December 31, 2017

Ray Stevens and the upcoming New Year...2018...

Hello once again...since the creation of my fan-created blog celebrating everything Ray Stevens I've often posted either a year-end recap or a look ahead to the next year. Today is in the fashion of the latter. Looking ahead at 2018 in the career of Ray Stevens promises to be filled with all kinds of excitement, unpredictability, and more television programs. The year will kick off in grand fashion as the much anticipated CabaRay will have it's grand opening on January 18, 2018.

The month of January is pivotal in the career and life of Ray Stevens. First off his birthday is January 24th...and it was in the month of January in 1962 that he left the Atlanta, Georgia music scene for Music City, a/k/a Nashville, Tennessee. The month of January also happened to be the month (in 1962) that he recorded his breakthrough hit, "Ahab the Arab" (released several months later). The actual date was January 20th and along with the session for Ahab he also participated in the recording sessions of "Walk on By" by Leroy Van Dyke and "Wooden Heart" by Joe Dowell in the months leading up to his eventual move from Atlanta to Nashville. In the case of Joe Dowell's recording it hit number one in August of 1961. Leroy's recording spent a total of 19 non-consecutive weeks at number one beginning in September of 1961. It last held the top spot the week ending March 3, 1962.

Tickets for the grand opening of the CabaRay will go on sale January 2nd and on Ray's official web page he's provided a countdown showing the time remaining before tickets go on sale. If you click this link prior to January 2nd you'll see the countdown timer but, of course, if you access the link after January 2nd it won't be visible anymore. You can read about the grand opening and see the wonderful aerial footage of the venue by clicking HERE. The link offers all the information you'll need. The venue's address, phone number, and box office hours which I believe are posted in Central Time (an hour behind those of us in the Eastern Time zone). When it's 8pm here in the Midwest it's 7pm in Nashville.

For those that weren't aware of the time zone difference then it's best to familiarize yourself ahead of time in case you plan on attending a concert...for you don't want to be an hour late. I'm sure most newer model cars and trucks, like cell phones, are equipped with automatic time changing features on the clock so it shouldn't be an issue. I remember when I traveled to Nashville, Indiana to attend a Ray Stevens concert at the Little Nashville Opry the car's clock automatically set itself an hour behind once I crossed into the Central time zone. If I had been a teenager and new to driving I probably would've driven forward and backward multiple times just to see the clock changing time over and over and over but as an adult I never did that kind of thing (but I had thought about it!).

Last month Ray launched his video streaming site, Ray Stevens TV. It's officially written in lower case lettering but this is the site containing all kinds of video content...some material has also been available on YouTube for a number of years but there's a whole lot more exclusive content only available at the streaming site. His PBS television series, for example, is archived at the site. You can watch any episode of the series from episode one guest starring Steve Wariner up through last week's episode guest starring Deborah Allen. The New Year's Eve episode from this weekend hasn't been uploaded yet. You can read about the streaming site by clicking HERE. The link takes you to a page at Ray's official website promoting the video site and it includes a video clip of Ray discussing it along with a link to the page. It's $4.99 a month or $49.99 for an entire year. You can access the video site once you click the link I provided.

If all of this wasn't plenty to get excited over he'll make an appearance on Mike Huckabee's television program on The Trinity Broadcasting Network (often abbreviated as TBN). The program airs next weekend (January 6th). Mike's show features a good dose of country music of all time recent episode (November 4th) guest starred Bill Anderson. The set carries the tradition of late night talk shows...a couch and the audience and house band. The program airs on TBN each Saturday but it repeats on actually competes against Ray's local PBS series in my area as both programs air during the 8pm Saturday night time slot...but since Ray's series is going into it's repeat cycle next weekend I suggest you venture over to TBN this coming Saturday and catch his guest appearance on Mike Huckabee's program.

Grand Opening is January 18, 2018...the CabaRay on the West Side of Nashville...

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Cast Show

Hello one and all...on this last day of 2017 it's fitting that I recap Saturday night's episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville. Airing here on December 30th the episode was billed as the New Year's Eve show. Unlike all previous episodes this one didn't include a spotlight guest artist; instead, Ray put the spotlight on the cast.

First off Ray opened the show performing "Let's Have a Party"...certainly appropriate on the festive episode. The members of his band, referred to as The A Team, were wearing party hats. The song he opened the show with had been previously recorded by Elvis Presley as well as Wanda Jackson. After the performance he spoke of New Year's Eve and friendships. He singled out two people seated at a table down front: Don Cusic and Ralph Emery. Long time fans of Ray Stevens should be well aware of Don Cusic by now. As far as I know he came into Ray's career/inner circle during the making of the box set, The Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music, which became available in 2012. He also wrote "If Jesus is a Stranger", a song Ray recorded for his Gospel Collection CD (2014 release) and then on the sequel/follow-up in 2016, Gospel Favorites, the song "Just a Touch of Jesus" was written by Don Cusic and Buddy Kalb. Ray's 2014 memoir, Ray Stevens' Nashville, features as it's Editor, well, you guessed it, Don Cusic. On Ray's television show he can be seen as the Professor of Music. Ray asked him how he managed to get there since he's a "music professor" and he said that he was cutting class in order to attend the show (of course he's only kidding).

Now, for those that may not be as familiar with Don Cusic, you have to at least be very familiar with Ralph Emery!

Ray has appeared on every radio and television show, either locally or nationally, that Ralph has ever hosted and Ray mentioned this fact on the show last night. Ray asked some advice about hosting a television show and Ralph left his seat and walked into the spotlight next to Ray and spoke highly of Ray's talents at hosting the show. Ralph interviewed Ray at the Nashville Public Library (2014) during the promotional tour for Ray's memoir. The next year, in 2015, the set of Nashville Now was re-created at the library for a look back at the long running (1983-1993) television series. Ralph was on hand as the host and among the guests was, of course, Ray Stevens.

Ralph, for those that are as detailed as I am when it comes to Ray, was among those in attendance at the groundbreaking of the CabaRay venue in the early spring of 2016.

After the interaction with Don Cusic and Ralph Emery it was then time to introduce the members of the band. He introduced each one and offered humorous commentary along the way...especially when speaking of the steel guitar player, Tommy White, and the guitarist, Jerry Kimbrough. The band plays "Ram-Bunk-Shush" with the saxophone player, Denis Solee, doing the lead. After this uptempo performance Ray introduces each of the harmony singers which are often referred to as The Hussies in reference to Ethel, a character from his 1974 hit, "The Streak".

On the back of the DVD releases of the television show they're referred to as the much more professional sounding, The A Team Vocalists.

On this special episode they were joined by a fourth vocalist...usually there's only three: Sabrina, Sheri, and Jennifer. The fourth vocalist happened to be Lori Stegner...another name or face that should be familiar to a lot of you. She portrayed Sarah Palin in Ray's music video, "Caribou Barbie", and she sang with him as Cinderella on their version of "Tim-Tay-Shun". The A Team Vocalists performed a rendition of "Sincerely", a pop hit for The McGuire Sisters. This is followed by a performance by the band, "St. Thomas". Ray talks of a certain song being his favorite during this time of the year and mentions it's writer, Frank Loesser. The song, "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?", is performed by Ray...and for this performance Buddy Skipper slips into the band as a second saxophonist.

Ray closes the show singing "Auld Lang Syne".

This is the final episode of the current season and for the next several months PBS stations are going to replay the season that just ended until new episodes become available. There are numerous episodes in post production that were taped at Ray's television/video studio and those have yet to air, obviously. In the coming year the production of the series is going to move to the CabaRay venue itself and although visually it'll get a make-over from what we're used to seeing on our TV screens I have a feeling it'll still come across as a fun, intimate show. In the meantime here's the promo video for the New Year's Eve episode...with the A Team vocalists on display: Lori Stegner (guest), Jennifer O'Brien, Sheri Copeland Smith, and Sabrina Pflug.

December 24, 2017

Have a Happy Ray Stevens Christmas...

Hello once more!! As a big fan of Ray Stevens I usually attempt to post a Christmas-themed blog entry every year. Last year had a lot of entries given the fact that he had a brand new Christmas album available plus a music video...

Mary and Joseph and the Baby and Me hit last Christmas as did the above music video of the title track. There wasn't a whole lot of publicity surrounding the CD; the music video debuted in November (actual date being November 16, 2016). The song comes from the pen of Jeff Bates and a writer named John Ritter (not to be confused with the late actor). The CD itself contained 10 tracks...some comedy and some spiritual-themed addition to his versions of Christmas standards ("Frosty the Snowman" and "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer"). In 2012 he released a music video of a song called "Merry Christmas"...

