January 24, 2016

A Birthday for Ray Stevens...

A great big Happy Birthday goes out to the one and only Ray Stevens on this January 24th! Born Harold Ray Ragsdale on January 24, 1939 in Clarkdale, Georgia he later became the super entertainer, Ray Stevens. Seeing that his birthday falls on a Sunday I don't think there's going to be much on-line reaction on his social media pages beyond a general birthday announcement...usually a celebrity birthday gets a mention on their Facebook page and from there the fans of that celebrity post 'Happy Birthday' greetings throughout most of the day. In previous birthday's for Ray he's posted pictures of small gatherings featuring him standing or sitting near the birthday cake. Sometimes a brief video of the people singing Happy Birthday to him is posted on-line, too. As I do on his birthday I make mention of a couple of internet sites that have his birth year wrong. There is going to be some on-line sites that post Ray having been born in 1941. This is inaccurate. Ray's true year of birth is 1939...meaning that he reaches 77 years young today...

But for Ray Stevens age is only a number, not a warning indicator...for the highly active Ray Stevens is currently enjoying the success of his RFD television series, Ray Stevens' Nashville and I'm sure there is to be some kind of CD release this year. Ray Stevens' Nashville, which runs half an hour, airs every Saturday night at 8:30pm Eastern. It's been on the schedule just over 3 months at the moment. If I recall correctly there's to be 23 or 26 first-run episodes. The series debuted in early November of 2015. It's title is based on Ray's memoir, itself borrowed from his 1973 hit country single, "Nashville". Off to the above right is my vinyl album of a compilation release by RCA titled Collector's Series. I've had this particular title on cassette and CD but never on vinyl. The collection was released in 1985, originally, and then in 1987. It was released on CD for the first time in 1992. No complete collection of his RCA recordings have been made available...unfortunately! I have his studio albums for RCA on vinyl (1980, 1981, and 1982) and I have a cassette copies of 1980's Shriner's Convention and 1983's Greatest Hits, too. However, I have no cassette copy of his 1981 and 1982 albums nor have they ever been issued on CD or in Mp3 format. The RCA era is pretty much as scarce as his Warner Brothers era happens to be as far as availability on modern-day listening devices. The Ray Stevens vinyl albums I have are among the things I cherish the most. They're priceless...sure, the LP's can be found on eBay and other on-line auction sites but once I purchased the albums of his that I've got I've never considered putting a price on them. I still hold out hope that someday cassette copies of his 1981 and 1982 albums come up for sale...but I don't have any hope that RCA is going to release them on CD.

Following up on my previous blog entry concerning the CD release of the Ray Stevens Monument singles (1965-1970) there has since been a product page added on America's Amazon page. You can read about the CD and it's price in American dollars by clicking HERE. It's available for Pre-order...and it states that it'll be available here on March 4th. I'll post more about this CD the closer it gets to March 4th.

In the meantime wish Ray Stevens a Happy Birthday on social media today!

January 15, 2016

Ray Stevens: Monument Singles CD...

Hello all the Ray Stevens fans!! I've just returned from reading up on social media sites searching for any of the latest comments and, or, news surrounding Ray. I am here to announce that there's going to be a compilation CD featuring the single releases of Ray Stevens during the time he was on Monument Records as a recording artist (1965-1970). The CD is being offered on a United Kingdom site called Ace Records. The title of the CD is Face The Music: The Complete Monument Singles (1965-1970) and it features a clean-shaven Ray, arms folded, looking as if he's about ready to bust out laughing at something he's hearing or seeing. The CD focuses only on the 12 single releases issued by Monument, presenting each A-side and B-side in chronological order, for a total of 24 recordings. It isn't a complete collection of recordings from that time period (his 1969 album, Have a Little Talk with Myself, has yet to get released on CD) it's just a collection of the single releases. There are three specific recordings from the 1969 album that make their CD debut here. "Little Woman", "The Fool on the Hill", and "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight". Several other Monument recordings mark their debut on CD here: "A-B-C", "Make a Few Memories", and "There's One in Every Crowd". The CD's selling price in the United Kingdom is 11 pounds, 50 pence. I visited a currency converter site and if I entered the numbers in correctly it equals $16.39 in U.S. dollars before shipping and handling. Do not take my message about the price of the CD as a guarantee that it's accurate. I'm going to post a link to the on-line store that's selling this CD and once there you'll find contact numbers and addresses for specific questions you may have regarding the CD's price in American dollars and the shipping method, etc. etc.

