February 29, 2016

Leap into Ray Stevens Fun...

On this Leap Day let's leap into the deep catalog of the music of Ray Stevens! In some of my previous blog postings I've been promoting the upcoming release of a 24 song CD spotlighting his Monument Records singles (music releases from Ray during the five year period of 1965-1970). This project is still set for a March 4th release and it's available for pre-order on Amazon. I've also shared a YouTube advertisement clip that Ace Records (the label releasing the Ray Stevens compilation) posted on-line.

By all means once you visit the YouTube PAGE containing the CD advertisement be sure to either leave a comment, share the video on social media, or at the very least "like" the video. I'm speaking to those that have chosen to watch the video, of course.

In an earlier blog post I cautioned people to be on guard because the person on the video opens up the CD and flips through the booklet/liner notes and so if you're a Ray Stevens fan that prefers to not know any details concerning the CD's presentation or packaging then the video wouldn't be something you're likely going to want to see...but if you're one that wants to see detailed visuals about the CD beforehand then go ahead and click the above link and leave a message, share, or "like" the clip.

Here is the Amazon LINK to The Monument Singles CD. Those recordings represent some the rarest and obscure in the career of Ray Stevens. Prior to Ray's involvement in recording for Monument Records, which begun late in 1965, he had already been signed to the label as a producer/A&R man, dating back to 1963! In a unique situation of the time Ray had a recording contract with Mercury Records (dating back to 1961) but in 1963 he signed a contract with Monument Records to produce records and generally be in charge of recording sessions, etc. etc. Under this kind of contract Ray couldn't record for Monument...he could only do session work for the label...and so from 1963 through the middle part of 1965 Mercury Records continued to release single recordings on Ray. Once the Mercury recording contract ended Ray was free to record for Monument, rather than just be a producer/arranger, and the results began to show up late in 1965 with the release of "Party People" and "A.B.C.".

A couple of years ago (2014) Jasmine Records issued a CD on Ray titled Ahab, Jeremiah, Sgt. Preston and More...The Early Ray Stevens. Aside from it containing the first 2 studio albums that Ray recorded for Mercury Records it also featured several of his singles for Prep Records and it's parent company, Capitol.

In fact the CD's first 15 recordings originated as vinyl singles released by Prep, Capitol, and NRC (1957-1960). Even though that CD is a must-have it leaves off more than a few recordings during his Mercury years. Not many people realize that Ray recorded a version of "When You Wish Upon a Star" (the same song heard on many Disney-related projects). Ray's recording can be found as the B-side of "Scratch My Back" (a 1961 novelty recording that didn't chart). The A-side can be found on Ray's debut LP for Mercury in 1962 (titled 1,837 Seconds of Humor) but the B-side has never been made available in any other music format.

A couple of his other Mercury singles have also remained in deep catalog obscurity: the B-side of "Butch Babarian", a love ballad titled "Don't Say Anything", has also remained on vinyl...never to see the light of day on cassette, CD, or Mp3.

Several other Mercury singles from Ray Stevens that haven't graduated to CD yet also include "Rockin' Teenage Mummies", "It Only Hurts When I Laugh", "Mr. Baker the Undertaker", "The Old English Surfer" (all from 1965); and the B-side recording "It's Party Time" (the A-side being 1963's "Speed Ball"). Until recently the Halloween-like recording from 1964, "Laughing Over My Grave", had remained a vinyl exclusive for more than four decades before it became available as an Mp3. The song had originally only been available as the B-side of "Bubble Gum the Bubble Dancer".

I'm aware that here have been other vinyl singles and B-sides by Ray Stevens released on other record labels that haven't been issued on CD yet but for this particular blog entry I've only been focusing on his Mercury and Monument recordings...but lets leap ahead from 1964 to 2016... 