The song only appeared in music video form until it was placed on the 2016 Christmas CD. Ray wrote the song and it deals with the war on Christmas and the politically correct advocates of the world that prefer to say Season's Greetings or Happy Holidays in an effort to not offend non-Christians. It's lunacy is all that it is. Non-Christians shouldn't take offense to the phrase, 'Merry Christmas'. I certainly don't take any offense to the phrase 'Happy Hanukkah'. Some of the other recordings on the CD are the self-penned "Christmas Bells in the Steeple", and then there's a song he didn't write but it's one of the novelty songs on the Christmas CD: "Claws (A Cat's Letter to Santa)"; and then there's his recording of a song his Ahab Music Company published in the '60s that Brenda Lee recorded originally: "Christmas Will Be Just Another Lonely Day". The song's writers are Lee Jackson and Patty Seymour. As I remarked last year one of the treats is his version of "All I Want For Christmas is You"...a song that Mariah Carey originally had a huge pop hit with in the mid 1990s. She co-wrote the song...and it's kind of comical seeing her name listed on a Ray Stevens album. It reminds me of the songwriter credits for his 1988 album...the one that features his version of "Bad", the Michael Jackson song...and given him being the song's writer his name appears in the credits.

In the early '60s while still on the NRC label Ray issued his very first Christmas-themed recordings. Even though he recorded "White Christmas" for his 2009 Christmas CD and issued it as a YouTube music video he had previously recorded the song in 1960. NRC issued it on a single backed with a song he wrote titled "Happy Blue Year". They didn't get much, if any, publicity...but the next Christmas recording did! It happened to be 1962 in which the original recording of "Santa Claus is Watching You" hit the market on Mercury Records. The original reached the pop charts and was later re-written by the process of re-writing the song he transformed it from a bouncy performance aimed at children to a tale of suspected adultery with the man warning his wife that Santa's watching. In his career he recorded it three times: there's the 1962 original and then we have the 1985 largely re-written re-recording and then there's the 1997 recording on the Christmas Through a Different Window CD.

Here are some other Ray Stevens Christmas recordings you can search YouTube for are: "Guilt For Christmas", "Nightmare Before Christmas", "Redneck Christmas", "Blue Christmas", "White Christmas", and the all-time classic, "Santa Claus is Watching You". It's on his 2009 Christmas CD that features the Ray Stevens original "Deck the Halls with Teardrops" that I so much wished would have become either a music video or a much more widely known recording. It's a fabulous love ballad. In his career he has released three Christmas albums:

Christmas Through a Different Window (1997)
Ray Stevens Christmas (2009)
Mary and Joseph and the Baby and Me (2016)

Everyone have a safe Christmas and don't forget that Ray's CabaRay venue has it's grand opening January 18th!

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Deborah Allen

I just finished watching the most recent episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville. Since I had to go into work Saturday night I wasn't home to watch it at the normal time (8pm Eastern) and so I watched the DVR recording. The special guest happened to be Deborah Allen.

Ray opened the show, dressed in a red jacket, singing "Mary and Joseph and the Baby and Me". The donkey sound effects heard on the recording and used as a visual effect (a puppet) in the music video weren't on display during the performance. It was a great performance but it wasn't as lengthy as the music video/audio recording due to the fact that in the performance there wasn't a flute solo and he didn't close the song with a repeat of the chorus so it came off abbreviated but yet lyrically he sang the complete song. The music video aired on last week's episode. Following the performance came the music video of "Santa Claus is Watching You" which he performed on last week's episode.

Ray introduced Deborah and spoke of her husband and mentioned that he was one of his former road managers. They spoke of his gift at making Gumbo. She wore a bright red dress and red gloves and gifted Ray with something special: nuts. It was sort of a gag gift, of course, given Ray's reputation for zany and off-the-wall recordings. He sings a bit of his stuttering version of "Blue Christmas" for her and they both sing a duet of "White Christmas". After their performance Deborah makes mention of a different version of the song that she grew up hearing by The Drifters...kind of a set-up given that Ray recorded his rendition of the Drifters arrangement of "White Christmas" on his 2009 Christmas CD. She sings the lead on their second duet while he plays piano and sings harmony. This is followed by the music video of "Nightmare Before Christmas" which he performed on last week's episode. On last week's episode Santa Claus could be seen seated in the audience but this week a gorilla in a Santa hat was seen seated among the audience.

Deborah sings "Rockin' Little Christmas" and earlier made mention of a Christmas CD of older and newer songs by the same title. The song she sang happened to be one of those older songs. I did a search and found out she originally released it in 1984 and a music video exists. In keeping with the music and the song's title she definitely came across rocking and bouncy. You can see a bit of that performance in the advertisement clip below. It's followed by a lively performance of "Redneck Christmas" in which his harmony singers perform most of the audio effects that Ray originally performed on the recording.

Next week's episode is the New Year's Eve show and it features Ray and his guests...and afterward the local PBS affiliate will begin repeating the previous episodes. All new episodes won't be airing, at least here locally, until sometime in either late spring or early summer of 2018 and speaking of which...

The news was released a couple days ago that Ray's much-anticipated venue, CabaRay, will have it's grand opening on January 18th!! Tickets for the opening night will go on sale on January 2nd. This means that more than likely the next round of tapings for his TV show are going to take place at the CabaRay. I can't wait to see the inside of the venue once those episodes begin to air. In the back of my mind I've been thinking about making the trip to Nashville to attend one of the shows...we shall see if that ever becomes a reality, though. I'm not a least not one of great distance...and Tennessee is a couple of states away from mine. But anyway...I wanted to make some sort of announcement about his venue finally having a grand opening date...and here's to it's success!! A video of the exterior is available on YouTube...with an instrumental of "Misty" in the background...

December 18, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Suzy Bogguss

Oh yes it's me once more bringing a recap of the most recent episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville. This particular episode happens to be Christmas themed and it guest stars Suzy Bogguss. If you're a fan of country music you should be familiar with several recordings from Suzy...especially a song called "Someday Soon" or at the very least, "Outbound Plane" or "Drive South".

I first heard of her by way of a duet she did with a clean shaven Lee Greenwood titled "Hopelessly Yours", a song that was nominated for a Grammy and had become a popular music video on The Nashville Network in the early 1990s. But getting back to Saturday night's episode...

Ray opened the Christmas themed episode singing his biggest holiday hit, "Santa Claus is Watching You". He performed the rewritten version from his 1985 I Have Returned album (a song which holds the distinction of being his very first music video). Given that a lot of episodes of late have centered on classic rhythm and blues and pop music I had, in the back of my mind, thought that Ray may perform the original version of the song (from Christmas time 1962) which comes off much more as a children's song rather than the 1985 version which is rewritten as a cheating song. The only things in common in both recordings are some of the hook lines, the overall melody, and the title. In this performance the harmony singers do the "he's everywhere, he's everywhere!" catch phrase and for visual effect there's a man dressed as Santa seated in the audience.

After the opening performance Ray brings out Suzy and she's asked about how she spends the holiday's. She speaks about going back to her home state of Illinois but also mentions that her husband is from Florida and a discussion about the extremes in weather is brought up. This ultimately leads into a performance of "Baby, It's Cold Outside". They discuss Chet Atkins (she recorded an album with him titled Simpatico). If you listen to what's billed as Christmas radio this time of the year (usually programmed on Adult-Contemporary radio stations) you're no doubt going to hear some version of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" come up at some point. In 2007 a studio created version between Martina McBride and Dean Martin often comes up on radio stations. The most recent hit recording is by Michael Buble and Idina Menzel and it's currently the most played version of the song (it hit number one several years ago). Even though the song goes back to the 1940s and there's been humorous parody versions recorded in the past, that I've since heard, I had never actually heard the song until I discovered a 1990 recording by Barry Manilow and KT Oslin.  After hearing it I've since become familiar with some of the other recordings. To date Ray has never recorded the song but he performed it on Saturday night's episode.

Ray gives the song a different take and doesn't necessarily perform the reaction lines one might expect to hear if you're familiar with the recording. Suzy performs the lyrics straight while Ray offers comical reaction lines. The reaction lines get to be so comical that Suzy breaks up near the end of the song while she's singing. After this performance the music video of "Mary and Joseph and the Baby and Me" is aired. Suzy performs "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas". During an instrumental break in the song Ray and Suzy start to slow dance. Afterward Ray performs "The Nightmare Before Christmas". At various moments in the song the camera pans to the audience to find Santa Claus giving facial expressions and other visual reaction to a song written about political correctness attempting to destroy the innocence of Christmas as Santa's taken to court to 'answer' to all the so-called crimes charged against him in the name of political correctness. As the Judge (Ray) reads off his decision at the end of the song the camera turns to Santa who, by now, has a look of absolute joy and euphoria over the outcome of the trial. This is followed by the music video of "Blue Christmas" prior to the episode wrapping up.

This coming Saturday (December 23rd) a second Christmas-themed episode will air. The guest star will be Deborah Allen.

December 10, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville: Season Two DVD...

Hello there...I don't often publish/post multiple blog entries in one 24 hour time period but this is the third one I'm creating in less than 6 hours time. Earlier I posted a couple of recap blogs: Felix Cavaliere's guest appearance on Ray's television show and then I posted my recap of the episode guest starring Don McLean. This third blog entry is more or less an advertisement for Ray's brand new DVD release. You can purchase your copy of the Season Two DVD by clicking HERE.