To see more information about the above CD, such as all 24 recordings, click HERE. The CD's release date is February 26th. As of this writing there isn't any indication that it'll become imported to America and sold on domestic music sites and so for the time being it'll only be available for purchase through on-line music sites headquartered overseas.

January 9, 2016

Ray Stevens: Looking at 2016...

Hello all the fans of Ray Stevens and a belated hello to 2016!! In the hiatus from my previous blog entry a couple of additional appearances have been added to Ray's 2016 schedule. First off there's to be a book signing later this month on January 30th at the Barnes and Noble bookstore in Hendersonville, TN. The event takes place on a Saturday from 2-4pm local time. You can read about it HERE. As I mentioned in one of my earlier blog entries the memoir, Ray Stevens' Nashville, has become the basis for Ray's current RFD-TV television series. In one of those blog entries I made mention that "Nashville", for Ray Stevens, had gone from vinyl (1973), to music video (2013), to book (2014), to television (2015). I'm still hoping the television series makes it's way to DVD, too! The program airs every Saturday night on RFD-TV. The other additional appearance that's relatively new since my previous blog is an upcoming appearance on May 14th at the Moon River Theatre in Branson, Missouri. It's officially been re-titled The Andy Williams Performing Arts Center and so if you should Google Ray's name and Moon River Theatre chances are you're going to come up with older results from last year and the years previous. If you choose to not perform an on-line search you can visit Branson's site HERE to find out more information or you can visit the venue's site HERE and click the thumbnail image of Ray. It'll open up the Celebrity Weekend page and scroll to Ray's May 14th appearance.

Unless a concert announcement pops up from now until March 9th, Ray's first concert of the year is to be on March 9th at the Strawberry Festival in Plant City, Florida. That concert is to take place at 3:30pm. You can purchase tickets by calling 813-754-1996 found on the venue's site HERE under the Tickets and Pricing Information section. There are 2 concerts scheduled for the month of April and 2 for the month of May, including the Branson concert on May 14th. The other concert in May is an appearance on May 21st at the Shipshewana Event Center in Shipshewana, Indiana. During this appearance Ray is to give 2 concerts. The first concerts begins at 1pm and the second one is at 7:30pm. You can read all about it by clicking HERE.

On April 16th Ray is to be in Bremen, Georgia at the Mill Town Music Hall. On April 1st he'll be in Jacksonville, Florida at THE FLORIDA THEATRE.

One of the concerts posted on Ray's Events page at his official site isn't listed on the venue's page (as of this writing). It's a concert that's suppose to take place in Chattanooga, Tennessee at the Tivoli Theatre on April 17th. I've visited the Chattanooga Tivoli Theatre site and searched the concerts and there isn't one listed for April 17th but there are others listed before and after that date. This could be a case of a contract not officially being signed yet or the venue is going to add the date at some point in the future...but seeing that this is January and the concert's suppose to take place on April 17th it looks like tickets would've been become available by this time. Those in the area and are wondering if there's to be a Ray Stevens concert there or not can call the venue and ask. Their number is 423-757-5580.

It's become tradition on this fan-created blog page at the beginning of each new year to spotlight specific Ray Stevens recordings, albums, music videos, or other career-related activities that are going to be reaching some sort of milestone. 2016 marks the 55th anniversary (!) of Ray's first Hot 100 single, "Jeremiah Peabody's Polyunsaturated Quick Dissolving Fast Acting Pleasant Tasting Green and Purple Pills". It doesn't seem like that long ago that I posted a blog celebrating the single's Golden anniversary (50th)...but yet that took place back in 2011. 2016 also marks the 50th anniversary of "Freddie Feelgood and His Funky Little Five Piece Band". The recording originated in 1966 on the Monument label and it appeared on the Hot 100 for a couple of weeks. Several years later Monument included the recording on Ray's 1969 pseudo-live album, Gitarzan. Since that time the copy of "Freddie Feelgood" that's appeared most often on compilation albums is the one lifted from the 1969 album featuring the laughter. The Freddie single became the subject of a music spotlight in the June 11, 1966 issue of Billboard...not too lengthy of a mention...reading it in modern times one gets the feeling the remarks happened to be applied insincerely by giving it what I call the ol' novelty song shrug-off treatment...something that a lot of music critics were and still are known to do. Not much detail is given about the recording itself but there's nothing negative said, either, but it's a magazine feature and only a certain amount of space was available in those years.

