July 21, 2018

Ray Stevens CabaRay: Jerry Reed Tribute...

Hello once again...it's been kind of a busy week off-line for me and the weekend seemed like the perfect time to put together another fan created blog entry about Ray Stevens. During this past week a couple of things have appeared on-line that I'm finally getting around to spotlighting in this blog. The first is the announcement that the CabaRay will be the setting for an upcoming tribute to Jerry Reed. It's set to take place in a couple of months. The specific date is September 5th at 7:30pm Central Time. You can find out information about the CabaRay, including street address, by clicking HERE. I am familiar with a lot of Jerry Reed's recordings and I know of his association with Ray Stevens but I was not aware that there's been an annual tribute show for Jerry Reed that's taken place in September for the last several years. The one taking place this year is billed as the 7th annual Jerry Reed Tribute. I'm sure most of you are familiar with quite a few of his songs: "Amos Moses", "Tupelo Mississippi Flash", "When You're Hot, You're Hot", "She Got the Goldmine I Got the Shaft", "You Took All the Rambling Out of Me", "Lord, Mr. Ford", "Another Puff", "Texas Bound and Flying", "Crude Oil Blues", and the massive "East Bound and Down".

On one of the recent episodes of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville entitled Tribute Show there was a segment in which Ray spoke of his longtime friendship with Jerry Reed (which included teenage recording sessions under the guidance of Bill Lowery in the late 1950s) and Ray sang "When You're Hot, You're Hot". In case you're wondering this Tribute Show is Episode Nine of Season Six. As most people also know in addition to his singing career Jerry also had an acting career and was a wizard on a guitar (although his stage presence and personality often overshadowed his guitar prowess). You can purchase tickets to the Jerry Reed Tribute at the CabaRay by clicking HERE. I'm sure Ray is going to take part in this...it's at his showroom, after all, and both he and Jerry Reed were friends. In the late '70s and in the early '80s a lot of the television specials that Jerry took part in as host or co-host often included Ray as a guest and I think in some instances it was Jerry Reed's insistence on getting Ray on those programs. Ray even had a cameo appearance in one of Jerry's movies, Concrete Cowboys. There was a 1979 country music television special that Jerry hosted and one of the guests was Ray Stevens. Jerry introduced Ray and spoke of their long association...referring to Ray as a genius and saying he's "crazier than I am...". Ray performed "Freddie Feelgood" and "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow".

Back on July 17th (this past Tuesday) this photo of Ray Stevens appeared out of the blue on his social media sites with a caption that read: "Ray doing what he does best". There was nothing else said about the photo and there wasn't any sort of follow-up post of any kind to indicate the purpose of it appearing...but it nonetheless has caused a lot of his fans (myself included) to speculate that perhaps there's some sort of new CD in the works or perhaps there's going to be a release of a CD that's long been in production and is just now ready to be released. That's initially what the overall feeling is concerning the photo. There's also the possibility that there's no hidden message about the photo and that it was posted simply because they wanted to post it. He's wearing a hat and I recognize it from photo sessions a couple of years ago but, still, that doesn't take away from the photo appearing from out of nowhere on a Tuesday afternoon and the reason (if any) behind it. Now, in addition to the announcement of the upcoming Jerry Reed Tribute at the CabaRay and this mysterious photo, there was also a nice video upload advertising the gift shop at the CabaRay. I attended a concert at the showroom back on March 1st of this year. The gift shop was open but you could tell that it was still in it's infant stage because there were several neatly stacked boxes over in a corner which may have contained items that had yet to be put on display. Looking at the video clip how I wish I would've attended a concert at some later date...the gift shop looks packed with more items than how I remember it in person. When I attended a concert there the showroom had only been open to the public for a month (it opened in late January 2018 and my concert was March 1st) and with this being late July it's officially been open for half a year.

July 15, 2018

Ray Stevens and the abc's of RCA...

Hello one and all...as I made mention in a previous blog entry the current season of the Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville television series wrapped up a couple of weekends ago and so most of my blog entries are going to be more along the lines of the kind I used to do before I began devoting most of my time to writing reviews and comments of his television program.

A couple of blog entries ago I wrote about Ray's under-rated stay at Warner Brothers Records in the late 1970s (1976 through 1979) and I revealed a collage that I created revolving around his music of that period. You can read that blog by clicking HERE. I posted it back on July 10th but it's something that I'm going to periodically refer to from now on because of my desire to spotlight those recordings to anybody that visits this fan created blog page.

Although I don't really need to remind anyone I'll go ahead and do so for any new readers that come across the blog:

I celebrate/spotlight all areas of Ray Stevens career. I also take pride in the fact that I offer accurate, fact based information when it comes to albums, music videos, or appearances from both the past and present by Ray Stevens. I also never marginalize any aspect of his career. There are some music historians and music fans, in general, that only blog about the widely known aspects of Ray's career and offer very little else about him or they offer partially accurate information due to sloppy research. I came across a discography of Ray Stevens from some website...it was an image taken from one of those music guide books...that discography had more skips than a well worn vinyl album. Albums were omitted and some had the wrong year of release. Sloppy...sloppy...need I type it again? Sloppy!

But let's move along to the subject of this particular blog entry. I call it the abc's of RCA and I title it as such because I'm going to shift some focus onto his RCA recordings in the early 1980s. I've written on this subject before...my older blog entries indicate as much...but I like to update my commentary and revisit past subjects rather than let previous thoughts and analysis rest in the archives. These RCA recordings were on the heels of the under-rated Warner Brothers recordings and like the recordings on that label his RCA material is rarely, if ever, available for purchase in any detailed quantity.

The RCA years in the career timeline of Ray Stevens cover 1979 to 1983. Ray signed with RCA in the latter half of 1979 and he went to work on his first album for the label...the results surfaced very early in 1980 in the form of the single, "Shriner's Convention", in February. The comedy album, Shriner's Convention, surfaced as well. The single and the album both hit the Country Top-10. I have a vinyl copy of the 1980 album in addition to the cassette release. The single received a lot of publicity in various country music trade magazines of the time period and given that the song and album were devoted to comedy (his first comedy album in 6 years) it forever more cemented his image as a comedy/novelty act among country music consumers. Around the same time that "Shriner's Convention" was hitting in America RCA issued one of the tracks from the album as an international single. "Hey There" was issued as a single in Canada, The United Kingdom, Germany, and in the Netherlands. That single's B-side is "You're Never Goin' To Tampa With Me" which is also the B-side of "Shriner's Convention". I've never been able to find any chart data on "Hey There"...no data on chart statistics or what month the single was released...but there are plenty of images of the single available on-line and I'll post one of those images later in the blog entry.

Anyway, upon the fast climbing success of "Shriner's Convention", just as in times past, whenever Ray saw success with a comical project he'd almost immediately distance himself from it and return to serious, non-comedy recordings. After the meteoric success of "Shriner's Convention" and everything that came with it early in 1980 he ultimately began work on a serious follow-up. In the fall of 1980 Ray emerged with "Night Games". Sufficient enough time had lapsed between the release of the rollicking "Shriner's Convention" in February and "Night Games" in August. Ray performed "Night Games" on a 1980 television special honoring his long time friend and sometimes business associate, Chet Atkins. On this same television special he and Chet performed a rendition of "Frog Kissing" which Chet had a hit with in 1976. Ray produced, arranged, and published the recording session. In the era of the Urban Cowboy fad "Night Games" told the story of life in singles bars and the relationships that form in darkness but often vanish in the light of day. The song climbed into the Top-20 on the country music chart.

The B-side of "Night Games" is a love ballad called "Let's Do it Right This Time". Each of these recordings, from the pen of Buddy Kalb, appear on Ray's 1981 album, One More Last Chance.

As you see in the above collage in panel two Ray is dressed in cowboy attire with an alluring woman at his side. On the back of the album Ray appears in a casual shirt and wearing the cowboy hat that the alluring woman is wearing on the front of the album. I have the album on vinyl but not in cassette which is why there isn't a photo of myself and a cassette version. Prior to the release of his 1981 album, however, the title track was issued as a single in January 1981 and it eventually became a Top-40 hit on the country charts. "One More Last Chance" is a super recording...stellar use of steel guitar and electric guitar...and you've heard songs referred to before as a lover's plea...well, this one is a highly emotional lover's plea. So much was put into the production...it's also a lengthy recording. There are numerous lengthy recordings on this 1981 album...it's ballad heavy...but some are kind of uptempo but still lengthy. The B-side of "One More Last Chance" is "I Believe You Love Me".

