January 1, 2018

Ray Stevens and the Golden Businessman...

Hello one and all and welcome to 2018!! In my previous blog entry I made mention of several things taking place during the month of January in the career of Ray Stevens but in this blog entry I'm taking a look at a certain single issued 50 years ago...at the time Ray happened to be signed to the Monument label. It's the Golden Anniversary of the Ray Stevens single, "Mr. Businessman", and his studio album that year, Even Stevens. The single hit the Hot 100 on August 3, 1968 and it would eventually rise into the Top-40. It marked the first single release from Ray to reach the airplay heavy Top-40 portion of the Hot 100 since 1963. "Mr. Businessman" was a follow-up to "Unwind"...and both songs come from the Even Stevens album. In the case of "Unwind" it peaked midway up the Hot 100 and signaled a potential avenue for Ray to get much more notice for his ballads and serious recordings. The song hit the Top-20 in Canada. Given that "Unwind" was followed with "Mr. Businessman" and all the success that emerged from the song it's logical to want more and more attention given to non-comedic recordings. 

"Mr. Businessman" made the Top-40 on America's pop music chart and the Top-10 on Canada's pop music chart and it was eventually covered, most notably, by B.J. Thomas and the British pop star, Cliff Richard. The song takes a look at the perceived lifestyle of the businessman in general and the greed, corruption, and amoral values attached to businessmen. Ray wrote the song, according to many interviews I'd heard and have read over the years, as a result of a business deal gone bad...and he vented his anger in song...and years later he addressed the irony of himself being a businessman in Nashville (a recording studio owner, a music publisher, a record producer, an owner/landlord of several properties on Music Row, etc. etc.). In one of those later interviews he said that, in hindsight, his angry composition painted a broad brush of negativity and pessimism on all businessmen and it was probably unfair. The song resonated with the attitudes of record buyers of the late '60s and it's one of his all-time hits.
Prior to the release of 1968's Even Stevens he had long been associated with his comedy recordings even though, if truth be known, he had been releasing serious love ballads and uptempo Rhythm and Blues-flavored recordings in the years leading up to 1968. Going back to 1966's "ABC", for example, and songs like "Make a Few Memories", "Mary, My Secretary", "Answer Me, My Love", "Party People", "Devil May Care", "It Only Hurts When I Laugh", and "There's One in Every Crowd". In fact, between the years of 1965 and 1968, only three single releases were comical: "The Rockin' Teenage Mummies", "Mr. Baker the Undertaker", and "Freddie Feelgood". I offer all of these names of songs due to the fact there's a perception (spread by historians and essayists) that Ray didn't release any music between the years of 1964 and 1968. They often say he spent those years in the background as a session musician, music arranger, and producer but in reality both Mercury Records and later, Monument Records, issued singles on Ray during those years. I think the confusion stems from the fact that no vinyl album (LP) was issued on Ray during the years: 1964-1967. Mercury released 2 albums on Ray: 1,837 Seconds of Humor in 1962 and This is Ray Stevens in 1963. They continued to release singles on Ray through 1965. Monument began issuing singles on Ray in 1966 and they finally issued a vinyl album, Even Stevens, in 1968. So here's to the album and all of the songs on it celebrating a wonderful 50th Golden Anniversary this year!!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Show your appreciation for the music of Ray Stevens...leave a comment...