October 21, 2018

Ray Stevens 2018 Charity Golf Classic...

Hello one and all!! As most of you may know there's been an on-line silent auction that's been going on for several weeks in conjunction with the Ray Stevens Charity Golf Classic as a kind of build up to the actual golf event set to take place tomorrow (October 22nd). I provided a link to the on-line silent auction a couple of blogs ago in an entry with a similar blog title. That blog entry is titled Ray Stevens Charity Golf Classic 2018 but as you can see I slightly altered that blog entry title for the blog entry you're reading at the moment. The schedule of events for today (October 21st) begin at 5pm Central time at Ray's CabaRay performance venue in West Nashville. There will be an in-person silent auction at the CabaRay from 5pm to 7pm and this will be followed by a traditional auction (with an auctioneer, I imagine) from 7pm to 7:30pm. Following this auction there will be a Ray Stevens concert at the CabaRay which will kick-off at 7:30pm and run 90 minutes. All of this is according to an on-line schedule of events posted at the Temple Hills Country Club website which you can access by clicking HERE. The times listed are obviously approximations because I'd imagine it would be difficult to stick to a strict time-line of events because of the very  nature of it all happening live...but then again Ray is probably the only person that could pull off a live event of this magnitude {a silent auction, a traditional auction, AND a concert performance} and keep it on schedule to the last millisecond.  

The action at the Temple Hills Country Club gets underway bright and early Monday morning at 9am...as participants check in and start their practicing and warm-up. This takes place during a 2 hour window which is followed by a 45 minute lunch break. At approximately 11:45am what amounts to a pre-game ceremony gets underway with golf cart staging, information discussed or event announcements delivered, as well as the playing of the National Anthem. This will happen during a 15 minute window and then at Noon the game itself will commence. After the charity tournament there will be the usual after-game festivities inside the clubhouse.

The golf game itself, as mentioned, will begin tomorrow and it'll take place in Franklin, Tennessee whereas the events today will take place at the CabaRay in Bellevue which is almost always referred to as West Nashville in marketing and publicity. The locale of the CabaRay is 5724 River Road and it's main access is Charlotte Pike which itself is accessed via I-40. Naturally those directions are for tourists...the locals may have their own directions in arriving at the same destination.

Even today there may be some that think the CabaRay is in downtown Nashville or within a few blocks from other tourist attractions but in reality it's in the Bellevue, Tennessee neighborhood which is grouped into a regional area referred to as West Nashville with Bellevue being roughly 13 miles southwest of Nashville...but the neighborhood is included within Nashville's jurisdiction and a result the venue has a Nashville street address and politically the neighborhood is governed by Nashville. Once again here's the information about the Ray Stevens Charity Golf Classic.

October 15, 2018

Ray Stevens: Gruhn Podcast...

Hello one and all...and on today's fan created blog entry I'm supplying a link to a lengthy interview by Ray Stevens. The interview took place fairly recently...with the Podcast upload date being October 11th but I'm not sure when the actual interview itself took place. The interview is conducted by George Gruhn for a series called Gruhn's Vault: Conversations with the Masters. The archives indicate the series began earlier this year (in March) with an alternating time slot...which means that episodes air every other week. The show's previous episode aired on September 27th, for example. This interview is a real treat for those that love to hear Ray talk shop...few interviews of him rarely delve into the inner workings of the recording industry or give him the chance to discuss the art of making music and the relationship that exists between artists, writers, musicians, producers, and the business end of the music industry.

Ray touches upon practically every aspect of his career...along the way he discusses his life growing up in Georgia and his earliest exposure to music. He speaks of his mom insisting he practice playing piano and as Ray put it he seen it as something of a trade-off because she'd say that he could go out and play baseball with all of his friends only after practicing his piano lessons. If you've seen or if you own, as I do on VHS and DVD, Ray's movie titled Get Serious! it opens up with an actor playing a child version of Ray at the piano and an actress portraying, from the waist down, his mom. In the next scene we again see Ray, as a boy, being taught timing with aid from a metronome from an Austrian pianist also seen from the waist down (Ray himself played that role). Anyway, Ray discusses his path into the music industry. The history of Nashville and the recording studios is a focal point of most of the interview as Ray speaks about the composition of music and explains music arranging...and while listening to him you will hear just how mathematical and scientifically precise everything needs to be when making a recording.

He explains the pros and cons of the technological advances in the recording process and describes the elation he felt every time a console board increased it's track capabilities. He describes the evolution of using 3-track, 8-track, 16-track, 24-track recording concepts and explains how wonderful it is that everything can become perfect thanks to the advancement of technology and the multi-track process. In one segment of the interview he describes, in detail, the numbering system used on music charts and how, thanks to technology, you can look at/hear every instrument's individual performance in post-production on a computer screen due to everything being recorded separately and detect any flat notes or mistakes that can be corrected prior to the final mixing and mastering process. The interview isn't all about the recording studio, though. Ray speaks about some of his hit songs and his experiences in Branson, Missouri as well as his current showroom, CabaRay.

Near the end of the interview Ray mentions several long-awaited and much anticipated projects that he's been working on for a number of years...and for one project in particular it's something that Ray's made mention of for more than 5 years...a project he's referred to as Melancholy Fescue. He's spoke of this specific project since 2013. In fact it was exactly five years ago this month in October of 2013 that Ray uploaded a music video onto YouTube of a song that is to be included on this Melancholy Fescue project. I'm not embedding the video due to my wanting this blog entry to be exclusively text but I'll make mention of the song's title, it's "Unchained Melody". The other project is Slow Dance and he made mention of this project on an episode of his CabaRay Nashville television series. Speaking of which he offers some insight into what he hopes will come of his television series in the next calendar year when production of new episodes is suppose to resume at some point. You can listen to the George Gruhn interview of Ray Stevens by clicking HERE.

This interview on George Gruhn's podcast comes on the heels of another similar type of interview Ray gave to Bobby Bare that I provided a link to in a recent blog entry. That podcast series also airs in an alternate schedule. The episode of Bobby's series that featured Ray Stevens as a special guest was uploaded on September 26th and so you can see the close proximity from one interview to the other (September 26th and October 11th). Bobby's series is called Bobby Bare and Friends which was also the name of his television series on The Nashville Network in the 1980s (1983-1988).

October 7, 2018

Ray Stevens: CabaRay Christmas...

Even though we're still a little less than a month away from the November kickoff of Christmas at the CabaRay I thought I'd put together a second Christmas-themed blog entry. In my previous blog entry I wrote a curiosity wondering what Ray would be titling his concert series...given that I was a few days late in hearing about the upcoming Christmas-themed concerts at the CabaRay I neglected to do any kind of on-line image search. I did one this morning and I came across an image promoting the upcoming series of concerts and indeed the series will be titled Christmas at the CabaRay. I should have known this already because the video clip I posted in my previous blog entry has that phrase within the clip's title. Admittedly I hastily put together that previous blog entry without doing much research beforehand...the excitement of seeing something new from Ray on YouTube overtook my usual lengthy research. So, then, this is the official publicity photo for the upcoming series of concerts at the CabaRay Showroom...

In the comments section of the video clip on YouTube promoting this upcoming concert series there's a remark left by someone stating that Christmas decorations shouldn't be on display until after Thanksgiving. I don't never, well, rarely ever, engage in on-line arguments (anymore) so I never replied to the comment. In my younger years on the internet (early 2000s) I'd freely engage what I soon to learn were called trolls and I'd argue back and fourth, etc. but I long since stopped doing that kind of thing because you'll never convince somebody of something if they've already got their heels dug in and you'll rarely get me to change my mind once it's made up...so I don't argue on-line hardly at all. Having said that let me say that most families, traditionally, wait until after Thanksgiving to put up their Christmas decorations. However, this often doesn't apply to the entertainment industry. Holiday themed movies and Christmas decorations and even Christmas candy are typically up for sale in retail stores, for example, after Halloween...let alone Thanksgiving in late November...and so Ray putting together a Christmas show beginning in early November isn't some sort of sin due to it happening before Thanksgiving. As you can see in the publicity banner you have plenty of chances to attend the Christmas concert series as they'll be taking place from November 2nd to December 29th. All the information about the CabaRay Showroom can be found HERE. Once there click the Tickets menu button for further information.

