Ray Stevens Biography

Harold Ray Ragsdale, 24 January 1939, Clarksdale, Georgia, USA. A prolific country pop writer and performer, Stevens’ novelty hits of the 70s and 80s illustrate the history of the fads and crazes of the era. He became a disc jockey on a local station at 15 and the following year recorded ‘Five More Steps’ on the Prep label. Stevens’ first nonsense song, ‘Chickie Chickie Wah Wah’, was written in 1958 but it was not until 1961, with Mercury Records that he had a Top 40 hit with the tongue-twisting ‘Jeremiah Peabody’s Poly Unsaturated Quick Dissolving Fast Acting Pleasant Tasting Green And Purple Pills’. This was followed by ‘Ahab The Arab’ (1962) and ‘Harry The Hairy Ape’ (1963). Stevens also had a penchant for social comment which emerged in songs such as ‘Mr Businessman’ (1968), ‘America Communicate With Me’ and the first recording of Kris Kristofferson’s ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’. However, the zany songs were the most successful and in 1969 he sold a million copies of ‘Gitarzan’ and followed with a version of Leiber And Stoller’s Coasters hit ‘Along Came Jones’ and ‘Bridget The Midget (The Queen Of The Blues)’. His first number 1 was the simple melodic ballad ‘Everything Is Beautiful’ in 1970. All of these, however, were outsold by ‘The Streak’, which topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic in 1974. Stevens’ softer side was evident in his version of Erroll Garner’s ‘Misty’ which won a Grammy in 1976 for its bluegrass-styled arrangement. Later novelty efforts, aimed principally at country audiences, included ‘Shriner’s Convention’ (1980), ‘It’s Me Again Margaret’ (1985), ‘I Saw Elvis In A UFO’ (1989) and ‘Power Tools’. He made several videos in the 90s, and released two studio albums in 1997.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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