Ray Stevens made a guest appearance on the Grand Ole Opry this past Saturday (February 27th). He appeared during the segment hosted by Mike Snider. During the introduction Mike mentioned Ray's current CD, Here We Go Again!, and the television program (Ray Stevens' Nashville).

Ray performed "Mississippi Squirrel Revival" and "Everything is Beautiful". In between those performances he told a Bubba joke. It wasn't your typical Ray Stevens appearance, though. In times past whenever Ray happened to be an Opry guest he'd usually have almost an entire half hour turned over to him but this time around his performance happened to be much shorter than that. The program's available in the Opry Archive page and you can listen to the Saturday night episode, in it's entirety, by clicking HERE. Be sure to choose the February 27, 2016 episode. If you're only wanting to hear Ray's portion of the program Mike Snider begins to introduce Ray right around the 57 minute, 15 second mark on the audio timeline. 

February 22, 2016

Ray Stevens CD: Face the Music...

It's me once more...I've been busy off-line over the last couple of weeks. I haven't been able to adequately keep this blog updated as much as I'd like...but I continue to keep updated on his career by way of his social media outlets (his official Facebook and Twitter pages) and of course his official website. I also hope that all of you that come across this fan-created blog page take the initiative to visit the various social media sites focusing on Ray Stevens just in case there's something happening that I haven't been able to blog/comment about.

First off...the Monument Singles CD!! I first mentioned this back in mid January...and later that month a product page on Amazon appeared on-line for the CD. It's official title is Ray Stevens: Face The Music - The Complete Monument Singles 1965-1970. Of course, for conversational purposes, I'm going to refer to that CD as simply The Monument Singles CD or, better yet, Face The Music: 1965-1970. The most devoted of fans, once they read my abbreviated references to that CD in future blog posts, should immediately know which CD I'm referring to.

As mentioned in a couple of my blog entries from January this CD contains 24 recordings from Ray Stevens during his five year recording career for Monument Records. Ray didn't only record for Monument and his association with the label didn't just encompass 5 years. He had actually joined the label as a producer/arranger/session musician in 1963...but his own recordings were exclusive to Mercury Records (the label he joined in 1961). Once his contract as a recording artist for Mercury ended he eventually released his first recording for Monument Records in 1965. Since this CD lists his single releases for the label in chronological order the lead-off track, "Party People", gets things off and running on a mid-tempo, bluesy note. As mentioned in the January blogs there are 12 singles on this CD and since the B-sides are featured, too, the actual number of songs on this CD is 24. For those that may have some of the actual vinyl singles released on Ray by Monument you should all be aware that on most of the releases there's no A-side or B-side designation. In some cases a large filled in star symbol is suppose to indicate which side of the single is meant for airplay...but some single releases lacked that feature. Adding to the confusion is in some locales (international releases) a star symbol is featured on both sides of the single.

This Face The Music: 1965-1970 CD is suppose to become available in a couple of weeks. Amazon lists the street date as March 4, 2016 but it can be put on pre-order. It's been available as a pre-order since late January. The recordings found on the CD covers the years: 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, and 1970. It's the first commercially available project to exclusively spotlight his Monument recordings albeit limited to single releases only. Tracks 1 through 4, track 6, and tracks 22 through 24 make their CD debut. You can read all about this upcoming CD by clicking Amazon's link located HERE.

On the touring front I felt it necessary to highlight some upcoming appearances once again. On March 9th Ray Stevens is to be in Plant City, Florida. He'll be appearing at the Strawberry Festival. The concert is to begin at 3:30pm. Since it's February 22 I'd not risk mail-order (if you happen to live several States away and were planning on attending!) but it's up to you. Your tickets must arrive by March 9th, obviously, so if any of you live a good distance from Plant City, Florida I'd not hesitate to call the venue and ask about their ticket purchase policy or if they offer on-line tickets (the kind you'll have to print off the internet and take to the venue yourselves upon on-line purchase). The venue's box office number is 813-754-1996.

