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Gene Watson's peers within the country music industry believe in the sheer talent of this unassuming man from east Texas, so much so that Gene is regarded by many of them as 'the singer's singer' - and rightly so!
All of Gene Watson's Peers who were contacted during 2011 were most gracious with their time and words. It is here, within this special part of the Gene Watson Fan Site, that you have an opportunity to read a quote from Ray Stevens, which he submitted to this site on Wednesday 21 September 2011.
Sean Brady would like to take this opportunity to say 'thank you' to Ray Stevens who made a special contribution to this unique part of this online 'celebration of a Lone Star Hero'.
This quote was submitted on Wednesday 21 September 2011.
'When asked today (Wednesday 21 September 2011) if I were asked to make a comment about Gene Watson, I replied by stating that Gene Watson is one of the best country singers I have ever heard'.
Thank you, Ray Stevens, for your support of Gene Watson.
About Ray Stevens...
Ray Stevens was born Harold Ray Ragsdale in Clarkdale, Georgia on Tuesday 24 January 1939. Clarkdale was a small cotton mill town twenty miles north of Atlanta.
Ray Stevens' early influences came from the radio and the jukebox at the village swimming pool where Ray and most kids spent their summers. In those days, radio stations were diverse and played music of all different styles and that, along with the records that the jukebox played, exposed Ray to an eclectic selection of music.
As a seven year old taking piano lessons, Ray realised that music was his life. By the time he was a teenager in Albany, Georgia Ray had absorbed many of the great Southern musical influences, from country to rhythm and blues. When he was fifteen years old, Ray sang and played piano in a band called The Barons; they played all over the area for the American Legion, the Elks, private parties, anywhere.
When he was seventeen years old, Ray Stevens moved to Atlanta where he met radio personality and Georgia Tech football broadcaster Bill Lowery.
In 1957, while Ray Stevens was still in high school, he made his first trip to Nashville and recorded his first track, 'Silver Bracelet', at the now historic RCA 'B' studio. It was on that trip that he met Chet Atkins (Friday 20 June 1924 - Saturday 30 June 2001), who was the head of A&R for RCA and a lasting friendship was formed.
'Silver Bracelet' was a hit in Atlanta, but there were bigger things to come. Shortly thereafter, Ray Stevens left Prep Records and went to Capitol Records, its parent label. In 1958, Ray recorded some tracks for Capitol Records and it was during this time that Bill Lowery formed the National Recording Corporation (NRC).
NRC had a little studio that wasn’t state of the art, but was somewhere to play and record. Ray Stevens, Jerry Reed (Saturday 20 March 1937 - Sunday 31 August 2008) and Joe South (Wednesday 28 February 1940 - Wednesday 5 September 2012), among several others, would show up daily bugging the engineer to let them record.
Ray Stevens returned to Atlanta, finished high school and started college at Georgia State University where he studied classical piano and music theory.
Ray Stevens left school during his junior year and in 1961 recorded a song called 'Jeremiah Peabody’s Poly Unsaturated Quick Dissolving Fast Acting Pleasant Tasting Green And Purple Pills'. The song went to No.35 on the US pop charts and was included on 'Ahab The Arab: 1837 Seconds Of Humour' (Mercury Records, 1962).
At that point, Ray’s wide range of talent landed him a job with Mercury Records in Nashville; he arrived in Music City on Tuesday 2 January 1962 and worked on countless sessions as a pianist, arranger and vocalist in his first year alone. It was during one of those sessions that he recorded 'Ahab The Arab', which climbed to No.5 on the US pop charts in 1962.
On occasion Ray used to sing with The Jordanaires. Ray also played on a session for Elvis Presley (Tuesday 8 January 1935 - Tuesday 16 August 1977); that was the only Elvis Presley session that Ray ever played on. He played trumpet with Charlie McCoy and, in his own words, he explains:
'I’m a terrible trumpet player. I played keyboards, of course, and they didn’t need me to play on this particular song. It was a sort of Mexican song, so they asked Charlie and me to get our trumpets and play a little Mexican lick on it, and we did. I'll never forget that! The only Elvis session I ever played on, I played an instrument that I could barely hold'.
