|Birth name||Harold Ray Ragsdale|
January 24, 1939 |
Clarkdale, Georgia, United States
|Genres||Country, pop, novelty|
|Occupations||Singer-songwriter, arranger, pianist|
|Instruments||Vocals, piano, keyboards guitar vibraphone trumpet|
|Labels||NRC, Mercury, Monument, Barnaby, Warner Bros., RCA, MCA, Curb, CBS, Janus|
Stevens was born Harold Ray Ragsdale on January 24, 1939, in Clarkdale, Georgia. While attending high school, Stevens formed his first band, a rhythm and blues group he named the Barons. Following his graduation from high school, Stevens enrolled in Georgia State College as a music major.
Capitol Records signed Stevens to its Prep Records division in 1957, and produced the singles "Silver Bracelet" and a cover of "Rang Tang Ding Dong", for which Billboard credited the 16-year-old Stevens' vocals as "strong, attractive." The latter was originally recorded by Manhattan doo-wop group The Cellos in 1957, and written by Cellos bass singer Alvin Williams.
In 1958, Bill Lowery created the National Recording Corporation (NRC), and brought Stevens on board to play numerous instruments, arrange music, and perform background vocals for its band. Around that time, he had adopted the professional name of "Ray Stevens," which was inspired by his middle name and his mother's maiden name.
Stevens signed with Mercury Records in 1961. With Mercury, he recorded several hit records including songs such as "Harry the Hairy Ape," "Funny Man," the original recording of "Santa Claus Is Watching You," "Jeremiah Peabody's Polyunsaturated Quick-Dissolving, Fast-Acting Pleasant-Tasting Green and Purple Pills," and "Ahab the Arab." "Ahab the Arab" reached number five on the Hot 100 in the summer of 1962.
In 1966 Stevens signed with Monument Records and started to release serious material such as "Mr. Businessman" in 1968, a Top 30 pop hit; "Have a Little Talk With Myself" and the original version of "Sunday Morning Coming Down" in 1969, which became Stevens's first two singles to reach the country music charts. O.C. Smith covered the Stevens-penned Isn't It Lonely Together while Sammy Davis, Jr. covered "Have a Little Talk With Myself." Stevens continued to release comedic songs, and in 1969 he had a Top 10 pop hit with "Gitarzan." Stevens also became a regular on The Andy Williams Show during the 1969–1970 season, and he hosted his own summer show, The Ray Stevens Show, in 1970. In Australia, Ross D. Wylie reached the top 20 with his cover of the Stevens-penned Funny Man. Stevens' collection of Hot 100 hits is evenly divided between serious and comedy.
As an A&R man, music producer, songwriter, and music arranger, Stevens assisted many artists in the recording studio during his years at Mercury Records and Monument Records, 1961 through early 1970. Some of the acts he was associated with during that time period were Brenda Lee, Brook Benton, Patti Page, Joe Dowell, Dusty Springfield, and Dolly Parton. Stevens was a writer or co-writer of several songs those particular acts recorded. "My True Confession," a Top-10 on the R&B chart in 1963 for Brook Benton, was written and composed by Stevens and Margie Singleton. Stevens was the arranger for the Doyle Holly recording of "My Heart Cries For You," which had been recorded previously by Stevens himself during the late 1950s on the NRC label.
Starting in the 1970s, Stevens became a producer and studio musician on the Nashville scene. He recorded songs for Barnaby Records and Warner Brothers during 1970–1979. Stevens' biggest hit in the United States was his gospel-inflected single "Everything Is Beautiful" (1970). The single won a Grammy Award, was the theme song for his summer 1970 TV show, hit number one on both the pop and Adult-Contemporary charts, and marked his first time in the Top 40 on the country charts, peaking at number 39. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. His other 1970 singles were "America, Communicate With Me" and "Sunset Strip," both of which reached the Top 20 on the Adult-Contemporary lists. His novelty song "Bridget the Midget (The Queen of The Blues)" made number two on the United Kingdom chart in 1971 and in the US it reached number 50. Stevens had a gospel/country hit single in late 1971 with Albert E. Brumley's "Turn Your Radio On," reaching the country Top 20. Two more of Stevens' songs in 1971 were also minor pop hits, "A Mama and a Papa" and "All My Trials," but both crossed over to the Top 10 Adult-Contemporary lists. Stevens frequently toured Canada and went overseas to the UK. A rock-infected gospel arrangement accompanied his version of "Love Lifted Me" and it became a hit single in Bangkok in the fall of 1972, finding its way into the Top Five for the week ending September 30.
In 1973, Stevens had a top 40 country hit with the title track of his album, "Nashville," and increased his exposure on television by performing on a variety of prime-time programs of the era. In 1974, Stevens recorded perhaps his most famous hit, "The Streak," which poked fun at the early-1970s fad of running nude in public, known as "streaking." It became number one in both the UK and the US and No. 3 on the country chart. In 1975, he released the Grammy-winning "Misty," which became his biggest country hit (reaching number three on the country charts and number 14 on the pop charts); he also entered the country Top 40 with a doo-wop version of "Indian Love Call," "Everybody Needs a Rainbow," and a ballad version of "Young Love" in early 1976. Stevens' tenure with Barnaby came to an end in early 1976.
