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One of the most popular novelty artists of all time, Ray Stevens enjoyed a remarkably long career, with a stretch of charting singles -- some of them major hits -- that spanned four decades. Unlike parody king Weird Al Yankovic, Stevens made most of his impact with original material, often based on cultural trends of the day. Yet his knack for sheer silliness translated across generations, not to mention countless compilations and special TV offers. Stevens was a legitimately skilled singer and producer who also performed straight country and pop, scoring the occasional serious hit. But in general, comic novelty songs were his bread and butter, and his brand of humor somehow managed to endure seismic shifts in popular taste and style.
Stevens was born Harold Ray Ragsdale on January 24, 1939, in the small town of Clarkdale, GA. He started piano lessons at age six and formed a band at 15 called the Barons, which played at local venues and social events. At 17, he moved to Atlanta and caught on with radioman Bill Lowery's music publishing company; one of his songs, "Silver Bracelet," got him a shot at recording for Capitol subsidiary Prep, but the single never hit outside of Atlanta. Stevens enrolled at Georgia State University to study classical piano and music theory and in the meantime continued to record for Lowery's NRC label. One of his earliest novelty songs, 1960's "Sgt. Preston of the Yukon," was building a national buzz until a copyright infringement suit took it off the racks. Stevens began performing regularly on a radio show called The Georgia Jubilee, which helped lead to a job with Mercury Records as a session musician, arranger, and A&R assistant. Meanwhile, in 1961, he landed his first Top 40 hit with the novelty (obviously) song "Jeremiah Peabody's Poly Unsaturated Quick Dissolving Fast Acting Pleasant Tasting Green and Purple Pills."
Once Stevens joined the Mercury staff, he recorded several more novelty singles. "Ahab the Arab," released in early 1962, was a smash hit, reaching the Top Five on the pop charts and even crossing over to the Top Ten on the R&B side. The follow-up, "Santa Claus Is Watching You," just missed the Top 40, but 1963's "Harry the Hairy Ape" returned him to the Top 20. Still, Stevens wasn't planning on a singing career; he concentrated more on learning the ropes in the studio. He worked with artists like Brenda Lee, Patti Page, and Brook Benton and sometimes sang as a substitute vocalist with the Jordanaires. In 1963, he played with Elvis Presley himself on the sessions for the Fun in Acapulco soundtrack. With no hits of his own on the way, however, Stevens wound up moving to the Monument label, where he signed on as a producer and arranger. There he worked with a young Dolly Parton and B.J. Thomas, among others, and formed a friendship with producer Bill Justis (best known for his Sun Records classic "Raunchy").
Stevens began recording again for Monument in 1968, delving into surprisingly pointed social commentary with the Top 30 pop hit "Mr. Businessman." Comedy was still in his blood, though, and Justis gave him an idea for a song called "Gitarzan." Stevens wrote the lyrics and voiced the characters, and in 1969 "Gitarzan" became his first Top Ten pop hit in seven years. His follow-up, a version of the Coasters' "Along Came Jones," reached the Top 30. Stevens also recorded "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down," a song by a young up-and-comer named Kris Kristofferson. He was so pleased with the result that he turned down a chance to record Burt Bacharach's "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head," which of course hit number one for Thomas. Unfortunately, Stevens' version of "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down" flopped, but his instincts were right on, as Johnny Cash scored a major hit with it not long after.
An appearance on Andy Williams' variety show led to Stevens signing with the singer's Barnaby label in 1970. He hit immediately with a straight pop song, the relentlessly cheery "Everything Is Beautiful," which displayed his heretofore unseen sentimental streak. "Everything Is Beautiful" was an enormous hit, climbing to number one on the pop charts and winning Stevens a Grammy. Follow-ups included the serious-minded pop song "America, Communicate With Me" (1970), the novelty song "Bridget the Midget (Queen of the Blues)" (1971), and the gospel-styled "Turn Your Radio On" (1972), the latter of which was his first Top 20 country hit. It was, of course, a novelty song that would give Stevens his next big success. "The Streak," a 1974 ditty about the new fad of (what else?) streaking, zoomed up the charts to become Stevens' second number one pop hit and also made the country Top Five.
In the years that followed, Stevens' singles began to chart higher on the country side. His bluegrass-style rearrangement of "Misty" made the pop Top 20 in 1975, but it was a number three country hit and won him another Grammy. His country Top 40 hits over the next several years included "Indian Love Call," "Honky Tonk Waltz," and a version of the pop perennial "You Are So Beautiful"; during this period, he switched over to Warner Brothers. In 1977, he took a breather from country music to record an utterly bizarre version of Glenn Miller's swing classic "In the Mood," clucking all the instrumental parts like a choir of chickens (the single was credited to the Henhouse Five Plus Too). 1979's "I Need Your Help Barry Manilow," a takeoff on the MOR superstar's trademark style, was his last charting pop single.
