January 27, 2018

Ray Stevens and his Diamond Six...

The name of this blog entry is inspired by six specific recordings from Ray Stevens that each turn 60 years old this year. The gem celebrated for a 60th anniversary is Diamond and so the Diamond Six are "Chickie Chickie Wah Wah", "Crying Goodbye", "Love Goes on Forever", "Cat Pants", "The Clown", and "School".

Ray recorded those songs for Capitol Records in 1958 following a couple of single releases on their subsidiary label, Prep Records, in 1957. Those curious need not be for I'll provide the song titles of the four from Prep: "Silver Bracelet", "Rang Tang Ding Dong", "Five More Steps", and "Tingle". If you detect a familiar pattern then you're on the right track. Nearly all of those recordings are love ballads and most are presented in the then-current teenage pop sound that could be found on numerous recordings of the era. Even a song titled "Cat Pants" is considered to be a love song...for it also includes female accompaniment excitedly offering remarks directed at the attire. You may also think a song whose title is "Chickie Chickie Wah Wah" has got to be a novelty song, yes? Well, it too, would be considered non-novelty as far as it's presentation and the love song overtone of the lyrics...even though some could argue that it's offbeat title should make it a novelty song.

Those six recordings were released on three separate singles. Each single featured the "A" and "B" side, of course, which total six recordings altogether. After the release of those singles on Capitol Records in 1958 he moved over to the relatively brand new NRC label co-founded by Bill Lowery and issued several more singles during 1959-1960 before moving to the major label, Mercury Records, in 1961. Given all of the love songs that Ray recorded during those early years (1957-1960) you'd think something would've caught on, commercially, but it wasn't to be. His commercial success didn't start until his signing with Mercury Records...but the success wasn't immediate...it took until the summer of 1962 before things really started to heat up...but going back to 1958 we find Ray submerged in the sounds of pop and sometimes rhythm and blues oriented love ballads.

We, as fans, often forget that in 1958 Ray Stevens was just 19 years old! I think we forget this because he's never sounded 'like a kid' on his recordings if that makes sense. Sure his vocals were loose and not as polished or as mature as they'd eventually become but he never sounded like the starry eyed, melodramatic love struck teenager on his records unless a song called for that kind of delivery such as 1963's "It's Party Time". Speaking of age...just recently, on January 24th, Ray reached 79...and speaking of love and romance did you know that Ray's new showroom, CabaRay, is a good place to take your spouse or your boyfriend/girlfriend for Valentine's Day? Ray offers this advice in a recent YouTube clip...


Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Paul Overstreet

Hello once again! I just finished watching Episode Three, Season Five of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville guest starring Paul Overstreet. The episode originally aired on PBS stations last weekend but the local PBS affiliate in my area isn't airing Season Five episodes, yet, so I'm watching the current season by way of Ray's video streaming site, raystevens.tv

Ray tells you all about the premium site in this video clip...

Ray opens the show singing "Jack Daniels, You Lied to Me Again". Now, this is a song that dates back to 1990 in Ray's career. It originally appeared on his album, Lend Me Your Ears. In the 1990 recording it's done very uptempo but he re-recorded it in 2009 for his One for the Road album and slowed down the tempo somewhat. The slower performance is what Ray delivered on this episode of the TV show. I don't recall if this is the first time I'd seen him perform this song on television...I'm wanting to say I seen him perform it on Nashville Now back when Lend Me Your Ears was brand new.

Paul Overstreet is introduced and Ray asks him about his upbringing in Mississippi. Paul says he grew up in a couple of places in Mississippi...Ray asked him if he grew up with Marty Stuart. Paul remarked that he didn't necessarily grow up/hang out with Marty but knew of him. Paul talks about his songwriting and some of his collaborations with Don Schlitz. One of those songs the two wrote happened to be "When You Say Nothing At All" which had been a hit three times: Keith Whitley had the first widely known recording in 1988 which hit number one...later Allison Krauss had a big hit with the song in 1995...and in the non-country format Ronan Keating had an international pop hit with the song in 1999. He mentions his family and that he has 6 children...and he reflects on being both baffled and amazed that not one of them emerged as a doctor or lawyer but each and every one of them became involved in the music business in some capacity. He mentions one of his children having been a cast member of the television series, Glee, for six years.

He performs "Diggin' Up Bones" after telling it's history. If you're familiar with the song, noted as one of the first big hits of Randy Travis, you'll notice that Paul performs the song as it was originally written. By that I mean he sings additional lyrics that aren't in the hit recording from Randy Travis. Although his success as a songwriter was brought up at various times throughout the episode not much detail was given to just how many songs that Paul has written or co-written. Some of those songs are: "On the Other Hand", "No Place Like Home", "Forever and Ever, Amen", "Love Can Build a Bridge", and "Same Ole Me". Randy Travis had hits with the first three songs; The Judds had a hit with the fourth song while the fifth was a hit for George Jones; it was also the title track of George's 1981 album.

Ray mentions Paul's association with Contemporary Christian music and Billy Graham. Paul won a Dove Award for his recording of "There But for the Grace of God Go I". Paul performs "Seein' My Father In Me".

He tells of one of his goals was to be on Hee Haw one day. He shares the story of when that dream became a reality but says that he wasn't ready for what happened next. He was contacted to be at the studio for a recording session at eight in the morning. Half-jokingly he remarked that he doesn't sing that early in the morning and that all he really wanted was to get into the cornfield. Although not directly stated I'm assuming his desire for a cornfield segment was strictly for the opportunity of trading one-liners with an assortment of Hee Haw Honey's. Paul laments that he never got the chance to do a cornfield scene. He performs what was to be his only number one hit as a solo artist, "Daddy's Come Around". He had another chart topper, a trio recording, on a song he co-wrote titled "I Won't Take Less Than Your Love". That trio was made up of Paul, Tanya Tucker, and Paul Davis.

Ray brings out bagpipe player, Jay Dawson. Ray explains that although he himself is a multi-instrumentalist he simply can not play the bagpipes. Jay kicks off the closing performance, "Pledging My Love". Ray recorded this song for his 2004 album, Thank You. The neat thing about it is Jay performed the bagpipes on the actual recording...if you look at the musician credits you'll see his name listed as the bagpipe player.

Episode four should guest star Dailey and Vincent...I'll try to get some more detail and post a complete Season Five guest list. The fourth episode is airing on PBS stations this weekend and will be uploaded onto Ray's premium video site next weekend.

January 24, 2018

Ray Stevens...Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday to the one and only Ray Stevens!!! Born on this date in 1939 as Harold Ray Ragsdale in Clarkdale, Georgia. He became Ray Stevens in the late 1950s after he signed a recording contract with Prep Records, a subsidiary of Capitol Records. The change in stage name came as a result of his using his mother's maiden name, Stephens, but on records it became Stevens. The first recording from Ray came along in 1957 titled "Silver Bracelet".

Ray's earliest recordings for Prep, and later, Capitol itself were in the style of most teenage pop records in those days. If you hear one of those late '50s recordings from Ray you'll pick up on subtle phrasing...even back then. Ray was next in the studio of NRC after releasing a series of singles for Prep and Capitol (1957-1958). NRC is the label that seen a slight shift in vinyl persona as it was on this label that saw the eventual release of "Sgt. Preston of the Yukon" in 1960. It being a full fledged comedy song and the fact that it was about a fictional character everybody knew meant that it was on it's way to being a commercial hit. The meteoric hit was stopped almost overnight when the owners of the Sgt. Preston character got word that someone was making money off of their copyright without permission. Lawyers contacted NRC and the hit in the making was taken out of circulation. Not too long after that Ray found himself at Mercury Records...and the first single release for the label was another comedy outing...and this one became a hit. "Jeremiah Peabody's Green and Purple Pills" reached the Top-40 of the pop charts in 1961. Ray moved to Nashville, TN in January of 1962 and he'd eventually have the monster hit that had eluded him over the last 5 years. 1962's "Ahab the Arab" not only hit the Top-10 of the pop chart but it crossed over and became a Top-10 Rhythm and Blues hit and a million seller in the process. After it's success more successes followed: "Harry the Hairy Ape" (Top-20 pop; Top-20 Rhythm and Blues), "Speed Ball" (Top-40 Rhythm and Blues), and the original "Santa Claus is Watching You" (Top-50 pop). He also charted with "Furthermore" and "Funny Man". After this run of success Ray became more and more focused on the making of records. He temporarily but his recording career on hold to become a session musician, producer, and arranger for the Monument Records label. In one of the most unique contracts in music history Ray remained a vocalist under contract with Mercury but had a separate contract with Monument for production work on other artists. 