Stevens joined Warner Brothers in 1976, where his debut single was a cover of "You Are So Beautiful," which reached the country Top 20, then "Honky Tonk Waltz," which reached the Top 30. He then released a novelty single: under the pseudonym "Henhouse Five Plus Too," Stevens recorded a version of Glenn Miller's "In The Mood" in the style of a clucking chicken; it became a Top 40 hit in the US and UK in early 1977. In 1978 he had a hit with "Be Your Own Best Friend" on the country charts, and in 1979 he had his last Hot 100 hit (to date) with the novelty "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow," which he released from the album The Feeling's Not Right Again. In the US, Stevens' singles would reach only the country chart nationally thereafter.
After joining RCA in 1980, he released "Shriner's Convention" and then "Night Games". In 1981, only one single made the charts, "One More Last Chance." In 1982, after he had released a few more singles, notably "Written Down in My Heart," Stevens left RCA and returned to Mercury Records. This resulted in only one album, the 1983 project Me, and only one chart hit, "My Dad," in early 1984.
Stevens then joined MCA in 1984 as a "country comedy" act and thereafter released only novelty song albums. The fan-voted Music City News awards named Stevens Comedian of the Year for nine consecutive years from 1986 to 1994. A few of Stevens' commercial singles charted on the Single Sales charts during this time, but only one single, "Mississippi Squirrel Revival," made it to the Top 40, making that his final single to hit the Top-40 portion of the country singles chart. During his 1984–1989 stint on MCA, the single "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex" stalled at number 41 in 1987.
His first two albums for MCA reached the Top-5 with I Have Returned hitting the top spot in early 1986. A 1987 Greatest Hits album became a platinum seller, while several other releases achieved gold status. One of the trademarks of Stevens' string of comedy albums were the photo shoots. For example, on one album he's dressed up as Napoleon Bonaparte, on another he's Humpty Dumpty, and on another he's dressed as General Douglas MacArthur.
Stevens left MCA in 1989 for Curb/Capitol Records. The two labels split up soon after and Curb Records continued releasing material on Stevens. His All-Time Greatest Comic Hits, a compilation project released by Curb in 1990, became a gold album by mid-decade. Lend Me Your Ears and Number One With a Bullet were released in 1990 and 1991 respectively. The latter featured the satirical hit "Working for the Japanese" in which Stevens sings about the American economy and how dollars are boosting overseas economies instead of its own.
In the 1990s, Stevens took new directions. The most ambitious was the opening of his own theater in Branson, Missouri in 1991. The theater business had been steadily growing in the small Missouri town of Branson for a period of years and by the time Stevens began building his theater the area was reaching its peak. Stevens benefited from the theater boom largely because his stage show was different from others. His reputation as a comedian and as an all-around entertainer meant that for most tourists his show was one of the destination spots judging by the number of sold-out performances he gave at the theater. When crowds reacted favorably to his music videos being played on a large screen at his theater Stevens began selling videos for his fans to take home.
In the spring and summer of 1992, his Comedy Video Classics became a million-selling home video through direct marketing and television advertisements. Commercials for Stevens' home video aired countless times throughout 1992, mostly in the morning hours and often during late-night. Branson was also experiencing its highest commercial peak in the summer and fall of both 1992 and 1993. Ray Stevens was back in the national media once again with his enormously successful home video and music theater. In the midst of all the success, though, Stevens closed down his theater after the 1993 season citing exhaustion and monotony after doing two shows a day, six days a week, for five to six months at a time. Several of his performances at his theater were filmed and surfaced in home video form. Ray Stevens Live! became another home video mail-order success in 1993 following the same path of Comedy Video Classics.
Meanwhile, Comedy Video Classics had become available for retail distribution and it became a big seller again. In 1993, it was named Home Video of the Year by Billboard magazine in their annual end of the year publication which cites the most popular artists, songs, CDs, and video items of the year.
Classic Ray Stevens was issued in the early fall of 1993. This was the first audio release from Stevens since early 1991. The album's title was a reference to the classical-looking photo shoot which features a bust of Ray Stevens mocking Beethoven. The home video of Ray Stevens Live! was released to retail stores in 1994 and it became a Top-5 success on Billboard's Home Video chart. The concert video often ranked above or below Comedy Video Classics on the charts. In the late summer of 1995, the movie Get Serious! was released on home video.