It is such a great album and, for me, it remains a mystery as to why no further single releases or publicity arrived for the rest of the calendar year concerning the One More Last Chance album. If you were at the movies in the summer of 1981 you no doubt heard Ray singing on The Cannonball Run movie. He sang the theme song, "Cannonball", and a love ballad, "Just for the Hell of It". The movie opened in theaters on June 19, 1981. Prior to this he appeared on the soap opera, Texas, and performed "One More Last Chance" on camera. It's credited on-line as episode 217...the original air-date being June 10, 1981. So, no, it wasn't like 1981 was a bleak year or anything in his career. What turned out to be Ray's final studio album for RCA arrived early in 1982 in the form of Don't Laugh Now. This album was far less ballad heavy and it also represented some changes on the technical side. Ray enlisted a co-producer, Bob Montgomery, and on several recordings the arranger was Ron Oates. On practically every studio album by Ray Stevens dating back to 1970 Ray is credited as both producer and arranger...and the keyboard/piano/organ/synthesizer player.

On this album Ron Oates is credited with keyboards and is the credited arranger of "This Old Piano", "Why Don't We Go Somewhere and Make Love", and the album's first single, "Written Down in My Heart". Ray is credited as the arranger on the other seven recordings. The neon-like cover art in the lettering seen on the vinyl copy ties into the '50s era rock and roll feel of the album's lead-off track, "Such a Night", along side the abundance of electric guitars heard throughout the album. Yet, "Written Down in My Heart" is a soothing love ballad with just a few touches of electric guitar. The single hit the country music Top-40 in early 1982...the B-side is the mid-tempo "Country Boy, Country Club Girl". The last single RCA released on Ray appeared in the spring of 1982, "Where the Sun Don't Shine". This sing-a-long carries a southern gospel overtone in the music arrangement but the lyrics offer a humorous story about a man leaving a woman and offering parting advice in the form of the song's title. It made the country music charts but didn't crack the Top-40. Ray remained an RCA recording artist, contractually, into 1983.

The company released a Greatest Hits compilation on him that year which was comprised almost entirely of recordings of Ray from Monument Records and Barnaby Records (covering the years 1968 to 1975) but it tacked on two recordings from his 1980 debut album for RCA. "Shriner's Convention" and the album track, "The Dooright Family", appeared on the 1983 compilation. In hindsight RCA should have included the six single releases from Ray during his brief stay on RCA and then filled the remainder of the album with older songs but instead there are only two RCA recordings on 1983's Greatest Hits. "Hey There", interestingly, is never included on any compilation album even though we all can clearly see it was released as a commercial single but yet the equally hilarious recording, "The Dooright Family", which was never released as a commercial single, has long become prominent on several compilation albums. Ray even produced a music video of the song in 1995...so it's gained a reputation among fans as being a 'hit' song in spite of it never being commercially released as a single.

After Ray's RCA contract ended he went over to the Mercury label for one album (1983's Me) and then he signed with MCA about midway into 1984. During his stay at the label he enjoyed much sales success for the rest of the decade as he embraced the comical image he had tried so valiantly to distance himself from for pretty much his entire career up to that point.

RCA, in the meantime, released a compilation in 1985 called Collector's Series. A brief overview of Ray's time with the label...it features eight recordings chosen seemingly at random...from his three studio albums for the label. This title would be re-issued in 1987 with a slight change in song selection. In the 1985 copy it includes his 1981 hit, "One More Last Chance". In the re-issue in 1987 that song is omitted and replaced by the non-hit, but comical "Put It In Your Ear" from the 1980 Shriner's Convention album. I have the 1985 vinyl and cassette copy of Collector's Series.

I used to have the 1987 re-issue on cassette but the tape was eaten by a malfunctioning player. The image in the fourth panel in the collage is the CD copy of the 1987 release of Collector's Series. Even though this eight song RCA compilation provides only material from his RCA period in each release (1985 and 1987) each one omits a couple hit songs: "Night Games" and "Written Down in My Heart"...but because it spotlights the RCA recordings and since no other compilation that's come along features as many I consider Collector's Series an essential purchase for fans looking for early '80s recordings by Ray Stevens. The next best thing is seeking out his vinyl albums from that time period. Those vinyl albums are: Shriner's Convention (1980); One More Last Chance (1981); and Don't Laugh Now (1982).

Here are the commercial singles, year of release, and catalog number for Ray Stevens on RCA:

"Shriner's Convention"; 1980 PB-11911
"Hey There"; 1980 PB-9525
"Night Games"; 1980 PB-12069
"One More Last Chance"; 1981 PB-12170
"Written Down In My Heart"; 1982 PB-13038
"Where the Sun Don't Shine"; 1982 PB-13207

July 11, 2018

Ray Stevens CabaRay Billboard...

Hello one and all...I've been dealing with some personal happenings off-line and so I hadn't had a chance to add a recent blog entry until now. This one will not be too lengthy as it's mostly going to spotlight a couple of things pertaining to the Ray Stevens CabaRay Showroom. Several weeks ago a new billboard was unveiled along the highway advertising Ray's showroom.

Isn't it a sight to behold?? The image is clickable! Anyway...there happened to have been a billboard advertisement in the past which also cross promoted his PBS television series, CabaRay Nashville. That particular billboard highlighted the program's airing on NPT (Nashville Public Television). I have the image of that billboard saved on my computer and statistics show that the billboard appeared on-line for the first time in the summer of 2017. If many of you remember it was the summer of last year when Ray had hoped to have the CabaRay open to the public but the actual grand opening didn't take place until this past January. In the opening couple of months Ray appeared at the showroom nearly every night (except for Sunday). I attended a concert there on March 1st...my first ever trip to Nashville, Tennessee. Since then he's operated the showroom as a weekend destination (Friday and Saturday) and within the last month it became sort of the unofficial home of Larry Black's long running television series...episodes of Larry's Country Diner have recently began taping at the showroom. The showroom is located off I-40 in West Nashville. It's physical street address is 5724 River Road. If you use GPS or MapQuest in your road travels here is the information you'll obviously need:

Ray Stevens CabaRay Showroom
5724 River Road
Nashville, TN 37209
(615) 327-4630

The Ray Stevens CabaRay Showroom is, of course, one of the recent destination spots for tourists and music fans alike in Nashville but the longest running destination would be the Grand Ole Opry. Ray guest starred on the Opry last week (July 3rd)...billed as the Tuesday Night Opry. WSM radio has aired the Opry since it's debut in 1925 and it's on WSM's website where you can find archives of relatively recent Opry broadcasts. Last Tuesday's broadcast is now on-line and I've provided an audio link. This is a link to the full 2 hour show. If you only want to hear Ray's portion of the show then you'll need to start playing the clip at the 43 minute, 55 second mark. Bill Cody reads a commercial for the CabaRay (since it's the sponsor of Ray's portion of the show) and then he introduces Ray to a thunderous reception. You can listen to the broadcast of the July 3rd episode by clicking HERE.

Here's a larger image of the billboard I opened the blog entry with...

July 8, 2018

My largest Ray Stevens Collage...

Hello all once again!! A very early Sunday morning here as I write another fan created Ray Stevens blog entry. There hasn't been any updates over on WSM's website in their Opry archive section and so, as of this writing, I don't have any audio link to provide of Ray's July 3rd guest appearance. In my previous blog post I made mention that I already had the idea of what this blog entry would be about and so I'm unveiling what could possibly be my largest Ray Stevens collage. I make collage's for pure enjoyment and to spotlight albums, single releases, or photo's of Ray over the years...often I add photo's of myself showing off whatever I might be writing about.

After I finished writing a recent blog entry about some of the compilation albums that have been issued on Ray Stevens I got the idea to try and put together a collage of nothing but Ray Stevens on Warner Brothers Records. This would cover the years 1976, 1977, 1978, and 1979 in his career timeline. What I did was I gathered up images of his vinyl studio albums from those years and I gathered up images of his single releases from those years on the label and I put them all together in a collage. I didn't concern myself with whether or not the single release I chose to place on the collage was from the U.S. or the international market but I did attempt to arrange everything in chronological order.