Mercury continued to release recordings on Ray through 1965. As soon as the contract expired Monument was then able to start issuing commercial recordings on Ray. One of the things that listeners should take notice of is the maturity of his vocals once Monument began releasing singles on him. His voice had changed a little bit between the releases from Mercury and his debut single for Monument in 1966. In the photo above I'm attempting to mimic the pose Ray Stevens gave for his 1968 album, Even Stevens

Now, rather than this turn into a career look back, I'm going to fast forward to the present day. One of the big events that took place in the career of Ray Stevens happened just this past week...on January 18th...the grand opening of his showroom, CabaRay, in West Nashville. Season Five of his television series, CabaRay Nashville, is underway on PBS. 

Will there be an audio release in the near future? His last CD arrived in 2015, Here We Go Again!. He's issued two DVDs of his television series. Season One and Season Two. Each season of his series contains 13 episodes. Once Season Five airs it'll give him 65 half hour episodes. The next season will feature episodes taped at the CabaRay showroom. Someone many years ago said that Ray is like the Energizer bunny...his career keeps going and going and going...and here's to many, many more successes in audio, video, television, and on stage at the CabaRay!!! Happy Birthday, Ray!!!

January 22, 2018

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville: Season Five...

In a follow-up blog entry I decided to do some internet searching and although I hadn't found a complete guest list for Season Five of the Ray Stevens locally syndicated PBS series, CabaRay Nashville, I've been able to discover who are likely going to be part of the line-up. I searched some image sites (Instagram, specifically) and looked up photos tagged under Ray Stevens and my memory was refreshed to the late spring/early summer months of 2017. This would be the point in time in which the episodes making up Season Five were likely to have been recorded. Ray Hildebrand's photo with Ray had a May 2017 year of release attached to it. Some other photo's from recording sessions taking place in the first half of 2017 included Ray with the likes of Jenny Gill, John Rich, and Tony Orlando. When I seen those photo's it jogged my memory. I did some further look back and found a Facebook post from June of 2017 in which Ray mentioned that he was in the middle of taping episodes for "a new season" and accompanying his post was a photo of him and guest, Sam Moore.

Now, going with that information I researched earlier this morning, combined with the information I already knew surrounding Season Five I feel I can safely say that this is an abbreviated line-up of guests for this current season of episodes...keep in mind that this guest list is not in chronological air-date order...

Ray Hildebrand, Steve Wariner (edited Season One episode), Paul Overstreet, Dailey and Vincent, Jenny Gill, John Rich, Sam Moore, and Tony Orlando. So far that's 8 broadcasts...so there's 5 episodes whose guests I have no information about. Until a list becomes available of this season's guest stars I'll have to rely on the uploads at Ray's video streaming site and those videos are posted a week after they've aired on PBS stations.

A sampling of local PBS affiliates currently airing episodes of his show: KET2/WCVN; APTV; WXEL; WNIT; WNPT; KRWG; WLJT; KMOS; KCTS9.

If any of you visitors/readers of this fan created blog are familiar with those local PBS stations check their websites for detailed information concerning air-times of Ray's television program. The station I watch his program on is KET2, a sub-channel of WCVN. Those in Washington state and in a good percentage of Canada, from what I've researched, can view Ray's program on KCTS9 but they air his show in a less than desired time slot of 4:30am...so you all are more than likely going to set your DVR and record his show. Since his television series is in local PBS syndication it means that not everybody is going to see the same episode every week. Some affiliates are airing Season Three episodes and other PBS affiliates are airing Season Four episodes. As I've mentioned KET2 is repeating episodes from Season Three. I don't know when they'll start airing Season Five episodes.

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Ray Hildebrand

Hello once again!! Did I ever get a surprise earlier today as I visited Ray's video streaming site...it's called raystevens.tv and I've written about it before. It's a premium site. I opened up the section which archives his episodes of the CabaRay Nashville television series and would you believe Season Five is already airing on PBS stations?

The season kicked off two weeks ago on January 6th but there hadn't been any promo videos emerge on YouTube promoting this fact. The local PBS affiliate in my area, KET2, airs his show but they began repeating episodes from Season Three after the New Year's Eve episode aired in late December and so I naturally assumed that once the repeat cycle completed then Season Five episodes would become available for PBS to air. The fifth season, like the previous four, will also contain 13 episodes and the first episode of Season Five features Ray Hildebrand as a special guest. An edited version of episode one guest starring Steve Wariner is slated as episode two of Season Five. The third episode, which aired on some PBS affiliates over this weekend, guest starred Paul Overstreet. Next week's episode (first airing will be January 26th) will guest star the Bluegrass duo, Dailey and Vincent.

The episodes are added to his video streaming site a week after they've aired on PBS. That means this past weekend's episode, airing the weekend of January 20th and guest starring Paul Overstreet, will be uploaded to Ray's video streaming site the weekend of January 26th...and the Daily and Vincent episode will be uploaded to Ray's video streaming site the following weekend in February.

Ray opened the episode singing "Beyond the Sea" and afterward introduced Ray Hildebrand and jokingly made reference to the artist going by the name of Paul. Given that both are named Ray I'm going to refer to the guest by his last name, Hildebrand, who comes out and tells the history of "Paul and Paula" and how it was originally issued on a label in Forth Worth, TX and how the LP was recorded in Nashville. Paula's real name happens to be Jill Jackson but she wasn't part of the show. He tells a whimsical story of being asked to fly from Kansas to California to record just one song at the insistence of Jon Bauman (Bowser from Sha Na Na). Ray mentioned that Shelby Singleton is responsible for picking up distribution rights to "Paul and Paula" and for changing the duo's name from Ray and Jill (which is how it appears on the original single release pressings in Fort Worth) to Paul and Paula. Hildebrand mentions that one of the things he remembers distinctly is hearing Shelby over the loud speaker saying "take 43..." and explains that there must have been something Shelby didn't like in the previous 42 attempts. He jokingly suggests it could have been the fault of Ray being at the studio...but Ray responds in mock egotism by saying it couldn't have been his fault because if he were involved they would've nailed down the song in one or two takes. For a minute I thought the two of them were going to get into a comical war of words recalling those recording sessions in the '60s.

Hildebrand performs "Hey Paula" with Ray's three female harmony singers. They each vie for the role of Paula and throughout the performance each one gently pushes the other out of the way each time it's their turn to sing Jill/Paula's lyrics. After this performance he tells of the time he abruptly left a Dick Clark tour because he couldn't take life on the road anymore. He says he slipped a note underneath the door and left. Dick had to fill in for Hildebrand throughout the remaining tour stops (three in total). Ray suggests that Hildebrand might be the music industry's father of Contemporary Christian music. Hildebrand talks of recording Christian music and Word Records. Ray brings up Hildebrand's past involvement with an organization known as The Fellowship of Christian Athletes. A performance of "Say I Do" by Hildebrand soon follows...but introduced by Ray as "here's Paul...no, Ray...or is it...well, whoever it is...". Upon the conclusion of the song Ray thanks him for being a guest on the show...and this is followed by an instrumental of "Tennessee Waltz" by Ray's band. The lead instrument is the electric guitar played by Jerry Kimbrough.

The show's announcer, Bill Cody, comes running onto the set to see if he could introduce the show's closing number...Ray agrees...and "You're Nobody Til Somebody Loves You" done in Ray Stevens style is delivered as the closing performance. One of the harmony singers frequently offers reaction lines which are greeted with giggles from the audience. It's definitely very different from the crooner version by Dean Martin.

This episode was taped during recording sessions held in 2017 and as I was mentioning in a couple of previous blog entries Season Five will be the final season of episodes taped at the current studio. His next recording sessions are going to take place at the CabaRay and those are going to get underway soon. The next recap I'll post will be this weekend once the Paul Overstreet episode is uploaded to Ray's video streaming site.

January 21, 2018

This Ray Stevens LP turns 30...

Hello once more! As the title of this blog entry states...this Ray Stevens LP turns 30. Released in the summer of 1988 on MCA this 10 track comedy album is chock full of top notch material and while the recordings aren't as lengthy as some of the songs on his previous albums it's nevertheless a highly entertaining project. First off the album's title is based upon a phrase associated with Will Rogers. Whereas Will's saying if often quoted as "I never met a man I didn't like", Ray's album offers a twist on that phrase with I Never Made a Record I Didn't Like. As you can see Ray is in full costume as the rope twirling Rogers. I may have shared this story before but I'll repeat it again...I discovered this project at a record store at a shopping mall with my grandfather. At the time of it's purchase it was already several years old. I remember finding the cassette copy among a stack of Ray Stevens cassettes on display at the store. I was there hoping to find his most recent album at that time, Lend Me Your Ears, and I found this one which I had never known about...the same holds true for his 1989 album, Beside Myself. I was still a teenager at the time (pre-16 so I wasn't able to drive on my own) and my only access to stores was with my parent's or my grandparent's...and a lot of the time the local K-Mart and Hart's stores didn't always carry an abundance of Ray Stevens titles...so most of the purchases of Ray Stevens music that I had at that point in time was through my grandparent's who'd take me to a shopping mall not too far away which featured a couple of music stores which carried a wide array of music and plenty of Ray in a comedy music section of the store. Those stores were Camelot and NRM.