In addition to the announcement about the upcoming series of Christmas concerts at the CabaRay Showroom let's not forget about the on-line auction and upcoming Ray Stevens Charity Golf Classic later this month at the Temple Hills Country Club. There are 95 items up for a bid but not everything is focused on Ray's career...most of the activity, no surprise to me, is in the music memorabilia section and it's in that area where you will see some rare items (such as a 1978 concert poster featuring the photo of Ray that appears on his 1976 Just for the Record album). There's also autographed copies of what's known as Hatch Show Prints as well as an autographed copy of his 1980 Shriner's Convention album. Here is the home page of the CHARITY GOLF CLASSIC website. The golf game pre-tournament events will take place at the CabaRay Showroom on Sunday October 21st beginning at 5pm. There will be a concert from Ray at the showroom beginning at 7:30pm Sunday night. The charity golf tournament itself will take place on Monday October 22nd. Much of what I just wrote can be found with even more information by clicking HERE.

October 6, 2018

Ray Stevens: Christmas at the CabaRay...

Hello once again!! A couple of days ago Ray Stevens uploaded an advertisement on YouTube promoting the upcoming Christmas season. The CabaRay is going to be trimmed in Christmas decorations beginning in early November with a Christmas-themed series of concerts throughout the rest of the calendar year. I don't know if the concerts will be wall-to-wall Christmas songs or if there will be 80 percent Christmas songs and 20 percent non-Christmas. The video description uses the phrases 'Christmas at the CabaRay' as well as 'CabaRay Christmas'. Ray himself makes mention of those phrases as well and so my guess is the official name for the series of concerts will either be 'Christmas at the CabaRay' or 'CabaRay Christmas'.

Songs performed during these concerts are likely to come from his three Christmas CDs: 1997's "Ray Stevens Christmas: Through a Different Window", 2009's "Ray Stevens Christmas", and 2016's "Mary and Joseph and the Baby and Me". Some of the songs on those CDs are: "Bad Little Boy", "The Little Drummer Boy Next Door", "All I Want For Christmas is You", "Greatest Little Christmas Ever Wuz", "Blue Christmas", "Santa Claus is Watching You", "Jingle Bells", "Let It Snow", "White Christmas", "Deck The Halls With Teardrops", "Christmas Bells in the Steeple", "Merry Christmas", "Christmas Will Be Just Another Lonely Day", "Redneck Christmas", and "Claws (A Cat's Letter to Santa)".

October 2, 2018

Ray Stevens Charity Golf Classic 2018...

Hello one and all...information has become available surrounding the third annual Ray Stevens Charity Golf Classic. As you can see it's a charity golf event that originated in 2016 and this year there's a nearly month-long on-line silent auction coinciding with the event that got underway yesterday. The final day of the silent auction is October 21st and there will be a pre-tournament event held on that day at his CabaRay showroom in West Nashville. The actual golf tournament itself will tee off on October 22nd at the Temple Hills Country Club in Franklin, Tennessee at noon. Everything you need to know about the on-line silent auction, including details of the items up for bid and registration information, can be found by clicking HERE and for a detailed description of everything that will be taking place on October 21st and October 22nd you can click HERE.

September 30, 2018

Ray Stevens: Bobby Bare and Friends Podcast...

Hello one and all...it's been awhile, again...but it's better to compose a blog entry that has some meaning rather than just hastily throw one together just to have something available for on-line viewing. As the title of this blog entry details I'll be providing a link to podcast of Ray Stevens being interviewed on Bobby Bare and Friends, a series that airs every other week on WSM radio. Ray's episode is currently the most recent and it originally aired a couple of days ago (September 26th) and it's since been uploaded as a podcast.

The link I'll be providing will have Ray's episode featured on the show's home page given it's the most recent episode but if you click the link in the coming weeks/months you'll have to click the Menu option located on the lower right hand side of the podcast screen. Once you do this you'll see a row of menu options along the top of the podcast...one of those is 'episodes'. Click that and an episode list will drop down and then you'll be able to select the Ray Stevens episode. However, as of this writing, since it's the current episode all you need to do is click HERE and then scroll down to the podcast screen and click the play button.

The theme of the series is the chorus of Bobby's mega-hit, "Detroit City". Bill Cody provides the opening narration/introduction. Bobby opens the show telling of Ray's genius and lists the various Halls of Fame that Ray belongs to but offers the question: "why in the world isn't Ray in the Country Music Hall of Fame??". Ray, in his signature style, says he has no idea why. Bobby says that they [CMA Board] need to get Ray into the Hall of Fame before it's too late...which causes Ray to mention Jerry Reed. They then discuss Jerry Reed and how he should have gotten elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame decades earlier. They then discuss "All-American Boy", the very first hit by Bobby Bare, released under the name of Bill Parsons. Ray had actually brought it up and Bobby told it's history. Although it's Bobby's series there are moments where Ray comes across as the interviewer, too, when he answers Bobby's questions with a counter-question of his own which causes Bobby to recall moments from his career.

The two of them had dramatically different career paths, of course, but each of them share common experiences and professional associations with the likes of Chet Atkins, Shelby Singleton, Felton Jarvis, etc. etc. and each of them played on their fair share of recording sessions for other artists, too. Bobby appeared on Ray's locally syndicated PBS television series, CabaRay Nashville, twice. The first appearance is Episode Three of Season One but a clip from this appearance later shown up on Episode Four of Season Six, an episode titled Hall of Fame. In this exchange Ray and Bobby speak of Chet Atkins and the song "Streets of Baltimore" for which Chet produced while Ray did the arrangement. In the podcast you'll hear Bobby ask Ray how in the world did he ever learn to write the string arrangements and that kind of technical stuff for so many songs.

In the podcast you'll hear Ray reply that when he attended Georgia State he majored in music theory and composition...to which Bobby interjects with a boisterous "ah-ha!!" as if at long last he's learned the secret to Ray's arranging prowess. Ray said that he became interested in musical notes and writing sheet music and that he intended to graduate but the unexpected popularity and success of a certain recording of his in 1961 ["Jeremiah Peabody"] inspired him to not finish his final year and embark on a career in the music business. He tells of getting a job at Mercury Records which he initially wanted to turn down after hearing his salary would only be $50.00 a week. The allure of receiving payment for recording sessions on top of his regular pay caused him to accept the job. Ray later tells of "The Streak" being his biggest selling hit while "Everything is Beautiful" was his biggest hit song in terms of cover versions and accolades.

"The Streak" (released in 1974) sold more than five million copies, hit the top of the Hot 100 for three weeks, the Top-10 on the country music chart, as well as reaching other music charts worldwide. "Everything is Beautiful" (released in 1970), sold over a million copies and it hit the top of the Hot 100 for two weeks as well as the top of the Easy-Listening chart; it became an international hit (reaching the top in Australia and the Top-10 in the United Kingdom) and ultimately it became the most recorded song from the pen of Ray Stevens. It also took home some Grammy honors early in 1971: Ray won for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance while a recording by gospel artist Jake Hess won for Best Inspirational Performance. Ray tells of how the sales of "The Streak" and advance orders were so huge that Barnaby's pressing plant and their distributor couldn't keep up due to it being an Independent label not used to those kinds of order demands.

Bobby mentions Ray's recording of "Harry the Hairy Ape" and this leads into a recollection of a time when Bobby was performing at a venue in Fresno, California and a drunk member of the audience kept hollering for "Detroit City". The story he tells is a classic tale involving a gun toting piano player that performed songs by Ray Stevens and one time he performed "Harry the Hairy Ape" in a gorilla suit. The gun was a prop and it shot blanks. The mention of this comes along within the 6 minute mark of the podcast and you'll hear Bobby's recollection of how they may have scared the drunk guy into future sobriety.

I've only provided an overview of the first 6 or 7 minutes of the half hour podcast. There is a lot more to listen to so don't let my overview take the place of hearing the podcast for yourselves. Here's that link once more: BOBBY BARE INTERVIEWS RAY STEVENS.

September 16, 2018

Ray Stevens: Gitarzan at CabaRay Nashville...

It's been awhile since my previous Ray Stevens fan created blog entry but it's more or less a result of it being unusually quiet on social media concerning whatever Ray might be up to. I don't want to build up any excitement or anything but based on times past whenever there happened to be a comparable decrease in social media activity it usually meant a new album was nearing it's release date but you can't really depend on a pattern of activity because sometimes there's no pattern even if it seems like there is. Several weeks ago Ray posted a message alerting everyone a new album was in the works but nothing more was said of it so it's hard to tell if all the songs have been recorded and it's just a case of it not being released yet or if it's still in production or post-production.