If you're long time readers of this fan created blog page then you should be very aware of how much I champion Ray's music and career, in general, but then I often give heightened coverage to his Warner Brothers recordings. A lot of it has to do with my personal feelings given my enjoyment of the songs he recorded but also what drives my focus is how under-rated that era of his career generally is and so after I began this fan created blog nearly 10 years ago I took it upon myself to spotlight his late '70s material at any opportunity. In a lot of the compilation albums that were issued on Ray Stevens over the decades (from the mid '80s onward) and then in the ones that appeared later in the 1980s and especially the 1990s there tended to be a pattern of covering an abundance of his Monument and Barnaby recordings (specifically the years 1968 through 1975) while more or less skipping over Warner Brothers (1976-1979) and RCA (1980-1982) except for a couple of novelty recordings for each of the two labels. I may do one of these collage projects spotlighting his RCA recordings but for now here's the one I did spotlighting his Warner Brothers era:

Now, I know this is way too small for anyone to actually see the writing on the albums and the single releases but you can click the image for a somewhat larger view. Anyway...this is probably...well, actually, it is the largest Ray Stevens collage I've created. In his three years with Warner Brothers he recorded four studio albums and one compilation album. The compilation album arrived in 1979 to cover the years 1976, 1977, and 1978 but it also featured his hit, "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow", from earlier in the year which up to that point was only available as a vinyl single. The 1979 album is the fifth one in the collage off to the left (the first panel in row two). If you are familiar with Barry Manilow then you should see the comical connection in art work. Barry's 1975 album had a similar cover design and letter font and the name of his album that year was Trying to Get the Feeling whereas Ray's album in 1979 is titled The Feeling's Not Right Again (named after a song on Ray's previous studio album in 1978). I also added a comparison image of the single release of Ray's recording next to the cover design of Barry Manilow's second studio album. I have almost all of Ray's studio albums on vinyl and I have a vinyl copy of the "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow" single but my copy doesn't feature the picture sleeve. My copy, which I bought on-line, arrived in a plain paper sleeve. I've seen auctions on eBay for the single and it's picture sleeve but those, obviously, were always out of my price range and so I opted for the cheaper alternative. I wanted the vinyl single anyway...not having the picture sleeve didn't change my feelings concerning the actual song. As you see in the collage there are five images of vinyl albums, 2 comparable cover art depictions, and eight single recordings. Here is the breakdown of everything you see...starting with the vinyl albums:

Just for the Record (1976); Feel the Music (1977); There is Something on Your Mind (1978); Be Your Own Best Friend (1978); and The Feeling's Not Right Again (1979).

The single releases, the month and year of release, and their catalog numbers:

"You Are So Beautiful" (April 1976; WBS 8198)
"Honky Tonk Waltz" (August 1976; WBS 8237)
"In the Mood" (December 1976; WBS 8301)
"Get Crazy With Me" (January 1977; WBS 8318)
"Dixie Hummingbird" (May 1977; WBS 8393)
"Be Your Own Best Friend" (July 1978; WBS 8603)
"I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow" (March 1979; WBS 8785)
"Get Crazy With Me" (June 1979; WBS 8849)

The comparable cover art depiction is of the picture sleeve of "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow" and Barry's second studio album, Barry Manilow II. If you look at the chronological listing of single releases you'll notice a couple of things...at least I took notice right away. The first is the lapse of time between the release of "Dixie Hummingbird" and "Be Your Own Best Friend". There's more than a year separating the two. Then there is no further single releases throughout the rest of 1978 even though the Be Your Own Best Friend album had plenty of single worthy recordings such as "Comeback", "Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right", or the re-recorded "You've Got the Music Inside" which had originally been recorded in 1973 by Ray. Another thing you should notice is the re-issue of "Get Crazy With Me".

Warner Brothers originally issued the single in January 1977...right on the heels of Ray's surprise novelty hit with his chicken clucking rendition of "In the Mood". In the original release of "Get Crazy with Me" in January 1977 the B-side happened to be "Dixie Hummingbird". Ray's "Get Crazy with Me" isn't a novelty song but it's title would suggest otherwise and it's my guess Warner Brothers felt the title could serve as a follow-up and therefore become an immediate hit. Later on Warner Brothers re-issued it upon the strength of Ray's novelty hit, "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow".

The re-issue of "Get Crazy With Me" in 1979 featured "The Feeling's Not Right Again" as it's B-side. Let's add more to this vinyl sea of confusion by pointing out "Dixie Hummingbird", the original B-side of "Get Crazy with Me" from January of 1977, when it was issued as an A-side single in May of 1977, it's B-side happened to be "Feel the Music". The funny thing is Ray performed "Feel the Music" on television several times in the mid '70s and once in the early '90s but I don't think he ever performed "Dixie Hummingbird", the actual A-side, on television...ever!

In the last couple of paragraphs I had some fun relating the single release pattern of Ray's Warner Brothers recordings but let that not scare you from seeking out those recordings. You are likely to find Mp3 copies of select recordings at Amazon. If you look up the 1995 compilation albums: Cornball, Do You Wanna Dance?, and The Serious Side of Ray Stevens then you'll find a lot of his Warner Brothers recordings. They're, to date, the only definitive look at his late '70s recordings. The only thing that could top those releases were to be if Warner Brothers were to re-issue Ray's actual studio albums in a series of CD's or Mp3's but there's been no indication such a thing will ever happen so those 1995 releases are your only hope in hearing those obscure recordings.

July 7, 2018

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Lee Roy Parnell

Hello once more...I just finished watching episode 13, Season Six of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville. The special guest happened to be Lee Roy Parnell. This episode originally aired in local syndication on PBS stations the weekend of June 30th and it's since been uploaded to Ray's video site, raystevens.tv.

Ray opened this episode performing "Barbecue"...and it was the first time I'd seen him perform the song on any television appearance since 1990. He performed it on an episode of Nashville Now when the album it originally appeared on, Lend Me Your Ears, was relatively brand new. He released an official music video produced with limited animation in the mid 2000s as one of a handful of music videos he issued direct-to-DVD prior to the launch of his YouTube channel several years later. The "Barbecue" music video can be found on YouTube. If you pay close attention to the band during the performance you'll see a certain figure playing prominent guitar...and it would be the special guest, Lee Roy Parnell...

Ray calls Lee Roy over to the piano after the performance. Lee Roy had played on Ray's Lend Me Your Ears album in 1990. I knew this but during the performance of "Barbecue" and even with seeing Lee Roy standing among Ray's house band it never hit me until Ray and Lee Roy began talking. In the studio recording the main instrument is the harmonica. The first bit of conversation that Ray brings up is Lee Roy being a member of the Texas Songwriters Hall of Fame. Ray asks how he got from Texas to Nashville. Lee Roy describes his trek to Music City and how one of his first jobs came in a publishing house for Polygram. His first commercial recordings arrived in 1990 after having signed with Arista's relatively new country music imprint. The label had a lengthy history in pop music but in the early '90s the company branched out and in country music they benefited from the enormous sales and radio popularity of Lee Roy Parnell, Alan Jackson, the Brooks and Dunn duo, Pam Tillis, and Diamond Rio just to name several.

After Lee Roy spoke of his songwriting work at Polygram Ray brought up Tim Dubois and Arista Records. Lee Roy mentioned his record producer at the time, Barry Beckett. Lee Roy also mentioned that many of his own demo recordings winded up being placed on his albums. Ray brings up Merle Haggard and how inspirational, both musically and vocally, he happened to be for Lee Roy. This leads into a conversation about the mid '90s Merle Haggard tribute album; the title isn't given but it's Mama's Hungry Eyes: A Tribute to Merle Haggard; in which Lee Roy recorded "Workin' Man Blues" with Steve Wariner and Diamond Rio. The recording was credited to Jed Zeppelin (a pun on the rock band, Led Zeppelin) and in 1995 it received a CMA Award as Music Event of the Year. Ray and Lee Roy perform a really loose rendition of "Workin' Man Blues" where the music is front and center and high emphasis on the blues is in order. At various moments in the performance Lee Roy blends a number of verses but it doesn't take away from the overall performance. Ray does several piano solo's and Lee Roy counters these with his slide guitar solo's. It's such a loose interpretation with heightened music emphasis that the actual lyrics become secondary.

After the rousing duet concludes Lee Roy performs "Love Without Mercy", his sixth single release (and second Top-10), from 1992. Prior to the performance, though, he introduced an addition to the harmony singers. Lisa Stewart appeared along side Ray's trio of harmony singers for this performance as well as the next, "On the Road". After achieving considerable success in country music during the 1990s Lee Roy did an about face and traveled back to his earlier music influences and spent years outside the mainstream country music scene performing bluesy songs heavy with his famed slide guitar style. His proficiency on the guitar, especially the slide guitar, resulted in the famed Gibson guitar company manufacturing a line of Lee Roy Parnell guitars. Given the years spent performing in a bluesy fashion it impacted the way he performs the country music hits he had in the 1990s. This means that his performances of those two songs are dramatically different, vocally, in their execution compared to how they sounded in the early '90s.

After the performance from Lee Roy and the wild applause died down Ray closed the show performing "Abilene", a monster hit by the late George Hamilton, IV. Prior to the performance Ray took the time to show some pictures from the CabaRay interior which included an image of George Hamilton, IV along side several others.

And so with that Season Six comes to a close...keep in mind there are only 13 episodes in each of the CabaRay Nashville seasons. There hasn't been any information on Season Seven or when recording sessions will get underway. As soon as I find out anything about a Season Seven I'll blog about it, of course! Season Six began airing on April 7th...exactly three months ago. Since there isn't any concrete information about the future of the series I suspect Season's Six and Five will rerun on local PBS stations or air for the first time on newly added PBS stations. It's possible that the show won't be back with new episodes this calendar year. Again...if I find out anything I'll blog about it.

The last couple of blog entries I published were by design, actually. I knew the current season of Ray's television show was coming to a close and so I wanted to get back into the habit of blogging about other aspects of Ray's career since there won't be anymore episode recaps of his television program for awhile [~something that I love doing and something that's become a habit, actually~]; but anyway, it's going to be a little strange not having that rush of excitement I get each time I go to Ray's video site to see the latest episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville. I'm already planning my next blog entry, though, so it isn't like I'm at a loss for things to spotlight in this fan created blog page. I make notes on paper (yes, even in the age of internet and keypads I still use pen and paper when I choose to) but I make notes about whatever aspect of Ray's career I'll be blogging about so that when I decide to get started on a blog entry all that's left for me to do is simply create the text of the blog entry and add images if I so desire.

Now, either in my next blog entry or in one that follows, I hope to have a link to audio footage of Ray's recent guest appearance at the Opry. Last week (July 3rd) Ray guest starred on the Tuesday Night Opry. WSM radio puts archive performances of each Opry broadcast onto their website. At last look (this morning) the most recent archive performance was the June 26th broadcast of the Opry which was a week before Ray's guest appearance. I'm thinking that the first Opry broadcasts for the month of July will appear on-line later this week after tonight's airing of the Grand Ole Opry but that's just my guess. Once the audio becomes available I'll provide a link.

July 1, 2018

Ray Stevens: Compilation Look-Back...

Earlier in my blog posts I posted some entries surrounding the abundance of compilation albums you can find on-line released on Ray Stevens. Those releases are largely available on vinyl but there's a lot of them available on cassette and CD, too. Some of the compilations that I've posted about are ones I have in my own collection or they're collections I found while visiting on-line music stores and I saved their images for future blog entries. I've posted quite a few blog entries surrounding a certain 1979 compilation album that I do not have in my collection but I happen to like the cover art and obviously the songs found on that album are a must-have for any newcomer to Ray's career. The album often comes up for sale on eBay...and some of you may wonder if the album often comes up for sale then why haven't I purchased it by now?? One of the main reasons is the price is not reasonable (for me) and most, if not all, offerings are from the United Kingdom and the most recent offering is asking almost thirty dollars for it (which doesn't factor in international shipping, handling, and taxes). If I ever come across this compilation album on-line for a much more economical selling price I may at long last make a purchase...but for now I love the album from a distance...

The Best of Ray Stevens, as this one is titled, was released in 1979 on the Imperial House label in the United Kingdom. It's a 2-LP collection of 20 songs. The obvious recordings are here: "Ahab the Arab", "Mr. Businessman", "The Streak", "Everything is Beautiful", "Gitarzan", "Along Came Jones", "Misty", "The Moonlight Special", "Turn Your Radio On", "Bridget the Midget The Queen of the Blues", and 10 more. I wouldn't begin to guess how many compilation albums released on Ray Stevens have been given this title. The Best of Ray Stevens and another often used title, The Very Best of Ray Stevens, have long sent confusion for a number of fans because you can't necessarily refer to a compilation as The Best of Ray Stevens because the most loyalist of fans will wonder if you're referring to this 1979 release or perhaps the 1970 release by Mercury Records or maybe an import album from another part of the world or perhaps a compilation imported to America from Canada. The most often used compilation title is by far Greatest Hits. I grin as I type this because of the sheer number of Ray Stevens compilation albums that have been titled Greatest Hits over the decades. A lot of these compilation albums are the result of mass production of easily licensed recordings. A majority of Ray's Monument and Barnaby recordings fell into that category. By this I mean the recordings weren't too expensive and a lot of compilations on Ray Stevens began to surface in the late 1970s, and especially throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, as an assortment of record companies began to offer many compilation albums on Ray that often featured the same set of songs but in different sequential order depending on which album you purchased.

Some compilation albums would tack on a couple new selections just to keep things a bit different but by and large the 20 songs found on this 1979 album would make numerous appearances throughout the next decade on many of those compilation albums. Ray didn't have a say in those releases, either. To my way of thinking, and it's based on snippets of interviews I'd heard and read from Ray, the only greatest hits releases that he actively took part in and was truly aware of their existence were: Greatest Hits (1971; Barnaby); Greatest Hits (1974; Barnaby); The Very Best of Ray Stevens (1975; Barnaby); Greatest Hits (1983; RCA); Greatest Hits, Greatest Hits Volume Two, and Get The Best of Ray Stevens (all in 1987 on MCA); His All-Time Greatest Comic Hits (1990; Curb); and Greatest Hits (1991; Curb). In fact, the 1991 compilation on Curb Records features an alternate version of "There's a Star Spangled Banner", a song that originally appeared on his 1989 MCA album, Beside Myself. In the 1989 recording Ray tells the story of a P.O.W. in Beirut in addition to celebrating the American Flag itself. In the 1991 alternate recording it retains the same chorus and music arrangement but the verse lyrics are completely different. If you're not a devoted fan or student of all things Ray Stevens then you wouldn't be aware of the two completely different versions of the song. You'd think by looking at the track list that it's merely the same recording previously released on Beside Myself. Way back when I purchased 1991's Greatest Hits, believe me, I was also surprised to hear this different take on the song. By the way, you can click on each of the images of the LP for a larger view. As I mentioned I do not own that 1979 compilation album but it's safe to say the versions of "Ahab the Arab" and "Harry the Hairy Ape" come from his 1969 Monument album, Gitarzan, instead of the original recordings on Mercury in 1962 and 1963 respectively. The inspiration for this particular compilation album seems to be the recording that the record label tacked on as the last song on side two of the second LP. "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow" was a hit for Ray on Warner Brothers in 1979 and so this song was added to the more familiar line-up of recordings. The songs found on the LP range from the years 1968 to 1975 and then it jumps to 1979...curiously omitting the hit recordings he had during 1976-1978...which only added to the obscurity in the next decade of his Warner Brothers recordings as they weren't kept in print.

In 1995 Warner Brothers seemingly out of the blue issued a 3-CD/3-cassette collection of many of his recordings for the label in the late 1970s. As a member of Ray's once active fan club and in the years before the internet explosion came along I used to type letters and mail them to Ray's fan club seeking information about whatever happened to be on my mind at the time and when I spotted those Warner Brothers compilations I sent off a letter telling of the Ray Stevens goldmine of music I found and how rare these songs happened to be (I'm sure they also realized how rare his Warner Brothers recordings were and still are and probably knew of the compilations beforehand); but, anyway, in the next fan club newsletter that arrived in the mail I was given some recognition by Ray's office staff in a brief section where they thanked me for letting them know that some of Ray's out of print and obscure recordings were available for purchase once again.

I bought those 3 compilation albums released by Warner Brothers with some of the high school graduation money I got...they're titled: Cornball, Do You Wanna Dance?, and The Serious Side of Ray Stevens.

June 30, 2018

Ray Stevens and 2,018 Arabian Nights...

Oh yes it's me once more...putting together another fan created blog entry centering on the one and only Ray Stevens. I've kind of been in a formulaic pattern posting blog entries of my recaps of his locally syndicated PBS series, CabaRay Nashville, and I hadn't necessarily been posting blog entries about other aspects of his career as I used to do prior to 2017. Obviously with the television series and the CabaRay dinner theater being the biggest activity in his career at the moment it goes without saying that I'd spend a majority of my energy blogging about all things CabaRay (be it the TV show or the dinner theater). In my previous blog entry, a recap of John Schneider's guest appearance on CabaRay Nashville, I made mention near the close of the blog post that Ray would be guest starring on the Grand Ole Opry this coming Tuesday night (July 3rd). Officially the Tuesday performances are billed as the Tuesday Night Opry. There's long been a Friday Night Opry and of course the major one, Saturday's Grand Ole Opry, but the Tuesday night performances at the Opry are seasonal. But anyway...Ray's guest starred at the Opry for years and has also appeared several times on other Opry-related programming...one that leaps to mind is the Larry Gatlin recurring series, Opry Country Classics. The calendar for the month of July at the CabaRay features an added performance. Ray will put on a show July 5th (a Thursday). His performance schedule at the theater is Friday and Saturday nights but news of this Thursday addition was released a couple hours ago.

Curious to why I title this blog entry with that kind of phrase? Well, on this date in 1962, "Ahab the Arab" made it's debut on Billboard's Hot 100. This was the song that made Ray a 'superstar over night' as the saying goes. The song had a massive impact on his career both musically and in his business affairs. He got the inspiration for the song while recalling his childhood experiences reading about the 1,001 Arabian Nights and seeing Arabian culture in movies. In other interviews he recalled that the camel's name, Clyde, was inspired by the former lead singer of The Drifters, Clyde McPhatter. The name of the love interest in the song, Fatima, simply came from the name of a cigarette brand. Ray recorded the song during his years at Mercury Records. The producer of the recording was Shelby Singleton while Jerry Kennedy is credited as the orchestra director. Earlier I mentioned that the song had massive impact in his career and one need look no further than his eventual publishing company: Ahab Music Company.

