Ray Stevens (b. January 24, 1939) is a veteran pop/country singer-songwriter, producer, arranger, TV host, and comedian who became famous beginning in the early 1960s. Born Harold Ray Ragsdale in Clarkdale, Georgia, he formed his first band while in high school, an R&B group known as The Barons. He landed his first recording contract at age 18 (with Capitol Records) and in 1958, signed with the newly-formed National Recording Corporation (NRC) where he served as a music arranger, background vocalist, and musician. Steven's long string of mostly self-penned hits consists of a unique mix of novelty tunes, country standards and remakes, and more serious songs with socially-conscious messages, ranging in mood from the ribald runaway smash, "The Streak," to the gospel-infused "Everything Is Beautiful," a religious pop standard backed with a children's chorus.
Stevens debuted on the Pop/Rock charts in 1959 with a cheerful rockabilly rendition of the traditional pop standard, "My Heart Cries For You." He had his first Top 40 hit in 1961 with "Jeremiah Peabody's Poly Unsaturated Quick Dissolving Fast Acting Pleasant Tasting Green And Purple Pills," a novelty song which holds the record for having the longest title in Billboard chart history. Steven's fame took off the following year with "Ahab, The Arab," another novelty tune which became his first Top 5 hit. After several more novelty songs that included "Santa Claus Is Watching You" (1962) and "Harry The Hairy Ape" (1963), he gradually incorporated into his repertoire songs of a more serious vein beginning in the late 1960s with "Mr. Businessman" (1968), an upbeat yet scathing commentary about the downsides of materialism. Stevens topped both the Adult Contemporary and Pop/Rock charts in 1970 with "Everything Is Beautiful," which earned him a Grammy for Best Contemporary Vocal Performance, Male. He had another #1 hit on the Pop/Rock charts in 1974 with "The Steak," a comical sketch about the then-popular streaking craze (
Don't look, Ethel!!). He won a second Grammy for his rollicking country arrangement of the sentimental jazz/traditional pop standard, "Misty" (1975). Other top hits included "Gitarzan" (1969), "Along Came Jones" (1969), "America, Communicate With Me" (1970), the chicken-clucking "In The Mood" (1977), "I Need Your Help Barry Manilow" (1979), and "Shriner's Convention" (1980). His hits continued on the Country charts into the 2000s, with more recent works that include "Working For The Japanese" (1991) and "Osama - Yo' Mama" (2002).
Ray Stevens most recent albums include "We The People" (2010) and "Here We Go Again!" (2015), which both reached #4 on the Comedy albums charts during their respective years. In addition to two Grammys and many gold- and platinum-certified singles and albums, his numerous honors and accolades also include several BMI awards and being inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame (1980), the Georgia Music Hall of Fame (1980), the Christian Music Hall of Fame (2009), and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (2019).
- For more info about Ray Stevens and his current projects and touring schedule, visit raystevens.com.
- Ray Stevens discusses how he got into the music business and other topics in an interview with Gary James at classicbands.com (August, 1980).
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- Ahab, The Arab 1962
- Along Came Jones 1969
(This song was previously a hit for the Coasters (1959).)
- Everything Is Beautiful 1970
(This song, which topped both the Adult Contemporary and Pop/Rock charts, won Ray Stevens a Grammy in 1971 for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.)
- Gitarzan 1969
- Harry The Hairy Ape 1963
- Jeremiah Peabody's Poly Unsaturated Quick Dissolving Fast Acting Pleasant Tasting Green And Purple Pills 1961
- Mr. Businessman 1968
- Misty 1975
(This song is a countrified version of the famous jazz standard. "Misty" was previously a hit for Johnny Mathis (1959), Lloyd Price (1963), the Vibrations (1965), and "Groove" Holmes (1966).)
- The Streak 1974
(One of the funniest songs of all time, the "Streak," which topped both the U.K. and U.S. Pop/Rock charts for Ray Stevens in 1974, is a mostly-spoken song about the streaking craze of the early 1970s.)
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