Earlier in the month the Jerry Reed Celebration took place at the CabaRay and I've seen photo's from the event that were posted on-line. The RFD-TV series, Larry's Country Diner, taped their current season at the CabaRay several months ago and those episodes are currently airing on RFD. Ray's own television series, CabaRay Nashville, is continuing to air on select PBS stations on the local level nationwide but it's in it's repeat cycle. Keep in mind that most television series on cable or those airing on special interest channels, 1 season is the equivalent of 13 first-run episodes...but if you base this on a network level which consists of 26 first-run episodes per season...78 half hour episodes works out to roughly 2 and a half seasons on a network level.

The last first-run episode of CabaRay Nashville aired the weekend of June 29th guest starring Lee Roy Parnell. Since then local PBS stations have been airing past episodes. There's been no information released as to when new episodes of the series will start production but given it's September, and given the more loose nature of local syndication as compared to national syndication or network television, plus the fact that there's 78 half hour episodes available it's quite possible that the series may remain in repeat cycle until the next calendar year.

In the clip below, from an episode of his television series uploaded onto YouTube on September 10th, here's Ray performing "Gitarzan"...his million selling hit from 1969...

September 3, 2018

Ray Stevens: The abc's of NRC...

Several blog entries ago I wrote about the music of Ray Stevens during his brief stay with RCA Records (1980-1983). The tenure resulted in three studio albums during the years 1980, 1981, and 1982 and one compilation release in 1983 during the four years he was signed to the label. Ray had actually joined RCA late in 1979 but no recordings from him emerged until early in 1980. In this blog entry I'm going further back and re-visit his brief stay on a label known as NRC (1959-1960). The acronym stood for National Recording Corporation and it was owned by and operated by Bill Lowery, a guiding force in the early stages of Ray's career (and other recording acts as well). The label and the recordings originated in Atlanta, Georgia which itself was a major departure from the industry norms of the era which pretty much dictated that Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, or Nashville were the music recording centers of America. A disc jockey, originally, as well as a local television figure in the Atlanta, Georgia market Bill Lowery formed his own music publishing company, Lowery Music, and concentrated on publishing songs of all genres. Several of the songs he published ended up being recorded by country and pop music artists and two songs, in particular, were "Be-Bop-a-Lula" by Gene Vincent (1956) and "Young Love", which saw four releases in quick succession: One of the song's writers, Ric Cartey, issued a version of the song in 1956 that didn't chart but then Sonny James released a version that become a gigantic country music hit and it crossed over and landed in the Top-10 of the pop charts in 1957. Then the actor, Tab Hunter, recorded the song and it overshadowed Sonny's version on pop music radio by hitting the top of the charts. A Canadian group, The Crew-Cuts, issued their version early in 1957 as well to eventual Top-20 success. As the publisher of "Young Love" it became one of Bill Lowery's biggest hit songs. He formed NRC in 1958 while Ray Stevens was still under contract at Capitol Records. Ray had been recording for Capitol, a contract resulting from Bill Lowery's influential recommendation/suggestion, for almost two years before making the move to Lowery's NRC label in 1959. Ray's first-ever commercially released recording happened to be on a subsidiary label of Capitol called Prep Records in 1957. The producer of Ray's recordings at the time was Ken Nelson.

As longtime fans of Ray Stevens should know but I'll make mention for newcomers...those earliest recordings for Capitol and NRC didn't chart nationally...well, one of them did, technically, but it was removed from radio playlists before it became "a hit". These non-charting singles represent Ray in his formative years on vinyl and long before his more familiar musical characteristics emerged. I don't need to tell longtime fans of Ray this but, as mentioned, the newcomers often are shocked to hear recordings by Ray from the late '50s to the mid '60s time frame. In those years, specifically the late '50s, Ray's recordings had a touch of teen-idol, romantic crooner atmosphere to them...but that shouldn't come as any surprise considering pop music of that time period was built around love ballads, teen angst, and sometimes tragic, emotionally heavy heartbreak in addition to the upbeat rock and roll sounds that are nostalgically tied to that era. In addition to being a vocalist at NRC he was also heavily involved as a writer, session musician, and music arranger of other artist's songs. If you search YouTube or do any kind of on-line image search for 'Ray Stevens + NRC Records' you'll find out a lot of information. The NRC recordings by an artist named Paul Peek has Ray credited as the Orchestra leader. Specifically it's referred to on the label as The Ray Stevens Orchestra. I do not know the names of any of the other musicians that were part of this orchestra but Ray's name headlines it so I assume he was the pianist and I'm guessing that Jerry Reed and Joe South were guitarists...but beyond those three I'd have no idea who the rest of the musicians happened to be. I know that Billy Joe Royal and Tommy Roe were part of the Georgia music scene, too, along side Ray and the others mentioned but I don't know if they were part of this 'orchestra' promoted on Paul Peek singles.

In the photo above I'm displaying a CD of 11 recordings by Ray Stevens as part of a series called The NRC Years. The series spotlighted the recording artists that recorded for the label in the late '50s and early '60s. There are some errors situated around this CD, however. On the cover it has his years at the label as 1958-1960 but in reality he wasn't on the NRC label until 1959. In addition to this there are a couple of songs in the collection that were recorded for Prep Records but were commercially unreleased in single format: "That's What She Means to Me" and "Cholly Wolly Chang". Those two recordings have appeared on a couple of compilation albums in the past but a single release was never available. Track ten, "Part of the Time", is another recording that never appeared on a commercially released single but it's available on this CD.

The recordings on this obscure CD collection are: "Sgt. Preston of the Yukon", "Who Do You Love?", "Happy Blue Year", "High School Yearbook", "Truly True", "What Would I Do Without You?", "White Christmas", "My Heart Cries For You", "Cholly Wolly Chang", "Part of the Time", and "That's What She Means To Me". The first eight recordings were issued on NRC while the last three weren't. The Christmas recordings are instrumentals. NRC issued four singles on Ray and since a single consists of an A-side and a B-side that's eight recordings altogether. I have no information when "Part of the Time" was recorded. I don't know if he recorded it while at NRC but chances are it's a recording from his Capitol years, too, because both "Cholly Wolly Chang" and "That's What She Means to Me" are credited to Prep Records and noted as unreleased in the liner notes of another compilation CD on Ray that I have called Ahab, Jeremiah, Sgt. Preston and More...The Early Ray Stevens from 2014 and having not seen any conflicting information I take the liner note information to be credible. Those same three recordings that make up tracks 9, 10, and 11 of The NRC Years appear on a various artists LP from 1962 titled The Young Lovers. That project features 10 recordings (3 from Tommy Roe, 4 from Bobby Rydell, and 3 from Ray). As mentioned NRC released only four singles on Ray but he'd move on to Mercury Records in 1961 and literally move from Georgia to Nashville, Tennessee by 1962 but never fully leaving his Georgia-born roots behind.

To say Bill Lowery had an impact on the career of Ray Stevens is a gigantic understatement. Bill was responsible for getting Ray on records, first of all, and promoting the songs in addition to publishing practically everything Ray recorded for almost a decade (1957-1966). Ray, by 1966, had become more or less a seasoned veteran among session musicians in Nashville and other important and influential industry figures (Shelby Singleton, Chet Atkins, and Jerry Kennedy) had also seen all of the talents Ray had to offer during countless recording sessions for not only his own recordings but on the records of other artists. His move to Nashville spearheaded the path his career has taken ever since. Earlier this year when Ray opened his showroom, CabaRay, it specifically pays tribute to Music City, U.S.A. and several key figures that shaped Nashville into Music City. Photo's of record producers and musicians line the walls and the booth's are named for several record producers, too. When you think about it Bill Lowery received the biggest visual tribute at the CabaRay...informally called the piano bar it's officially known as The Bill Lowery High Spirits Emporium...and a large photo of Lowery, with a drink in his hand, decorates the wall above the bar.

September 1, 2018

Ray Stevens CabaRay...Jerry Reed...

A couple of months ago I wrote a blog entry giving some spotlight to an upcoming tribute show to Jerry Reed. This show is an annual event and this year it's taking place at the Ray Stevens CabaRay showroom on September 5th (this Wednesday). If you hadn't purchased your tickets yet I'd call the venue and see if you can purchase tickets in person or if they'll hold them for you through the will call system. You can read the details by clicking HERE. When you purchase tickets on-line they'll be on hold for half an hour until the transaction is complete.

The link I provided is the CabaRay's event page which, at the moment, includes a large banner promoting the upcoming Jerry Reed Tribute as well as the information for tickets to the weekly Ray Stevens concerts at the CabaRay (every Friday and Saturday night). When you come across this blog entry months from now the banner promoting the Jerry Reed Tribute will more than likely be removed considering the event had already taken place...but it's visible at the site for all to see in the meantime. Obviously while you're at the tribute you'll be able to experience being at the CabaRay showroom.

Songs performed will obviously be those either written by or made famous by Jerry Reed and I base this on assumption as I do not know what will actually be performed: "Amos Moses", "East Bound and Down", "When You're Hot You're Hot", "Lord, Mr. Ford", "Tupelo Mississippi Flash", "Crude Oil Blues", "A Thing Called Love", "She Got the Goldmine I Got the Shaft", and of course "Guitar Man" among others. Then again it might be that none of those songs will be performed and it'll be a night of remembrance with original songs or material written but unreleased by Jerry Reed...maybe clips of him on TV and in movies will be highlighted...whatever the night consists of it'll be wonderful. Don't forget to click the link above for more information.

August 26, 2018

Ray Stevens: Forty Five at Fifty Three...

One of the aspects of the Ray Stevens CabaRay showroom in West Nashville is the interior design. While the exterior of the showroom is wonderful to look at the interior is obviously much more wonderful to behold. The performance area includes pictorial tributes to various people behind the scenes that were instrumental in the shaping of Nashville as Music City, U.S.A. and while some of the names on the wall are familiar to a general audience there may be some that aren't. The booth's inside the showroom are named for record producers, for example, in addition to their name and imagery on the walls. I'll be including a video embed near the end of this blog entry that takes a brief tour of the CabaRay prior to it's grand opening. In the video you'll notice a white piano sitting on stage. I don't know how long the white piano was in use but in every photo I've seen and when I visited the CabaRay back in March he had the ever popular red piano on stage. The video clip was posted on YouTube on January 9th and the CabaRay had it's grand opening later that month.

This opening paragraph about the CabaRay leads into the overall focus of this blog entry. While I've written frequently about a number of Ray Stevens single releases I felt like writing a blog entry about a particular recording titled "The Old English Surfer". This song, written by Ray, was released as the B-side of a single on Mercury Records in the summer of 1965. The A-side is "Mr. Baker the Undertaker".

The recording was produced by Shelby Singleton and Jerry Kennedy. When you watch the video clip later on in the blog entry you'll see their names along the CabaRay wall. The song can be classified as pure novelty as can it's A-side. This recording came along at a time when Ray's main focus happened to be in the production side of the music industry. Ray had two separate careers going at the same time. He had a recording contract with Mercury Records while he played on sessions and did production work for acts primarily on the Monument Records label but he also produced, arranged, and played on the recording sessions of lesser known acts on a wide variety of labels in the Mercury and Monument family of subsidiary labels. Ray didn't have a recording contract with Monument Records during this time and so any studio recording from Ray that appeared on vinyl was under the control of Mercury Records. This unique scenario of working for two competing record labels ended, though, by late 1965. He became a recording artist for Monument Records, interestingly enough, with his next single release and so "Mr. Baker the Undertaker" / "The Old English Surfer" happened to be the final single release on him, at the moment, from Mercury Records. He returned to Mercury Records later on for a series of single releases and an album but the bulk of his recordings for the label arrived during the 1961-1965 time frame.

"The Old English Surfer" is a song about what you'd think it would be about. The novelty song uses the massive popularity of the surfer craze sweeping pop music but doesn't feature conventional 'surf music' in the background. Instead it features some sound effects of gurgling/bubbling water and an electric guitar contributing surf-type accompaniment. In the song Ray tells the story of an Englishman that works at a beach and how his violin controls the flow of the waves. According to the song the action takes place in the year 1542 and Ray assures the listener that this was well before Jan and Dean made their debut. Aside from that one reference to contemporary pop act, Jan and Dean, the rest of the song centers around the violinist's prowess and Ray's manic vocal delivery. In closing here's the video clip from earlier this year as Ray walks around the performance area of the CabaRay...

Ray Stevens and his Latest Video Clips...

Oh yes it's another fan created blog about Ray Stevens written by me that you're reading at the moment and based on my previous blog entry it got me thinking a little about simian songs from Ray's career. I touched on this subject many blogs ago but with the recent YouTube upload of "Too Much Monkey Business" I decided to re-visit the topic. I also decided to write this blog entry to pass along specific unique view numbers for the latest video clips from Ray Stevens that are on YouTube.

The August 14th upload, "Too Much Monkey Business", has received 3,124 unique views so far. This is something of a dramatic pick-up since writing about the clip yesterday. I'm too modest to think my blog sharing helped it receive additional unique views but something definitely caused the video to get nearly a thousand more unique views. I'm not going to monitor the unique view numbers of either video clip on a daily basis. I used to do this in the past with other YouTube videos that Ray would upload but I no longer do that. Every so often I'll check the unique view count of these two videos and provide information on this blog at that time.

The August 17th upload, "Doctor, Doctor Have Mercy on Me", has received 20,068 unique views as of this writing. Yes, you read that correct, it's surpassed the 20,000 plateau as I write this. This video has also received a dramatic rise in unique views since I last wrote about it yesterday. The subject matter revolves around the medical profession and this is something that's been highly topical ever since politics crept into things in a major way in 2010. Although the song itself has nothing to do with that side of the medical profession (healthcare, Medicare, Medicaid, etc. etc.) it nevertheless is a song dealing with doctors...more specifically primary care doctors/family doctors and the frustrations all of us have when visiting the doctor. So the topicality of the subject matter gives it more of an edge in social media and you're seeing the results.

Simian silliness in song has been part of Ray's career dating back to the early 1960s. The cover photo of TV Magazine off to the left, though, is from the summer of 1970. The first notable recording spotlighting this happened to be 1963's "Harry the Hairy Ape". The recording became a Top-20 pop and a Top-20 Rhythm and Blues hit. Something more surprising is the fact that it's peak position was higher on the Rhythm and Blues chart. The song tells the story of an ape that spends his days attempting to scare people and it eventually leads to his becoming a rock and roll star. It was originally released on his 1963 album, This is Ray Stevens. 1969's "Gitarzan" took the fictional Tarzan and his jungle family and turned them into rock and roll performers. Although this Top-10 million selling pop hit is definitely more about it's parody of Tarzan as a rock and roll guitarist nevertheless there's the memorable vocal appearances of both Jane and their pet chimpanzee, Cheetah. The chimp is referred to as a monkey in the recording although technically Cheetah was a chimp. In this song the chimp likes getting intoxicated prior to his performances but you can't tell it based on the fervor in which he contributes to the jungle band. Why am I even making a distinction between a chimp and a monkey? You never know in this day and age...if I didn't make that distinction there would be somebody out there raising a fuss about Ray referring to a chimp as a monkey. Some people can be way too over-analytical. Ironically, Ray re-recorded "Harry the Hairy Ape" for the 1969 Gitarzan album. If you've got a lot of compilation albums released on Ray it's likely the 1969 recording of "Harry the Hairy Ape" that are on most collections. When the limited animation music video was produced of the song they used the 1969 recording instead of the 1963 recording.

In 1970 there came a song titled "Monkey See, Monkey Do" and it's from his Unreal album. The song itself had nothing to do with the simian but had more to do with social commentary and the slang phrase of people seeing other people behaving or thinking in some fashion and therefore adopting the character traits of others rather than being true to one's own point of view. The song itself adopts that slang phrase and also adds envy to the equation in which members of society, in general, attempt to mimic their peers as far as fashion, physical appearance, and income are concerned. A neighbor has a house with two garages and so that may inspire somebody else to top that and have a house built nearby with a three car garage. A person holds a certain belief but doesn't dare speak their mind for fear of being shunned by society and as a result this person adopts the opinion of "a majority" just to fit in...and at the crux of "Monkey See, Monkey Do" is the painting of society as a zoo as Ray asks us to find a mirror and look at ourselves. It goes hand in hand with the A-side of the single, "Come Around", a marvelous song criticizing excess, hypocrisy, and close mindedness found in some sectors of society. The picture sleeve of that particular single release you see above is from the overseas market. In America the A-side of the single was "America, Communicate with Me".