This publishing company's name would eventually change to Ray Stevens Music in the mid '70s but if you look at any compilation album and look at the credits you'll see Ahab Music credited as publisher on recordings from Ray during the late '60s through the mid '70s. Also, Ray used to wear a ring on his finger with a camel image...a certain image that ultimately became a logo/advertising symbol.

This illustration of an encircled camel silhouette with the added touches of some palm trees in the backdrop became the logo for Clyde Records (a company Ray owned and operated for the purpose of releasing products that major labels wouldn't release). Clyde became the imprint for his home video, and later, DVD releases, and he recorded a number of CDs for his own label, too.

The Clyde imprint, I guess, is still part of Ray's business portfolio but the label has largely become a bit less prominent due to some recent releases being under the CabaRay Entertainment banner. As far as I know the first product released under CabaRay Entertainment happened to be Love Lifted Me in 2016. That's the CD where he re-recorded his 1972 album, Turn Your Radio On. His last CD, to date, is 2016's Christmas release Mary and Joseph and the Baby and Me. After the release of those two CDs in 2016 both the Season One and Season Two DVD releases of his PBS television series in 2017 also received the CabaRay Entertainment credit as did the DVD release of the CabaRay Nashville documentary special shown on PBS stations during pledge break. There hasn't been a new audio CD released by Ray Stevens since Christmas season 2016, by the way...but as you should know he's busy with his CabaRay dinner theater and his television series...which is what I began discussing at the top of this blog entry.

On last week's episode, as I mentioned in my recap, Ray introduced a brand new song called "It's My Job". Could an audio CD be in the not too distant future? I know I'm jumping to conclusions based simply on his performance of a brand new song but anything's possible in the kind of unpredictable career that Ray Stevens has maintained for more than 60 years. When in Nashville seek out the CabaRay. It's located on River Road off of Charlotte Pike...the main access to it is Interstate 40. You can read all about the CabaRay by clicking HERE.

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville: John Schneider...

Hello all...I'm in early today...usually I write my blog entries in the overnight hours but when I got home from work this morning I decided to check Ray's video site to see if last week's episode of his CabaRay Nashville television series was uploaded...and it was. I watched it and so I'm now going to write my re-cap of it.

This episode guest starred John Schneider and you can see from the video clip above. The still shot is of their duet of "Good Ol' Boys"...but first things first. Ray opened the show performing a song I'd never heard before. It's listed as "Marie" in the program description and prior to the start of this blog entry I did some research and found out that the song goes way back...a performance on YouTube by Tommy Dorsey is available to listen to but it doesn't have the same arrangement heard in Ray's performance.

Ray brings out John Schneider and informs the audience that John's made several appearances at Ray's Saturday morning gathering, informally referred to as the Breakfast Club, which Ray's been holding for decades. I knew nothing of this informal, weekly breakfast get together among friends in and out of the music business until I read Ray's memoir a couple years ago. Ray asks John how he got into acting and then into music. John remarks that he had actually started acting in childhood and that he was born in New York state. He reflects on how many people naturally assume that he was born in the deep south given the character roles he's played, specifically Bo Duke, on Dukes of Hazzard (1979-1982, 1983-1985). He attributes the ability to pull off playing the character as simply acting. John speaks about his current project in which he's going to be recording 52 songs. The project is called Odyssey. Given that this episode was taped earlier this year the first two volumes of the project are already available according to an announcement on his website and you can read more about the project by clicking HERE.

The site describes it as a pre-order and so it's my guess there hasn't been a general release for the project as of yet. His Facebook page has more information, too...but getting back to the show...

On cue, Ray steers the conversation to performing the Dukes of Hazzard theme, "Just a Good Ol' Boys". Ray and John perform it in a lively rendition with numerous guitar solo's by Jerry Kimbrough. It's a much longer performance than the studio recording by Waylon Jennings and as I was watching and listening to Ray and John perform it I wondered how long it could continue because as soon as you think they're going to reach a conclusion they start right back where they left off and sing the famous sing-a-long chorus once more. It does come to a conclusion and John does the 'ye-haw!' catchphrase heard in the television series whenever the General Lee car flies over lakes, hilltops, or over top of other parked cars. Ray then asks John how he got the role of Bo Duke. John recalls that he got the part when he was still a teenager (age 18) and that he fibbed a little by saying to the powers that be that he was from Georgia. Ray mentions that John currently appears on a series called The Have's and the Have Not's which leads into John discussing Tyler Perry. Among the discussion is John's movie studio located in Louisiana. Ray asks where it's located and John says the nearest big city is Baton Rouge. In addition to the television series Ray mentioned (which debuted in 2013) John also appeared in numerous episodes of Smallville as Jonathan Kent (the adoptive father of Clark Kent).

John performs one of the songs included on his Odyssey project, "I Wouldn't Be Me Without You", and he follows it up with "I've Been Around Enough to Know". Ray thanks John for appearing on the show and then after the applause dies down he wonders why there's a common belief among people in society that once people in the public eye reache a certain age then it's time to retire. Ray defies such a mandate and states that he isn't going to retire anytime soon and with that he introduces a brand new song from the pen of his long time collaborator and business associate, Buddy Kalb. The song is called "It's My Job". It's a hand clapper...and you'll immediately notice that from the audience reaction...and it fits Ray like a glove, too. I hope he records it and puts it out for purchase.

The episode airing this weekend on local PBS stations guest stars Lee Roy Parnell. I can't wait to see this episode, too! I'll see it next weekend and as usual I'll write my recap! Oh, by the way, this coming Tuesday night (July 3rd) Ray will guest star on the Tuesday Night Opry!! I don't think I'll be able to hear it on my car radio (on my way to work) because WSM doesn't come in clear in my area until after 8pm Eastern and sometimes 9pm Eastern. If for some reason I miss hearing it Tuesday night I'll wait for the audio clip to appear in the Opry archives.

In the meantime the episode of Ray's television series airing this weekend is the 13th. I haven't read anything suggesting that there will be more new episodes to air or if the series will go on rerun hiatus. I was expecting some sort of announcement to be made in the latter half of this past week as to whether a new season would get underway next weekend or if the previous couple of seasons would be reran during the summer months. If I come across any announcement I'll pass it along. More than likely the closer we get to next weekend we'll receive an announcement through social media sites on upcoming new episodes and when we should expect to see them.

June 24, 2018

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Shoji Tabuchi

Hello once more...and this is my recap of season Six, episode 11 of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville guest starring Shoji Tabuchi. During the introduction Bill Cody referred to Ray as the 'Hillbilly Piano Man'. Ray opened the show performing "Strangers in the Night", the classic made famous by Frank Sinatra. Ray's recording of the song is from his tribute album, Ray Stevens Sings Sinatra...Say What??!, from 2008.

Ray brings out the 'Hillbilly Fiddle Player', Shoji Tabuchi, who greets Ray and then offers a one liner: "you all didn't know I could speak English"; Ray then asks what Shoji thinks of the CabaRay. Shoji says he loves it and then is asked how a native of Japan ended up in country music and America. Shoji tells of his origins and how he was inspired by the fiddle playing that he saw Roy Acuff doing while Roy and others were on one of those famed Opry package shows that used to tour all over the world.

Shoji said that he came to America in 1967 and eventually ended up touring with David Houston for five years. I looked up several statistics surrounding Shoji and the timeline has him a member of David Houston's road show from 1970 to 1975. On hand with Shoji is his daughter, Christina. Ray remarks that the last time he saw Shoji's daughter she happened to be a little girl. Shoji opened his theater in Branson, Missouri in 1990 and he remains a headliner there. Ray, as most of you know, headlined his own theater for two separate three season runs (1991-1993 and 2004-2006). Ray brings up Mel Tillis having recently passed away and mentions that Mel and Shoji were fishing buddies. Shoji confirms this and jokingly says that Mel taught him how to speak English (an obvious self-deprecating joke centering around Shoji's heavy Japanese inflected command of English and Mel's famous stutter).

Ray counters Shoji's comical remark with an amusing joke centering around Mel's decision to eventually stop fishing with Shoji. I'd love to offer it in this recap but there are things I intentionally leave out in all of these episode recaps and I do this so those that haven't seen these episodes will be surprised once they view them. There are some things that I add, which I feel necessary to incorporate into my blog recaps, but I always tack on a bold-print **spoiler alert** warning...but this time I decided to hold off...you'll laugh at the joke, though. If any local PBS station in your area isn't carrying Ray's television series you can always watch it on-line. Episodes can be found on his video web-site, raystevens.tv. Every episode from Season One to the most recently uploaded episode from Season Six can be found there. It's a subscription based site but Ray always provides recent episodes in the Free Content section for a limited time only before they become exclusive to subscribers. I'm a subscriber...obviously...no big secret there...but for those that simply want to catch a couple episodes of the show, for free, there's always a limited time frame upon which you can.