Several years later, Ray Stevens would publish 'Way Down', Elvis Presley’s last hit before he died.
At Mercury Records, Ray Stevens also recorded 'Harry The Hairy Ape' (No.17, 1963) and 'Santa Claus Is Watching You' (No.45, 1964). After that Ray’s recordings tapered off. He was spending his time in the studio producing and not focusing on his own music. Soon Ray left Mercury Records and joined Monument Records as a producer overseeing new artists, one of those being a young Dolly Parton.
1969 would result in a year of phenomenal releases from Ray Stevens. As always, the music was drawn from all styles of music. The jungle band comedy 'Gitarzan' returned him to the US pop charts Top 10. The track 'Gitarzan' was included on 'Gitarzan' (Monument Records, 1969), an album that also included Ray Stevens' rendition of Dallas Frazier's 'Alley Oop'.
In the later latter part of 1969, Ray Stevens hit the US pop charts again with a revival of the old Coasters pop and R&B hit 'Along Came Jones'.
On the country music front, Ray Stevens recognised the talent of a young Nashville writer and became the first artist to record Kris Kristofferson’s 'Sunday Morning Coming Down'; the track was included on Ray Stevens' 'Have A Little Talk With Myself' (Monument Records, 1970).
Ray Stevens joined Barnaby Records in 1970, a label owned by singer Andy Williams (Saturday 3 December 1927 - Tuesday 25 September 2012). After he performed on Williams’ television variety show, Ray became Barnaby’s first contemporary artist.
The summer of 1970 gave Ray the opportunity to host the summer replacement for the Andy Williams’ Show on NBC. He needed a hit song for the show and the end result of three days spent in his basement at his piano surrounded by crumpled paper was 'Everything Is Beautiful', which became Ray Stevens’ first No.1 hit on the US pop charts and won him a Grammy Award for 'Male Vocalist Of The Year'.
'Everything Is Beautiful' was included on Ray Stevens' 'Everything Is Beautiful' (Barnaby Records, 1970).
For the next few years, Ray Stevens continued to release music from gospel to comedy. In 1974, while flying to Los Angeles, Ray read an article about a new fad among college students called streaking. Inspired, he jotted down a few notes and decided to work on a song about it later. The result was 'The Streak'.
Ray Stevens' album 'Boogity Boogity' (Barnaby Records, 1974) was released five days after Robert Opel, a thirty-three year old advertising executive snuck into the 1974 Academy Awards broadcast and streaked across the stage past David Niven (Tuesday 1 March 1910 - Friday 29 July 1983). The incident made front page news and the release of 'The Streak' was perfect timing; the track was Ray Stevens’ second No.1 hit on the US pop charts.
In 1975, Ray Stevens received his second Grammy Award. It was in the 'Best Arrangement' category for the remake of the Erroll Gardner/Johnny Burke classic, 'Misty'. One day, while in the studio, while rehearsing his band for an upcoming television appearance, they started clowning around with 'Misty' using a banjo, fiddle and steel guitar. The track sounded good; so good that Ray called his engineer to come down to the studio and the arrangement was recorded.
'Misty', which was included on Ray Stevens' 'Misty' (Barnaby Records, 1974), was one of Ray's last hits for Barnaby Records. The label was being shut down, so Ray signed with Warner Brothers Records.
It was during this time that Ray Stevens’ publishing company was enjoying the success of Elvis Presley's last hit, which was 'Way Down'; the track was No.1 on the Billboard country music singles chart for one week in August 1977.
During his time at Warner Brothers, Ray Stevens also recorded 'In The Mood' and 'I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow'.
Between 1979 and 1984, Ray Stevens was with RCA Records; his major hit during that time was 'Shriner’s Convention', inspired from a real experience in a hotel booked full of Shriners. The track, which reached No.7 on the Billboard country music singles chart in 1980, was included on Ray Stevens' 'Shriner's Convention' (RCA Records, 1980).
In 1984, Ray Stevens signed with MCA Records and enjoyed Billboard country music hits with 'The Mississippi Squirrel Revival' (No.20, 1984) and 'It’s Me Again, Margaret' (No.74, 1984); both tracks were included on Ray Stevens' 'He Thinks He's Ray Stevens' (MCA Records, 1984).