On April 1st Ray is to appear at The Florida Theater in Jacksonville, Florida. You can read all about this upcoming concert and the venue itself by clicking HERE. It's a hastily put together artist bio but regardless of that if you're planning on attending the concert click the link and call the venue for ticket information.

On April 16th Ray is going to be in his home state of Georgia. In an 8pm concert taking place at The Mill Town Music Hall in Bremen, Georgia it'll feature an opening act by the name of Kelsie May. You can read about the ticket purchasing procedure by clicking the promo page HERE.

The next day, April 17th at 7pm, Ray is to appear in Chattanooga, Tennessee at The Tivoli Theatre. In early January after the concert was announced I couldn't find anything on their site about Ray's appearance but since then they've added a page for his upcoming concert there. You can get all the information about the Chattanooga concert by clicking HERE. The promo has an opening act named Etta May being featured. He has 2 more concerts scheduled for the month of May. Now, with this being late February, it wouldn't be uncommon to see additional appearances pop up and so I'll highlight those May concerts in a future blog post (just in case more happen to be added). For all we know more concerts from Ray could pop up for the month of April, too, so keep your eyes posted on his official website or his Facebook page for information surrounding concerts.

February 4, 2016

Ray Stevens' Nashville Promo Clips...

Hello once more!! I just returned from visiting the Ray Stevens YouTube channel and at the time of this writing he's uploaded three commercials promoting his RFD-TV series, Ray Stevens' Nashville. These commercials aren't full-length (they're less than 20 seconds) but they're nevertheless televised promo spots advertising the upcoming guests on that week's episode. This past Saturday (January 30th) Ray announced that Saturday's episode happened to be the last one of the season. Given that announcement the first season consists of 13 episodes dating back to it's debut early in November of 2015. The series airs each Saturday night at 8:30pm Eastern on RFD.

The promo's advertise the appearances of these three guest stars: Larry Gatlin, Charlie McCoy, and Bobby Bare.

Season 01, Episode 04 promo:

Season 01, Episode 05 promo:

Season 01, Episode 03 promo:

Here is a list of Season One episodes and their original air-dates:

1. 11/07/2015: Steve Wariner

2. 11/14/2015: Don Schlitz

3. 11/21/2015: Bobby Bare

4. 11/28/2015: Larry Gatlin

5. 12/05/2015: Charlie McCoy

6. 12/12/2015: Bobby Braddock

7. 12/19/2015: Suzy Bogguss

8. 12/26/2015: Jimmy Fortune, Bobby Bare, Charlie McCoy, Don Schlitz (my guess is footage taped on a day that Bobby, Charlie, and Don were on hand to tape their individual episodes this unofficial trio and the show's host, Ray Stevens, taped an impromptu jam session and it's been inserted into this episode.)

9.  1/02/2016: Aaron Tippin

10. 1/09/2016: John Conlee and Jeff Bates

11. 1/16/2016: Tanya Tucker and T.G. Sheppard

12. 1/23/2016: Lee Greenwood and Darryl Worley

13. 1/30/2016: Suzi Ragsdale and T. Graham Brown

For those that missed seeing the first season's episodes the rerun cycle begins this coming Saturday at 8:30pm Eastern on RFD-TV. To date there is no word on the start of Season 2. Back on December 8, 2015 Ray posted on his Facebook page that he'd be taping episodes during a week long session (December 14th through December 18th). On a Facebook post dated December 18, 2015 Ray posted that he had finished taping an episode featuring Jimmy Wayne. This episode has yet to air and so I'm assuming that there is going to be much more information posted via Facebook and YouTube on Season 2's guests once the second season gets underway.

One of the recent posts on Ray's Facebook page (as of this writing) is a video promoting the encore presentations of Ray Stevens' Nashville. I'm not computer savvy enough to post the video here (it isn't a YouTube clip with a simple embedding link) and so click this LINK and see the video for yourselves.