As of this writing there are three selected episodes available for free viewing. Two episodes from Season Three (guest stars being Restless Heart and B.J. Thomas) and this episode I'm recapping guest starring Shoji Tabuchi. If you come across this blog entry weeks or months from now the episodes available for free are certainly going to be different...but anyway...back to the recap...

After the comical remark about Mel and Shoji's fishing trips coming to an end Ray suggests they perform something...and this leads into a performance of a Roy Acuff classic called "Once More". After the performance Ray asks if Shoji is familiar with any other style of music. He replies with an answer that surprised me: big band. This leads into a performance of "Tennessee Waltz", vocally performed by Christina, while Shoji and Ray perform it instrumentally. Ray called Shoji the King of Branson and he instructed Shoji to make his way center stage at the red carpet. Shoji performed "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" and followed this with "Old Joe Clark" which he humorously introduced and re-titled 'Young Joe Clark' as he comically took offense to the original "being so old" that he felt a younger version needed to be in existence. Afterward Ray thanks Shoji and his daughter for appearing on the show.

The show's closing performance from Ray is another selection from the Sinatra tribute CD. This time it's "All the Way". Appearing on the episode of Ray's television series airing locally on PBS stations this weekend is John Schneider. Once it becomes available on-line next weekend I'll write a recap of it.

As of this writing I haven't seen any indication of Season Seven being in production or if Ray's going to take any sort of hiatus from the show and focus on CD releases of any kind. Whenever the show is "in production" Ray and company frequently provide photo's from the taping sessions, etc. etc. which, obviously, keeps all of us informed and there's social media posts offering tickets for show tapings. I haven't seen anything like that emerge so far. If I come across any on-line information concerning an upcoming season I'll pass it along. Now, of course, this current season of episodes were taped earlier this year after the CabaRay officially opened it's doors in January and the episodes began airing on PBS in April. Well, technically, the current season started with episodes taped at his Music Row recording studio in the latter half of 2017 but by the fifth episode, guest starring Moe Bandy, episodes had since began taping at the CabaRay. My guess being the production of a Season Seven may get underway next month or probably August with those episodes more than likely starting to air on PBS in the latter half of September or early October...but then again the show could very well go into a lengthy repeat cycle for the rest of the calendar year (which I don't see happening, by the way) with new episodes emerging in 2019. Again, I don't see that happening, so I look forward to seeing some sort of information in the coming weeks about production of the next season getting underway. I'm assuming during his activities at this year's Fan Fair/CMA Fest earlier this month he contacted a range of entertainers to appear on his show.

Just in case anybody's wondering or may be curious the total number of episodes of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville has exceeded more than 70 so far. The actual total number of episodes produced is 78. This being Season Six, and with each season consisting of 13 episodes, that brings you to a total of 78 half hour episodes. So far 77 of those episodes have aired. The 13th and final episode of Season Six (the 78th episode overall) airs next weekend. If Season Seven sticks to the 13 episode formula this means by season's end the total number of episodes would have risen to 93! This isn't counting the documentary special that aired during PBS pledge breaks. Since it isn't an actual half hour episode but rather an hour long documentary special it's not counted in the series episode guide.

June 17, 2018

Ray Stevens performs "My Dad"...

Hello one and all on this Father's Day 2018! I was going to post about a particular Ray Stevens recording, "My Dad", and I already have a photo collage put together spotlighting the commercial and promotional single as well as the album it originally appeared on in 1983...a vinyl album titled Me. On Father's Days past I've mentioned "My Dad" on this blog page and this time around, as you can tell, it's no different. However, there is something new to add...a performance of the song by Ray Stevens! It's rare indeed to see Ray perform the song...and as far as I know the last time he performed it on television was the mid 1980s on a telecast that I've only read about in vintage country music publications but never seen with my own eyes. That performance (from 1984) was part of a television special featuring other recording acts.

"My Dad" emerged from an album Ray Stevens recorded for Mercury Records in 1983. The album is chock full of romantic ballads and uptempo sing-a-long performances...including a song that critics may consider a novelty song, "Game Show Love", but if critics should label it as such it's only because of the song's title and it's construction of lyrics (name dropping titles of game shows and their catch-phrases) but as far as the vocals are concerned Ray performs it straightforward without a slightest hint of comedy. It's the album's closing track and one of the uptempo songs I was referring to at the start of the paragraph. The album was produced by Ray and Jerry Kennedy. This was sort of a reunion as the two of them worked together in the early to mid 1960s on numerous recording sessions. Jerry was often a session musician on Ray Stevens recordings back then and sometimes he was credited as Orchestra leader. On the single release of "Ahab the Arab" in 1962 it credits Jerry Kennedy as such. Ray's main record producer was Shelby Singleton but both he and Jerry Kennedy are credited as producers on a series of recordings Ray did in the mid '60s while under a unique contract. The language of this contract gave Mercury the right to issue commercial recordings on Ray while he held another job with a competing label, Monument, as strictly a session musician/A&R man. In other words he wasn't allowed to record anything for Monument until his recording contract with Mercury ended in the latter half of 1965. After the contract ended with Mercury then Monument began to issue commercial singles on Ray for the first time.

Ray recorded "My Dad" twice in his career. There is the 1983 original from the Me album and then there's a fairly recent re-recording found on a CD titled Bozo's Back Again released in 2011. It's on that particular 2011 CD where Ray also revives a couple of other songs from the Me album: "Game Show Love", "Kings and Queens", and "Me".

Earlier today a performance of "My Dad" by Ray Stevens was uploaded onto YouTube. The performance is from an episode of his CabaRay Nashville television series. The performance originated from the television studio on Music Row where Ray used to tape the show prior to it's move to the actual CabaRay Showroom in West Nashville. Episodes taking place at the CabaRay began airing this season (starting with Episode Five guest starring Moe Bandy).

But anyway...here's Ray Stevens singing "My Dad"...

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Ronnie McDowell

Hello all...I just finished watching Ronnie McDowell's episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville and I'm here to deliver my recap/commentary. The episode, as you can imagine, features a lot of reference and recollection about Elvis Presley. In case you're unaware, though, Ronnie McDowell, in my opinion, is a great Elvis vocalist.

I never label him an impersonator because Ronnie's had success with his own recordings (in his own voice) and he's long since established himself separately from Elvis but for decades movie companies and television companies have often recruited Ronnie due to his uncanny ability to vocally mimic Elvis from any time period: from the youthful rocker to the often parodied Vegas Elvis. Ray opens the show with a performance of "Way Down". This song happened to be a hit for Elvis at the time of his death in 1977. I've mentioned this several times over the years on this blog the fact that Ray published the Elvis recording. The writer happened to be Layng Martine, Jr. and in addition to Elvis singing the obvious lead vocal "Way Down" also featured bass accompaniment from J.D. Sumner.

Ray introduces Ronnie and he tells of how he happened to be in Nashville in 1977 and he gives the exact time of day being 2:22pm when he heard Elvis had died. Ronnie explains the origins behind his recording, "The King is Gone", and how it sold more than a million copies in less than a week (it was certified Gold by the RIAA, officially, in January of 1978). Ray mentions how much of an influence Elvis had on Ronnie and asks if he ever personally met Elvis. Ronnie says that he never met him in person. He tells of how his father wasn't a fan of Elvis or rock 'n' roll, in general, and he recalls taking his father to the movies to see a film called King Creole.

Ronnie says that he knew it was an Elvis movie but told his father it was a horror movie (perhaps thinking his father would assume it to be along the lines of King Kong or something). Anyway, Ronnie says that when he seen Elvis up on the large movie screen it changed his life forever. Ray comically counters this by stating that as a boy he seen Frankenstein and that it had a profound impact on him. At this point I also should make mention that Ray comically teased Ronnie several times about having a sharp memory and being able to remember exact dates and places in time. Ronnie also spoke as much as he could about Elvis and there are some noticeable edits indicating that the conversations may have lasted longer and so maybe we'll see some additional footage in a later clip-filled show.

Ronnie sings "The King is Gone" while Ray plays the piano.

Ray brings up Ronnie's talent in visual arts...and Ronnie remarks that it all began in grade school and how his efforts were praised by a teacher. Ray asks about a painting called Reflections of a King and this leads into discussions about his art work. In the video clip above you'll see Ronnie getting ready to unveil a portrait called That Magic Moment. It received a lot of applause and there were some audible gasps from the audience when viewing the sheer precision of the painting.

Shifting gears Ronnie performs "Watchin' Girls Go By" which was one of his big hits in the early '80s. Afterward he tells of seeing Elvis for the first time on television and he performs the song he said Elvis performed, "I Need Your Love Tonight". I'm nowhere near the dedicated fan of Elvis that Ronnie happens to be so I'd never heard that song before...but I looked it up and sure enough it was a big hit for Elvis early in 1959. The song had been recorded in June of 1958 while Elvis was on leave from the Army.