Anyway, I found I Never Made a Record I Didn't Like and glanced over the song titles and was dumbfounded that I'd never heard of these songs before...or the album...and I looked at the copyright year, 1988, and a light bulb moment occurred when I realized the album was simply a project my grandfather skipped over when he had purchased several of Ray's albums a couple of years earlier. Ever since the cassette copy came into my possession in the early '90s I've long since been a fan of it. Once I got onto the internet in the mid 2000s I was able to purchase vinyl albums released on Ray Stevens including the vinyl copy of this 1988 release.

First off I'd like to give a run down on the list of musicians that played on this record. I usually don't single out the album musicians but ever since Ray began his CabaRay Nashville television series with a lot more heightened emphasis and attention directed toward his band I figured I'd provide a list of the musicians for this particular release. Ray is credited with playing the synthesizer. The keyboard is credited to Gary Prim. His name appears on several of Ray's albums as keyboard or piano player even though the public at large assumes that Ray plays piano on all of his recordings. Steve Gibson is credited with electric guitar, mandolin, and dobro. Larry Sasser is the credited steel guitar player and it also credits him as a dobro player as well. There's no indication of whether or not Larry and Steve play the dobro together on any of the recordings or if Steve played the dobro on specific recordings while Larry played the dobro on other recordings. I assume the latter. Stuart Keathley is the bass player and the engineer. Stuart had been with Ray for many years as bass player and engineer and would continue as such into the 1990s before his untimely death in a house fire in 1995. Tommy Wells is the drummer. Terry McMillan played the harmonica. Mark Casstevens played the rhythm guitar and the banjo. Lisa Silver was on hand as the fiddle player and as one of the background vocalists along side Sherri Huffman, Wendy Suits, and Diane Vanette. Lisa is another musician that goes back quite awhile with Ray. She's the one singing harmony with Ray during a 1980 appearance on Hee Haw...he's singing the song "Love Me Longer" at the piano wearing a cowboy hat and she's standing to the side of him with fiddle in hand.

As mentioned it's a 10 song comedy album and MCA released two commercial singles. "Surfin' U.S.S.R." was issued as a single and it also became his second music video. The song blends the sounds of Beach Boys music with the real world topicality of the Cold War between The United States and Russia. In the music video there's exclusive content in which Ray does audio impressions of Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in addition to delivering opening commentary (off-camera voice over) as an unidentified news man reporting on the meeting between the two world leaders. It's never been stated if Ray was one of the two on camera...I'm assuming Ray had two of his friends act as Reagan and Gorbachev (both are wearing masks) and he delivered their audio remarks. The wives of the two leaders are also on the music video but they don't speak. This footage is exclusive to the music video and that audio isn't heard on the album/single release. It's my guess that it was added to the music video release for visual humor prior to the kick off of the actual song itself. After the completion of the opening track it's time for "The Booger Man", a bluesy comical song dealing with monsters and how if you're not careful the most horrific of them all will get'cha. Ray performed this song on a Halloween themed episode of the televised portion of The Grand Ole Opry in the mid '90s. It's the only time I'd ever seen him perform the song and it's probably the only time he performed the song on television. He wrote it with Buddy Kalb. I don't own a CD copy of this album but I have an image of it saved on my computer so I thought I'd include it in this blog entry. "Mama's in the Sky with Elvis" is a song that originated on a prior project...the 1987 Greatest Hits, Volume Two on MCA...but the label placed it on this 1988 album, too. It's a darkly humorous story about an Elvis fan who passes away in the most bizarre fashion. It's filled with Elvis references from movie titles to song titles and the arrangement carries an Elvis flavor including Ray's impression of The Jordanaires providing harmony/background vocals to open the song.

Something found on most of Ray's comedy albums in the 1980s and early 1990s were traces of topical references or social commentary on trends/fads of the day. Cable television was booming and even though financial reports indicated a decline in satellite television sales the fact remained that some pockets of the country were just discovering the unfiltered programming of satellite television...and what better way to offer comical commentary than with a song whose title utilizes all of the disclaimers accompanying a large amount of programming: "Language, Nudity, Violence, and Sex". In this bouncy sing-a-long with heavy use of fiddle Ray plays the part of a rural well to do who decides to give in to his family's wishes and get satellite television. Ray proceeds to tell us everything he's seen and the things he's noticed his children watching, too...and there's a vague reference to Doctor Ruth even though she's not mentioned by name. This countrified slice of hilarity is followed by a dramatic shift in music in that Ray delivers his version of Michael Jackson's song, "Bad". The song begins with a faithful Rhythm and Blues tinged arrangement prior to it shifting into a full-on rollicking performance with a country overtone with sheep impressions and chicken clucks near the end.

Track Six (the first song on side two if referring to the vinyl or cassette copy) is "The Day I Tried To Teach Charlene MacKenzie How To Drive". This is a bouncy sing-a-long, too, with a 1960's flavor as it tells the story of Ray attempting to teach a childhood girlfriend how to drive. The only roadblock being her deafness. So, Ray tells us his adventure trying to teach her to drive a '57 Chevy and all the chaos that ensues.

Now, following this romping adventure of a song, Ray once again does an about face musically and delivers the amazing "Blood and Suede". In an overall somber arrangement Ray tells the story of a young rock and roll singer in Hollywood whose egotism got the better of him as he crashes his car while listening to his Greatest Hits album turned up full blast in his Porsche. Ray's vocal takes on the part of the wise seen-it-all recalling the Porsche and Mercedes crash near Mulholland Drive. The fault of the crash wasn't necessarily all on the rock music star. The driver of the Mercedes, according to the song, was drunk on Cabernet and speeding but the singer paying too much attention to his music never heard the Mercedes screeching to a halt trying to avoid a collision. It is not a comedy song and it breaks up the overall flow of the album...but it's a great performance.

The next two songs on the album are both uptempo. "Ethelene the Truck Stop Queen" is a song about a waitress at a truck stop and the day to day activity of her job. Ray tells us that she was born in the sleeper of a Peterbilt and her parent's abandoned her by leaving her at a booth at a truck stop wrapped in a road map for protection. In "I Don't Need None of That" Ray tells us of several situations he's found himself in and in each situation he's confirmed his belief that he doesn't need anyone's depressing advice, negativity, or potential trouble (one situation has him on the receiving end of a friend's practical joke involving a prostitute). The album's closing song is the satirical "Old Hippie Class Reunion"...and once more the light is shined on his arranging prowess...because as you listen to the song and hear the music playing along in the background you begin to think you're eavesdropping on a conversation between 2 out of their mind hippies. Ray vocally plays the role of 2 hippies...one with a gravelly voice whose hard of hearing and the other with a lazy, mellow voice who constantly has to remind the other of all of their accomplishments (?) at their latest party. Ray uses that mellow voice as he sings the song, too, and as a result you don't hear his natural voice throughout the entire recording.

Ray Stevens CabaRay gets Underway...

Hello once again! Well, the CabaRay venue in West Nashville, Tennessee is at last underway. The venue opened to the public this past Thursday (January 18th) and so the opening weekend has completed (concerts from Ray were held on the 18th, 19th, and 20th at 7:30pm).

As he embarks on this chapter of his career I was looking forward to reading commentary from those who either attended the concerts or reading commentary and seeing photo's posted on social media sites from the Ray Stevens office staff centering around opening weekend but so far there hasn't been any sort of feedback posted on-line.

Once you visit Ray's official Facebook page, for example, the discussions revolve around the VIP concert. His last post, to date, was on opening day, January 18th, displaying photo's from the VIP concert. Admittedly I'm a bit baffled by the silence...all of the publicity that I've been able to find on-line for the CabaRay, so far, is the coverage of the VIP event that took place back on January 10th. News reports covering the VIP concert poured out for several days but after the CabaRay opened to the general public there hasn't been any kind of social media coverage emerge from those that attended the concerts.

I'll remain eagle eyed, though...the first concert goer feedback (audience reaction) I come across I'll make note of it. Given that everyone involved in the opening weekend are probably coming down from a gigantic, emotion-packed high today I understand the need for some rest and unwinding time so more than likely Ray and company will provide some feedback surrounding the concerts by Monday. I'm anxious to see photographs and read commentary from fans and from Ray...as if you couldn't tell...but only time will tell if and when fan reaction emerges on-line.