In 1984 Ray decided to do his version of the theme song of "The Monkees" television series. The song features Ray performing the theme song in a Monkees-like vocal performance at various moments throughout but the obvious highlight are the two greatly exaggerated fictional Austrian performers (Wolfgang and Fritzy) that frequently bicker and argue back and fourth as they attempt to perform their version of the theme song. You can find that hysterical performance on the album, He Thinks He's Ray Stevens.

In November of last year Ray uploaded a music video of "Aba Daba Honeymoon". The music video appeared out of the blue. Ray had recorded the song at some point in 2010/2011 for inclusion on his mammoth box set, The Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music. The music video had been in existence since 2013 according to the video details on YouTube but it had never been uploaded onto the internet until November 2017. The song dates back to 1914 and so it was nearly 100 years old prior to Ray bringing it back when he decided to record it for his 2012 box set. It had been recorded numerous times and there were several pop hits of the song in the 1950s and it's chorus was parodied in a long running series of television commercials for Frito's. The song is incredibly simple if not entirely fictional as far as it's plot goes: a monkey and a chimpanzee fall in love and get married in a ceremony in which a baboon is the preacher. The nonsense phrase of the song's title is explained as monkey talk. The fun of the song is how the tempo of the song gradually moves higher and higher and the lyrics are performed in such a frenzied fashion aided by the use of some scat-singing, too, before the tempo falls back down for it's conclusion. Ray's version is outstanding...musically speaking and the actual vocal performance. The video features a cameo appearance of Ray as Gitarzan near the beginning.

This brings us, chronologically, to the performance from his CabaRay television series of "Too Much Monkey Business". Ray hasn't officially recorded the song but this performance of the song has become a video release on YouTube and that is what I started this blog entry with.

August 25, 2018

Ray Stevens at the CabaRay...

One of the things that happens when there's a lot of attention focused on something is the fact that other things that are going on are bound to get overlooked or go under reported. This is the case when it comes to a particular YouTube video clip from Ray Stevens. Although it didn't go unnoticed from me I didn't spotlight it too much due to all the focus being on the upcoming Music City Walk of Fame ceremony but yet I created a blog entry for another music video clip that debuted on YouTube three days later. That video, "Doctor Doctor Have Mercy on Me", debuted on YouTube on August 17th and to date it's gotten more than 18,000 unique views.

The video that debuted three days prior, on August 14th, happened to be a live performance from the CabaRay but it's gotten a little more than 3,000 unique views as of this writing. One clip is a conventional music video while the other is a live performance from his CabaRay showroom. The unique view discrepancy is also telling...it would suggest that those who share videos through social media sites tend to prefer the conventional green screen music video productions from Ray Stevens rather than stage performances...but yet there are other stage performances from Ray that are on YouTube that have gotten hundreds of thousands of unique views...so my theory isn't absolute. I just thought it worth pointing out given the closeness of each video as it relates to their upload date on YouTube and how the August 17th upload has the most unique views than the August 14th upload.

The performance uploaded to YouTube on August 14th is of Ray singing "Too Much Monkey Business", a recording originally made famous by Chuck Berry in 1956. The performance comes from an episode of his CabaRay Nashville television series...the one guest starring Micky Dolenz of the Monkees pop music group.

August 23, 2018

Ray Stevens: Music City Walk of Fame Press Coverage...

Hello once more...and in this blog entry I'm going to share some links that'll take you to several different websites. All of the sites feature press coverage/re-caps of the Music City Walk of Fame ceremony from August 21st. Each article basically uses the same press release but each author adds individual contributions to the overall article and most of the sites use different photo's of the recipients, too. One of the links, for example, includes a music video from each of the four recipients (Ray Stevens, Jeannie Seely, Brenda Lee, and Ben Folds).

First up we have an article from the TENNESSEE STAR. In the next link we have an article from BROADWAY WORLD. DIGITAL JOURNAL has the honors in this link. The fourth link will take you to COUNTRY BEAT magazine. THE GEORGIA SUN provides the fifth link of press coverage. A sixth link is from MUSIC ROW magazine and a seventh link is from KMAM radio in Butler, Missouri.

The coverage of the ceremony in the hours afterward was wonderful and those are just a sample of the websites I came across this morning when I arrived home from work. I didn't scour the internet too heavily yesterday because I wanted to give it a couple of days before I searched, in a detailed manner, for press coverage. When you visit any of those links, as a reminder, feel free to share them on social media sites or "like" them if you want. Feedback lets the people that run those websites and the authors of those articles know their coverage of the ceremony was appreciated. If you stay silent they'll never know.

In the articles there was mention of Ray's showroom, the CabaRay. Have you been there yet? He performs there every Friday and Saturday. The showroom's Piano Bar opens at 5pm. The dinner seating opens at 6pm. The concert begins at 7:30pm. There's a gift shop located inside the facility as well. You can purchase tickets or simply browse the CabaRay site by clicking HERE.

August 22, 2018

Ray Stevens on the Music City Walk of Fame...

Hello one and all!! Yesterday was the Music City Walk of Fame ceremony in downtown Nashville and in this blog entry I'll be posting the YouTube video of the live stream from yesterday. You'll see emcee Bill Cody speak and introduce the presenter, Ricky Skaggs, who gives a heartfelt speech about Ray and the CabaRay showroom. Ricky points out one of the greatest things about the showroom is it's celebration of Music Row and the recording studios and producers that helped make Nashville 'Music City, U.S.A.'. You'll also see Ray on stage speaking...he mentions that he didn't know that he'd have to speak but this may have been a joke since his acceptance seemed well thought out...but then again he could've have been told about having to give some sort of speech a day or two ahead of time and then came up with what he said yesterday. He made mention of the current Mayor Briley having already made his exit and spoke of the origin of the song, "Nashville", and how he wrote it in Sydney, Australia while homesick. He made mention that in the original recording he referenced the current mayor's grandfather, Mayor Briley. He thanked/acknowledged those in attendance and pointed out his two daughters and his grandson. I don't want to give too detailed of a re-cap but I will add that he told a joke about Bubba, Earl, and the school teacher. In the video clip you'll see the other recipients on stage (Brenda Lee, Ben Folds, and Jeannie Seely) and seated directly behind them are the presenters. Charlie Daniels did the presentation for Brenda Lee while Trisha Yearwood did the presentation for Jeannie Seely. The presenter for Ben Folds was Jonathan Levine. A photo of all of them will close out this blog entry. This will be a rather unusual blog entry for me as it's mostly consisting of photo's and video clips. When you watch the video clip of Ray's speech you'll see who he's giving a thumb's up to.

I did a Google News search prior to my beginning this particular blog entry and I came across several video clips focusing on the Music City Walk of Fame ceremony. Some video clips run 4 hours while other video clips are from local news stations and those run the usual length...5 minutes at the most. In the collage below I included an image of Ray giving his speech at the microphone and right next to it in panel two came after the acceptance speech was over. Ray and presenter, Ricky Skaggs, went over and had their photo taken of Ray's Star on the Music City Walk of Fame. Bill Cody could be heard from the stage mentioning that Ray has the 84th Star on the Walk of Fame. In the background you can hear the guitarists from the stage performing "Everything is Beautiful" during the photo session. In panel three it's the Star, of course. I wanted to try and get an image of it by itself. 

Local Nashville station, Channel Five, also has snippets of the ceremony featuring all of the Walk of Fame recipients. You can read/watch that by clicking HERE. You can also see a newscast featuring commentary/video of the ceremony on WSMV-TV by clicking HERE.

August 21, 2018

Ray Stevens: Music City Walk of Fame Ceremony...Today!!

Hello one and all...well, the day has finally arrived...later this morning Ray Stevens will be among the recipients receiving a Star on the Music City Walk of Fame. It was around this time yesterday morning that I was putting the finishing touches on my previous blog entry and here I am anxiously awaiting for the ceremony to begin. Ray's office staff are hoping to have a live stream of the event on YouTube and Facebook. If there are any technical glitches then we'll have to wait for photo's and a recap to appear on-line but I'm hoping the live stream will go on without a problem. Ricky Skaggs is going to do the presentation of Ray's Star. As mentioned in some of my other blog entries Ray will be honored along side Brenda Lee, Jeannie Seely, and Ben Folds.