The movie, which runs 1 hour and 50 minutes, offers several plots and a collection of newly produced music videos which act as commentary to the action. One plot point of the movie centers on a fictional record company for which Stevens records being bought out by a Japanese conglomerate. This is a reference to the consolidation practices taking place in the music industry. Another plot-point deals with Stevens' reputation as a comical singer and how the new executive of the fictional record company, based vocally on Paul Lynde, wants Stevens to change his image from comedy to classical opera. Stevens refuses and this brings to the surface another plot-point of the movie: political correctness. Seeking revenge on Stevens, the executive hatches a plan to ruin Stevens’ career by labeling him politically incorrect. The last plot-point centers on character defamation as numerous characters from several Stevens songs turn out to really exist and they want to sue the singer for defamation. This plot is based on a song that Stevens recorded in 1986 entitled "Dudley Dorite of the Highway Patrol" where a local policeman stops Stevens for speeding and afterward informs the singer that he's in a whole lot of trouble for using easily identifiable people as characters in his songs. The song was re-recorded specifically for the movie as Dudley Dorite is one of the main characters in the movie. He's portrayed by Stevens' long-time songwriting partner, C.W. Kalb, Jr..
The home video became another mail-order success throughout 1995 and was released to retail stores, via MCA, late in 1996. The video hit the Top-5 on Billboard's Home Video chart early in 1997 during a more than 20 week chart run. Stevens had by this point exited Curb Records.
Stevens found a new home with his previous label, MCA. MCA was responsible for the retail distribution of Get Serious! and for marketing Ray as a comical singer for the first time in the mid-1980s.
The reunion with MCA consisted of the retail release of Get Serious! in late 1996 and two new audio CD's in 1997: Hum It and Christmas Through a Different Window, the latter release being a collection of Christmas novelty songs. After the MCA contract ended, Stevens became exclusive to his own label, Clyde Records, for a period of years.
On-line rumors began circulating about his death. The confusion may have arisen in the summer of 1996 following the death of a wrestler named Ray "The Crippler" Stevens. The singer Ray Stevens once recorded a wrestling song entitled "The Blue Cyclone." Stevens, the singer, reported to the media that his office had received thousands of sympathy cards due to the confusion.
In April 1999 Stevens was diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer and had to cancel his series of concerts at the Acuff Theatre that summer. Stevens received a clean bill of health upon successful surgery and returned to the stage in time to deliver his Christmas concert series.
After the partnership with MCA ended, he remained active on his own label, Clyde Records, until he found another home with Curb Records, returning to the label in 2001. Early in 2002, "Osama Yo' Mama" was released. It made the country Top 50, reached the Top-5 on the country single sales chart, achieved Gold selling status, and the album of the same name reached the country Top-30. After the release of this album Stevens returned to Branson, Missouri and re-opened his theater in 2004. He remained active there for three more seasons. He shut the theater down for good after the 2006 season, selling it off to cable network RFD-TV, which continues to operate it to this day.
An obscure release called "The New Battle of New Orleans" came along in 2005 as a response to the vandals and looters in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Many people confused the version of The New Battle of New Orleans by its principal writer, Chuck Redden, with the version by Stevens. The recording by the writer features much more pointed accusations and assertions and it is this version which appears on various web-sites specializing in lyric re-printing. The confusion arises when these web-sites credit Stevens as the singer of that version.
Ray and his songwriter friend Buddy Kalb removed a lot of the original lyrics in the song and supplied new lyrics in a more G-rated setting. In spite of the various lyrical re-writes by Stevens and Kalb, the overall point of the song that the locals expected and demanded too much from their government, is still clear. The song was issued as a single-only in 2005.
Curb Records, in the meantime, continued to release DVD music video collections on Stevens during this time. The music videos featured limited animation.
Stevens returned to releasing music once again in 2007, firstly in July 2007, with the single-only "Ruby Falls," a combination of jazz, blues, and country music, and secondly with the CD New Orleans Moon, released on his own label. This CD contains various songs in tribute and honor to New Orleans and Louisiana. Stevens covers "Louisiana Man," "Louisiana," "The Battle of New Orleans," "Way Down Yonder in New Orleans," "New Orleans," and several more.
The following year Stevens issued the album Hurricane, also on his own label. It was released in February 2008 at Stevens' on-line music store at his website then was released nationally in November of that year to a wider audience. This CD featured a wide array of comical songs including a pair of redneck anthems, "Hey Bubba, Watch This!" and "Bubba the Wine Connoisseur." The CD also marked the debut of "Sucking Sound," a political/economic song about Ross Perot and how his warnings of the flaws in a global economy, which were mocked in 1992, became somewhat of a reality by 2008, resulting in massive lay-offs and job losses.
Concurrently in 2008, a tribute to the songs of Frank Sinatra that Stevens recorded was also being offered at the web-site store during the latter half of 2008. The album is titled Ray Stevens Sings Sinatra...Say What?? and it became nationally distributed in February 2009. Stevens did not promote or publicize the tribute album. Later in 2009 he released One for the Road, a CD aimed primarily at truckers. It was sold exclusively at the Pilot truck stops for several weeks prior to its release nationally. The CD contains a mixture of material ranging from truck driver oriented songs to somber ballads. There are also several re-recordings of his greatest hits added into the equation. There are fifteen tracks featured on the trucker CD in which the first three tracks, in addition to track seven, specifically deal with situations while on the road: "Concrete Sailor," "Convoy," "Right Reverend Road Hog McGraw," and "Hang Up and Drive." "Mary Lou Nights" and "Oh, Lonesome Me." "Retired" originated as a duet between Stevens and Brent Burns but for this CD it is delivered solo.
In 2009 Stevens was inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame and he appeared on the PBS series Legends and Lyrics. A television show that Stevens stars in, We Ain't Dead Yet, became available to subscribers at his web page. The subscription is to an exclusive section of his web-page called "Ray Stevens Backstage" and each month a different episode becomes available. The series focuses on senior citizens and it usually features a special guest each episode stopping by the main set, a retirement home, to perform songs.
In the early fall of 2009 Stevens released a holiday collection of songs titled Ray Stevens Christmas. Late in November an EP became available featuring a couple of his serious Christmas songs but the main attraction was his cover of Seymour Swine's (a fictional group that recorded a stuttering rendition of "Blue Christmas") "Blue Christmas," complete with stutter. Stevens had also recorded a non-comical version of this song for his Ray Stevens Christmas release. The stuttering version can only be found on the EP release.
In December 2009, Stevens issued the single and on-line video "We the People," which quickly became a viral video and surpassed a million unique views in a month's time on YouTube. The video is critical of health care reform. Stevens followed this music video with "Caribou Barbie" in March 2010. This music video is supportive of Sarah Palin. The video uses a Palin impersonator and through the help of sight-gags it takes aim at several high-profile personalities on cable television.
Stevens issued another music video on YouTube, "Throw the Bums Out!," as a direct response to the March 2010 passage of health care reform legislation in the House of Representatives.
In April 2010 Stevens released a collection that includes a CD and a DVD, titled We the People. The project features 22 political songs. The four music videos on the DVD are "We the People," "Caribou Barbie," "Throw the Bums Out!," and "Thank You," Stevens appeared in Washington, D.C., on April 15, 2010, as part of the tax day rally associated with the Tea Party. On April 24, 2010 the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum honored the career of Ray Stevens in the recurring series "Nashville Cats: A Celebration of Music City Musicians." The special focused mostly on Stevens' career as a Nashville-session musician during the 1960s and 1970s.
On May 13, 2010, the music video of "Come to the USA" was released. This is a song dealing with the hot button issue of illegal immigration. The song uses exaggeration and small doses of satire to comment on illegal immigration acceptance internationally compared with the United States’ more passive policy. The song was written and recorded before the Arizona illegal immigration bill, SB 1070, was introduced to the nation. The music video became Stevens' second to surpass a million unique views on YouTube; the first being "We the People." Following the release of the "Come to the USA" music video Stevens found himself being spotlighted again on the Fox News Channel and then by The New York Times. Stevens' We the People CD made its Top-10 debut on the Billboard Comedy Album chart for the week ending June 26, 2010, and it moved into the Top-5 for the week ending July 3, 2010. Meanwhile, a new music video, "The Global Warming Song," had become available on YouTube on June 29. The song, the sixth release from his We the People CD, is a broad exaggeration on the global warming topic, drawing inspiration from the concept of the Earth's temperature rising beyond control. The song depicts a couple of brothers who hold fort in a frozen wasteland with a money-making scheme of awaiting the arrival of climate change. The song is purposely silly and plays on the fears of global warming.
Starting in July 2010 and running through August most PBS stations aired a special titled Marvin Hamlisch Presents the 1970s: The Way We Were during pledge drive fundraisers. The special celebrates the music of the 1970s and Ray Stevens participated in the proceedings. Stevens' contributions include "Everything Is Beautiful," "The Streak," and "Misty." On July 31 Stevens made a guest appearance on the Grand Ole Opry.
On August 4, 2010 a new music video from Stevens made its debut on YouTube. This time around the subject matter is the Federal Government of the United States and the on-going war of words with Arizona over illegal immigration. The song, "God Save Arizona," criticizes the policies of the Federal Government and it questions the competence of Eric Holder, the United States Attorney General with regards to the Federal lawsuit brought against Arizona. The beginning of the song starts out as a tribute to the U.S.S. Arizona during World War II before switching to a look at a modern-day verbal war between Arizona's State Government and the Federal Government.
Stevens reached a milestone in early September, 2010: Given the overall on-line popularity of his music videos on YouTube, his collective total topped ten million plays. "Come to the USA" had obtained over four million YouTube unique views, while "We the People" had garnered over three million.
Stevens returned to Branson, Missouri once again in mid September to kick off a nearly month-long engagement at The Welk Resort which ran through October 23. On the last date of his concert series at the Welk Theatre he participated in a Tea Party rally held in Branson earlier in the day. The rally was billed as 'the Pre-Election Pink Slip Rally and Concert' and it took place throughout most of the morning and into the afternoon. Stevens performed "We the People" and "Throw the Bums Out!" at the rally and that night wrapped up his concert series at the Welk Theatre.