One thing I've noticed is there seems to be a bit more local PBS stations promoting their airing of his television series, CabaRay Nashville, ever since the CabaRay itself opened several days ago. In the past I'd search various local PBS stations to find if his show was being carried but now if you Google the show's title there have been some search results highlighting several local PBS stations that currently carry his show. I don't know if these are new stations or if they've been airing his show but only recently have surfaced on Google's search engine. Whatever the case it's something I took notice of during the last couple of days searching for CabaRay news. One thing I can definitely confirm is my next blog entry will focus on an album from Ray that turns 30 this year...the highly under-rated I Never Made a Record I Didn't Like from 1988. I can also confirm that I'll be posting the look back later today.

January 18, 2018

Ray Stevens CabaRay open to the Public...

Hello one and all...it's opening day at the CabaRay and it's my 1,000th fan created blog entry on the career of Ray Stevens. I look forward to reading any commentary that is likely to pour out on social media later tonight. I work nights and so I'll have to catch up tomorrow morning to see how opening night went. After 2 years of construction and at least 4 years in the planning/talking stages it's finally ready to accept the public!

Do you remember Ray first mentioning a CabaRay venue? If I remember correctly he was mentioning it during his book signings and interviews during his memoir tour. I couldn't find any mention of the proposed venue in the book itself but nevertheless it had been a much talked about venue and today it opens to the general public.

An interview took place yesterday on the local FOX affiliate in Nashville, WZTV, in a segment called Rock and Review hosted by Eric Dahl. It's ten and a half minutes in length and Ray gives his vision and goals of the venue and the reason behind it. It's a lovely looking venue...and at night the red letters light up and can be seen for blocks around. I've posted the night time look hadn't I? In case I hadn't here it is...

The interview Ray gave to Eric Dahl's been uploaded to Ray's YouTube channel and I'm sharing it here...

Ray will be performing at the CabaRay on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday during the remainder of this month. January 18, 19, 20 and then concerts resume on the 25th, 26th, and 27th. He'll be doing 10 concerts during the month of February. You can check out the calendar on his CabaRay website by clicking HERE. The link opens to a page showing concerts for January. If you want to look ahead simply click the forward arrow over on the left hand side of the page above the calendar. The page also gives telephone hours for ticket information and the venue's address.

If you're not able to attend any concerts during opening weekend then by all means look at future concert dates. I'll return in the morning and post whatever I find on social media dealing with opening night at the CabaRay.

January 17, 2018

Ray Stevens CabaRay Grand Opening...Tomorrow!

Hello once more!! Here we are...just one day from the Ray Stevens CabaRay opening to the public!! Ray posted a link to an article in their local paper, The Tennessean. You can read the article by clicking HERE. For whatever reason they have a video clip of Ray from the CMA Music Fest last year in which he spoke about hoping to have the venue open to the public soon. On January 15th an article appeared on-line from the Digital Journal recapping the VIP event held on January 10th. You can read that by clicking HERE. One of the guests at VIP night that went under the radar as far as the press coverage...as I just found out about it this morning...was Margie Singleton (the widow of Shelby Singleton).

Back on January 11th, which would be a day after the VIP concert, Ray appeared on local television station WSMV in Nashville to promote the CabaRay. A video clip of that appearance can be found HERE. Keep in mind if you're coming across this blog entry months of years from now it's possible that the links may not be functioning anymore. If you find that's the case you simply Google Ray's name, the year, and the TV station or website the URL is linking to and you're sure to find the video clip or article among the archived search results.

I'll now relay something that's mind blowing and completely coincidental...this blog entry happens to be my 17th of 2018...what's so mind blowing you may ask yourself? I began it 10 years ago and this 17th blog entry added to the others I have written over the last 10 years equals 999!!! Yes...you read that correctly...this is my 999th fan created blog entry on the career and goings-on in the world of Ray Stevens. Tomorrow being opening day at the CabaRay means my 1000th blog entry celebrating the music/career of Ray Stevens will fall on that special day. I'll be scouring the internet and posting links to whatever I come across as far as commentary from those that share their experience on social media sites. In a recent Facebook post on Ray's page he mentioned that recording sessions at the CabaRay for the next season of his CabaRay Nashville television show will get underway soon!! I can't wait to start seeing episodes originating from the CabaRay!

You can visit the venue's official website by clicking HERE and find out about tickets. The site lists the box office hours, their number, and the venue's address. If you're unable to attend the grand opening tomorrow you can always choose a future concert. There's a calendar at the site and as you progress into the spring there's going to be more and more concert opportunities.

January 14, 2018

Ray Stevens album, "Me", turns 35...

Hello to all the fans of Ray Stevens! This is going to be a somewhat busy several days given the grand opening of the CabaRay four days away on January 18th. Those of you fortunate enough to attend the grand opening on the 18th or any of the concerts during opening weekend and beyond no doubt will have memories that'll last forever. Are you all excited?? I imagine the fans in attendance will share their experiences on social media so I'll be looking for commentary to spotlight on this blog. In this particular blog entry I decided to put some spotlight on an album that turns 35 this year...the wonderful album, Me.

The album is packed with an assortment of recordings...ten altogether...and of those ten Ray wrote or co-wrote seven of them. As mentioned the album hit in 1983 on the Mercury Records label and technically the album arrived very late in the year but I wanted to celebrate the 35th anniversary of it's release a bit early...after all it's 2018 so mathematically it's 35 this year...and anyway it's one of my favorite albums from Ray Stevens. The album was produced by Ray and Jerry Kennedy. This marked the second album in a row in which Ray was aided in the production of an album. His previous release, Don't Laugh Now, featured Bob Montgomery as a co-producer. The Me album, however, was kind of a homecoming in that Mercury Records is the label upon which Ray became a nationally recognized recording artist in the early '60s under the guidance of both Shelby Singleton and Jerry Kennedy. If you look at the credits on a lot of Ray's early and mid '60s single releases on Mercury you're going to find Shelby Singleton listed as producer and Jerry Kennedy listed as the orchestra leader of the sessions (specifically The Merry Melodies Singers). By the mid '60s several single releases credited both Shelby Singleton and Jerry Kennedy as producers of Ray's recordings. For example...a mid '60s novelty recording titled "Mr. Baker the Undertaker"...

If you click the image of that single you'll see a close-up or you may be able to see the producer credits, Shelby and Jerry, without having to click the image. That image is the promotional copy of the single. The commercially released image had the standard black color label but during this era the promotional copies of the single releases had a red color label. Even though this blog entry is mainly to spotlight the 35th anniversary of the Me album I decided to step back in time even more just to show that Jerry Kennedy played a role in those early Mercury recordings from Ray Stevens...going from being credited as an orchestra leader to being credited as a co-producer along side Shelby Singleton. You will also note over on the left hand side of the single the publisher credits belong to Lowery Music. Yes, as you may have guessed, it was the publishing company headed up by Bill Lowery...the man responsible for getting Ray onto records in the late '50s on Prep and it's parent company, Capitol...and eventually NRC (a label that Bill co-owned). Even though it's true that the single releases from Ray involving co-production by Jerry Kennedy weren't what you'd consider wildly successful nevertheless the recordings are first rate for their era and there's no denying the infectious fun of both the novelty and ballads being issued by Ray Stevens during those early to mid '60s Mercury Records years.

Fast forward 20 some years to 1983 and Ray finds himself reuniting with Mercury Records for a one album deal featuring Jerry Kennedy as co-producer. At this point in time the biggest recording act for the label and Jerry Kennedy was arguably the country music group, The Statler Brothers, even though he produced almost all of the roster on Mercury's country music division throughout the late '60s and into the early '80s (acts like Jerry Lee Lewis, Tom T. Hall, early recordings by Reba McEntire, Roger Miller...anyone recording country music for Mercury or it's subsidiary labels often featured Jerry Kennedy as producer and sometimes even session musician). Once the CabaRay opens on January 18th you'll be able to see the glorious red leather section of the venue honoring numerous record producers based in Nashville and among those spotlighted is Jerry Kennedy (the other five are Shelby Singleton, Chet Atkins, Fred Foster, Owen Bradley, and Billy Sherrill).

As I pointed out earlier in the blog entry the album officially turns 35 later in the year but I wanted to celebrate it's debut earlier. If you have never heard of Ray's Me album seek it out on eBay. It's been in my Ray Stevens vinyl collection for more than 10 years. I purchased my copy off of eBay and sometimes a cassette copy comes up for sale on eBay, too. Some of the songs from this 1983 album have been re-recorded by Ray for recent projects...so chances are you've heard some of the songs but weren't aware that they originated earlier. Just what are the songs on this album?? Here is a track list...I highlighted in bold the songs that Ray had a hand in writing:

1. Love Will Beat Your Brains Out
2. Mary Lou Nights
3. Special Anniversary
4. Piedmont Park
5. Me
6. My Dad
7. Yolanda
8. Piece of Paradise Called Tennessee
9. Kings and Queens
10. Game Show Love

In case you have the album, too, you can glance over all of the technical aspects of the project such as length of each song and the writers credited on tracks 4, 6, and 7 plus the photographer credits, etc. etc. The entire album is serious, in tone, but some have declared "Game Show Love" as a comedy song and there are those that have never heard "Love Will Beat Your Brains Out" but nevertheless erroneously declare it a comedy song, too, based entirely on the title.