I didn't post this collage yesterday because I wanted to save it for the actual day he'll be receiving his Star. I included a simple star image from an image collection for panel four and I included an image of Ray's 1973 album, Nashville, in cassette format. It ties in with the city of Nashville and by pure coincidence he's in a shirts in which his shoulders and collar is decked out with stars. There is a song on the Nashville album titled "You've Got the Music Inside" and it also includes his take on "Never Ending Song of Love" as well as the aching "Love Me Longer" and the introspective "Golden Age". Since Ray's being inducted onto the Music City Walk of Fame this morning I purposely chose music-driven images, pretty much. Panel two, above the star image, is a photo of Ray taken from inside the CabaRay showroom. In the panel beneath the star image (panel five) it's a publicity photo of Ray from 1975. It would later serve as the cover photo of a 1980 issue of Country Song Roundup as well as serve as the cover photo of an obscure re-release of Even Stevens. Panel three, as you can tell, is a cassette version of Ray's 1977 album, Feel the Music. That's the album which includes his wonderful performance of "Save Me From Myself" in addition to the marvelous "Get Crazy With Me", "Road Widow", the majestic title track, and "Dixie Hummingbird". Well, now...it's 11:01am here...10:01am in Nashville...90 minutes left before the ceremony at the Music City Walk of Fame gets underway!

August 20, 2018

Ray Stevens: Music City Walk of Fame ceremony...Tomorrow...

As I write this blog entry this morning I can't help but think ahead to tomorrow...that's the day when the latest Stars will be added to the Music City Walk of Fame. I've written a couple of blog entries about the ceremony already (August 12th and just the other day, August 18th) and I'll no doubt be blogging about the ceremony tomorrow when it actually takes place. The ceremony is scheduled to get underway tomorrow (August 21st) at 11:30am Central and I do not know which of the recipients will be spotlighted first. If you've been reading my previous blog entries or have been reading the coverage that Ray and his social media staff have added to their on-line sites then you'll know that in addition to Ray receiving a Star there's going to be honors for Jeannie Seely, Brenda Lee, and Ben Folds. Ray and Brenda have a Georgia connection and their career's parallel one another...both began recording professionally in the late 1950s, too. Jeannie Seely is one of the legendary female country music artists and regularly appears on the Grand Ole Opry every weekend. Ben Folds is someone I knew of, by name, but not being a listener of the style of music he performs I know very little about him. I looked up some things on the internet just to find out biographical information on him and I was reminded of where I had originally heard the name...a group called Ben Folds Five was in existence from 1995 to 2000. I found out that he's long since had a solo career, too.

What about that collage? Well, it's a random photo collage depicting Ray through the years. Panel one actually appeared as the cover page for sheet music of "Indian Love Call" in 1975. The color of the pamphlet happened to be green and so there's a green overtone to the photo of Ray. The second panel's photo of Ray originated at some point in the mid 1980s. It appeared in a magazine article on Ray Stevens in 1986 and later served as the cover photo of a 1992 gospel collection, A Brighter Day, on Clyde Records. Panel three comes from the recently uploaded video of Ray in 1971 on an episode of BBC In Concert. He's performing "Gitarzan" in that 1971 appearance and then I decided to place a photo from this year of a "Gitarzan" performance next to it. So it jumps from 1971 to 2018. The final panel is a photo of Ray last year at one of his concert stops prior to the grand opening of his CabaRay showroom this past January.

In the collage off to the right I decided to emphasize imagery focusing on his CabaRay showroom and his locally syndicated PBS series, CabaRay Nashville, in addition to spotlighting two of his signature hits, 1962's "Ahab the Arab" and 1974's "The Streak". The first panel uses the same photo I spotlighted in the other collage because I happen to like the photo. The center panel is a somewhat recent publicity photo of Ray which appeared a couple of years ago when he released the on-line music video and CD single, "Dear America", in September 2016. I purchased the Mp3 instead of the CD because I didn't know if a CD copy would arrive in what they call a jewel case or in a slip case or if it would arrive in a plain white paper sleeve. A couple of previous CD singles offered at Ray's web-store had arrived in plain paper sleeves...no art work/cover photo...so I decided I'd hold off on purchasing the CD single of "Dear America" just in case it didn't arrive with a photo of Ray and instead I purchased the Mp3.

The Music City Walk of Fame is located at 121 Fourth Avenue, South and it's situated inside a park setting as you can see from the sign off to the left. The ceremony is going to take place inside the park beginning at 11:30am Central tomorrow (August 21st). As mentioned in other blog entries I've written the park is located across the street from the Country Music Hall of Fame. On one side of the park there's the Bridgestone Arena and on the other side of the park there's the Symphony Center. It's all situated in one sector of downtown Nashville. You can Google images of the park and you'll see the general layout and how the Star plaques are lined up on the sidewalk. The ceremony is free to the public so if you're a fan of Ray Stevens and are in the area by all means visit the Music City Walk of Fame tomorrow and experience the event. As is the case in many ceremonies of this kind there's likely to be acceptance speeches by those honored and of course there's going to be biographical information delivered by the emcee of the ceremony, too. Since there's going to be four honoree's receiving their Star I assume each one will be allotted a predetermined amount of speaking time. I don't think the ceremony is going to clock each honoree, though. As of this writing I don't know if Ray will appear first or if he'll appear last. He'll be the oldest of the honorees: Ray was born in 1939, Jeannie Seely was born in 1940, Brenda Lee was born in 1944, and Ben Folds was born in 1966. So, they might honor each one based on seniority or they go by reverse seniority (in that case Ben Folds would be first to receive a Star and Ray would be spotlighted last). However the presentation ends up being I'll be looking forward to the ceremony! It's almost 11am here in the East...almost 10am in Nashville...around this time tomorrow morning it'll certainly be busy at the Music City Walk of Fame park!!

Ray Stevens Single Releases on Vinyl: 1987

The second single release on Ray Stevens in 1987 came along this month, actually. "Three Legged Man" hit the market in August 1987 as the follow-up to April 1987's release, "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?". Unfortunately, for the two additional single releases that year, "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?" would prove to take a life of it's own and overshadow whatever impact the follow-up singles may have generated. "Three Legged Man" tells the comical story of a man who falls for a woman he met...and even after being told the woman is already in a relationship with a man named Peg Leg Johnson. Ray's character is undeterred and he steals the woman and also takes the wooden leg to prevent (he thinks) Peg Leg from chasing them down. To Ray's surprise Peg Leg starts giving chase... "...hopping and flopping..." on one leg trying to keep up. Ray tells of every place he, the two legged woman, and the one legged fool have passed though during the literal cross country foot chase. Finally, though, Peg Leg's exhaustion gets the best of him and he pleas for something of a truce. He relents and says that Ray can keep the woman for himself but in the name of all things decent he'd like to have his leg returned. However, there's a twist ending to the story, that I won't give away in case you hadn't heard the song. The song was penned by Shel Silverstein.

The third single release on Ray Stevens in 1987 came along in December. "Sex Symbols" (from the pen of Buddy Kalb) had actually become a very popular song in Ray's concerts in the months and years after it was released. In fact he performed the song on television for the first time on an episode of Hee Haw...and I think it could have been on an episode he was the guest co-host. I should clarify that it was the first time I had seen him perform the song...he could have performed the song on Nashville Now as well but if so I hadn't seen it. The song's inspiration was an unlikely but massively popular duet by Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias called "To All the Girls I've Loved Before" a couple of years earlier. In "Sex Symbols", Ray performs it as a duet with Julio...but it isn't the famed Latin singer featured with Willie Nelson, though. Ray does a broad vocal impression of Julio Iglesias and whenever Ray speaks to Julio he consistently mispronounces the name as Jewel-E-Oh to which Julio always reminds him "no, no, it's Julio, Julio!!". Throughout the song the 'two' reflect on their popularity with women and they compare themselves to other perceived sex symbols (although Ray deliberately names very unlikely sex symbols for comical effect). As an added touch whenever Ray performed the song on television or in concert he'd always deliver it as a ventriloquist. A dummy of Julio would sit next to him and Ray would operate it's mouth whenever Julio would speak. You can see a performance of the song on the Ray Stevens Live! home video from 1993.

