never' because he's constantly surprising us or doing things that we least expect but this insanely low selling price for this 9-CD project is, I believe, the lowest that it's EVER going to be. For those that are waiting for it to be sold for pennies or under $20...that isn't going to happen. The fans that really, really want this project but have been putting it off solely because of the usual $79.95 price then this is your chance to purchase it $40.00 cheaper.

**Disclaimer: If you come across this blog entry after April 20th and click the above link then chances are the discount sale will no longer be active and you'll be taken to the order page with the 9-CD project's regular selling price.