Earlier this year Ray released Season One of his television show onto DVD. Based on production information each 'season' of his show consists of 13 episodes rather than the standard 26 per season. If you go by Ray's production method the local PBS affiliates are airing episodes taped during his 4th production season. He's been working on a 5th season and those episodes, I assume, are to start airing in the summer of 2018 but that's just my guess. He'll soon move production to his CabaRay venue once it has it's grand opening. On the Season Two DVD you'll get the episodes that I often remark had never aired on the local PBS affiliate in my region. Even though I can see these episodes on his video streaming site I'm going to wait until the DVD arrives in the mail and watch them on DVD. I love the fact that Ray's releasing episodes of the show onto DVD because it gives the show a permanent place to be available. PBS affiliates come and go...and at some point Ray's video streaming site may remove episodes of the show to clear space for other never knows what can come of things in cyberspace. However, having a physical item such as a disc containing episodes of his show, you're at least not at the mercy of computer crashes or memory lapses, etc. that could wipe out things you've downloaded.

In other words I prefer having DVD copies of his show for the simple fact that I'm a fan of his and it's the collector in me that calls out to have a DVD of episodes I could easily watch on his video streaming site. I'd like to think a lot of other fans of his prefer to have a DVD in their possession in addition to being a member of his video streaming site. You can become a member on a monthly basis and if you choose this option you'll obviously receive an inquiry to renew your subscription each month; or, you can do as I did and subscribe for a full year and not have to think about renewing for a 12 month time period. Read more about his video streaming site by clicking HERE.

I like the photo on the DVD...interesting that they decided to go with a more somber Ray looks completely focused at playing the piano. On Season One's DVD cover it shown Ray with a familiar smile behind the piano. Some of the guest stars on the Season Two DVD are: Sylvia, The Gatlin Brothers, Williams and Ree, Bill Anderson, T. Graham Brown, and Ray's daughter, Suzi Ragsdale. Once the DVD arrives I'll clear some time to watch it and then write a product review over on Ray's website and then paste it in a future blog entry.

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Don McLean

The second blog entry of the night focuses on the December 2nd episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville. This episode didn't air here locally last Saturday because of a PBS pledge drive but I just finished watching it on Ray's video streaming site. The episode guest starred Don McLean.

Ray opened the show singing "I've Got You Under My Skin". He made mention of it being on the CD titled Ray Stevens Sings Sinatra...Say What?!?. The way he said the album's name is exactly how I say it if I ever find myself making mention of it. He's performed other songs from that under-rated album on the television show (most recently, "Witchcraft") but this is the first time I'd ever heard him mention the album's name.

Don is introduced and he talks about his upbringing and how he was perhaps an oddity among his peers in that he loved listening to music that had been recorded prior to the invention of what was called rock and roll (Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, etc.) but he also liked listening to a lot of music styles. He mentioned that he loved to sing songs that had a kind of old fashioned feeling (lyrically) but with a contemporary sound. He spoke of his earliest years in the recording business and how he once did some recording sessions in Berkeley, California. His songwriting success was brought up by Ray and this led to a mention of "And I Love You So", a huge hit that Don wrote in which dozens of artists recorded. The biggest hit belongs to Perry Como who took the song to the Top-40 on the pop chart in 1973 (decades after having burst onto the music scene in the early '40s!). Como hit number one with it on the Easy-Listening chart and in the United Kingdom the song hit the Top-10 and spent almost a full year on the charts (35 weeks!).

He spoke about being in California during the time of the riots and that eventually he moved to Nashville. He compared the sessions being done out West to those being done in Nashville and he applauded the professionalism and talent on Music Row and he particularly loved the efficiency of the process. He mentioned that the sessions he did out in California could be aggravating due to, as he put it, producers being fixated on having every single instrument sounding exactly perfect or fretting over something not sounding as expected. Don said that the sessions in Nashville were completely different and that it didn't take nearly an entire day to complete just one recording. Ray makes mention of the musicians accompanying Don...the piano player and the drummer. Particular emphasis was made on the drummer for it happened to be Jerry Kroon...and if you're a long time fan of Ray's and have looked over the album musician credits with any regularity then you'll recognize that name on dozens of Ray's albums. Ray states that Jerry Kroon used to be a member of the band (which draws applause from the current line-up in Ray's band). Don sings "Lucky Guy" and mentions it's from a new album, Botanical Gardens. The footage for this episode was recorded in the latter half of 2016.

After the performance Ray asks about "American Pie" and the history of the song. Don mentions it's a blend of all kinds of things and it isn't completely tied to just one thing. The phrase heard in the song, 'the day the music died', has long since been adopted as slang to describe the 1959 plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper even though the song deals with pop-culture, in general, from one point in time to another. Ray remarked that he wrote and recorded a song that has one of the longest titles but said that "American Pie" probably holds a record for being the longest (as far as running time is concerned) number one pop hit in history. It spent four weeks at number one in 1972. The song is 8 minutes and 33 seconds and on the album it's in it's complete form. As a single, though, it was split in two parts and so you'd have "American Pie, Part One" on the A-Side and "American Pie, Part Two" picking up where part one ended on the B-Side. He performed it a bit slower in places but overall it was a great performance and given the sheer length of the song it took up a lot of airtime, too.

Ray closed the show performing "Pretty Woman"...a song that goes back to Roy Orbison...but Ray does it in a Bluegrass style. Ray debuted his version of the song several years ago during a guest appearance at the Grand Ole Opry but, to date, a recorded version has not become available. He performed it around the time his Bluegrass themed version of "Unchained Melody" hit YouTube. Those two songs, in particular, are suppose to be part of some larger project that's yet to be commercially released.

Don't forget that this is the episode that aired on December 2nd...the following episode, guest starring Felix Cavaliere, aired last night and I've already posted a recap of that episode. My next episode to provide a recap to is going to arrive next Saturday night.

December 9, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Felix Cavaliere

Hello once again!! Things are back to normal as far as the television schedule is concerned on KET2 and so the latest episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville aired tonight. The special guest happened to be Felix Cavaliere. Ray opened the show singing the rock classic, "Memphis". Admittedly not being a student of classic rock music...I know general things but nothing detailed...I was unaware of Felix Cavaliere until recently. When I seen his name listed as a special guest on the episode that aired tonight (seeing the episode list several months ago) I did a search and found out some things about him. He was a member of the rock group, The Young Rascals, later to be known as The Rascals. Ray, during his introduction of Felix, jokingly made mention of Felix having been a member of The Little Rascals along side Spanky, Alfalfa, Buckwheat...but guitarist Jerry Kimbrough interrupted Ray's wild enthusiasm to explain that it wasn't The Little Rascals but The Young Rascals that Felix was a member of.

Felix speaks of his early career and Ray brings up the Peppermint Lounge...for it was a place in New York in which another group, Joey Dee and the Starliters, became the house band...a group in which Felix would become an eventual member prior to the forming of The Young Rascals. The Starliters biggest recording was "Peppermint Twist". Ray mentions that he tried and tried to get into the Peppermint Lounge but couldn't...the lines wrapped around the building filled with people waiting to get in and see the performances. It's noted that The Young Rascals were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (it occurred in 1997).

Felix performs "Good Lovin'" (a 1966 number one hit for The Young Rascals). Afterward Ray makes mention that Felix had aspirations of being in the medical profession but took a slight detour into the world of rock music. Felix speaks of the downfall of the Peppermint Lounge and how much the area has changed. Then Ray asked about the Hammond B-3 organ and they speak about the tones and sound quality of music. Like two kids in a candy store Ray and Felix spend roughly half a minute discussing the intricacies of a B-3 organ and the sound it projects. It's fun to see the excitement the two display during their conversation.

Next up is a performance from Felix of "Groovin'", a four week number one hit for The Young Rascals in 1967. Following this performance he gives a history of "A Beautiful Morning" and how it was a hit during the Summer of Love as it's often referred to by music historians. Although not mentioned it's worth mentioning that during my research of the rock group, The Young Rascals, I found out that while they had a lot of success in America they had even larger success in Canada...several of their singles that peaked in the Top-10 in America hit number one in Canada. To close out such a classic rock music oriented episode Ray performs "Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu".

I was initially wanting to post a recap of the Don McLean episode (last week's episode that didn't air here locally) but it wasn't posted on Ray's streaming video site earlier today but before I started writing this blog recap of the Felix Cavaliere episode I visited Ray's video site and seen that Don McLean's episode had been added for viewing. What I plan on doing is posting the Felix blog recap first and then watch the Don McLean episode and then post a recap of that. I should have my recap of the Don McLean episode posted no later than midnight tonight.

The next episode guest stars Suzy Bogguss and it'll air December 16th on KET2 at 8pm. This will be followed by Deborah Allen (December 23) and what's being billed as the New Year's Eve episode (airing here December 30th) will feature Ray and the show's band (no special guests).

December 3, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Jeannie Seely

Hello once again...picking up where I left off in a previous blog entry...I found out that the new Ray Stevens video streaming website will air new episodes of his PBS television series a week after they've originally aired on PBS. This means that last week's episode (November 25th) guest starring Jeannie Seely was uploaded today. The December 2nd episode, guest starring Don McLean, will be added to Ray's web page on December 9th. I make mention of this for those that have also subscribed to Ray's new video streaming website and perhaps may have wondered when the additional episodes of his PBS television series are to be added to the site.

The November 25th episode guest starring Jeannie Seely and it was another great production. The show opened with Ray at the piano...opening the show with a marvelous version of "Hallelujah, I Love Her So". He introduces Jeannie and she tells of her upbringing in Pennsylvania and how when she got old enough she drove from Pennsylvania to Los Angeles to become a singer. After awhile of living in Los Angeles an executive sent her to Nashville, Tennessee in 1965.

She makes mention of her becoming a member of Monument Records in 1965 and that Ray was one of the first people she met. Ray was, at the time, working for Monument as a session musician, arranger, and producer while recording songs at Mercury Records. Eventually he was able to record for Monument once his recording contract with Mercury expired. Jeannie talks about her breakthrough recording, "Don't Touch Me", and how she became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1967. This leads into a conversation about her current CD, Written in Song.

The CD, released this past January, features 14 tracks...12 of which are songs she had written or co-written during her career that had been recorded by other artists but she, herself, had never recorded them. 2 of the tracks are exclusive to the release. The episode was taped in the latter half of 2016 prior to the CD's official release date.

Ray brings up duet recordings and how she'd never recorded with him before and this leads into their performance of "Make the World Go Away". The choice of song, in hindsight, set up a brief discussion about the song's writers, Hank Cochran (Jeannie's ex-husband). She had long made joking references about her marriage to the songwriting legend during her Opry appearances and her sharp wit and well timed ex-husband one liners became a signature of her personal appearances and she didn't disappoint during her appearance on Ray's program. Although he passed away in 2010 she told some ex-husband jokes which received a lot of laughter because you could see she was telling them with no real malice or hatred intended. She wrapped up the segment by offering advice, half-jokingly, about marrying lawyers (which she did in 2010).

Discussion returns to her Written in Song CD and she tells the story of a song she and Hank wrote called "Life of a Rodeo Cowboy". She mentions that she never recorded it herself because it was written to be sung by a male singer...she then said that it dawned on her that she could simply re-write a couple of lyrics and have it come across as her telling a story about the life of a rodeo cowboy. It was inspired, according to her recollection, by her nephew's life as a rodeo cowboy. She tells of it being recorded originally by Merle Haggard. Those interested in hearing his version it can be found on his 1978 album, I'm Always on a Mountain When I Fall. Jeannie's version is on her 2017 CD and you can see it on this episode of Ray's PBS show.

After performing the rodeo song she sang her signature hit, "Don't Touch Me" (another song written by Hank Cochran). Ray closes the show singing his version of "Rags to Riches" which had been a huge pop hit for Tony Bennett. If you're keeping track this is another episode in which Ray opens and closes the show performing his versions of vintage pop hits.

As mentioned earlier in the blog entry last night's episode (December 2) guest starred Don McLean but it didn't air here locally. I'll watch it on Ray's streaming video website next Saturday. This means that on December 9th I'll be catching the December 2nd episode via Ray's site and then later that day I'll be able to see the current episode when it airs on the local PBS channel (due to their pledge break having ended by then). The December 9th episode will guest star Felix Cavaliere. I'll write two blog entries next weekend focusing on the December 2nd and December 9th episodes.

December 1, 2017

Ray Stevens: Aba Daba Honeymoon...

Hello all...a brief blog entry as we welcome in the month of December! Also, as I was not on-line much yesterday, I didn't know until I checked social media sites that Ray quietly released a brand new music video...well, not brand's from 2013 but it's brand new to the internet. A music video I had no idea existed...a video for his recording of "Aba Daba Honeymoon". The song was recorded by Ray for his 2012 project, the 9-CD Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music, and there happened to be an on-line commercial for it in which a snippet of the song is performed and there's a couple of gorilla's on the scene. Well, this is a full-length music video! The song itself dates back to 1914 and not many people can accurately recite the lyrics because they're deliberately performed at such a fever pitch. Ray, of course, can sing practically anything and he does a great job on the song...a whimsical video as we usher in the month of December...

November 26, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville Documentary...

Hello a follow-up to my previous blog entry I've decided to make mention of a PBS special that has started to air on local PBS stations which carry Ray's program. Several stations aired the special yesterday and a lot more are going to air it next Saturday and this will be followed by sporadic air-dates throughout the month of December. It's officially titled Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville Special. One of the PBS stations that aired it yesterday, WCNY, I checked their website. They aired it at 5:30pm and from the looks of their on-line program guide it was an hour long documentary. As of this writing the documentary/special isn't going to air on the PBS station that airs his show in my area but time will tell. On Ray's main website he has a list of PBS affiliates that have aired (yesterday) or are going to air the special (throughout the month of December) and there's the Oklahoma PBS affiliates that are scheduled to air the documentary in the month of March (next year) and so it isn't written in stone that the documentary is only meant for November and December airings. If the special is to air on the local PBS station on my cable line-up I'll make mention of it. As of this writing I don't know if it'll become available on Ray's new TV and video website.

You can read about Ray's new TV and video website and you can see the promotional clip of his PBS special by clicking HERE.

There have been 52 episodes produced of Ray's television program and there are to be more on the way from the current recording location. Once those have aired then the taping of the series is going to originate from the CabaRay venue after it makes it's grand least that's the goal according to commentary I've read on social media sites from Ray. Even though there have been 52 episodes produced of the series it doesn't mean they've all aired on PBS. The earlier episodes aired on RFD television and once Ray's show moved to PBS in January of this year all of the RFD episodes reran on many PBS stations and then by the late summer all new episodes exclusive to PBS began to air. The local PBS affiliate in my area began airing the show in the spring of this year (late March 2017) but they aired 15 of the 26 available RFD episodes before they started airing the PBS exclusives in July. I think had they started airing the show early in January of this year they may have been able to air all of the available RFD episodes and then start airing the all-new episodes in the summer. Anyway...there are only several more episodes left of this current season: Don McClean (December 2nd), Felix Cavaliere (December 9th), Suzy Bogguss (December 16th), Deborah Allen (December 23rd), and The Cast Show (December 30th).

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...John Berry

Hello once more!! I couldn't post a review/re-cap of last week's episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville because I wasn't able to see it. Severe storms passed through last Saturday night (November 18th) and although it didn't knock out our electric it did enough damage to knock out the signal of the PBS station that airs Ray's television series. I just finished watching the November 18th episode guest starring John Berry. I watched it on the new subscription based website that Ray launched last week. I posted a link to it in my previous blog entry which can be found off to the right hand side of the page in the archives.

Ray opened the episode singing "I Got a Woman", a classic originally recorded by one of his musical heroes, Ray Charles. This is one of the few episodes in which Ray is seated at the piano at the start of the show. After the performance Ray brings out John Berry who discusses his background. Born in South Carolina he was raised in Georgia...mentioning Atlanta and Athens. Ray asked how he managed to migrate from Georgia to Tennessee and the inspiration for it. John makes mention of being locally popular and of hearing Joe Diffie's recording, "Ships That Don't Come In".

John says that hearing the song led him to believe that if he truly wanted to become noticed as a singer at a national level than he should go to Nashville instead of being locally popular in Athens, Georgia. He relates how he and his wife made the trip to Nashville in 1992 and at the time he was in his mid 30's which John half jokingly remarked would be considered over the hill in today's music climate. Ray mentions a current CD of John's being available, What I Love the Most, which was released in June of 2016.

Ray, at various moments throughout the show, marveled at John's voice and simply referred to him as 'John Berry: Singer' to emphasize the tenor vocals that John's famous for. John performs a song from it titled "There Could Never Be Another Love". Afterward he speaks of his electronic duet with Patsy Cline and then performs two additional songs: "Standing on the Edge of Goodbye" and his signature song, "Your Love Amazes Me". A music heavy episode for sure as Ray closes with his version of "Up a Lazy River". This is one of the rare episodes in which no comedy emerged either in music or sketch form (there wasn't any Video Jukebox or Comedy Classic segments). As mentioned at the top of this blog post the John Berry episode originally aired the weekend of November 18th on PBS affiliates and had it not been for severe weather knocking the PBS signal off the air I would have been able to have seen the episode then...but thanks to Ray's television and video subscription website I was able to watch the episode I didn't get to see. It's only $4.99 per month or you can do as I did and pay for an entire year (which is $49.99) and by doing that I won't have to renew my subscription until November 2018. I also mentioned that you could find the website's address by searching my archives, well, I decided to provide a link containing information about Ray's television and video site in this blog entry.

You can read about the TV and video site, including a direct link to the TV and video site, by visiting his main website by clicking this LINK. After clicking the link and his website opens up be sure to click the Watch Now button. It'll take you to the TV and video site where you'll see the subscription offers and you can check out everything you'll get to watch once you become a member. There's a lot of content exclusive to the site (full length episodes of his summer 1970 television show, for example; and early and mid 1980s performances from television specials on The Nashville Network).