In case you've heard rumors for years let me assure you they're true...Ray did in fact appear as a special guest on an episode of The Fall Guy in 1983 titled The Pirates of Nashville. Ray portrayed a character that just happened to be a country music singer and near the end of the episode he performs "Piece of Paradise Called Tennessee" all decked out in the shirt he's wearing on the 1983 Greatest Hits album that RCA issued. The episode originally aired on November 23, 1983 right around the time Me was considered his most recent album. Mercury issued several single releases from the 1983 album...the one that reached the country music charts happened to be "My Dad", one of the songs Ray didn't write. The single peaked on the country charts in early 1984 but well below the radio heavy Top-40 section. It is not the same song that Paul Petersen had a pop hit with even though several internet sites erroneously make that claim. Ray's recording of "My Dad" is a completely different song.

January 13, 2018

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Reed Robertson

In this final episode of Season Two of Ray's PBS series the special guest is Reed Robertson. Ray opens the show singing "Dear Andy Griffith" featuring a lot of finger snapping from the harmony singers...but it didn't feature the exact music arrangement found on the studio recording...which doesn't feature finger snapping. The studio recording originated in 2010 on his album, We The People. Ray follows the opening performance with the limited animation music video, "Along Came Jones".

I was not into all of the hysteria and hype surrounding Duck Dynasty but several family members were. My parents, for example, couldn't miss an episode. In fact there was a time when my mom would watch the marathon airings of the show that used to air...even if she had seen the episode more than twice already...and so even though I wasn't necessarily a viewer/fan of the series I nevertheless was exposed to the series through my walking to and from my bedroom and the kitchen and passing by the living room and catching bits and pieces of the show.

Ray introduces Reed to the audience and asks about life in the Duck Dynasty universe. Reed speaks of his childhood and how he was an athlete playing five sports. He said he played football, too, but it wasn't his main sport. Given his height basketball became the main sport. Ray mentions that he was told to expect a gift...and Reed gives him a duck call. After testing it out Ray is told about Reed's parents being musically inclined but with two distinctive preferences. Reed says his mother used to sing opera throughout the house...many times early in the mornings as perhaps something of an alarm and that his dad loved singing Johnny Cash songs.

Reed performs a song titled "Hallelujah" and it's followed by Ray's clip advertising the Duck-a-Phone (actually spelled Duck-a-Fone) which parodies pan flutist, Zamfir. In the early '90s there were a series of television commercials advertising the pan flutist and they played all over television. Ray's parody featured a string of duck calls glued side by side in order to resemble a pan flute. The clip had been taped for inclusion in the 1992 home video, Amazing Rolling Revue, but was ultimately cut from the final print but once he uploaded the clip onto YouTube during the Duck Dynasty craze it obviously reached an entirely different audience mostly unaware of the original intent of the clip. The funny thing is Ray uploaded the sketch twice.

He uploaded it in 2012 but then uploaded it a second time in 2014 with some added material inserted into the beginning of the clip. The added material features Ray dressed in Duck Dynasty attire and wearing a comically fake long beard. That second upload, from 2014, has gotten more than 200,000 unique views on YouTube but yet the original upload from 2012 has amassed a little more than 30,000 unique views. As Ray has often pointed out in interviews a lot of the success of a song or a video depends 9 times out of 10 on timing...sometimes a song won't find it's audience until perhaps a second or third go around.

Reed follows the Duck-a-Fone clip with a performance of "I'll Be the One"...and then for the closing performance Ray calls on his daughter, Suzi Ragsdale, to perform with him on a song titled "Wishbone". This closes out Season Two of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville.

The first 26 episodes of his television series have, as you should already know, been released on DVD as Season One (13 episodes) and Season Two (13 episodes). The 26 episodes that make up Season Three and Season Four have yet to be released onto DVD. Those episodes are the ones that were the exclusive, first-run episodes for PBS stations. The episodes featured on the Season One and Season Two DVDs originally aired on RFD-TV (during 2015-2016) and those episodes were repeated on numerous PBS stations during the first half of 2017.

The CabaRay is set to open in 5 days...January 18th...and more than likely that's when my next blog entry is going to be. This should be a very active week, though...so I may blog sooner than I'm initially anticipating.

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Jimmy Wayne

Oh it's me once more and I'm recapping episode 12 of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville, Season Two. The guest star this time around happened to be Jimmy Wayne. Ray opens the show performing "Smoky Mountain Rattlesnake Retreat" and this is followed by a clip from his internet series, We Ain't Dead Yet, from several years ago. The clip shown is actually from the first episode and it features Louise Mandrell as the Judge sentencing Ray to several months of community service at The Encore, a home for retired entertainers.

Jimmy Wayne is brought out after the rather unusually lengthy clip. Jimmy speaks of his upbringing and broken home stemming from being abandoned by his father and having a mother in and out of jail. Given his upbringing he's very passionate about the plight of foster children and the homeless and he speaks of being a guard/correction officer at a prison and took songwriting advice from an inmate. He mentions being a songwriter for the Acuff/Rose publishing company in the late '90s and early 2000s prior to becoming a recording artist. His first songwriting hit, "Put Your Hand in Mine", was a Top-20 hit for Tracy Byrd in 1999.

He speaks of his hike from Nashville, Tennessee to Phoenix, Arizona to raise awareness for the homeless youth and foster children during a project called Meet Me Halfway. The pledge was to walk 25 miles per day and he arrived in Phoenix in August 2010 after having began the trek in January 2010. Ray promotes Jimmy's book, Walk to Beautiful: The Power of Love and a Homeless Kid Who Found the Way.

A clip of Ray being scolded by fictional Nurse Broadside at The Encore is played and it includes a cameo appearance by Darrell Waltrip.

Jimmy performs "Sara Smile", a single of his from 2009. This is followed by a performance of "I Love You This Much", a single from 2003. Jimmy hasn't placed a single or album onto the charts since, ironically, 2010...the year he did the hike.

The overall tone/mood of the show was somber...and if not for the opening performance and the two clips from We Ain't Dead Yet the entire episode would've been serious from beginning to end because Ray closed the show performing the emotional ballad, "Safe at Home".

The special guest on the 13th and final episode of Season Two was Reed Robertson of Duck Dynasty.

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Con Hunley

Hello once again...and on today's blog entry I'm recapping episode 11 from Season Two of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville. On this episode the special guest happened to be Con Hunley. The episode was taped during recording sessions that took place in February 2017. Those episodes were among the first-run's that began airing on PBS stations in the summer.

Ray opens the show with a performance of "The Baptism of Stumpy Brown", from his Here We Go Again! album, from the pen of Buddy Kalb and Allison Speer. It's a funny story and it's a sing-a-long kind of performance if you happen to know the lyrics. It's about a non-believer that decides he wants to get baptized in his 90's and the chaos that ensues after the Preacher tosses him in the river. After this bit of funny business Ray welcomes Con Hunley.

Con speaks of his background and makes mention that during a period of more than 10 years he never recorded but that all changed after reuniting with Norro Wilson in the early 2000s and the two of them began working together once more. Norro, I had learned, was Con's record producer during the period of time he was signed to Warner Brothers. I was not too familiar with Con Hunley's career or his recordings but I knew of his name because he recorded several songs that became bigger hits for other artists...one in particular being "What Am I Gonna Do About You?". It hit the Top-20 for him in 1985 but yet the very next year a recording by Reba McEntire hit the charts and her version hit number one early in 1987. Con also recorded "You've Still Got a Place in My Heart" and it was issued as a single in 1978 and it hit the Top-20 but then several years later (1984) an abbreviated recording by George Jones would hit the Top-5.

During Con's discussion with Ray about Norro he was pointed out in the audience. The camera pans out to the audience and Norro is seated next to Buddy Kalb. Norro hollers from his chair to the area where Ray and Con are standing and everyone has a laugh. Norro has since passed away and this could very well be his final appearance in front of a camera. Norro passed away in June of 2017 and the taping of this episode occurred in February of 2017.

Con speaks of his love of Ray Charles and a current album called A Collection: By Request. If you look for the CD on-line by way of search engines you're going to find it listed on several on-line music sites but once you visit those sites you're not going to find it due to it not being available in general release anymore even though it's still listed. However, you can still purchase it on Amazon but there's a disclaimer of there only being 6 copies of the CD available. It's not available as an Mp3 and Amazon doesn't offer any song selection so you'll have to do some more investigating to find more information surrounding the CD. I did just that and found out the CD had been issued in 2014 but Amazon has it's release being August 2017...so that must reflect it's reissue date or it must have been exclusive to Con's website until 2017? Anyway...

