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).