The local PBS affiliate that airs Ray's television program didn't air it tonight due to their annual pledge break. The PBS affiliates that aired the episode will have seen his special guest, Jeannie Seely. This episode should become available on Ray's TV and video site on Monday. I'm thinking that Ray adds the current episodes to his site once they've aired on all the PBS affiliate stations (many air the show on either Friday night or Saturday night...some air it on Sunday...which is what has me thinking the Jeannie Seely episode will become available on Monday). Once it becomes available on Ray's new TV and video site I'll watch it and give my recap.

November 17, 2017

Ray Stevens Television is Here...

Hello one and all!! The news officially broke a couple of days ago but my job keeps me away from the computer throughout much of the week...all I have time to do is check some social sites and reply to any comments on some Facebook groups that I belong to and that's about it...I rarely have time to put together a halfway decent blog entry until the weekend but I've got some free time and so I'm posting about the brand new endeavor being undertaken by Ray Stevens.

He's launched a website that houses a lot of his television appearances over the last 40 plus years. The site is called and it's a subscription based site. You can choose to sign up monthly which is $4.99 a month but you can also choose to sign up for a full year and that's $49.99 and I'm leaning toward the latter option. I'd prefer to sign up and not have to think about renewing my subscription for a full year. Anyway you can check out everything there is to all 8 episodes of his summer 1970 television show!!

Ray tells you all about the site in that video clip above. There is a longer video on the actual website and so you'll get to see 2 promotional videos altogether.

He had previously uploaded sketches and select performances from his summer 1970 television show on his YouTube channel but once you become a member of his site you'll have access to complete episodes of the summer show. You'll also be able to view every episode of his CabaRay Nashville television program...from episode one (guest starring Steve Wariner) to the most recent with Gary Morris (last Saturday). This is wonderful for me, particularly, because I'll be able to see a lot of the RFD episodes that the local PBS station didn't air and I'll get to see the 2 episodes that the local PBS station is going to pre-empt for a pledge drive later this month. You'll have a lot of fun exploring the site and seeing all of the video content you'll get access to once you subscribe!! There's a clip of him performing "Happy Hour is the Saddest Time of the Day", for example, that I can't wait to see. Elsewhere there's footage from his 1991 appearance on Hee Haw where he sang "Barbecue" and "Where Do My Socks Go?".

Don't forget to click for all the details!!!

November 11, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Gary Morris

Hello once more...on tonight's episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville the special guest happened to be Gary Morris. Ray opened the show performing "Mack the Knife"...a legendary pop hit previously made famous by Bobby Darin. Afterward Ray introduces Gary Morris and points out that Gary can sing practically anything...even opera. In a brief exchange, on two occasions, Ray has trouble pronouncing the opera, La Boheme (a production starring Gary and Linda Ronstadt). This trouble in pronunciation comes off more as a joke, however.

Gary speaks of the Veteran's organization he's associated with and the efforts made in helping wounded soldiers heal through physical activity...specifically the sport of fly fishing. Ray asks him to perform "Faith and Freedom". After this performance Ray makes mention of NSAI which stands for Nashville Songwriters Association and "The Wind Beneath My Wings". He mentions the song's writers and Gary talks of his arrival in Nashville. He relates how he met up with Harold Bradley and the making of demo recordings...and this led to Gary being advised to seek out Norro Wilson. Gary mentions that he shown up at Warner Brothers Records in search of Norro...but was asked if he had an appointment...saying "no", Gary nevertheless remained there until finally meeting Norro later that day. Gary mentioned that the Warner Brothers office, at that time, happened to be right across the street from Ray's office. 

Norro produced several singles on Gary but none of the single releases became hits. Gary's breakthrough didn't happen until the latter half of 1981 and the release of "Headed for a Heartache", also on Warner Brothers. Gary's self-titled debut album arrived in 1982 and on the back of the album cover there's a message of thanks to Norro from Gary. One of those single releases that Norro produced on Gary, "Sweet Red Wine", was included on Gary's debut album...with the rest of the tracks being produced by Gary, Marshall Morgan, and Paul Worley.

Gary performs "The Wind Beneath My Wings" and receives a rousing applause. Ray follows this with a performance of "The King is Gone and So Are You". The footage taped for this episode originated during a taping session either late in 2016 or early this year prior to Norro's death this past June at age 79. Prior to the closing credits a dedication message to Norro appeared on-screen. In addition to being a legendary record producer Norro was also a legendary songwriter with a comedic reputation all rolled into one. Norro appears on the cover of Ray's 1987 album, Greatest Hits, Volume Two, as the umpire.

On next week's episode (airing here November 18th) John Berry is the special guest. After this episode the series will not be shown here locally for 2 weeks due to a Winter Pledge Break but the 2 episodes will air on the other local PBS stations that carry the series. The series returns locally on December 9th.

November 5, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Gary Mule Deer

As promised in my previous blog entry I'm back with a recap of Saturday night's episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville. Airing November 4th on KET2 the guest star happened to be comedian Gary Mule Deer. Ray opened the show performing his version of "Frog Kissing". This is a song that goes way back in Ray's career but not in the way you might be thinking. The writer is no stranger to Ray's fans for it's none other than Buddy Kalb. The song was put on the musical map by none other than Chet Atkins...but it wasn't a recording he was a recording featuring him singing...while the production was handled by Ray.

Released as a single in 1976 "Frog Kissing" did become a hit recording...and a lot of it had to do with the overall irresistible novelty factor surrounding the project. I decided to post an image of the single because it includes all of the technical information that I like to see. As you can see Ray Stevens produced and arranged the song and his Ahab Music Company published the recording. Also note the writer being Buddy Kalb. This is an image of the promo recording sent to radio stations...which is why it has the Not For Sale disclaimer on it. Now, of course, since the invention of on-line shopping (especially eBay) a lot of those vinyl promo singles meant for radio stations have long since made their way into the public domain. A lot of insiders that worked at radio stations had, at that point in time, gotten rid of a lot of their vinyl inventory buy placing the products on-line for public purchase rather than throwing the stuff in the trash or returning them to a record company. So, one thing led to another, and this is why you'll find all kinds of products available with a Not For Sale or Radio Only Broadcast disclaimer written on the label. Ray does a great job on the song and mentions that it had originally been a recording by Chet Atkins. In the performance two of Ray's musicians were standing behind him playing the twin clarinets. Ray also makes mention that "Frog Kissing" may be the only song that remotely comes across 'serious' during the entire show given that the guest is comedian Gary Mule Deer.

Ray introduces Gary...and he walks out and delivers a one liner about his wild hairstyle...declaring it to have been a windy day. He's holding a guitar...mainly as a prop...and he launches into what seems to be a full-on version of "Ring of Fire"...but then abruptly ends and begins speaking to the floor. There are two to pick up the sound of the guitar and the other for him to speak into. Well, in an elaborate comedy routine he pretends to have guitar troubles and he flips his guitar on it's top and a lot of debris falls out (it looks like guitar picks). He goes to the ground on one knee and begins speaking to the audience using the guitar's microphone. He tells a lot of rapid fire one-liner jokes...and whichever one received the biggest laugh he'd wryly make a comment out loud like "oh, you all like dog jokes?". The one I thought was funniest was his one-liner about seeing an advertisement about alcoholism. He mentioned that the advertisement read, and I'm paraphrasing: "if you're an alcoholic and having us...we can help" and he remarked that he called the number and found out it belonged to a liquor store.

I first heard of Gary Mule Deer at some point in the early '90s, I think!?! He appeared on Ralph Emery's Nashville Now television program on a semi-regular basis. In those days Gary would appear with a typewriter on his shoulder and he'd strike the keys on it every so often to imitate the typing sounds heard on older newscasts (such as those heard on Walter Cronkite's newscasts). Gary was a cast member on the final season of Hee Haw, too, which I never seen...but I know of this due to photo's and cast lists I've seen over the years from those episodes from 1992.

After things settled down and the jokes/laughing winded down Gary performed a song...a complete version of "Folsom Prison Blues"...sounding a lot like Johnny Cash in the process. Afterward more comedy and jokes aplenty...including a routine about Gary never stooping to use four letter words in his act in spite of the fact that his name contains four letters a piece: Gary Mule Deer.

They discuss Roger Miller and Gary delivers a very funny one-liner comparing Roger to a walking maraca. You'll have to see the episode for yourself to learn the set-up (in case you hadn't already heard it). Gary remarks that he always preferred to hang out with comical musicians (like Roger) and Ray himself rather than stand-up comedians. Gary cites some of his influences being Jack Benny and The Smothers Brothers and the discussion turns to Steve Martin. Ray remarks that Steve was a cast member and writer on his 1970 summer show for Andy Williams. After some final comical exchanges Gary exits the stage and Ray closes the show performing "Furthermore". Interestingly he uses the original arrangement of the song from the 1960s rather than the bluesy, harmonica heavy 1980s re-recording.

