What? Ray Stevens? The guy who did Gitarzan and The Streak? What do you mean, a genius? Isn't he just kind of corny?
I sometimes think that I'm the only person who recognizes the genius of Ray Stevens.
You see, in 1975, Ray released an album titled, "Misty". Ring a bell? Yea, you know the song. You know Ray's rendition. He took an old standard and "bluegrassed" it up. It was a hit.
I had that album on EIGHT-TRACK. Yes, eight-track. Remember those? They were around for about a year or so. I remember, my dad had an eight-track player in his Lincoln. He had about 3 eight-track "albums", I guess you'd call them. Of course, he also had one of those console stereos. You know, the kind that you matched to your furniture. The kind that had that nice fake-wood detailing and the velvet inserts. And, if you wanted to play an album, you had to carefully lift the stylus and place it just so on the track you wanted to play.
But, back to Ray Stevens.
I was fascinated and enthralled by his "Misty" album (eight-track). He redid a lot of standards, such as, "Deep Purple", "Indian Love Call", and "Young Love".
And he also had a song on the radio that was totally strange, yet mesmerizing, in the same way that a train wreck is mesmerizing. It was a barnyard of chickens doing, "In The Mood". It was never labeled a Ray Stevens song. It was by some group called something and the Henhouse Five. (Sorry, my memory fails me at times).
But that's neither here nor there.
My point is, if you listen to the album, "Misty", with remakes of all the old standards, as only Ray could do them, you realize that Ray Stevens was a genius.
I have three of those songs on my mp3 player, and trust me, they're really good.
He recorded these songs with kind of a bluegrassy, doo-wop, pop sensibility. If that makes any sense.
I really love them. And I know you would, too, if you listened to them.
LUCKILY, I discovered that Ray's original album is now available on Amazon.com (repackaged with his "Turn Your Radio On" album).
I just ordered it. For old time's sake. And because it's fantastic.
A couple of other cool facts about Ray:
1. He had the guts to stand down Webb Pierce, when all the tour buses were constantly coming around to show fans Webb's guitar-shaped swimming pool.
2. He recorded "Sunday Morning Coming Down" first, before Johnny Cash recorded it. He knew a classic song when he heard it.
So, you can remember Ray Stevens for his campy songs, or you can give a listen to his serious stuff.
I'd strongly recommend listening to his serious stuff. You'll like it.
Ray had a bunch of stuff before he ever unleashed "The Streak" on the buying public. He had "Mister Businessman"; he had "Everything Is Beautiful" (of course). He had, as I said, "Sunday Morning Coming Down".
I guess the "comedy thing" was a goldmine for him. But I really miss the good stuff.
Although that chicken song was pretty funny.
I leave you with Ray performing his most famous "serious song", Misty: