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.

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