On the next episode, airing locally on November 11th, the special guest is going to be Gary Morris and it's one being promoted as the Veteran's Day/Patriotic Show.

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Janie Fricke

Hello all...I've finally gotten some free time to write another fan created blog entry about the Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville television program. In this particular entry I'm focusing on the episode from a week ago...the one promoted as the Halloween episode. It aired on October 28th and it guest starred Janie Fricke.

One of the quintessential country music artists of the 1980s and a popular backup vocalist/harmony singer (heard on many recordings by Johnny Duncan) Janie Fricke also spent a number of years in the cast of The Statler Brothers Show. In 1982 and 1983 she was named the CMA Female Vocalist of the Year.

Ray opened this Halloween episode performing his version of "Haunted House"...and before you can think of asking the question...the answer is yes. Ray did record "Haunted House" several years ago for inclusion on his Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music. The performance was his usual best and you'll find yourselves grinning or laughing out loud during the moments in the song in which he recites the line by the ghost...especially the silly evil laugh. This opening performance is followed by a brief Comedy Theater video clip (taped in the early 1990s) of a clean-shaven Buddy Kalb playing the part of a roving reporter asking a bystander about the disturbance caused by sighting Elvis in a U.F.O. but the actual performance of the song isn't aired...the clip abruptly ends just prior.

Ray introduces Janie to the audience and she discusses what's being called The Janie Fricke Collection. At first I thought it was going to be a conversation about a CD release but instead it's a conversation about sewing and needle point. She gives Ray a pillow that she made. He brings up a television special she hosted in the early 1980s and he brings up the special song he wrote for the occasion called "Janie Fricke, I'll Give you a Hickey". He sings a piece of it to her but this time she didn't try to comically assault him like she did back in the early '80s after he performed it.

After this brief performance she returns the favor by saying that a Top-10 hit of hers was recorded with him in mind. The hit, "You Don't Know Love", was recorded by Janie in 1982 and it became a single very early in 1983. As mentioned it hit the Top-10 but it was sandwiched between two of her bigger hits: "It Ain't Easy Bein' Easy" and "He's a Heartache Looking for a Place to Happen". Upon Janie performing "You Don't Know Love" the Comedy Theater is shown once more. This time it's a clip from the Get Serious! movie...the dungeon scene...and the performance of "We Don't Take Nothin' Off Nobody". Janie then returns to sing "Do Me with Love" of her first hits in the early 1980s.

Ray closes the show performing "Sittin' Up with the Dead" of the few times that I've seen him perform the song on television. In the video clip above it features a brief snippet of the performance and the visual effects on display in the background. Given that I'm a week behind I'll close by saying the next episode guest starred Gary Mule Deer and it aired last night. I'll have a recap of that episode soon. This is one of those special nights in that the clocks are set back 1 hour. I began this blog entry a little before 2am but due to the "fall back" time change it's 1:32am (whereas if the time wasn't set back an hour it would be 2:32am right now).

October 21, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Charley Pride

It's me once more...and the recent episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville ended about half an hour ago from this writing. Ray opened the show seated at the piano and he performed "Be Your Own Best Friend". This is a song that I'd never seen him perform on television but I know that he re-recorded the song for inclusion on his Thank You CD in 2004...but for historical purposes the song originally hit in 1978 and made the Country Top-40. It's the title track of one of his albums that year (the other album being There Is Something On Your Mind). He kept the same arrangement and it was just like the recording note for note.

He brings out Charley Pride and the two of them discuss Texas. Charley mentions that he's lived in Texas since 1969. Ray mentioned that he asked about Texas because there's a follow-up to it involving the Texas Rangers. Charley speaks of his involvement with the baseball team and he brings up his life long love of baseball. He relates a story about Gene Autry and the California Angels and says that during his years in the Minor League he met Gene at a restaurant and tried to persuade Gene into bringing him onto the Major League roster of the Angels. Charley, with his familiar smile, told the audience that Gene looked at him and said that he just owns the team but doesn't make any operational decisions as far as the line-up/roster is concerned and so music became his life's profession from then on.

Upon the conclusion of the baseball talk from both (Ray himself once aspired to be a baseball player, too, but never took it as far as Charley did), Charley performs "Kiss An Angel Good Morning".

After the performance Ray makes mention of the fact that after Elvis the act on RCA that's sold the most records happened to be Charley. Ken Nelson, of Capitol, was mentioned when Charley brought up Ray's birth name. Ray tells about Ken suggesting a name change from Ray Ragsdale to Ray Stevens. Charley then performs one of my favorites, "Roll On Mississippi" and then "Is Anybody Goin' To San Antone?".

After the performances Charley and Ray have some parting words...and Charley makes an exit for backstage. This is a rarity...the guests usually exit during a break in the recording and it's not captured on tape. That is why there's always an edit from the time Ray thanks the guest for being on the show and the performance of the closing song. In another instance of breaking formula an instrumental is offered by The A-Team (the group of musicians that accompany Ray and the guests). Two of the members, Jerry Kimbrough and Jim Ferguson, perform an instrumental that Ray calls "Work Song". The members of the band usually perform on Ray's albums, too. Ray closes the show singing "Family Funeral Fight", a song from his Box Set project in 2005. It was one of the new songs recorded for the Box Set. This is probably the first time he's performed it on a television program.

Yesterday evening I checked the local PBS site and they added more episodes of Ray's show. In a couple of previous blog entries I mentioned that the site had episodes listed through November 18th. To my surprise, though, the local PBS station will not be airing episodes on November 25th or December 2nd. The reason is because of their Winter Pledge Drive and they'll be airing special programming. Those episodes will still air on other PBS stations on those weekends but not on the PBS channel in this area. The guests for those episodes are Jeannie Seely (November 25) and Don McLean (December 2). I'll be envious of others that will be able to see those episodes...particularly the December 2nd episode...Don is to perform his version of "Crying" and to miss out on hearing the stories that Don might tell is going to be tough. The local PBS station will resume airing the show the following Saturday (December 9th) and the guest will be Felix Cavaliere.

But returning to the present day rather than jumping ahead a month, coming up next weekend is the episode guest starring Janie Fricke...billed as the Halloween'll air October 28th. If I'm not mistaken this is one of the episodes from the RFD years. This will mark the first time an RFD episode has aired since the series changed to PBS exclusives in July. Episodes originally airing on RFD used to air on PBS stations during his early months on their airwaves before the brand new episodes began to air in the late summer.

Some Vintage/New Ray Stevens Items...

Hello's an early Saturday morning here as I type up this latest blog entry. This time around I'm blogging about a couple of vintage but new to me items from Ray Stevens. First off is a CD that Ray released 10 years ago that I never owned a copy of until now!! In 2007 he released a CD titled Hurricane. The CD features 12 songs...five of which are re-recordings of previous songs. At the time of the release I purchased the 7 original recordings, as Mp3's, but lately I began thinking of the physical copy of the the fact that the Mp3's that I had previously purchased were lost on a computer I no longer operate...and so I purchased a CD copy of Hurricane about a week ago during one of Ray's web-store discount sales and it arrived in the mail yesterday.

The first six songs on the CD had never appeared on any previous Ray Stevens album and the same goes for track eleven. Tracks seven through ten and track twelve are the re-recordings. In order: "Hurricane", "Sucking Sound", "The Cure", "Bubba the Wine Connoisseur", "Hey Bubba Watch This!", and "Rub It In". Dedicated fans of Ray Stevens may take a moment and ponder over "Rub It In". Ray has long been linked to this song but until this 2007 CD was released he had never recorded it. In the early '70s Ray produced a version of the song recorded by it's writer, Layng Martine, Jr., and released it on Barnaby Records. Ray also published the song...which proved very beneficial...because the publisher of a song tags along with any artist that records the song. The version by it's writer didn't became a big hit but later on Billy "Crash" Craddock recorded the song and it became a monster hit. If you have the single or if you come across an image of it on-line you'll see Ray's publishing company credited as Ahab Music Company on the upper left hand side of the label sleeve. In the '80s and '90s the song's title was parodied in a long series of television commercials for Glade...their jingle was called 'Plug it In, Plug it In!". The seventh never before available song on the CD is "Down Home Beach". The re-recordings include: "Smokey Mountain Rattlesnake Retreat", "The Camping Trip", "Makin' The Best of a Bad Situation", "Stuck on You", and "Hugo the Human Cannonball". Four of those re-recordings were turned into limited animation music videos. For those that have seen those videos the recordings you hear originated on this Hurricane CD.

The second vintage item is truly a gem of obscurity and in very limited quantities. Long time readers of this fan created blog are aware of how I have complained over the years about the lack of cassette tape on eBay of studio albums Ray recorded during the hey day of cassette tape. I have a blue cassette tape of Boogity Boogity (the oldest cassette of Ray that I own; from 1974). Next in line is a 1980 cassette of Shriner's Convention. Then everything from 1984 to 2002 I have in cassette format, too...but that was until a couple of days ago...

