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...