After the spirited performance from Ronnie of "I Need Your Love Tonight" Ray thanked him for being on the show and although 95 percent of this episode was Elvis oriented Ray closed the show with his version of the Hank Locklin mega hit, "Please Help Me I'm Falling". The episode of Ray's television show airing this weekend guest stars Branson, Missouri mainstay Shoji Tabuchi. If you're keeping track it's episode 11 of Season Six. Shoji has performed at his own Branson, Missouri theater since 1990 and given Ray's history with the Missouri town headlining his own theater (1991-1993; 2004-2006) you can bet the two will share some Branson stories. I'll deliver my recap/commentary next weekend!

June 10, 2018

Ray Stevens at CMA Fest 2018...Preview of Events...

Here I am once again...blogging about the one and only Ray Stevens! Earlier this morning I blogged about one of the recent episodes of his television series, Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville. After several hours of sleep/rest I'm eagerly awaiting the announcement that Ray's scheduled interview this afternoon with Robert K. Oermann is underway. There hasn't been any information released indicating whether or not the interview will be streaming live on any website or if it'll be recorded, which I assume it will be, for playback later. The opening segment will be streamed live on-line but as for the rest of the schedule I'd say probably not or else there would've been announcements made by now.

The interview is scheduled to last 45 minutes and I've seen the line-up of events taking place today at the CMA Close-Up Stage...everything appears to be timed to the precise minute.

Here's the scheduled run down of what's happening today in the particular venue Ray's interview will be conducted in:

Kelsea Ballerini: 11am - 12pm
Bill Anderson and Bobby Bare: 12:15pm - 12:45pm
Ray Stevens: 1pm - 1:45pm
Restless Heart: 2pm - 3pm
Exile: 3:15pm - 4pm
Naomi Judd: 4:15 - 5pm

This information comes from the CMA World website. The only thing that looks a bit odd, to me at least, is the 30 minutes allotted to Bill Anderson and Bobby Bare...two gigantic icons of country music. I say that because, in my way of thinking, it'll be rather difficult enough to squeeze in 60 years of Ray Stevens entertainment into 45 minutes but I'm curious as to how 30 minutes for a couple of artists with more than 110 years combined in country music will come off. Perhaps some segments may run shorter or longer than the scheduled time listed...it's all live so anything's possible...so it's hard to tell. I do notice a pattern of there being a 15 minute break between each segment, though. Whatever information becomes available I'll make a note of it in this fan created blog that you're reading in which I call the Ray Stevens Music Journey. It's 11:16am Eastern time as I type this...and Nashville, TN is in the Central time zone so it's an hour earlier. Ray's interview will be 1pm Central/2pm Eastern. If a video clip should become available of his interview or if a transcript or audio becomes available I'll obviously blog about it.

(**)- Blogger correction: In some of my recent blog entries I've mentioned that Ray would be performing the National Anthem to close out this year's installment of CMA Fest. I was incorrect. Ray will be performing the National Anthem at the Nissan Stadium to kick off the final night of performances. Each of the past three days there's been an act that's performed the National Anthem and so on closing night, Day 4, it's Ray's opportunity to perform it.

So, then, what exactly was happening in the career of Ray Stevens some 60 years ago? Well, for one thing, he was under contact to Capitol Records while still a teenager. Born January 24, 1939 he was 18 years old when Prep Records, a subsidiary of Capitol, issued the very first commercial single on Ray Stevens. Very loyal and devoted fans should know the name of the single without having to look off to the left at the image. The single was "Silver Bracelet" backed with "Rang Tang Ding Dong (I'm the Japanese Sandman)". Interestingly, though, "Silver Bracelet" is generally listed as the B-side in price guides even though I've not seen any single release images to suggest an A or a B side. My guess is because "Rang Tang Ding Dong" is a comical/novelty performance it's been given A side deference given Ray's reputation for comical recordings. That's my theory anyway. I've never professed to be an expert in the technical aspects of the single releases and why some are clearly marked A or B and some are not...but what's more interesting is Ray always mentions "Silver Bracelet" as being his first commercially released recording. So, perhaps, "Silver Bracelet" holds the distinction of being his first ever professional recording but researchers and the like prefer the comical performance and so they give it top billing? It's anybody's guess...but one thing is clear...the comical recording has more production...and perhaps the reason for that is because it's a cover of a previous hit by The Cellos, a Rhythm and Blues group, that had regional and local success but their only showing on the national charts was "Rang Tang Ding Dong". Their recording of "Rang Tang Ding Dong" would have been considered their current release the year Ray recorded his version. There was a CD released several years ago with the unique title of Ahab, Jeremiah, Sgt. Preston and More...The Early Ray Stevens. It was an import CD from the United Kingdom. I wrote a blog entry about the CD's eventual release and I even posted a photo of myself and the CD.

Yes, that's the photo I posted of myself displaying the CD back then. I was, of course, attempting to model my facial expression after the one Ray is giving us on the CD cover. My mouth is typically never opened that wide unless I'm eating a half pound roast beef sandwich or some other kind of sandwich of that magnitude. Anyway...the CD features 31 recordings ranging from 1957 through 1963 and covering the record labels of Prep, Capitol, NRC, and Mercury. The first 15 recordings spotlight single releases and the remainder of the tracks include his entire 1962 album for Mercury Records, titled 1,837 Seconds of Humor, plus a couple of additional recordings added to the song total. By that I mean the track list includes both the Single and Album cut of "Ahab the Arab" from 1962. On top of this the collection also contains his original recording of "Santa Claus is Watching You" and three songs from his 1963 album, This is Ray Stevens. The CD became available back in April of 2014. I was reluctant, at first, to purchase the CD until I seen it become available for purchase on Amazon. My review of the CD over there is dated December 24, 2014 and I begin the review by explaining that I finally got around to purchasing it.

At the moment it's 12:54pm Eastern/11:54am Central and so the first set at the CMA Close-Up Stage with Kelsea Ballerini is nearly complete. At 12:15pm Bill Anderson and Bobby Bare make their appearance and then Ray Stevens makes his way onto the stage at 1pm Central.

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville: Tribute Show...

Hello once again...another episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville has graced my viewing eyes and I'm here to offer my commentary/re-cap of the goings-on. I decided to open this blog entry with a different greeting, of sorts, to break up the usual way I begin each one...and on this episode of Ray's locally syndicated PBS series it, too, breaks the usual pattern.

On this particular episode there isn't a special guest but several iconic entertainers that have passed away are given a spotlight. The episode is officially titled 'Tribute Show' and if you're keeping track it's episode 9 of Season 6. There are four episodes left in this current season (each consists of 13 episodes). Ray walks out on stage and speaks about the nature of the episode. The first to be spotlighted in song is Jerry Reed. Ray informs the audience/television viewers how he and Jerry had been friends for decades and performs "When You're Hot, You're Hot". After the performance Ray introduces the guest guitar player standing next to Ray's guitar player, Jerry Kimbrough. Afterward Ray performs "East Bound and Down".

Ray then speaks about having been on a tour in Australia (early 1971) and how his being on tour and not in the United States prevented him from appearing at the Grammy Awards...the year Ray took home the Grammy for "Everything Is Beautiful" in the Best Pop Male Vocalist of the Year category. There to accept the trophy was Glen Campbell...the artist being spotlighted next. Ray mentions that Glen appeared in John Wayne's movie, True Grit, and mentions Glen's famed television series. Ray performs "Wichita Lineman" and brings up songwriter, Jimmy Webb. Ray then performs "By the Time I Get to Phoenix".

In the next segment Ray tells a behind the scenes story of a recording session that took place involving Bobby Bare, Chet Atkins, Charlie McCoy, and Boots Randolph...and how studio joking around can lead to a surprise. He points out that Charlie was there to play guitar...not the harmonica. Ray tells of how Boots, as a joke, began to twist the tuner on the guitar all the way up...but Chet loved the sound and decided to use it to intro the song, "Detroit City". The song, from the pen of Mel Tillis, became a country music standard. Ray sings "Detroit City" and then another song from the pen of Mel Tillis entitled "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town".

In the final segment Ray speaks of the accomplishments of a certain iconic entertainer who became the recipient of a Kennedy Center Honor, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He mentions that while this performer was never officially known as an actor or didn't go out into the field as heavily he nevertheless had that presence. The artist being referred to is Merle Haggard. Ray sings a song that has long been associated with Merle and one that many people assume was a hit recording...the iconic "Today, I Started Loving You Again". Local classic country radio stations often play the song and as a kid I'd hear the song and just automatically think it was one of Merle's biggest hits...but the fact remains that it was never a hit as it was the B-side of "The Legend of Bonnie and Clyde" but countless compilation albums on Merle include the song and classic country radio stations over the decades regularly play the song so it's gotten the reputation as being one of Merle's legendary hit songs.