Stevens switched labels again, this time to RCA, and promptly had a Top Ten country hit with the humorous "Shriner's Convention" in 1980. Several more singles failed to duplicate its success, and in 1984 he departed RCA for the greener pastures of MCA. Over the next few years, he enjoyed a period of renewed popularity. Songs like "It's Me Again, Margaret" (about an obscene phone caller), "The Mississippi Squirrel Revival," "The Haircut Song," "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex," and "I Saw Elvis in a U.F.O." may not have been his highest-charting (only "Squirrel" made it to the country Top 20), but they all became audience favorites and signature songs. Moreover, his albums sold better than they ever had before; 1985's He Thinks He's Ray Stevens reached number three on the country charts, and the 1986 follow-up, I Have Returned, actually hit number one. Both went gold, as did 1987's Crackin' Up, and Stevens issued several other albums for MCA up through 1991, when he charted for what appeared to be the last time with "Working for the Japanese."
In 1991, Stevens opened his own theater in Branson, MO, and played regularly there until 1993, when he sold the building to take a break. In 1992, he assembled a video collection of some of his best-known material and began a direct marketing campaign via television; the tape wound up selling over three million copies, and Stevens has since released other videos through his own company. He also recorded new material occasionally, returning in 1997 with Hum It and the holiday album Ray Stevens Christmas: Through a Different Window. In the wake of the September 11 attacks, Stevens returned with the new single "Osama-Yo' Mama," which became his first charting country single in ten years, reaching the Top 50. It was followed in early 2002 by Osama-Yo' Mama: The Album, which climbed into the country Top 30. In 2005, Stevens launched a television-only campaign to promote his three-disc Box Set, then handed the collection over to Curb for street release in 2006. Laughter Is the Best Medicine appeared in 2009 as did Sings Sinatra...Say What?, which featured Stevens' versions of several songs made famous by Frank Sinatra.
Wikipedia:For a complete listing of albums and singles by Ray Stevens, see Ray Stevens discography.For other people named Ray Stevens, see Ray Stevens (disambiguation).
Ray Stevens (born Harold Ray Ragsdale, January 24, 1939) is an American country and pop singer-songwriter musician and comedian."Ray Stevens". Raystevens.com. Retrieved 2014-08-20.  "Shelby Singleton, Nashville Producer, Dies at 77". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-08-20. "Ray Stevens Comes Streaking Back With Immigration Song". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-08-20. Roy, Don (1998). "Ray Stevens." In The Encyclopedia of Country Music, Paul Kingsbury, Editor. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 507.
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.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.
ContentsCareer1.1 Early career1.2 1970s1.3 1980s1.4 1990s1.5 2000s (2000–2009)1.6 2010s (2010–present)1.7 Videos
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 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 to the UK. A rock-inflected 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.
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. 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' singles charted during this time, but only one, "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 released 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 Branson for 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. When crowds reacted favorably to his music videos being played on a large screen at his theater Stevens began selling videos.
In the spring and summer of 1992, his Comedy Video Classics became a million-selling home video through direct marketing and television advertisements. Branson was also experiencing its highest commercial peak in the summer and fall of both 1992 and 1993. 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 became a big retail seller again. In 1993, it was named Home Video of the Year by Billboard magazine.
Classic Ray Stevens was issued in 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 in 1994 and it became a Top-5 success on Billboard's Home Video chart.
In the summer of 1995, the movie Get Serious! was released on home video 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 also saw the release of two new audio CDs 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 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.
Stevens returned to Curb Records in 2001. 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. Stevens returned to Branson 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.
After decades of singing comedy songs, Stevens' music took on a noticeably partisan Republican bent after the turn of the century. 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 supplied new lyrics in a more G-rated setting. 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," and with the CD New Orleans Moon, released on his own label. This CD contains 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. This CD featured an 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.
Concurrently in 2008, a tribute to the songs of Frank Sinatra was issued. The album Ray Stevens Sings Sinatra...Say What?? 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 includes "Concrete Sailor," "Convoy," "Right Reverend Road Hog McGraw," and "Hang Up and Drive." "Mary Lou Nights" and "Oh, Lonesome Me."
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. In 2009 Stevens released Ray Stevens Christmas.
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.
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 CD/DVD, titled We the People, containing 22 political songs. 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 Stevens in the 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 music video became Stevens' second to surpass a million unique views on YouTube. Following the release of the "Come to the USA" 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 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. 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, "God Save Arizona". 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 in September for an 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.
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 deals with political correctness gone amuck as Santa Claus gets arrested and is charged with crimes against a politically correct society.
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 February 8, 2011 a CD single along with an Mp3 single of The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore became commercially available. Stevens performed three songs while at CPAC on February 10, 2011. 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 27 "The Skies Just Ain't Friendly Anymore" had amassed over 70,000 unique views on YouTube in a span of ten days.
On April 14 Stevens decided to end his subscription-based web-site, Ray Stevens Backstage, after a two-year run. A 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." The same day Stevens released his album, The Spirit of '76. 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 11 he appeared at a conservative rally in Franklin, Tennessee billed as Conservatives on the Move. 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.
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. 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.
On February 29, just a day after releasing the 9-CD The Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music box set, Stevens' on-line music video, "Mr. President - Mr. President," passed the half a million mark in YouTube views. Also on March 8 an article on Ray by writer 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, 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 during one of his series of concerts.
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 2000s. 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.
In late September 2013 Stevens issued a music video for "Nashville". This song had originally been recorded by Stevens in 1973 and it became a Top-40 country music hit and the title of one of his studio LP's for Barnaby Records that year. The music video, produced 40 years later, features some minor changes in the lyrics and an updated music arrangement. Scenes from Nashville, Tennessee landmarks and tourists destinations are featured throughout the video. In one scene Ray is seen seated next to a famed statue of Chet Atkins on Music Row. In early October 2013 Stevens debuted his "Unchained Melody" music video. This is a song that's to be part of a future project he's referred to as 'Melancholy Fescue'. The project is to feature songs, mostly love ballads, arranged in a bluegrass and or Appalachia mountain style. The project has no official release date. On December 4, 2013 Stevens was interviewed on one of the final episodes of Mike Huckabee's radio series. In the interview Stevens made mention of an upcoming gospel project, 'Onward Christian Soldiers', and Huckabee played a snippet of a recording by Stevens titled "If Jesus Is a Stranger", said to be one of the songs on the project. During the interview Stevens mentioned the CD might see a January 2014 release date.
On January 24, 2014 Stevens celebrated his 75th birthday but there wasn't a gospel CD released. His clip-filled series on the re-launched TNN, RAY-ality TV, ended after a season long run on the over-the-air sub-channel.
Soon after, in late March 2014, Stevens announced the debut of an internet-exclusive webisode series, also titled Rayality TV. In this series, said to have more than 70 individual installments of various length, clips from his various music videos and his former on-line sitcom, We Ain't Dead Yet, are edited together. All of the clips are deliberately edited together to fit a specific episode theme that week. If an installment is about "food", for example, video clips from Ray's archives that deal with health and eating or dieting are used. Each installment debuts on YouTube every Friday and usually features an introduction from Ray or a commentary from Ray midway through.
In conjunction with the clip-oriented Rayality TV webisodes on Fridays is a classic video clip of Ray that debuts on YouTube each Thursday as part of throwback Thursday. In early May 2014 Stevens announced that he'll be one of the participants/co-stars of an upcoming movie titled "Campin' Buddies"
The film, currently in production in Louisiana, takes the "how not to" concept and applies it to the great outdoors. Stevens' co-stars include Tom Lester, Don Most, Victoria Jackson, and several others. Stevens plays a character named Rayford. The filming began on May 16 and is set to end on May 31.
Stevens' songs have been showcased in several videos. "Gitarzan" was featured on 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 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. 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.Cite error: The named reference AMC was invoked but never defined (see the help page). "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. "Ray Stevens - Timeline Photos". Facebook. Retrieved 2014-08-20. "Campin' Buddies". Facebook. Retrieved 2014-08-20.
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 accomplishments1969: 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 Fame1980: Georgia Music Hall of Fame1984: Gold Album — "He Thinks He's Ray Stevens"1985: Gold Album — "I Have Returned"1986: Music City News Comedian of the Year1986: No. 1 Country Album Plaque from Billboard — "I Have Returned" (week ending March 15, 1986)1987: Music City News Comedian of the Year1987: Platinum Album — "Greatest Hits"1987: Gold Album — "Greatest Hits, Volume Two"1988: Music City News Comedian of the Year1989: Music City News Comedian of the Year1990: Music City News Comedian of the Year1990: Gold Album — "All-Time Greatest Comic Hits"1991: Music City News Comedian of the Year1992: Music City News Comedian of the Year1992: 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 Year1993: Music City News Comedian of the Year1993: Platinum Home Video — "Ray Stevens Live!"1994: Music City News Comedian of the Year1995: Platinum Home Video — "Get Serious!"1995: Country Weekly Golden Pick Award "Best Comedian"2001: Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame2002: Gold Single — "Osama Yo' Mama"2009: Christian Music Hall of Fame
Music City News was a monthly subscription magazine. 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.