On November 3, the day after the 2010 mid-term elections, Stevens uploaded a new music video on YouTube entitled "Nightmare Before Christmas." The song has nothing to do with politics or elections but instead deals with political correctness gone amuck as Santa Claus gets arrested and is charged with crimes against a politically correct society. In the video Stevens portrays himself, Santa, the prosecutor, and the Judge. Political correctness and the mockery of liberal-progressive special interest groups is at the crux of the song.
On November 29 Stevens alerted his audience via the social networking service site Twitter that he would be recording ten new political comedy songs. Several days prior, on November 23, Stevens announced on his Facebook page that he's in the process of recording a huge project of one hundred songs to be released at some point entitled The Encyclopedia of Musical Comedy Recordings. On December 2, "Bad Angel," a song that Stevens published and his daughter, Suzi Ragsdale, co-wrote, was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Country Collaboration category. The song's trio of artists are Dierks Bentley, Miranda Lambert, and Jamey Johnson. It is available on Bentley's CD Up on The Ridge.
On January 19, 2011 via Twitter, Stevens announced that he would take part in the annual CPAC gathering in Washington, D.C. The event takes place during February 10–12. On January 24 Stevens turned 72 years old and showing no signs of slowing down he embarked on what he referred to as a radio call-in tour. The first program that Stevens called was the Charlie Brennan radio show on KMOX in St. Louis on January 28 to promote a brand new recording about airport security and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Next, on February 2, Ray called into KWEL in Texas to promote his TSA song and the latest happenings in his career.
Stevens called into the Jim Bohannon radio program on February 4 resulting in an interview that lasted about one hour. On February 7 he called into the Martha Zoller program and a radio program that aired on Minnesota's KLTF. On February 8 a CD single along with an Mp3 single of The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore became commercially available. On February 9 Stevens was spotlighted on the XM and Sirius satellite radio program Cruisin' with Cousin' Brucie which spotlights 1960s pop songs.
Stevens performed three songs while at CPAC on February 10, 2011. The airport security/TSA song entitled The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore kicked off the performance while he followed it with "We the People" and concluded the appearance with a song entitled "Mr. President-Mr. President" which takes a comical look at how President Barack Obama is viewed by a segment of the population amidst domestic and foreign turmoil. On February 17 Stevens called into WSGI radio's Steve Jarrell program, "Big Daddy-o on the Patio." Later that same day Stevens uploaded the much-anticipated music video of "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore."
On February 18 Stevens called radio stations KSCJ and KDWN to promote the music video and to talk about politics in general. By February 24 "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore" soared past the 52,000 play mark on YouTube.
On February 25 Stevens gave an interview on radio station WPTF's Bill Lumaye program and later the same day appeared on the Fox Business Network program, Freedom Watch, hosted by Judge Andrew Napolitano. In the television interview Stevens offered his opinions of the current political climate, the TSA, and announced that his next single would deal with President Obama's budget plan.
On February 27 the RFD-TV network reran a 1972 episode of Hee-Haw which featured Stevens as one of the guests. He performed Turn Your Radio On and Along Came Jones. On that same day, "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore" had amassed over 70,000 unique views on YouTube in a span of ten days. Continuing the mostly talk radio station promotion of his TSA song Stevens called the Daybreak USA program on February 28 and on March 2 he called into Ed Morrissey's radio program. On March 17 one of Stevens' previous music videos, "Come to the USA," reached the five million mark on YouTube. On March 25, via Twitter, Stevens announced that he taped a performance for an upcoming television show hosted by country singer Ronnie McDowell titled Music City Late Night.
On April 14 Stevens decided to end his subscription-based web-site, Ray Stevens Backstage, after a two-year run. The site was aimed at providing the most ardent of fans with exclusive content. Upon its cancellation it was revealed that elements of the Backstage site would be incorporated into the main Ray Stevens web-site. A classic music video from Ray uploaded on YouTube in 2009 but taped in 1992 entitled The Mississippi Squirrel Revival surpassed a million on-line views. This became the third music video from Stevens to obtain at least a million on-line views. On April 25 Stevens uploaded a new music video onto YouTube entitled "The Obama Budget Plan." A video clip was highlighted on The O'Reilly Factor. The same day, April 25, Stevens released his latest collection of songs, The Spirit of '76, which contains the previously mentioned "Obama Budget Plan," "God Save Arizona," and "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore."
The collection was available in its earliest weeks of release in digital download format. By May 1, Stevens' "Obama Budget Plan" on-line music video had generated over 95,000 unique views in less than a week's time. Later that same night news broke on the death of Osama bin Laden and as a result Stevens' music video from 2002 entitled "Osama Yo' Mama," which was uploaded on YouTube in 2009, experienced a resurgence in on-line activity. The video had received more than 990,000 unique views prior to the news of bin Laden's death and in the aftermath it received more than 20,000 additional plays causing it to surpass a million on-line views and as a result it became his fourth music video to surpass a million plays.