Ray closes the show with a comical story involving Mel Tillis and an intruder. You'll have to hear it for yourselves. This episode originally aired on local PBS stations last weekend. The episode airing this weekend guest stars Ronnie McDowell...and once this episode makes it's way onto Ray's video site I'll watch it and post my recap/commentary.

Now, don't you all forget...if any of you are reading this and happen to be in Nashville, Tennessee Ray is attending Day 4 of the CMA Music Fest (today, June 10th). He'll be there for an interview with Robert K. Oerman at 1pm and this interview is to spotlight Ray's 60th year in the music industry. This interview will take place at the Close Up Stage; then later that night at the Nissan Stadium Ray will be closing this year's CMA Music Fest with a performance of the National Anthem.

A couple days ago Ray posted a special video on his Facebook page...a kind of behind the scenes look at his CabaRay Showroom. Promoted on social media outlets as 'Live from CabaRay' it's a video showing exterior and interior footage of that day's happenings. Camera's pan the parking lot and other areas. The doors to the facility open up and we're greeted by Raymond Hicks. When I attended a concert at the showroom back on March 1st my brother and I met him and several others while we awaited for the concert to begin later that evening. The second half of the video is with Ray's longtime friend/songwriting partner/business partner/music video co-star, etc. etc. Buddy Kalb. He's the one that takes the cameras backstage and along the way we meet the harmony singers and Ray Stevens himself. You can watch this video, which was live on Friday night, but it's still on-line for those that weren't able to see it. I couldn't see it because I was on my way to work. Click here for the CabaRay Social Media Video.

June 2, 2018

The Streak continues for Ray Stevens...

For those that do not follow weekly music charts or aren't too familiar with them they represent the sales or airplay of all kinds of entertainment product. The charts are always published to reflect the previous week and so if you look at any of the charts in any detail you'll see the familiar phrase "for the week ending" and it'll have the day of the week posted. From the week ending May 18, 1974 to the week ending June 1, 1974 the number one single on the pop chart in America was "The Streak" by our favorite, Ray Stevens. That's a total of 3 weeks at the top. Even more impressive is the fact that it had only been on the Hot 100 less than a month before it reached the top. The single also hit number one the week ending June 1, 1974 on Canada's pop music chart and it was also the top selling country music hit in Canada this week in 1974 which resulted in it hitting number one for the week ending June 8, 1974 on their country music chart. In the United Kingdom "The Streak" hit number one for the week ending June 15, 1974. I'd also like to take this time to reinforce my respect and overall love for Ray's music. I find myself doing this whenever I find myself blogging about "The Streak" or "Ahab the Arab" and the reasons are obvious. It's because those two songs are the most polarizing of his career. There's extreme emotion regarding each song...either people despise those songs, in particular, with a passion or they love them with a passion. Obviously without my having to point it out I fall into the latter category. I love both of those songs...but yet I know there's segments of the population that can't stand either song and all anyone has to do is visit social media sites and see the contempt.

Since "The Streak" was coming off it's third week at number one in 1974 (a fact brought up in one of those 'This week in Music History' kind of posts) it's invited a lot of snide remarks by a whole host of people on social media. Who knew such a harmless slice of lyrical silliness could carry such eternal damnation from people? Well, anyway, that's my little rant about the hateful critics of "The Streak" and of Ray Stevens in general. I'm pretty sure most of you that read my blog are fans of Ray anyhow and perhaps agree with my sentiments so I'm more or less preaching to the choir.

I title this blog entry after the song, obviously, but I also title it as such because the career of Ray Stevens remains one of the longest in entertainment history (60 years and counting...). Although Ray remains busy and active at his West Nashville entertainment showroom, CabaRay, he'll be performing at this year's CMA Music Fest. I made mention of that a couple of blog's ago and more than likely I'll make more mention of it as it gets closer to June 10th (next Sunday). In addition to his performance of the National Anthem he'll also be interviewed in a 45 minute interview session. The interview is expected to highlight his 60 years as a recording artist but it'll no doubt also include commentary about the CabaRay and his television series.

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville: Micky Dolenz

Hello one and all! Oh yes for me it's an early blog entry...I'm usually a night owl on the weekends and so most of the time my blog entries are posted well past midnight; but, I found myself awake this evening and so I checked the Ray Stevens video page and seen that last week's episode of his PBS television series, Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville, was uploaded and so I watched it and I'm posting my recap.

The special guest on this episode (originally airing the weekend of May 26th) happened to be Micky Dolenz...the drummer and occasional lead singer on recordings by The Monkees. Ray opened the show with a performance of "Too Much Monkey Business". Not being too familiar with Chuck Berry's catalog of songs...other than those that the general public are also familiar with...I had originally thought that the song might be something new that Ray or Buddy Kalb may have written until I searched for the song's title on-line and seen it had been written and recorded in the 1950s by Chuck Berry...and further research told me it would go on to be recorded by numerous other performers...but nevertheless I enjoyed the Ray Stevens performance of the song. After the opening performance Ray brought out Micky Dolenz and from the start of the conversation you could tell it was going to be lighthearted and up-beat.

Micky's greeting to Ray was rather comical...saying how much his parent's loved Ray's music...and this prompted Ray to counter with "was I your grandparent's favorite, too?". The irony being that Ray, born in 1939, is only 6 years older than Micky (born in 1945) but because Ray's music has largely appealed to, or, it's been more appreciated by, mature older audiences throughout his entire career it's possible that Micky's parent's were in that age bracket purchasing Ray Stevens records in the '60s and '70s. If you look at Ray's chart history you'll see quite a few single releases that did much better with Easy Listening/Adult-Contemporary audiences of the '70s than with the mainstream pop audience.

After this greeting and exchange Micky tells of "Last Train to Clarksville" and it's origin. Ray had mentioned that he didn't know, until recently, that the recording took place at Hollywood's RCA Studio B (not the more noted studio in Nashville, TN). In his recollection Micky mentions that it's actually an anti-war song even though the lyrics do not explicitly cite the Vietnam War. 

In an effort to show that Micky's been around even longer in the public eye Ray makes mention that Micky was a child actor in a television series titled Circus Boy for two seasons. Micky played the role of Corky and that the series was in production from 1956 to 1958 (Ray's first recording, "Silver Bracelet", arrived in 1957). Ray then asks how The Monkees television series came about. Micky states that the guitar was his music instrument of personal preference but the producers of the television series said that he'd be the group's drummer. He mentions that the group had already been musically inclined prior to the television series so it wasn't like they learned how to sing or play instruments during the television series.

Ray asks him about Davy Jones and wondered whether or not Micky and Davy had been life-long friends. Micky mentions that he met Davy, and the other members of the group, for the first time while on The Monkees set in 1965. Micky mentions that Davy had been a child actor in the U.K. and so the two of them shared a similar connection.

Ray asks about life after The Monkees...to which Micky responds with saying that he'd spent a lot of years in England and for more than 10 years he did production work and other activity behind the scenes. The two of them discuss the various writing teams and legendary writers behind The Monkees hit songs. They don't discuss in any lengthy detail...more or less they name drop celebrated writers such as Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Neil Diamond, Neil Sedaka, Bobby Hart, etc. Ray informs Micky that the audience wants to hear some Monkees hits...to which Micky jokingly refuses and comically conveys humility with excessive hand gestures...and I'm paraphrasing here: "oh gosh...no no...nobody wants to hear those!!". You'll see some of that in the video advertisement above.

Micky predictably relents and goes center stage with a guitar and names off several songwriters he credits with crafting The Monkees look, sound, and overall style. At one point, knowing that he's named so many writers, he comically inserts Neil Armstrong's name as well. He mentions Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart and how vital the two of them were to The Monkees.

While at center stage Micky performs "Last Train to Clarksville", followed by "Pleasant Valley Sunday" and then he replaces the guitar with a tambourine for "I'm a Believer". During a performance of the chorus in "I'm a Believer" Micky walks over to one of Ray's harmony singers, Sabrina, and sings to her. Afterward Ray thanks Micky for appearing and a standing ovation results. Ray closes the show with a performance of "That's Life!", his version of Frank Sinatra's classic. Ray recorded it for his tribute album, Ray Stevens Sings Sinatra...Say What?!?. The episode airing this weekend on local PBS stations is one of the several special episodes this season. Earlier in the season Ray delivered back to back episodes titled Special Moments (a retrospective) and Hall of Fame (clips of previous guests that are members of the Country Music Hall of Fame). The episode airing this weekend is a Tribute Show. In it Ray performs songs made famous by the likes of Jerry Reed, Glen Campbell, Mel Tillis, and Merle Haggard. It'll be uploaded onto Ray's video site next weekend. You can visit it by clicking HERE.