Con speaks of his charity work/golf tournaments for underprivileged children. He and Ray perform a duet of "Georgia on My Mind". If you're not as familiar with Con Hunley you'll be blown away by his vocals during this performance. Ray Stevens is also a big fan of the late Ray Charles, as all fans of Ray Stevens should be well aware of, so having both Ray Stevens and Con Hunley perform the song as a duet should bring chills to fans and the public in general.

The segment is followed by the limited animation music video, "The Camping Trip". Upon it's conclusion Ray brings Con out once more and the performance is the much more uptempo "She Ain't You" from his 2003 CD, Sweet Memories. Don Cusic, as the professor of music, talks of Ray's recording of "If Ten Percent is Good Enough for Jesus" and Ray closes the show with a performance of that song. On the next episode the special guest is Jimmy Wayne...stay tuned for a recap.

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Sylvia

Here we are at episode 10 of Season Two of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...guest starring Sylvia. Ray opens the show performing his rendition of "Love Potion Number Nine". The opening fits a pattern in Ray's choice of songs throughout the episode. In introducing Sylvia he remarks that she, like so many country music artists, was so poor...she was so poor her family couldn't afford a last name.

She speaks of her upbringing in Kokomo, Indiana and her move to Nashville. She recalled how she filled her time with odd jobs around Nashville such singing demo recordings and typing lyrics into publisher databases...and Ray makes mention of her being a model. She laughs about her experience and insists that she was probably a model for one photo session or two. Ray brings up a recording, "You're My Jamaica", which his brother, John, recorded a year or two before Charley Pride. The reason for Ray bringing it up, I imagine, is perhaps Sylvia appeared on a picture sleeve promoting the single? I hadn't found an image of a picture sleeve but I found an image of the single. It happened to have been released in 1978 on the Monument label.

Sylvia performs an almost acoustic version of her biggest hit, "Nobody". The lead guitar is situated nearby with a microphone aimed at it. Now, to set the record straight, Sylvia had more than a dozen hit recordings during what music critics call the Pop-Country or Urban Cowboy era in country music. The period of time stretching from 1979 to around 1985 nationally although country radio, in general, was attempting to shift attention back to a more traditional sound as early as 1982 but the format's popularity among non-country music listeners was more or less too difficult to give up economically. The entire point of my bringing all this up is because there's this nagging perception that Sylvia was a one hit wonder when in reality she had numerous hit songs: "Tumbleweed", "The Matador", "Drifter", "Cry Just a Little Bit", "Snapshot", and several more. Although not brought up Sylvia was on the RCA label during the same time as Ray (early '80s).

Ray plays the video clip of the two of them performing the sketch, Making Cookies. The sketch became part of a 1992 home video called The Amazing Rolling Revue which was meant to be a pilot for a television series. The concept of the show centered around a mobile venue that traveled across the country courtesy of a tour bus driven by Darrell Waltrip. The sketches that appeared on the home video had been shot in the late '80s and early '90s. She speaks of her upcoming album and mentions it's her first studio album in 12 or 13 years. The title of the album is It's All in the Family. She performs "Right Turn". This is followed by the limited animation music video of "The Ballad of Cactus Pete and Lefty". Ray closes the show performing "Jeremiah Peabody's Green and Purple Pills". On the next episode of the series the special guest is Con Hunley.

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Bill Anderson

Hello all...I just finished watching the remaining episodes of the Season Two DVD of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville. Bill Anderson happened to be the guest star of episode 9. Ray opened the show singing "Walking the Dog" from his 2015 album, Here We Go Again!.

Ray welcomes to the show that night's guest star, Bill Anderson. Ray makes mention of Warren Roberts and how instrumental he happened to be in their early lives. Ray mentions that Warren happened to be a faculty member at his high school...and Bill mentions that Warren was responsible for him landing a job on a Georgia radio station in a Saturday time slot "when nobody was probably listening" but quickly adds that everyone has to start somewhere. Ray mentions that his association with Bill Lowery came as a result of knowing Warren.

Bill makes mention of Ray's first commercially released single, "Silver Bracelet", and how it was the biggest thing in Atlanta and it enabled Ray to become known as The Atlanta Heart Throb and for awhile young girls in the area would swoon over every word and in his recollection they'd coo out "woo, it's Ray Stevens!". Bill remarks with high praise the memoir Ray co-authored and said it took him three days to read it. Ray jokingly remarks that Bill must be a slow reader if it took him that long to read it (a reference to how short the memoir is by comparison with others). Bill mentioned that his upcoming memoir, Whisperin' Bill Anderson: An Unprecedented Life in Country Music, was also going to be released as an audio book. The book saw it's release in September 2016 in hardcover as well as paperback and the audio version hit the next month. Bill performs "Still" with Ray's "orchestra". I quote that because Bill referred to the band as an orchestra...and Ray questioned this choice of words. "An orchestra?!?"...implying that the band is far too down to Earth to be confused with the more haughty sounding 'orchestra'.

Bill follows up this performance with "Old Army Hat". Bill is seen playing the guitar on this song and he says that the guitar was given to him by Billy Grammer in the late '50s to take on tour and promote the line of guitars but it came up missing one day and for at least 50 years it was lost. He said that one day he got a call from somebody saying he had found a guitar in a pawn shop and it could very well be the one that's been missing for half a century. This event in Bill's life was part inspiration for a song he wrote with Jamey Johnson called "The Guitar Song"...that song is about what a lonely guitar might be thinking while sitting in a pawn shop awaiting purchase.

Following the performance of "Old Army Hat" the limited animation music video, "Power Tools", aired. Ray closed the show performing "The Higher Education of Ol' Blue". Ray originally recorded that song on his 1993 Curb album, Classic Ray Stevens. The song is based on a story that's been told for decades in the southern portion of the United States and had become the focal point of a Jerry Clower routine titled "Crack, W.L., and Rover". Jerry's story can be found on his Starke Raving! album from 1984. Be on the lookout for my next review...episode 10...guest starring Sylvia!

January 12, 2018

Ray Stevens CabaRay opens in 6 days...

Hello one and all...we're only 6 days away from the Grand Opening of the CabaRay in West Nashville. In my previous blog entry I shared some video clips of the VIP event that took place at the CabaRay for his friends and family. The big day, though, arrives on January 18th when the venue officially opens to the general public.

I felt like creating a blog post to give some spotlight on some additional publicity surrounding the venue and I'm starting things off with a January 4th article from the online site, Music Row, which I may have already shared with you...I've posted more blogs than usual during the first 2 weeks of January so I may unintentionally repeat myself...but in case I hadn't posted about the article already I decided to just go ahead and provide the article's link anyway. This article appeared several days before the VIP gala but it's still a good article promoting the venue. You can read it by clicking HERE. That particular article was written by Jessica Nicholson. I point this out because after the VIP event at the CabaRay on January 10th a further article appeared in the Music Row publication written by Eric T. Parker and you can read that article by clicking HERE.

The VIP performance ran 90 minutes and some of the audience members included Bobby Goldsboro, Johnny Lee, Bill Anderson, T.G. Sheppard, Steve Wariner, Ricky Skaggs, The Gatlin Brothers, T. Graham Brown, Harold Bradley, Fred Foster, Ralph Emery, Jeannie Seely, and more.

In that article it features a photo of Ray seated at his piano with the official document declaring January 10, 2018 as Ray Stevens Day by Nashville's Mayor, Megan Barry. Stay tuned for further blog entries as I watch the remaining episodes on the Season Two DVD of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville. I have reviewed the first 8 episodes of the second season (which you can find over in the Archive list on the right hand side of the page) and there's 5 episodes left to watch/review (each season consists of 13 episodes). Episodes that are to be reviewed include those guest starring Bill Anderson, Sylvia, Con Hunley, Jimmy Wayne, and Reed Robertson. The local PBS affiliate in my area is in their repeat cycle (repeating the 26 episodes from season three and season four) and as a result new episodes aren't scheduled to begin airing until the early summer. Those upcoming episodes were taped at the current recording studio but the next production period will take place at the CabaRay...which opens on January 18th.

January 11, 2018

Ray Stevens CabaRay...VIP Event...

Hello once more! In my previous blog entry I made mention that I'd be blogging at some point this weekend with a recap of Bill Anderson's episode of Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville but if breaking news happened I'd blog before then. Well, breaking news, sort of, happened last night while I was at work. Ray held a VIP concert at the CabaRay and various local television stations were there to get some of the event on camera. While the actual concert itself wasn't videotaped by the reporters there was footage of the venue prior to the VIP event which aired on the local news in Nashville. There are two video clips on YouTube surrounding the CabaRay event...