The first single release from Ray Stevens in 1987 came along, as mentioned, in April. "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?" became a very popular hit that year and one that happened to be very timely as it dealt with the national controversy of scandalous televangelists. In this song (penned by Chet Atkins and Margaret Archer) Ray sings about waking up one morning and upon watching television he's greeted by a man asking for donations. He describes the man's attire and notices the Rolex strapped on the preacher's arm. This causes Ray to wonder if Jesus would be wearing a Rolex when he returns. The social commentary combined with the televangelist scandals went hand in hand and although you're not going to see any chart publications showing the song perched at the top do not let that mislead you in any way. The song was more popular than it's chart standings (something that's a common theme in Ray's career). The controversial subject matter it dealt with created a polarizing atmosphere and it never received the airplay it truly deserved given how popular the song was. In 1988 the song was nominated for a Grammy and if I needed to prove it's popularity even further Ray performed it on The Tonight Show...which wasn't necessarily a hot-bed for country music performers...and by this time Ray had firmly established himself as a country music performer/country comedian. Radio legend, Paul Harvey, dedicated two separate editorial columns to the song which ran in newspapers across the country.

The B-sides of two of the singles I wrote about above were "Cool Down, Willard" and "The Ballad of Cactus Pete and Lefty". "Cool Down, Willard" is the B-side of "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?" while "The Ballad of Cactus Pete and Lefty" appeared as the B-side of "Sex Symbols". In the case of "Cool Down, Willard" we have a very funny song about a farmer who's frustrated that his entire family is obsessed with the weatherman, Willard Scott, of The Today Show. In the song Ray plays the part of the frustrated husband as he complains about all the attention directed at Willard and how it's interfering and destroying his family life. Things are so bad, according to Ray, that nobody helps him with the chores and the women in his life (his wife, his grandmother, and his aunt) spend their day talking and gossiping about all things Willard Scott. Ray gets the chance to do his grandmother voice several times as he relates to us how much his grandmother's flipped out over Willard. "The Ballad of Cactus Pete and Lefty" (written by Ray and Buddy Kalb) is a comical tale of a Western codger and his pet sidewinder, Lefty. It's a spoof of campfire storytelling sessions but in this case it's set in the Old West as Cactus Pete tells of the many adventures he and Lefty have encountered while living in the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico. A running gag in the song is every time Cactus Pete mentions some sort of animal the ever hungry Lefty would shake it's tail in excitement. Like so many Ray Stevens songs the music helps paint a mental picture. Among the adventures recounted is the time Lefty fought an Eagle...described by Cactus Pete in his distinctive gravelly voice, "a baldy headed eagle...".

The B-side of "Three Legged Man" is none other than "Doctor, Doctor Have Mercy On Me" (from the pen of Buddy Kalb). As mentioned earlier this single was released in August 1987 as the second single from Crackin' Up, Ray's album that year. The essence of many Ray Stevens songs is the fact they take on lives of their own...regardless of when they were originally recorded or originally released. "Doctor, Doctor Have Mercy On Me" has always been a favorite of mine and as those of you should know by now it's since been uploaded as a music video on YouTube...some 31 years after it was originally recorded. The video itself, as I learned, was produced in 2013 and had aired on a television series Ray hosted for a retooled version of The Nashville Network (now called Heartland TV). Ray-ality TV was picked up by The Nashville Network in 2013. This 78 episode series was a follow-up to a short-lived subscription based service called Ray Stevens Backstage. It was in service for probably a little over a year, 2009-2011. I have some blog entries in the archives from 2009 spotlighting the subscription-based service and so I know it launched in 2009. The focal point of this service was to spotlight exclusive content and it served as the home for early episodes of his on-line sitcom, We Ain't Dead Yet, which starred Ray and featured many of his close friends and peers in the music business. The series was set in a fictional retirement home called The Encore. Ralph Emery appeared in several episodes as Doctor Wellman...which he plays in the music video of "Doctor, Doctor Have Mercy On Me". After Ray-ality TV aired on The Nashville Network in 2013 it became an on-line series in the spring of 2014 on YouTube. I'm thinking it was put on-line due to the fact that the re-launched Nashville Network had very little subscribers nationally and as a result not many people were able to see Ray's previous series the first time around.

Today, of course, Ray's television series is a music/talk show titled Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville and it's locally syndicated on PBS stations nationally. His video site, RayStevens.TV, is subscription based and it's the place to watch all episodes of the CabaRay Nashville television series that have previously aired. His current television series has been in production since 2015. It was originally titled Ray Stevens' Nashville and it aired for two 13 episode seasons on RFD-TV (2015-2016). It moved to local PBS syndication beginning in January 2017 under the new title, Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville. There have been 78 half hour episodes produced of this particular series. Episodes never took place at the actual CabaRay showroom, though, until after it opened it's doors in January of this year. The last nine episodes of it's most recent season (Season Six) took place at the CabaRay showroom. As you all should know Ray and his associates had hoped to have the CabaRay open by the summer of 2017 or at the very least the fall of 2017 but it finally had it's grand opening in January this year.

In closing here's that music video for "Doctor, Doctor Have Mercy On Me"...

August 18, 2018

Ray Stevens: Doctor, Doctor Have Mercy on Me...

Yes, it's me and I'm posting the blog entry I hinted about in my previous post. In this blog entry I'm spotlighting the recently uploaded music video from Ray Stevens, "Doctor, Doctor Have Mercy on Me". This song goes back a bit in the career of Ray Stevens and was first heard in 1987 on his comedy album, Crackin' Up. That's the album which features Ray dressed as Humpty Dumpty on the cover. I've mentioned the album and this particular song numerous times in blog entries over the last decade but it wasn't until this morning that I knew a music video had been made. Ray once had a series on a retooled version of The Nashville Network titled Ray-ality TV. It was a series that featured a hodgepodge of sketches and clips mostly from his archives but there would be exclusive content as well. This music video (from 2013) happened to be one of the latter. It had never been on-line until Ray uploaded it yesterday evening. I wasn't on-line yesterday evening and so I didn't see the video until this morning when I arrived home from work. Ray re-recorded "Doctor, Doctor Have Mercy on Me" and eventually placed it on a CD titled Laughter is the Best Medicine. That CD remains, to date, the only place you can find the obscure "PSA Song". Anyway...here's the music video for "Doctor, Doctor Have Mercy on Me". The timeless lyrics reflect all of our frustrations. Appearing in the video along side Ray are Sabrina (as the nurse) and the legendary Ralph Emery (as the doctor).

Ray Stevens: Nashville Walk of Fame Ceremony...3 days from now...

Hello once more!! We've gone from 9 days down to 3 days...yes, three days until Ray Stevens receives his star on the Music City Walk of Fame. In case you want to learn more about the ceremony you can click HERE. The link will take you to the Music City Walk of Fame press release that I posted on here late last month. The ceremony will start at 11:30am Central time. Ray has a YouTube video link set to stream the ceremony and on his YouTube page it has 10:45am as the moment live coverage will start. I found out the reason for this and it's for planning purposes. Live streams are highly unpredictable...sometimes there are glitches and sometimes the natural act of a lot of people accessing the video at the same time may create some sort of crash or blackout or whatever technical interference there may be. In my experience I've had good and bad when it comes to streaming video. Usually if I have an issue with a live stream it goes away once I watch the archive because, of course, there aren't a lot of devices attempting to access the site at one time.

Are you into the technical aspects of the Ray Stevens CabaRay showroom? By that I mean are you interested in reading about the equipment used in giving the CabaRay it's glorious sound? I came across a website the other day that highlighted the sound system being used at the CabaRay. You can read about it HERE. Ray uploaded a music video yesterday on YouTube. The video originated in 2013 but had never been put on-line until yesterday evening. I seen it for the first time this morning. I'll be spotlighting that music video in my next blog entry but in the meantime he had previously uploaded a music video onto YouTube of "Aba Daba Honeymoon" (in November 2017) and it's origins were 2013 as well. Here's that particular music video...

August 13, 2018

Ray Stevens Both Sides CD...

I don't personally own this particular collection of Ray Stevens songs but it's a collection that I've seen on-line for a number of years. It's released on a label called Crown Records and research shows it was issued in the United Kingdom. There are several websites that differ on the actual year of release, though. Some cite 1976 and other sites give 1979 as the year of release. It features 12 songs...and as you can tell from the title, Both Sides of Ray Stevens, it concentrates on the comical and the serious in his music catalog. The first 6 recordings are aimed at the comical but in this particular collection they've included a particular song among the first 6 selections that isn't necessarily comical, humorous, or even a novelty. It's the serious, social commentary angst of "Mr. Businessman". I guess the people that compiled this collection felt that a song questioning the morals and ethics of a typical businessman was humorous or whatever but in reality it's social commentary. "Mr. Businessman" is located on this compilation as track three in between a couple of his most elaborate novelty recordings: 1974's "The Moonlight Special" and 1970's "Bridget the Midget The Queen of the Blues". The latter recording hit in December 1970 but had it's largest impact early in 1971...and ironically it had it's largest impact in the United Kingdom where it peaked in the runner-up position on the UK Pop music charts. The two recordings feature heavy use of mimicry, too. In "The Moonlight Special" Ray does his impression of Wolfman Jack (referred to as The Sheepdog) and along the way he does broad exaggerations/parodies of several high profile music acts: Gladys Knight and the Pips (referred to as Mildred Queen and the Dips), Alice Cooper (referred to as Agnes Stupor), and Jerry Lee Lewis (referred to as Jerry Joe Harry Lee Jimmy Billy).