On May 5 Stevens called the Lars Larson show on radio station KXL to discuss current events. On May 11 he appeared at a conservative rally in Franklin, Tennessee billed as Conservatives on the Move. Stevens made the rounds of the Fox Business Network in early June during a trip to New York to promote the Obama budget music video and his Spirit of '76 collection. On June 2 Stevens made an appearance on America's Nightly Scoreboard, an economics program hosted by David Asman on the Fox Business Network. The following day, June 3, Stevens made an appearance on Freedom Watch hosted by Judge Napolitano.
On June 4 Stevens appeared on Huckabee, which airs on the Fox News Channel and is hosted by Mike Huckabee. It was on the latter program that Stevens performed "Obama Budget Plan" for the first time on television. On June 27 Stevens appeared at a star-studded reunion at the Quonset Hut Studio. Legendary session musicians and artists gathered to celebrate the studio's history, perform songs, and tell stories about the recording sessions.
After a low-key July, Stevens kicked off the month of August being interviewed on WSM radio. The interview took place on a program hosted by WSM DJ and Grand Ole Opry announcer, Eddie Stubbs, titled Intimate Evenings. The interview aired on August 1. The 2-hour series airs from the Country Music Hall of Fame. The host played several of Ray's songs and often mentioned how packed the venue was and how electric the atmosphere felt. A lot of time was spent on Ray's past (his career, after all, goes back to 1957) but yet there was also discussion of Ray's current recordings and activity. Ray offered his opinions on politics and other topical issues...bringing chuckles and cheers from the host and from the audience. Several days later, on August 9, the CD copy of his digital release from April, Spirit of '76, was released to wider distribution. Previously the CD copy had only been available at the singer's web-site store.
On August 12 the "Obama Budget Plan" music video surpassed half a million views and by the middle of September it had surpassed 700,000 on-line views. On September 27 Stevens uploaded the music video, "Mr. President - Mr. President," and it quickly amassed more than 200,000 unique views in a little more than a week's time. A snippet of the video, during the first days of its YouTube availability, was previewed on The O'Reilly Factor. On October 7 the song was heard on Mark Levin's nationally syndicated radio program. On October 10 Stevens announced that his upcoming novelty song encyclopedia will consist of nine CD's and will be released in January 2012. In December his music video, "Obama Budget Plan," obtained 1,000,000 on-line views. It happened on Christmas Eve.
The release date for The Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music was pushed back one month from January 2012 to February. The release date was February 28, 2012. Publicity for the collection started a week earlier when Stevens made an appearance on the GAC news/video program, On the Streets, on February 21. Stevens gave an interview for the radio series, American Country Countdown, hosted by Nashville songwriter and half of the Brooks and Dunn duo, Kix Brooks. The interview is part of a segment known as The Back Forty.
On February 27 Stevens uploaded a brief video on YouTube promoting the collection. In the video clip Stevens appears on camera and talks about the collection. There is also footage of him performing at his recording studio. On February 29, just a day after releasing the 9-CD encyclopedia box set, Stevens' on-line music video, "Mr. President - Mr. President," passed the half a million mark in YouTube views. On March 8 Stevens appeared on the RFD-TV series, Larry's Country Diner, and performed four songs: The Preacher and the Bear, I Still Write Your Name in the Snow, Get a Job, and Mississippi Squirrel Revival. The songs are part of The Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music. Also on March 8 an article on Ray by a writer named Chuck Dauphin appeared on Billboard.com detailing the Encyclopedia's contents. The article also included Ray's feelings about the lack of an abundance of comedy songs on contemporary radio stations, the comedy song's lack of respect, and the unfounded stigma that exists about comedy songs.
April 5 saw the YouTube release of a live version of "We The People" recorded in Branson, Missouri during one of his series of concerts. The video's gotten more than 7,500 views with hardly any promotional hype behind it. A day later on April 6 a fast-paced four-minute commercial was uploaded onto YouTube promoting the Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music. The commercial features Buddy Kalb, one of Ray's business associates and songwriters, as well as Ray giving detail about the box set. On April 10 Stevens appeared on Fox and Friends and performed a brief medley of some of the songs on the Encyclopedia. Afterwards he appeared on their "After the Show show", and discussed more about the Encyclopedia and performed "Mississippi Squirrel Revival" in its entirety. Later that evening Stevens was a guest on the Fox Across America radio program hosted by Spencer Hughes. On April 14 Stevens was featured on the country music interview and lifestyle program, Crook and Chase. The syndicated series airs on Saturdays.
On May 6 comedian/actor George Lindsey passed away at the age of 83. A long-time friend of Ray's, Lindsey appeared at Ray's CD release party on February 28 when the 9-CD box set became available. Lindsey had also appeared with Stevens at the Country Music Hall of Fame during the induction of Sonny James in 2006. Stevens and Lindsey dressed up as Indians and performed the song, Running Bear, which had been a big hit for James. Prior to this, Lindsey made a cameo appearance in Stevens' 1995 direct-to-video movie, Get Serious!. Stevens attended George Lindsey's funeral on May 11 and performed "Everything Is Beautiful".
