Funnyman Ray Stevens is perhaps best known for bouncing between novelty hits (“The Streak”) and “straight” tunes (“Everything Is Beautiful”), both of which topped the pop survey in the Seventies. He also recorded a series of comic country tunes (including “Would Jesus Wear a Rolex” and “Mississippi Squirrel Revival”) throughout the Eighties. But when the Georgia native first arrived in Music City in 1962, he began playing — and singing harmony — on sessions for country stars such as Waylon Jennings, as well as recording his own comical Sixties hits, including “Gitarzan” and “Ahab the Arab.”
Now, the versatile performer is a published author whose Ray Stevens’ Nashville recounts the 75-year-old entertainer’s myriad experiences in the music business throughout the past 50 years, including his friendships with such fellow country legends as Jerry Reed and Chet Atkins. He also recalls the inspiration for many of his novelty tunes, which found a new home in the Eighties through music video outlets including CMT and TNN (The Nashville Network).
“Years ago, I noticed that if you wanted to stay active as an entertainer, you needed some sort of hook,” Stevens tells the Tennessean. “You had to do something a little different. I thought for me that would be comedy songs. I thought I could hang around longer if I could do things that were offbeat.”
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Ray Stevens’ Nashville will be officially released on June 22nd. The Grammy-winning performer also recently wrapped a movie called Campin’ Buddies, and has a gospel album coming out later this year.