Into my possession came a cassette copy of Don't Laugh Now, a 1982 Ray Stevens album. As you might know I already have all of Ray's studio albums in vinyl format starting with 1963's This is Ray Stevens and stopping with 1989's Beside Myself...but the cassette tape collection prior to 1984 is really small and I act like a kid in a candy store anytime I obtain something rare. I'm forever on the look out for cassette versions of 1981's One More Last Chance and 1983's Me. I know cassette tape was manufactured throughout the 1970s but I just never, hardly ever, come across anything on cassette from Ray during that time frame. Cassette versions of Losin' Streak, Nashville, and even Just For the Record have come up for sale on eBay but the prices are outrageous. Don't Laugh Now was just the right price! This is the album that contains the single releases "Written Down In My Heart" and "Where the Sun Don't Shine". The album opens up with "Such a Night"...a song that only recently became something of a staple in Ray's set lists during concerts. The album also includes "Country Boy, Country Club Girl" and one of my all-time favorites, "Oh, Leo Lady". I made the images can always click them and a larger image should appear. If a larger image doesn't appear then the small image will just have to do.

As a reminder...tonight's episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville will guest star Charley Pride. I'll give my commentary about the episode in my next blog entry. I should have it up either late tonight or in the early morning. Here's the promo for the episode...

October 15, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Lari White

It's me once more...and Saturday night's episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville was another wonderful site to see. Ray opened the show singing "Unforgettable". Oh's the same song that became internationally famous for Nat King Cole and decades later, through the use of technology, as a duet with his daughter, Natalie Cole. That early '90s creation won 3 Grammy Awards. Based on research Nat King Cole issued the song as a single twice (the 1951 original and a re-recording in 1961). As I was watching Ray perform the song I was wondering if this will be another song from the Slow Dance project he made mention of awhile back. I had brought up that project back in a different blog entry when he performed "Can't Take My Eyes off You" on a previous episode.

This episode differed from most in that after the opening number he announced that he was walking to his red piano. He walked over, sat down, and introduced the episode's guest, Lari White. As one that hadn't really followed her career much I only knew what a casual music listener might know: the names of some of her songs. One that stands out is "Stepping Stone" but on tonight's episode she performed the song that was her biggest single release, "That's My Baby". Prior to her performing the song she spoke of her appearance in a movie called Cast Away. She said that her involvement in that movie was all based upon an encounter with a FedEx driver. She relates the various things she did and for those familiar with the movie she explains that there were two endings for the film but only one was given the go ahead for the final print.

Ray brings up that Lari is from Florida and she speaks of her upbringing a little bit. She and Sabrina (one of Ray's harmony singers) is also from Florida and for several seconds Lari and Sabrina trade commentary about Florida. Lari speaks of her producing career and even though it wasn't brought up in the show one of her projects was a Platinum selling CD by Toby Keith. She makes mention of her first impressions of her would-be husband, Chuck Cannon. This conversation about her husband leads into her performance of "That's My Baby". During the segue-way from conversation to performance Ray escorts her from the side of the piano to the red carpet down front. I had never seen him do that before with any other female guest.

After the performance Lari speaks of her current CD project and states that it's a 2-CD release. One features updated recordings of her hit songs and the other CD is of new songs. The project is titled Old Friends and New Loves. She name drops Cole Porter, for example, in the lead-up to her second performance on the show. Lari takes her seat at Ray's red piano and speaks of the crooner style of pop music...referring to it by the nickname of The Great American Songbook. She then launches into a slow ballad with light piano inflections titled "Champagne". She made a music video of the song and it's on YouTube. On the show she described the outfit that she pictured in her mind during the writing of the song. This episode was recorded earlier this year during one of the taping sessions. The CD was released in March of this year but you can only purchase it from select on-line music sites. It isn't available on Amazon, for example, but if you Google her name and the CD's title you'll find the various ways to purchase your copy.

After her performance of "Champagne" Ray walked out and complimented her and the song and thanked her for being on the show. In the next segment he closes the show with "Dropkick Me Jesus" and you can find his recording of the song on The Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music and on his gospel project, Just a Closer Walk With Thee.

On next week's episode the special guest will be Charley Pride. At the moment the local PBS station that airs Ray's show has the upcoming schedule listed through November 18th. I am hoping the website will add more shows to the page because that means more episodes are going to air. Anyway...the guests for the next five episodes are: Charley Pride (October 21); Janie Fricke (October 28); Gary Mule Deer (November 4); Gary Morris (November 11- billed as The Veteran's Day episode); and John Berry (November 18). The website has no more episodes listed but, as mentioned, hopefully the website adds more additional episodes.

There's still a lot of episodes already taped that have yet to air (including a couple of Christmas themed episodes). It'll be nerve racking as late November gets closer and I frequently visit the local PBS see if additional episodes have been added (or not). At least it'll be airing for the next five Saturday nights...that much I'm sure of.

October 7, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Rex Allen, Jr.

Hello once again...on tonight's episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville the special guest happened to be Rex Allen, Jr. and in a previous blog entry I speculated that it may be Western-dominated and it was to some degree. I had mentioned this because last week's episode guest starred The Riders in the Sky. Ray opened the show singing "Shanty in Ol' Shanty Town". This is a song whose title I had known of for years and years but did you know that until tonight I had never actually heard the song before??

Ray brings out Rex Allen, Jr. and a performance of "Lonely Street" is delivered. Afterward he and Ray discuss the current events in Rex's career...including Itunes and the library of songs available on-line. Ray asks about Arizona's state song to which Rex mentions that it's considered an alternate state song and not the one considered the official state song. The song is titled "I Love You, Arizona" and Rex wrote it in the early '80s. Rex mentions the craft of songwriting in which most, if not all, of the creativity starts in the heart and goes up into the brain, and then it comes out on paper. I made mention of it during a previous blog entry about Rex's upcoming retirement from touring. The final shows took place today in Willcox, Arizona during the Rex Allen Days event. The sold out concerts took place at 2pm and 6pm...and by pure coincidence or deliberate scheduling...Rex's episode of CabaRay Nashville is airing on local PBS stations this weekend. Some stations got the episode yesterday evening but tonight it aired in my area. It'll air tomorrow on other local PBS stations. On Rex's Facebook page it mentions that tonight's episode will air a month from now in Nashville (on November 4th). The actual taping of the episode took place during a taping session this past spring (either in March or April of this year).

Ray asks about Rex's father and this brings a flood of conversation about Rex Allen, Sr. and the things he accomplished in his career. Rex, Jr. makes mention that anybody that knows of the animated film, the original Charlotte's Web, will have been introduced to the vocals of Rex Allen, Sr. given that he was the film's narrator. There is also mention of the many Disney projects that Rex narrated...with The Incredible Journey being singled out. Rex, Jr. mentions some obscurities/trivia and relates that most people would assume that his father's biggest song was "Don't Go Near the Indians" but Rex, Jr. states that his father's biggest hit was "Crying in the Chapel". Ray mentioned that during his years at Mercury Records he was more or less assigned to look for a 'hit song' for Rex Allen (among other recording artists on the label). Ray said he found "Don't Go Near the Indians". On the subject of which happened to be the biggest hit for Rex, Sr. I looked up the chart histories for each and Rex, Jr. is far as chart placement on the Hot 100 pop chart is concerned.

Each single hit number four country for Rex, Sr. but on the pop chart "Don't Go Near the Indians" peaked in the Top-20 whereas "Crying in the Chapel" peaked in the Top-10. Rex, Jr. performs "Crying in the Chapel". This is followed by an instrument/vocal duet...Ray plays piano while Rex, Jr. sings "Happy Trails".

In another first, for me, Ray closes the show singing "My Dad"...the first time I have ever seen him perform the song on television. The performance of the song was wonderful as you could imagine. Next week's episode will guest star Lari White. The KET2 schedule cuts off at November 18th and it lists John Berry as the special guest on that episode. I am hoping that their site gets updated soon and more episodes of Ray's series are added to their schedule.

October 2, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay update...

Hello one and's early Monday morning but I decided to embed a video clip that Ray posted onto his YouTube channel this past Thursday. Oh yes, I could've embedded the video clip in my Saturday night blog entry when I wrote my commentary/review of the latest episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville but I decided to embed a video clip promoting that particular episode instead. The particular video clip I'm referring to now hit the internet on a Thursday and it was a clip from Ray alerting us that his performance venue, CabaRay, looks like it'll not have it's grand opening until sometime in November or even December. If you've followed the time line then the announcement shouldn't come as a surprise. Although ground was broke in the spring of 2016...I'm sure you recall the video clip and photo's of Ray and several people, including an Ape, with shovels in hand at the site on River Road...actual construction of the venue didn't begin until months later as Ray awaited the approval of the building permit.