In this first video clip Bill Anderson is interviewed and he gives his history with Ray, life growing up in the Atlanta region in Georgia, and his thoughts about the CabaRay...

In the second video clip, which is a bit longer, Ray gives a guided tour and shows a lot of the interior that wasn't spotlighted in a previous video clip...including a special area dedicated to Bill Lowery.

A third video, from WKRN television, posted a video promo of the VIP event and in their video they have commentary from Mandy Barnett and Ray's longtime friend/songwriting partner/video co-star/business associate, Buddy Kalb. You can see that video by clicking HERE. If the link is temperamental be patient as it loads. It's well worth it. The CabaRay opens in just 7 days!!

January 8, 2018

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Darryl Worley and Lee Greenwood

It's me once more...in this blog entry I'm going to recap the eighth episode of season two of Ray Stevens' CabaRay Nashville series. I've been on something of a marathon recap spree most of the night as I've posted several blog entries in a row. This happened to be my first full weekend off work in a month and a half and so I decided to make the most of it. So, looking back, I've since watched 6 of the Season Two episodes from the DVD over the weekend. It's early Monday morning and so I won't be able to watch the remaining episodes in the DVD collection until this coming weekend.

Even though I've posted the image of the Season Two DVD on the right hand side of the page I realize that those that come here only read specific blog entries or have been led here by search engines that filter through the tags that I attach to each blog entry. For example I've added both Lee Greenwood and Darryl Worley in the tag section so anytime somebody searches blogs or does a routine on-line search for either performer then this blog entry should be among the search results even though, technically, this isn't a blog for either artist...they just happen to be guest stars on a specific episode of Ray's television series. But anyway...that's the Season Two DVD collection that I've been watching throughout the overnight/early morning. This particular episode is the Patriotic Episode that was originally scheduled to air on KET2 last year but for whatever reason was replaced by the episode guest starring T. Graham Brown and Suzy Ragsdale. So, at long last, I was finally able to see the patriotic episode and sure enough it was filled with patriotism. The first section of tables in the audience were filled with members of the military. Ray opened the show singing "Thank You", a song he co-wrote with a man named Larry McCoy. The song is the title track of a 2004 CD and it was made into a stirring music video.

Ray introduces Darryl who performs "Have You Forgotten?". After the performance Darryl mentions that he's been to the Middle East 14 or 15 times since 2002 and he tells the origins of the song. Ray had made the comment that in the hours and days after 9/11 both political parties and seemingly everybody in America got along but then the farther away it got from 9/11 the more complacent people became and how pre-9/11 normalcy (?) returned...meaning that political parties returned to being at each other's throats and the collective mainstream media returned to it's biased behavior. Darryl's song channeled the kinds of thoughts Ray spoke of. Darryl was also witnessing a growing frustration and angst directed at the political figures of that time period from an overall fed up, annoyed culture and so Darryl, in song, was asking if the people in just 2 short years, had forgotten everything that happened on 9/11 and given the public's growing weariness about bin Laden were they actually wanting the military to just forget their mission and forget 9/11 ever happened, too? The song hit number one on the country chart after it's 5th chart week...remaining number one for seven weeks...and crossing over to the Top-30 on the pop chart.

After the performance Ray singles out the branches of the military in the audience and specifically calls out Mark Woods, founder of Nashville's Operation Troop Aid.

This is followed by the introduction of Lee Greenwood. The two stand side by side and had this been 20 years earlier or even 30 years earlier the two would probably have looked like twins but the passage of time has changed their physical appearance somewhat. Lee performs "God Bless the USA" to his usual rousing applause...and afterward Ray asks about the song's origins.

Lee explains that he was on tour, doing over 300 shows a year, but he still wanted to find time to write songs and so he wrote the song and recorded it. At first he didn't think the record company would like it and was surprised when they okayed the recording session...and then he was surprised even more when they insisted that it be released as a single. They both agree that it's one of those rare moments when a record company made the proper decision. That's an in-joke centering around how recording artist's strive for creative control and expression while record companies strive for commercial dominance and total control...and it's almost always a conflict due to the differing objectives at work...and how 8 times out of 10 the record company makes the wrong decision in hindsight.

Breaking up the military flavor was the insertion of the limited animation music video of "Deerslayer". Afterward the scene shifts to Ray at the piano with a voice over from Bill Cody introducing the performance of "Dear America", which closes the show. This song was eventually released as a stirring music video in 2016 to rave reviews. In the performance a small choir of children enter the stage and sing the final refrain of the song's chorus as Ray plays the piano. You'll see that in the video clip above. The song was issued as a single-only and music video. It hasn't appeared on any album yet. The music video is one of the special bonus features of the Season Two DVD.

The guest on the following episode happens to be country music legend, singer/songwriter, and long time Opry member Bill Anderson. If you're keeping count it's Episode 9 of Season 2. I'll have a recap of that episode next weekend and so look for my next blog entry to be next weekend...but of course if any breaking news concerning Ray is released between now and then I'll of course blog about it.

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Collin Raye

Hello all fans of Ray Stevens!! I take a look at Episode Seven, Season Two of Ray Stevens' CabaRay Nashville...in which the guest star is Collin Raye. Ray opens the show singing "Hearts Made of Stone". The studio recording emphasizes echo and creates the feel of late '50s rhythm and blues. This is difficult to re-create in a live performance and so it lacks the echo effect heard on the recording. It's a good performance, though. The recording can be found on his Here We Go Again! album. One of the things I noticed is that Tommy White, the steel guitarist, happened to be playing the dobro on this performance. It's the first time I'd seen him play a dobro on Ray's show. After the performance Ray brings out Collin Raye.

I have liked hearing Collin sing for years...although I'm not what you might call a fan of his (someone that purchases music or attends his concerts) I nevertheless felt that he was among the better vocalists in the New Country wave that spread all over country music in the early '90s and even today if I find myself station surfing the radio and hear him I'll leave it at the station and continue listening to him. The thing that caused me to take notice of him was the fact that his first hit song happened to be a cover of "All I Can Be is a Sweet Memory" which had previously been recorded by Conway Twitty on a 1985 album called Chasin' Rainbows. The song's writer happened to be Harlan Howard.

Collin tells of how he first met Ray down in Branson, Missouri and the two of them recall how difficult and exhaustive it is doing live concerts day after day, week after week, year after year. Collin happened to be an artist in residence for half a year. Collin's encounter with Ray took place at the Moon River owned by Andy Williams...and that the people in the audience wanted an encore. Collin remarked that Ray, for an encore, walked on stage and sang one line of a song and went off stage...came back on stage and sang a line of another song...and then left...came back out and sang a line from a different song. It went on and on 6 times...and as a joke that's how Ray obtained 6 encores one night.

Ray brings up Collin's charity work and Collin talks of raising money for electric wheelchairs due to their being so expensive. He sings "My Kind of Girl" and it's followed by the limited animation music video of "Hang Up and Drive".

The video's still shot is of him performing "My Kind of Girl". After the animated music video concludes Ray asks about Collin's ballads and that he's recorded several that require a kleenex when listening. Collin performs "Love, Me" while Ray plays the piano...the only instrument heard during the performance. This emotional performance is followed up with a second limited animation music video...the cartoon video of "Jeremiah Peabody's Green and Purple Pills". Ray closes the show performing "Yakety Yak".

On the next episode of Ray Stevens' CabaRay Nashville the guests happened to be Darryl Worley and Lee Greenwood. It's Ray's patriotic episode. Lee nor Darryl appear together on-screen and the episode breaks formula somewhat...I'll explain in my next blog entry!

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...The Gatlin Brothers

The guest stars on Episode Six of Season Two of Ray Stevens' CabaRay Nashville are none other than The Gatlin Brothers. In the show's opening performance Ray sings his version of "Witchcraft". He makes mention that it's from his salute to Sinatra on a CD called Ray Stevens Sings Sinatra...Say What?!?.

In introducing the guests Ray mentions that earlier he had Larry Gatlin on as a guest and remarked that he could only afford one of them but promised that should the series become something of a hit then he'd attempt to get all three brothers on the show. This promise was fulfilled as Larry, Steve, and Rudy appeared.

Ray asks the brothers about show preparation and if they rehearse, etc. and Larry explains that they're rehearsing at the moment and their entire act has been a work in progress from day one. Ray mentions that he sees Larry sometimes on the Fox News Channel and asks if he's a contributor to the channel. He says that he's a contributor rather than a regular and he makes the distinction between the two by saying contributors do not necessarily get paid for their contributions...leading Steve to ask Ray if their appearance on his show is considered a contribution and therefore free of charge.