On the music product side of things, Stevens issued a couple of CD and DVD packages in the summer of 2012. A concert collection titled Such a Night: 50 Years of Hits and Hilarity and Patriots and Politics were issued in both CD and DVD formats. A third DVD release, Get Serious!, was a re-issue of Stevens' 1995 direct-to-video movie. It marked the first time it had been issued on DVD.
On July 23 Stevens uploaded a new music video titled "Obama Nation" which examined the goals, priorities, and policies of the President since taking office in January 2009. The video obtained more than half a million on-line views a month later on August 24, 2012. "Obama Budget Plan", in the meantime, had surpassed 2,000,000 unique views by the fall of 2012. On November 3, 2012 Stevens uploaded the music video, "Grandpa Voted Democrat", a song that deals with the issue of voter fraud. The video was uploaded just days before Election Day 2012 and has gotten more than 185,000 unique views as of January 2013.
On December 3, 2012 Stevens issued a non-comical music video in the form of "White Christmas". He had recorded this for a non-comical project he released in 2009 titled Ray Stevens Christmas. On December 11 Stevens released a second seasonal music video, his comical version of "Blue Christmas". This video's availability was an exclusive on AOL's web-site, The Boot. Ten days later, on December 21, it was available on YouTube. It was around this same time period that Stevens appeared on the local FOX television station in Nashville to promote The Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music as well as perform a medley of Christmas songs. A third seasonal video, "Redneck Christmas", arrived on December 22. This song goes back to Ray's first Christmas release in 1997. This marked the debut of its official music video.
A fourth seasonal music video, "Merry Christmas", also debuted on December 22. "Merry Christmas" took a pointed look at a certain segment of society and its obsession with political correctness and a media that collectively marginalizes the religious aspects of the holiday. The video overshadowed the three other seasonal music videos. "Merry Christmas" quickly obtained more than 100,000 online views within several hours of its debut and in the days leading up to Christmas. The three seasonal music videos that were released prior to "Merry Christmas" haven't risen above the 100,000 plateau yet. Interest in those music videos were obviously placed on hold while the socially provocative "Merry Christmas" was getting all the attention.
Amidst the seasonal music video releases that took up the month of December 2012, The Nashville Network had by that time been re-launched as a digital television sub-channel. The actual re-launch was at the beginning of November 2012. This event eventually led to Stevens becoming the host of a television series that he titled RAY-ality TV. The series, which airs on the re-launched Nashville Network at 9pm Eastern/8pm Central on Sunday nights, is a program filled with video clips from Stevens' vast video catalog interwoven with newer video footage as well as scenes that had been taped for numerous home video projects that, for whatever reason, were left on the cutting room floor.
A promo for this series was uploaded onto YouTube on January 9, 2013. The re-launched Nashville Network has limited availability and there is no on-line video stream. In conjunction to the new television series, Stevens and company visited the headquarters of the new Nashville Network in early February. Several days later, on February 12, Stevens appeared on a radio program titled Dave white Presents. The program's first 45 minutes became devoted to Ray Stevens as the host played six of Stevens' recordings along with an in-depth interview. It was around this same time period that Stevens appeared on Rita Cosby's radio program and spoke about his political songs as well as RAY-ality TV. On March 20, Stevens uploaded a new music video titled "The Red Hot Chili Cook-Off". The video is non-political and a return to the style of the silly, zany form in which most of his latter day novelty songs were. The video's gotten a little more than 30,000 unique views in five months time. On May 1, Stevens issued a holiday music video titled "Guilt For Christmas". The underlying story deals more with political correctness than the actual holiday. On June 9, Stevens appeared at the CMA Music Fest, an event once known as Fan-Fair. On June 19 Stevens was interviewed for a second time by Rita Cosby. This time around Stevens spoke about his political songs and his YouTube successes.
On June 20, Stevens uploaded a brief video commentary titled "Politically Speaking" in which he spoke a few lines about his video, "Obama Budget Plan". A follow-up, titled "Politically Speaking #2" appeared on July 8 in which Stevens spoke briefly about illegal immigration and his "Come to the U.S.A." video. Throughout the rest of the summer of 2013 Stevens began to upload almost all of his home video material from the 1990s and 2000's. The concert performances from his 1993 home video, Ray Stevens Live!, became available on YouTube as well as many of the limited animation music videos he put together in the early and mid 2000's. The music video's from 2000's Funniest Video Characters joined the YouTube listings and perhaps the biggest surprise of all happened in August 2013 as video clips from his 1970 summer show for Andy Williams started showing up on YouTube. The clips from his 1970 show had been part of Stevens' program on TNN, but given that the channel has limited availability, these vintage clips perhaps mark the first time a wider audience has seen them.
