NASHVILLE, Tenn., April 5, 2010 - The effervescent Ray Stevens will be saluted on Saturday, April 24, as part of the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum's popular series Nashville Cats: A Celebration of Music City Musicians. The program, which will begin at 1:30 p.m. in the Museum's Ford Theater, is included with Museum admission and free to Museum members. The program will also be streamed live at www.countrymusichalloffame.org.
Hosted by Bill Lloyd, the tribute to Stevens will include a brief performance and an in-depth, one-on-one interview illustrated with vintage recordings, photos and film clips from the Museum's Frist Library and Archive. Immediately following the program, Stevens will sign autographs in the Museum Store.
Although best known for his colorful, comedic country hits ("The Streak" and "Gitarzan") and country and pop standards ("Everything Is Beautiful" and "Misty"), Ray Stevens also contributed to hundreds of sessions throughout the '60s and '70s. As a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, arranger and producer, his contributions to the development of Nashville as a songwriting capital and recording center are immeasurable. Stevens contributed to recordings by artists as varied as Brook Benton, Patti Page, Dolly Parton, Elvis Presley and Tommy Roe, and often filled in as a substitute vocalist with legendary session singers the Jordanaires.
Ray Stevens was born Harold Ray Ragsdale in Clarkdale, Georgia, in 1939. While taking piano lessons at age six, Stevens had the profound realization that music would be his life. Influenced by regional radio and the jukebox at the local pool, Stevens' childhood soundtrack was a mixture of musical styles, from country and southern gospel to R&B and big band music. By age 15, he was playing social gatherings in Albany, Georgia, as a member of the R&B group the Barons.
In the mid-1950s, the Ragsdale family relocated to Atlanta where Stevens met local publisher Bill Lowery. Stevens' self-penned song "Silver Bracelet" caught Lowery's ear. Lowery not only suggested that Stevens change his name (pairing his middle name with his mother's maiden name), but he also helped the 17-year-old score his first recording contract with Prep Records, a Capitol Records subsidiary. Although "Silver Bracelet" only achieved regional success, it gave Stevens his first taste of Nashville: He cut the song at RCA Studio B with producer and RCA executive Chet Atkins.
While enrolled at Georgia State University, Stevens began performing regularly on the Georgia Jubilee radio show. Mercury Records took notice and hired Stevens as an artist, session musician, arranger and A&R assistant. He moved to Nashville in 1962. Within Stevens' first year in town, he not only scored his first Top Ten hit with "Ahab the Arab," but he also contributed to some 300 recording sessions as a back-up singer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist. Stevens has backed everyone from Waylon Jennings, Brenda Lee and Faron Young to Ruth Brown, Charlie Rich and Dusty Springfield. His other credits include playing on Elvis Presley's Fun in Acapulco soundtrack, as well as producing a young Dolly Parton for the Monument label. In addition, Stevens contributed musically to many of his own hits, including "Ahab the Arab," "Gitarzan," "Everything Is Beautiful" and many more. He won a 1975 Grammy as an arranger, Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists, for his work on "Misty."
Stevens is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. He continues to play an active role in the recording industry as a songwriter, artist and producer.
These programs are made possible, in part, by grants from the Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission and by an agreement between the Tennessee Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Accredited by the American Association of Museums, the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is operated by the Country Music Foundation, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) educational organization chartered by the state of Tennessee in 1964. The Museum's mission is the preservation of the history of country and related vernacular music rooted in southern culture. With the same educational mission, the Foundation also operates CMF Records, the Museum's Frist Library and Archive, CMF Press, Historic RCA Studio B, and Hatch Show Print®.
More information about the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is available at www.countrymusichalloffame.org or by calling (615) 416-2001.