You can read about the building permit approval by clicking this LINK. The article was published back on August 24, 2016 (last year) and, as mentioned, construction didn't begin until sometime in September/October of last year...and so it's actually still on schedule...but, yes, had the building permit approval not taken so long (consuming the months of April through most of August 2016) it's highly likely that the venue would've had it's grand opening several months ago...but there's no use in dwelling on the what if's and instead I plan on continuing to look forward for the grand opening of the much-anticipated music venue. I started this blog entry referring to a recent video clip from Ray relating the progress of the CabaRay. I'll be embedding that video clip a little further down the page. I did create a couple of what I think are great screen caps from the video clip, though. I'll probably post them during some future blog entry. The venue is located on River Road in what's locally referred to as West Nashville. To see a photo of the venue you'd think that it was completed and ready for business so there must be some sort of internal construction left to be completed. Just this past Saturday (September 30th) there were five new photo's posted on the CabaRay Facebook page. In addition to Ray having a main Facebook page he also has a secondary Facebook page devoted to the CabaRay. Here's a LINK to the Facebook CabaRay home page. At the moment the post with the 5 new photo's of the venue is at the top given it's the most recent post (of course!).

Don't forget that this week's episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville will feature Rex Allen, Jr. as the special guest. In addition to his lengthy career as a singer/entertainer he co-starred on the highly popular and beloved Statler Brothers Show on The Nashville Network throughout the 1990s. He later hosted a spin-off series, Yesteryear, based upon a regular segment on the Statler Brothers series in which Rex was featured prominently along side Janie Fricke and the Statler Brothers themselves.

Here's the video clip of Ray speaking about the CabaRay...

September 30, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Riders in the Sky

Hello to all the fans of Ray Stevens...several minutes ago the latest episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville came to a close. At the time of this blog creation it's 8:36pm.

Tonight's episode certainly lived up to my expectations as the guests happened to be The Riders in the Sky. Ray opened the show performing "The Ballad of Cactus Pete and Lefty". During the performance there was a different sound effect heard for Lefty (the sidewinder). The recording, from 1987, used a maraca whenever Lefty "reacts" to Cactus Pete's comments. In the performance tonight the sound was a buzzer-type effect...that's the best I can describe it. If you have Ray's tribute to Frank Sinatra CD you'll hear this sound effect during his performance of "Witchcraft". I assume it's something created with a synthesizer. Anyway...

Following the performance of the show's opener Ray brought out The Riders in the Sky! Here's the video promo for tonight's episode...

If you're familiar at all with this group then you should already be aware of their individual talents. The group has won two Grammy awards and they became members of the Grand Ole Opry in 1982. They have a strong fan base of children and adults. The group's lead vocalist goes by the name of Ranger Doug. He is also the group's yodeler. The second in command, as I refer to it, goes by the name of Too Slim. The group has comical inflections, overall, and I'd say Too Slim is the group's natural comic given that during interviews and during their concerts he's the one that delivers the jokes and one-liners. He's the one with the handlebar mustache. Woody Paul is the tall member of the group and sings lead vocals on some of their songs but primarily he's recognized as the group's fiddle player. The accordion player goes by the name of Joey the Cow Polka King and he had been with the group since 1988, as their accordion player, but it wasn't until a few years later that he began to receive equal billing as the fourth member of the group.

Ray asks the group how they formed and in typical fashion he gets a joking response from the group. They speak of their radio program, Riders Radio Theater, which aired for 6 seasons (1988-1995) on's last couple of seasons originating in studios located in Cincinnati, Ohio. They didn't bring up their TNN series, Tumbleweed Theater, which aired 5 years (1983-1988) but Ray does mention a later program that the Riders hosted on TNN and a previous performance of "The Ballad of Cactus Pete and Lefty" during the episode Ray guest starred on. Too Slim recalls the use of a snake puppet to which nobody remembers whatever come of it leaving Ray to assume it got washed away in a flood. They speak of their involvement in the movie Toy Story, 2. The Riders and Ray perform "Cool Water"...later on Ray does his Gabby Hayes impression. One of the group's visual highlights is when Too Slim slaps his own face in rhythm...and he does the theme to Bonanza. Woody Paul gets into the act and starts to slap his own face...and for awhile both he and Too Slim are having a battle going on as they compete against the other. This leads to Too Slim encouraging the audience and the band to start face slapping. You can see some of this in the video clip. The Riders then perform "Gay Ranchero".

Ray closes the show performing his rendition of "Running Bear". Something you'll notice is there wasn't any Comedy Theater segments and I'd say a lot of this had to with the fact that the episode itself was nearly devoted to comedy and so there wasn't any use for comic relief insertions in between the serious performances from the guest artist. Instead of the short comedic skits or music videos being inserted what we see are close-ups of the show's title card and the skyline of Nashville appear on screen.

The Western theme is carried over into the next episode, sort of, as next week's guest is Rex Allen, Jr. but based on the brief description on KET's website it doesn't look to be another Western dominated episode. If you follow the career of Rex Allen, Jr. then you should already know that he's retiring next month. I don't follow his career that closely and so it was news to me. In a bit of incredible irony or clever strategy Rex Allen, Jr. is set to retire after performing at the annual Rex Allen Days event and the final day of that 4-day event is on a Sunday...October 8th...the day after his episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville airs in my area on October 7th. I'll give my commentary/review of that episode next weekend.

September 23, 2017

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Angaleena Presley

Hello once more!! On tonight's episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville the special guest happened to be Angaleena Presley.

Ray opened the show with a performance of "Ahab the Arab" and it was delivered with just the right amount of silliness that you'd probably expect. He performed the entire song...including the often over looked final verse of The Sultan catching Ahab and Fatima's tryst twist by surprise. If you hadn't seen a recent performance of the song, either in concert or from a television program, it may take you by surprise that Ray's added some lines to the song. Instead of saying the phrase "whoah, babies" at the conclusion of the fictional Arabic chant Ray has often substituted that phrase with a reference toward the tenor of Slim Whitman. During the encounter Ahab has with Fatima most recordings have Ray saying "crazy, baby!" in falsetto one recording Ray (as Fatima) scolds Ahab and says "get out of here, you idiot!". In more recent performances Ray (as Fatima) giggles uncontrollably. This can be seen in the 1995 music video and I assume this is why Ray stopped reciting lines as Fatima and now simply giggles.

After the opening performance a clip from We Ain't Dead Yet airs. This time it's a clip of Ray as the Wolfman Jack-inspired disc jockey, Rooster, attempting to sell 500 baby chickens to some person he randomly called on the phone. The 'radio station' is actually Rooster's room at The Encore...he's lost his mind and thinks he's hosting a radio show. The name of the station is WILD.

Prior to actually seeing this episode I was under the impression that the guest, Angaleena Presley, appeared as Margaret during a performance of "It's Me Again, Margaret" and more or less reacted to Ray's antics. I was surprised to learn that she actually performs the song, as Margaret, while Ray recites the Willard McBain lines. The performance by the two comes off like a live music video. Ray is seen a few feet away using a rotary phone prop which is hanging on a wall. During his call's to Margaret he appears full screen while Margaret (Angaleena) is shown in a small thumbnail screen shot in the upper left. There's a sign above the stage, but part of the performance, which reads S.T.O.P., which stands for Stop Telephone Obscenity Please. I took it to be a jab at political correctness because there's a lot of critics that say the song glorifies prank what better way to mock thin skinned critics than by having the performance take place near a PSA regarding obscene phone calls.

I did some research on the special guest and learned that she happened to be born on September 1, 1976...that makes her the same as me...and learned about The Pistol Annies.

I had heard of this group, actually, but having no real knowledge about them I didn't know much; which includes not knowing the names of the group members. It's a trio of singers...some critics have described them as outlaws...but I looked them up and discovered that they've been in existence as a trio for a number of years but they record solo, too.

After the performance of "It's Me Again, Margaret" another clip from We Ain't Dead Yet appears. In this clip Rooster once again calls somebody and informs the guy on the other end to expect delivery of 500 baby chickens. Darrell Waltrip can be seen listening on the other side of the door and he's informed that Rooster thinks he's on the radio but in reality he isn't. Ray introduces Angaleena and she discusses her career and remarks that she loves "The Pirate Song". Ray tells her that the music video happened to be shot in the very studio they're seated in and she tells him that she likes the squirrel song as well. She mentions that "It's Me Again, Margaret" happened to be a relative's favorite and loved being able to perform it as a tribute to her late relative. Angaleena peaks of being a descendant of the McCoy's...and Ray wonders whatever became of the Hatfields. She reacts with mock anger over hearing that last name. She performs "American Middle Class" which happened to be the name of her 2014 solo album. She has a current album out...released earlier this year...titled Wrangled. That particular release is also available in vinyl.

Ray closes the show with a performance of "Bon Temps Roulette". This is a song that Ray recorded back in 2000 and it's appeared on a couple of CD's. It's the first time I've seen him perform the song, though. It's a bouncy sing-a-long detailing the exploits of a woman on a riverboat while her past is revealed as the song progresses. There were no YouTube video clips promoting this episode or the one from last week guest starring Duane Eddy.

Next week's episode (September 30) guest stars The Riders in the Sky. It should be hilarious.