The conversation turns to Slim Willet and the origins of "Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes" and how it became a monster hit for Perry Como among other artists. The conversation about Slim and Texas leads into a performance of "Houston". This is followed by the limited animation music video of "This Ain't Exactly What I Had in Mind"...a song that is very funny and filled with a lot of visual gags...a song that can be described as the Abbott and Costello movie, Africa Screams, set to music. I'm baffled as to why the recording had never become one of his most requested or at the very least more familiar to the on-line masses.

After the airing of the music video Ray is back with The Gatlin Brothers and they discuss Roger Miller and there are plenty of stories and remembrances of Roger as told by Larry and Ray. The Gatlin's perform a song called "Ode to the Road" which they subtitled 'Road Rage'. When they first started singing I thought it was going to be a joke performance...but it's a fully completed, humorous song. In doing research of my own I discovered video footage on YouTube of Larry performing it solo at some venue in what looks to be the mid to late '70s but it could be the early '80s. If you're a super fan of all things Gatlin take a look at the video over there and see for yourselves. Search: Ode to the Road + Larry Gatlin and it'll be among the first results.

In the video clip above you'll hear a brief remark taken from this segment of the episode where they're discussing Roger.

Ray closes the show performing "Rub It In". This is a song that goes back a long way in the career of Ray Stevens. Oh yes the recording by Billy 'Crash' Craddock was a huge hit but the public at large doesn't realize that Ray published the song. It had originally been recorded by the song's writer...a man named Layng Martine...who happened to write for Ray's publishing company. Layng's recording was not a commercial hit but it became a monster hit for Craddock. Ray benefited from the success of the recording by virtue of being the song's publisher and during the mid to late '80s and into the early '90s Ray received publisher royalties due to the Glade Plug-In commercials using a parody of the song for their jingle. The parody was "plug it in, plug it in". Ray ultimately recorded the song and placed it on his Hurricane CD back in 2008.

On the next episode of Ray Stevens' CabaRay Nashville the special guest happened to be Collin Raye. Stay tuned for my recap of that episode!

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Bellamy Brothers

On today's blog entry I'm taking a look at Episode Five, Season Two of Ray Stevens' CabaRay Nashville. The episode features The Bellamy Brothers as the special guests. Ray opens the show singing "Pickin' on the Chicken"...this is a whimsical song from his Here We Go Again! album. It's a song about a chicken pointing out that human beings have forever inserted chickens, hens, roosters, and other chicken-related terminology as representation of negative slang and misfortune. Aside from chicken cackling every so often from Ray he gives us examples of how we insert chicken terminology into everyday language. "don't count your chickens before they're hatched", "walking on eggshells", "rule the roost", etc. etc.

Ray brings out The Bellamy Brothers (Howard and David) and he asks David to tell the story of "Spiders and Snakes". Ray mentioned that he had no idea that David helped write the song until he began research for his Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music. David tells of how he pitched the song to a record company and they pitched it into the trash but Jim Stafford came along and found it in the trash and loved it but asked if he could help rewrite some of the lyrics to fit his style. Howard tells the story of how Jim had a burglar alarm and it was driving Gallagher crazy and one thing led to another and Gallagher took out his Sledge-o-Matic and destroyed the alarm. It was at this point in the conversation that Ray brought up one of their hits and how it has one of the longest titles and they sang "If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me".

Up next came the limited animation music video of "Hugo the Human Cannonball". This video emerged as part of a series of animated videos under the Cartoon Carnival banner. He had previously produced a series of music videos in which he appeared in live action with animated surroundings and then he produced some music videos featuring nothing but animation...this ultimately led to more animated music videos. The song itself goes back to 1985 in the career of Ray Stevens. He co-wrote the song with Buddy and Carlene Kalb. There was a real human cannonball circus star named Hugo Zacchini and in the recording, near the end, Ray delivers some lines in Americanized Italian dialect leading a lot of people to feel that the song is a tribute even though I'd never come across any interview or article with a definitive response from Ray declaring that it is indeed a salute to the circus star.

After the conclusion of the music video Ray makes mention of a CD celebrating the 40th anniversary of The Bellamy Brothers. It contains 20 recordings of their hits and 20 new songs. The CD hit in the summer of 2015 (remember to keep in mind that these episodes on the Season Two DVD of Ray's television show are from the 2015-2016 season on RFD-TV even though they aired on PBS in 2017). This leads into a performance of their first hit, "Let Your Love Flow".

I had always loved this song even before I knew who sang it. The lead vocals are from Howard although the majority of their most recognized songs feature David singing the lead. Among the conversation in the episode Ray brings up the Texas-based success of David's two sons who are billed Jesse and Noah. Ray closes the show singing the edited version of "The Haircut Song". By that I mean he performs the version found on the single release which omits the visit to the Los Angeles barbershop. On the album I Have Returned, which is where the song originally appeared, it tells the story of Ray visiting three distinct barbershops and getting three radically different haircuts. In the edited release for the single there are only two barbershop visits. Regardless of the performance being shortened it's still funny seeing him act out the song as he's singing.

On the next episode is another family act...a trio of brothers with the last name of Gatlin...

January 7, 2018

Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville...Leroy Van Dyke

Hello once more...and in this blog entry I'm focusing on Episode Four, Season Two of Ray Stevens' CabaRay Nashville. Local PBS stations originally aired this in June of 2017 but the local PBS station in my area didn't air it. It's one of two episodes I watched this morning from the DVD of Ray Stevens' CabaRay Nashville, Season Two.

Season 2, Episode 4 kicks off with Ray opening the showing performing "Cooter Brown", a song from his 2009 CD, One for the Road. It's a fun, uptempo sing a long song if you've never heard it before. Afterward he introduces Leroy Van Dyke. There are a couple of things that you may or may not know concerning an interesting connection between both Ray and Leroy. After a fade in Ray is at the piano and he makes mention of moving to Nashville on January 2, 1962 but had participated in the recordings of three million selling singles. Joe Dowell's "Wooden Heart", his own recording of "Ahab the Arab", and "Walk on By" by Leroy Van Dyke. During the conversation Leroy mentions his gratefulness for Shelby Singleton and Jerry Kennedy. He also makes mention of Bill Lowery...all three were associated with Ray's early years in Nashville, too. Jerry Kennedy became a top record producer for Smash Records and later on it's parent, Mercury Records. He produced a lot of recordings by Jerry Lee Lewis, Tom T. Hall, and The Statler Brothers...and he co-produced Ray's 1983 album on Mercury Records, Me.

Trivia: Ray's 1983 album happened to be his final studio album, to date, featuring a co-producer.

Leroy tells the story of "Walk on By" and the concept of song shopping at publisher houses. He mentioned that "Walk on By" happened to be a song he came across but was repeatedly told it was unavailable for recording because it wasn't completed. Leroy speaks of being adamant and insisted upon hearing the song for himself. He remarked that when he heard the demo recording he realized the song wasn't complete because of it's abrupt stop at the end of a phrase. Eventually the song was completed and Leroy recorded it and it was released on Mercury (published by Lowery Music). It spent a total of 19 non-consecutive weeks at number one...beginning in the fall of 1961. It was amidst it's streak at number one on January 20, 1962. At the time it was spending it's 13th non-consecutive week at number one. It's 19th and final week at the top happened to be the week of March 3, 1962. Leroy performs the song and this is followed by the animated music video of "Gone for Good".

The performance by Leroy of his second biggest hit, "Auctioneer", is the follow-up and he mentions that he's been an auctioneer in a professional capacity during his lifetime. Ray asks how old Leroy happens to be and he said 86. His birth date is October 4, 1929 and the episode was produced during a taping session in 2016 prior to his 87th birthday. Leroy turned 88 on October 4, 2017. He joked that the secret in his looking a bit younger than his age is a diet of formaldehyde mixed into his coffee. This led Ray into telling how his grandfather used to mix gun powder into his oatmeal.

The music industry is a funny thing...although statistically "Walk on By" is his biggest hit I'd bet those familiar with Leroy Van Dyke will cite "Auctioneer" first and foremost. It hit the Top-10 on the country chart and the Top-20 on the pop chart in 1956...the very first chart recording of his career...and "Walk on By" came five years later. The animated music video of "Misty" follows Ray and Leroy's discussion on age and Ray closes the show performing "The Bricklayer's Song"...something I don't think I've ever seen Ray perform on television before. He recorded it in 1993 for his album, Classic Ray Stevens. It's a song that had been around for decades prior to his recording of it and I'm surprised it had never become some sort of music video from Ray by now...but I guess the lyrics tell such a descriptive story that you really don't need an actual visual to enhance an already hilarious story.

Episode Five of Season Two guest stars The Bellamy Brothers. I plan on watching some more episodes from the Season Two DVD of Ray's television show later on today. Once I take notes and come up with commentary to construct a review I'll have a recap of their episode and maybe more during the overnight hours.