"The Streak" is found on Both Sides of Ray Stevens as track five. Unusual for that particular recording to be found further down the track list on a compilation album isn't it? Originally "The Streak" and "The Moonlight Special" were issued on the same 1974 album, Boogity Boogity. As anyone that calls themselves a Ray Stevens fan should know already is "The Streak" is Ray's biggest selling single and biggest radio hit. The single sold millions of copies. The most reported sales figure is 5,000,000 worldwide. It had an incredible chart run on the Billboard Hot 100...by incredible I'm referring to the fact that "The Streak" was the number one pop hit in America within five weeks of it's release. This meteoric chart climb enabled the single to remain at the top for three consecutive weeks in the early summer of 1974. It also hit the music charts internationally, as well, plus it crossed over to the country music charts and hit the Top-10. "The Streak" would also, for a lot of the international market, be the last major release on Ray Stevens (excluding Canada). The lead-off track on Both Sides of Ray Stevens, "Gitarzan", comes from 1969. That particular song became an international pop hit in addition to it's million selling status in America (becoming a Top-10 hit on the pop charts). Track six is "Freddie Feelgood", a very funny novelty song from the mid '60s, where Ray vocally mimics music instruments. Since I do not own this collection I can't say whether or not the song found on Both Sides of Ray Stevens features audience laughter, as it does on the 1969 Gitarzan album, or if it's the original single release from 1966 minus the laughter which can be found on other compilation albums.

The selections considered serious on this collection reveal a couple of things. Earlier in the blog entry I mentioned that I wasn't sure of this collection's release year. However, simply by looking at the final 6 song selections we find three recordings from his 1975 album, Misty. Track seven is his country and pop hit, "Misty", from 1975 while this is followed by 1970's "Everything is Beautiful". Each of those recordings won a Grammy Award. "Misty" won for Best Arrangement accompanying a Vocalist (1976 Grammy telecast) while "Everything is Beautiful" won for Best Pop Vocal Performance- Male (1971 Grammy telecast). Ray didn't appear on the 1971 telecast because he was busy overseas on a tour (either in England or Australia) and so Glen Campbell accepted the Grammy. "Everything is Beautiful" hit both the country and pop charts...a massive pop hit and million seller...it hit the number one spot for 2 weeks on the pop chart while it spent 3 weeks at the top on the Easy-Listening chart (now known as Adult-Contemporary). In addition to Ray's performance of "Everything is Beautiful" winning a Grammy it was also a Grammy winner the same year for Jake Hess in the Best Inspirational Performance category. 

Tracks nine and ten both come from 1975: "Young Love" and "Sunshine". The fact that those two recordings, plus "Misty", all come from the same year and album it leads me to believe the compilation was released in 1976...but then again there are other compilation albums from the late '70s on Ray Stevens that stop at 1975 even though their year of release is later (1977, 1978, 1979). So your guess is as good as mine...I say Both Sides of Ray Stevens was released in 1976 due to the inclusion of "Young Love", specifically. Why do I say that? Barnaby Records released Ray's recording of the song as a single late in 1975 and so it would've been the current single from Ray early in 1976 which is the year I think this collection was released. "Sunshine", in the meantime, is the B-side of "Misty" and was not even promoted as an A-side release and so I have no idea why it was included on this collection. It's a wonderful song and in the same vein as "Misty", instrumentally, but "Sunshine" wasn't a chart hit.

The final two tracks on this collection are a pair of gospel hits, 1971's "All My Trials" and early 1972's "Turn Your Radio On". The former became a Top-10 hit on the Easy-Listening chart in addition to hitting the pop chart. It's appearance on the Hot 100 was something of a rare accomplishment for a song with such strong gospel/inspirational ties...the same held true for "Turn Your Radio On". It became a Top-20 country music hit early in 1972 and it's the title track of his 1972 gospel album. A third single from that album also peaked on the Easy-Listening chart in the Top-10 but it's not included on this collection. That recording happened to be "A Mama and a Papa". Among the selections on this collection from 1975 you won't find his hit recording of "Indian Love Call", neither.

The essay found on the back of the album contains several errors. One of them concerns his year of birth. It has his birth year as 1941 but it's actually 1939. It also states he was born in Atlanta, Georgia but he was actually born in Clarkdale, Georgia. Also, the essay mentions his hit, "Indian Love Call", and it's mentioned in the essay as if it's one of the songs on this album but it's not even part of the collection.

The 12 songs are:

1. Gitarzan
2. The Moonlight Special
3. Mr. Businessman
4. Bridget the Midget the Queen of the Blues
5. The Streak
6. Freddie Feelgood
7. Misty
8. Everything is Beautiful
9. Young Love
10. Sunshine
11. A Mama and a Papa
12. Turn Your Radio On

August 12, 2018

Ray Stevens: Nashville Walk of Fame Ceremony...9 days from now...

It's getting closer to the ceremony this coming August 21st when Ray Stevens and company (Jeannie Seely, Brenda Lee, and Ben Folds) will receive their Stars on the Nashville Walk of Fame. I wrote about this upcoming event back on July 24th when I first read about it on-line and now we're nine days away from the ceremony. The ceremony will begin at the Music City Walk of Fame Park at 11:30am Central, 12:30pm Eastern. I do believe in my July blog entry I posted 10:30am Central, 11:30am Eastern. Either I misread the time or it's since been edited into the websites I got my initial information from. Whatever the case...the date is August 21st (which falls on a Tuesday) and the time is 11:30am Central, 12:30pm Eastern. If you're in the area it's a free event so if you happen to be a fan of Ray Stevens or a fan of the other performers why not stop by and enjoy the event if you're able to?

It's suppose to be streamed live and so I'm thinking ahead and assuming that there will be video clips available later in the day or perhaps immediately following the ceremony. I've had some bad experiences with video content that's suppose to stream live...sometimes the content will not load and play but yet sometimes the video will play just fine and then, all of the sudden, just stop for whatever reason and then pick up later...creating a choppy presentation which, of course, isn't easy to follow in real-time and so, usually, I depend on video clips posted at a later time. The photo you see is from a performance by Ray Stevens at his CabaRay showroom in West Nashville. The venue is located on River Road just off Charlotte Pike on I-40. You'll see a billboard advertisement along the interstate with the exit to take so it shouldn't be too difficult to find.

I don't know how long the Nashville Walk of Fame ceremony will be...perhaps they'll spend 10 minutes on each entertainer and then have each recipient speak after their history/time-line is discussed by the emcee...so I think it'll run probably an hour; but maybe there won't be any commentary from the recipients and it'll just simply be a presentation by the emcee and then photo sessions commence featuring each holding their Star. Personally I'm hoping it'll be like other honor's that take place where the emcee is at a podium and each Plaque is revealed while the emcee tells of the recipient and then asks the recipient to speak. I knew of the Nashville Walk of Fame but I didn't know a whole lot about it's purpose. I thought it was a walkway of entertainers already elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame considering it's close proximity but I've learned a lot in just under a month. It's a walkway not exclusive to country music and not exclusive to Country Music Hall of Fame members.

For the record, Ray Stevens is not a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame but this upcoming ceremony will further acknowledge his multi-faceted career (after already having been inducted/elected to the Nashville Songwriter's Hall of Fame in 1980, the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1980, the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001, the Christian Music Hall of Fame in 2009, and recognition as a Nashville Cat for his session work by, ironically, the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010).

Ever since the news broke of the upcoming Nashville Walk of Fame ceremony there have been a number of websites that have shared the news (obviously!) and I'd like to provide some links to a couple of them. The links will take you from this particular blog...but return and click the other links as well. I'll obviously be writing a blog post on the day of the Nashville Walk of Fame ceremony...nine days from now!