Stevens' songs have been showcased in several videos. "Gitarzan" was featured on Disc 1 of "The Dr. Demento 20th Anniversary Collection." Stevens videos were frequently offered via television commercials. 1992's "Comedy Video Classics" contained 8 music videos, winning the Home Video of the Year in 1993 as well as other awards. Two videos filmed at his Branson, Missouri theatre "Ray Stevens Live!" and "More Ray Stevens Live!" were released in 1993, although the second collection was only available to fan club members at the time. In 1995 he released a movie, "Get Serious!," which contains ten music videos sandwiched within an actual movie. The film runs 110 minutes. The video collection "Latest and Greatest" was released in 1996. In 2000 he released "Funniest Video Characters" including the video to his 1985 song "The Ballad of the Blue Cyclone." In 2004 "Greatest Video Characters" was released...this was a large all-encompassing collection of music videos from Stevens that had been released on previous collections. Stevens' video albums are released by mail order on his own label, Clyde Records. Beginning in late 2009 Stevens began releasing new music videos directly to YouTube. A lot of the music videos released by Stevens since December 2009 are political in nature. The music videos, many of which have obtained more than half a million unique views, have helped establish Stevens as a legitimate political entertainer.
Stevens has 11 Grammy nominations and won two Grammy Awards: one for "Everything Is Beautiful" and one for the arrangement of his country and western version of the jazz standard "Misty" (1975). Stevens was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1980 as well as the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.
Other awards and accomplishments
- 1969: Gold Single — "Gitarzan"
- 1970: Gold Single — "Everything Is Beautiful"
- 1970: Grammy — "Everything Is Beautiful" (Best Male Pop Vocal Performance)
- 1974: Gold Single — "The Streak"
- 1975: Grammy — "Misty" (Best Arrangement of the Year)
- 1980: Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame
- 1980: Georgia Music Hall of Fame
- 1984: Gold Album — "He Thinks He's Ray Stevens"
- 1985: Gold Album — "I Have Returned"
- 1986: Music City News Comedian of the Year
- 1986: No. 1 Country Album Plaque from Billboard — "I Have Returned" (week ending March 15, 1986)
- 1987: Music City News Comedian of the Year
- 1987: Platinum Album — "Greatest Hits"
- 1987: Gold Album — "Greatest Hits, Volume Two"
- 1988: Music City News Comedian of the Year
- 1989: Music City News Comedian of the Year
- 1990: Music City News Comedian of the Year
- 1990: Gold Album — "All-Time Greatest Comic Hits"
- 1991: Music City News Comedian of the Year
- 1992: Music City News Comedian of the Year
- 1992: No. 1 Home Video Plaque from Billboard — "Comedy Video Classics"
- 1992: Ten Times-Platinum Home Video — "Comedy Video Classics"
- 1993: Billboard Home Video of the Year
- 1993: Music City News Comedian of the Year
- 1993: Platinum Home Video — "Ray Stevens Live!"
- 1994: Music City News Comedian of the Year
- 1995: Platinum Home Video — "Get Serious!"
- 1995: Country Weekly Golden Pick Award "Best Comedian"
- 2001: Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame
- 2002: Gold Single — "Osama Yo' Mama"
- 2009: Christian Music Hall of Fame
Music City News was a monthly subscription magazine which reported on the latest happenings among country music celebrities. The magazine's subscribers for the most part voted in the annual awards. Years later fans from all over the country could call and vote for their favorite acts in addition to the subscribers who used voting ballots. The winners of the fan voted awards were showcased nationally in an awards gala broadcast on CBS and later, The Nashville Network. Stevens won in the Comedian of the Year category nine consecutive years and performed on their awards telecasts on a consistent basis.
Stevens was the recipient of several publisher awards from BMI Music for songs he either wrote, recorded, or published. Some of the recordings that received these citations were Everything Is Beautiful, The Streak, Shriner's Convention, Gitarzan, and several songs recorded by Sammy Kershaw and published by Stevens.
In July 2009 Stevens began uploading music videos onto YouTube for the first time. Many of the uploads were of music videos that were made in the early and mid-1990s. His user name, raystevensmusic, has since released quite a few music videos on YouTube and by late summer of 2010, a combined total of 10,000,000 unique views was obtained.
- The New York Times
- The New York Times
- Roy, Don (1998). "Ray Stevens." In The Encyclopedia of Country Music, Paul Kingsbury, Editor. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 507.
- Woodstra, Chris; Erlewine, Steven Thomas; Bogdanov, Vladamir; Erlewine, Michael (1997). All Music Guide to Country: The Experts' Guide to the Best Country Recordings. Backbeat Books. p. 448. ISBN 978-0-87930-475-1.
- "Reviews and Ratings". Billboard: 52. January 24, 1957.
- Warner, Jay (2006). American Singing Groups: A History, From 1940 to Today. Hal Leonard. p. 100. ISBN 978-0-352-33533-3.
- Wadhams, Wayne (2001). Inside the Hits: The Seduction of a Rock and Roll Generation (Pop Culture). Berklee Press. pp. 78–82.
- Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 286. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
- Tom Redmond - Working with Chet Atkins: An Interview with Ray Stevens
- Its Me Again Margaret
- Official website
- Video magazine and subscriber's website