Ray Stevens continued to record for MCA Records until 1990 when he signed with Curb Records.
In 1991, Ray Stevens saw the opening of his two thousand seat Ray Stevens Theatre in Branson, Missouri. Between 1991 and 1993, during the tourist season, Ray performed twice a day, six days a week for 1,600,000 fans.
Several years later, in 2004, Ray reopened the show for another season and in 2006 the show closed permanently when Ray sold the theatre.
During his time in Branson, Ray Stevens made music videos of several of his greatest hits to liven up the stage show. The videos went over so well that they were released through Ray’s own Clyde Records, Inc. in 1992 and made available for purchase through a mail order/television advertising campaign.
The release of 'Comedy Video Classics' proved very successful, selling over two million copies. Ray then released 'Ray Stevens Live!' in 1995, a video from the Branson show, which sold over a million copies.
In 1995, Ray made 'Get Serious', a full length movie, which earned platinum status from television advertising and was released to retail outlets by MCA Records in the latter part of 1996.
It was also in 1996 that Ray Stevens returned to the studio and recorded a new comedy album, 'Hum It' (MCA Records, 1996), which included the tracks 'Virgil And The Moon-shot', 'Too Drunk To Fish' and 'RV'.
Another video collection, 'Ray Stevens Latest And Greatest' was released in 1996 as well. It contained four of the songs from the original 'Comedy Video Classics' and six songs from the movie, 'Get Serious'.
In 1997, Ray Stevens saw the release of his very first Christmas album; 'Christmas Through A Different Window' (MCA Records, 1997) included 'Bad Little Boy', 'Guilt For Christmas' and 'The Little Drummer Boy Next Door', some of the songs included in an album that showed a skewed version of real life.
In 2000, 'Ray Stevens' Funniest Video Characters' was released; the collection included some of Ray’s funniest songs, including 'The Pirate Song', 'The Haircut Song' and 'The Ballad Of The Blue Cyclone'.
It was also in 2000 that Ray Stevens returned to the Curb Records roster. He made yet another video album and this time appeared onscreen with cartoon characters from some of his favourites like 'Bridget The Midget, The Queen Of The Blues' and 'Erik The Awful'.
'Ear Candy', a collection of comedy tunes that managed to find humour in everything from dogs, cats, funerals and having a baby the natural way rounded out Ray Stevens’ 2000 releases. 'Osama-yo’ Mama' followed in 2002 and in 2004 'Thank You' was released.
Both albums contained a variety of music from comedy, pop to country, every song of course, having the sound that can only be recognised as that of Ray Stevens.
In 2007, Ray decided to record exclusively for his own label, Clyde Records, Inc. Changing it from direct market only to a full service label that would make releases available to retail and for download, Ray felt that the time was right, being that independents are enjoying the same success as large corporate labels.
It also allowed him control of the timeline in which new recordings were released. The first release on Clyde Records was 'New Orleans Moon', which shared a title with the first single. The album included many great standards such as 'Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans', 'Saint James Infirmary' and Randy Newman’s 'Louisiana'. The album was Ray’s tribute to the music, the culture and the people of New Orleans.
In April 2010, Ray Stevens released 'We The People', a CD/DVD package; the videos included 'We The People', which was featured twice on 'The O'Reilly Factor', 'Caribou Barbie', 'Throw The Bums Out' and 'Thank You' filmed at Nashville's Veteran's Cemetery.
Other songs on the collection included hits like 'The Global Warming Song', 'Mr. Businessman', 'Obama Nation' and 'If 10% Is Good Enough For Jesus, It Oughta Be Enough For Uncle Sam'.
Ray Stevens brought us the pop classic 'Everything Is Beautiful', the insightful 'Mr. Businessman' and the Grammy Award winning arrangement of 'Misty'. He has memorably spoofed everything from Tarzan movies to trendy crazes and he brought us his very own comedy classics.
Ray Stevens' genre of music is one of his own making; it spans from pop, country, rock and comedy and it is truly his own.