The B-side of Freddie happens to be a serious recording titled "There's One in Every Crowd" which, to date, is still only available as the B-side of Freddie. A lot of Ray's B-side recordings for Mercury and Monument have never been made available on CD or Mp3. Ray has since made a music video of "Freddie Feelgood" and I've posted it on my blog several times over the years. The video arrived in 2000 as part of one of Ray's VHS home video projects, Funniest Video Characters. Years later Ray added it to his YouTube page...debuting the music video on May 25, 2011.

2016 marks the 40th anniversary of Ray's single, "You Are So Beautiful". In doing so it also marked his debut on Warner Brothers...after a 5 year run on Barnaby Records. This is the era of Ray's career that I'm the most fascinated with and a large part of it has to do with the mystique that surrounds his years at the label. I love finding any tidbit of information about his recordings and the activities in his career during that 1976-1979 time frame. Although I've got the music from him during that time span and I've read up on a lot of things through the years I still get the most excited whenever I see something new about Ray posted from that era. His debut album for the label, Just for the Record, obviously reaches 40 this year, too. I'm proud to say I have almost all of Ray's studio albums in some form or another via vinyl, cassette, and CD...and like a kid let loose in a candy store is the feeling I got once I gained in my possession Just For the Record. This same feeling overcame me once I seen an episode of Pop! Goes the Country from 1979 and he sang "You Are So Beautiful" and debuted a song that had yet to be released commercially, "Shriner's Convention". In case you hadn't heard "You Are So Beautiful" it's arranged in a Bluegrass fashion along the lines of "Misty" from the previous year and like "Misty" the 1976 hit is also performed uptempo. "You Are So Beautiful" hit the Top-20 on the country music charts...followed by the Top-30 placing of "Honky Tonk Waltz". In the final weeks of 1976 a certain single, "In the Mood", became available. Released as The Henhouse Five Plus Too it had a brief but commercially strong run in early 1977. I'll go into more detail about that particular recording later this year as it gets closer to December.

In addition to Ray's series of concerts in 2016 he's going to continue to stay busy working on his RFD-TV program. The episodes that are currently airing had been taped months in advance...and I believe production of that first season wrapped up at some point in the summer of 2015. The series debuted on November 7, 2015 and they're midway through the first season of first-run episodes. They'll all be reran during the spring and summer months, I assume, and the series should make a return in the late fall of 2016. Given the time he'll be spending in 2016 rehearsing, taping, producing, and starring in the RFD series, plus the handful of concert dates, and the venue that's suppose to open in Nashville called The Ray Stevens Cabaray, one may ask if he'll be too busy to concentrate on any new CD's or music videos this calendar year.

His last full length music video production, to date, arrived on May 19, 2015 for a song called "You Didn't Build That", from his current CD, Here We Go Again!.

Now, for those not aware, Ray Stevens has a political comedy section in his music catalog. It started in 2009 after the music video release of "We The People" and reached it's zenith in 2012...right around the time Obama got re-elected. In that 3 year span it wasn't uncommon to see Ray's music pop-up for discussion on numerous high profile programs on the Fox News Channel or on talk radio. He was interviewed on more than 2 dozen radio programs either as an in-studio guest or by way of a phone hook-up. The string of political comedy music videos reached millions upon millions of people of all political beliefs and are still being discovered to this day...but...

Ray's laid off the political comedy videos considerably since 2012 but "You Didn't Build That" happened to be a surprise on his 2015 comedy CD (marking a return to political humor after a couple of years). The CD also featured the previously released song, from 2010, "Come to the U.S.A." (the video's gotten 9.2 million unique views on YouTube!!). I assume it's addition on the 2015 CD is meant as a social-comment tag-along for "You Didn't Build That" and "A Handshake Will Do"...since it appears between those 2 songs on the CD...

1. Taylor Swift is Stalkin' Me
2. What'd I Say?
3. There Must Be a Pill For This
4. Walkin' the Dog
5. Hearts Made of Stone
6. Pickin' on the Chicken
7. The Baptism of Stumpy Brown
8. Little By Little
9. You Didn't Build That
10. Come to the U.S.A.
11. A Handshake Will Do
12. Knock Him Out, John

You can purchase Ray's most recent CD by clicking HERE.