- Published on Tuesday, 30 September 2014 14:40
- Written by Eric Dahl
The first time I heard about Ray Stevens was from my Grandpa Dahl, he was a huge fan and kept a number of Ray’s cassettes in his car to listen to while he drove. Fast forward a few more years and I started hearing Stevens’ songs as performed by Mike Dumey and Robin Hosp as they would hold special evenings of entertainment at Port Cape and other venues around town. Now that I live in Nashville, TN I am truly gaining an education on many of the artists and entertainers I thought I knew.
Ray Stevens is one of the most popular Country Music Comedians in the world, he has achieved Gold and Platinum records, two Grammy awards, and he has been inductions multiple Hall of Fames! Now he has a new book out “Ray Stevens’ Nashville” and a new album called “Ray Stevens Gospel Collection Volume One.” After trying to secure an interview for several months I was finally able to speak with Ray and at 75 years young he sounded as vibrant today as he did 20 years ago when I would see him on TV specials.
ILLP: In your book you were signed to a label when Rock and Roll was just beginning, how did this take you into Country Music Comedy?
Ray Stevens: Nashville was very persuasive to my sensibilities. When I moved up here from Atlanta, Georgia at the age of 22 I was originally into Rhythm and Blues. I thought Country was a great Art Form and I liked the songs and lyrics. Plus they do a great job at promoting Country Music!
ILLP: From the picture montage in the back of the book and throughout the chapters you make mention of some of the biggest musicians and some of my heroes like Jerry Reed and Chet Atkins – what was that like?
Ray Stevens: Jerry came out of Atlanta like me and they made him change his name like did me to be catchier. Jerry and I had a band together and we use to play events and shows back there together.
ILLP: You are obviously very close to the country community how do you feel about the traditional versus the new directions of Country Music?
Ray Stevens: At my age I lean toward the more traditional Country, but I’m not going to say the new isn’t good. It’s part of the evolution of music and the kids are creating their own style.
ILLP: What do you remember about playing shows up in Cape Girardeau, Missouri?
Ray Stevens: I mainly remember playing the (Semo District) fairs up there, back when we use to do that. They were a lot of fun. Whenever I think about Cape I think of Kevin King (family name is Propst a comedian/magician from the Cape Girardeau) he’s a great magician and he can take your watch without you even knowing it…..sometimes he gives it back! Kevin has been in a lot of my videos and I still have him in my new ones. I think he took my wallet one time too, you gotta watch him with those tricks.
(I spoke to Kevin King also to verify that I did have the correct person. Kevin explained to me that he frequently goes back to Cape Girardeau to sing, but unfortunately it’s usually for funerals. Kevin got into magic at the young age of 13, thanks to the late Bill Coomer [popular local Cape Girardeau Magician] – whom he learned magic tricks from. King arrived in Nashville in 1981 at the age of 21 to play a celebrity golf tournament and became a hit with local celebrities here like Perry Como, Archie Campbell, Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed and of course Ray Stevens!)
ILLP: Why did you feel now was the right time to write “Ray Steven’s Nashville” as your You Tube views and subscribers are off the charts?
Ray Stevens: It is really my take on Nashville and it may not agree with other people’s opinions, but that is why there is an apostrophe after Stevens.
ILLP: Where do you come up with the material for your You Tube videos and Comedy Songs?
Ray Stevens: I like to write songs. And my talented songwriter and true friend Buddy Kalb writes songs for and with me. We grew up together in Atlanta and I can’t say enough good things about him.
ILLP: Do you plan to tour again now that you have a new album out?
Ray Stevens: We’re talking about doing a tour deal this next year if we get everything going.
ILLP: On your new album Ray Stevens Gospel Collection Volume 1, you have a number of classic gospel songs but you also have funny ones like my favorite “The Preacher and the Bear.” Why the wide mix?
Ray Stevens: We actually recorded 24 sides when we sat down to record this album so there will be more out later. “The Preacher and the Bear” song was originally recorded by Phil Harris back in the 1940’s and I always liked him from back then so I did it.
ILLP: What’s next for Ray Stevens?
Ray Stevens: I don’t know! Right now we’re working on a new Political album, and if Volume 1 of the Gospel album does well we will come out with Volume 2.
You can watch Stevens’s latest videos (many of which include Cape Girardeau native Kevin King) at “raystevensmusic” on his You Tube Channel. Many of the new parody songs and skits are a mix of comedy with tongue in cheek prodding at politics. I found the book “Ray Stevens’ Nashville” to be a fun read from his childhood through today and explaining how he almost went into architecture but music pulled him away all the way to Nashville. His new album “Ray Stevens Gospel Collection Volume One,” is a mix of traditional gospel songs you will recognize and some fun ones that I could see Mike Dumey performing in the near future. It sounds as though more albums will coming out if the public embraces this new release, and a possible tour. Stevens has no urge to slow down or retire and You Tube has proven to be a fertile ground for his Country Music Comedy and skits as well!