Gary James' Interview With
Ray Stevens




Ray Stevens is probably best known for the songs he's written - "Misty", "Everything Is Beautiful" and "Ahab The Arab". When I interviewed Ray Stevens, it was August 1980. He was opening for Crystal Gayle at the New York State Fair in Syracuse, New York. The stage at that time was a flat-bed truck. That's it. So, there were a couple of lawn chairs and he sat down in one and put his feet up on the stage. I thought to myself; take a good look around, this situation will never repeat itself, and it never has.

Q - Does it bother you that you are not headlining tonight's show?

A - There are all kinds of ways to look at a situation like this. I can't comment too deeply on it. It's a loaded question. I don't resent it. I don't make a habit of opening for other people, but in no way is it demeaning for me to open the show. Crystal opened for me two years ago, so who knows, maybe it might reverse itself again.

Q - One of the reasons Paul McCartney became a musician was because it offered freedom. As he became more successful, he felt trapped with all of the commitments he had to fulfill. Did you ever feel like that? Why did you pursue a career in the music business?

A - I got into the business because I loved music. Certainly I never felt trapped to the extent The Beatles must've felt. It's true you do have more obligations and there doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day to fulfill them.

Q - How did you land the Andy Williams summer replacement show back in 1970?

A - My manager is Don Williams, who is Andy Williams brother. So when it became available, he was able to get it for me.

Q - As a record producer, who have you worked with?

A - Mainly just myself. When I was producing for Monument Records, I worked with Dolly Parton, The Kim Sisters and I produced some vocals on Chet Atkins' records. When I was an arranger for Mercury Records, I arranged a lot of series for people like Patti Page and Brook Benton.

Q - How did you manage school when you were a DJ at 15 and had your own TV show at 16?

A - I was a DJ on Saturday afternoons for three hours. That was only for one summer. The TV show was local.

Q - At 17 you signed with Capitol Records and had the hit "Chickie-Chickie Wah Wah" in '58 and by 1961 you were recording for Mercury Records. Was it easier to get a record deal back then?

A - My first hit was a song called "Silver Bracelet". I was living in Albany, Georgia and at 17 I moved to Atlanta. I met Bill Lowery, a song publisher who encouraged me to write songs. I did and he got me the deal with Capitol.

Q - How can you make sure your albums are promoted right, that people hear about them, when there are so many records being released?

A - I have to rely on the record company for that. I do as much as I can do and still be an artist, which is the most important function.

Q - You're on the road how many days a year?

A - 100, but dates seem to come in bunches.

Q - What do you do with the rest of your time?

A - I'm building a new house. I've been working on it over a year and I'm still not through. I designed it, drew up the plans. It's different. It's going to have an open cathedral ceiling with a kitchen in the center of the house and a fireplace that goes up 30 feet. The bathroom is also going to have a fireplace, a steam room and a jacuzzi.

Q - With a home like that, you probably won't be going on the road anymore.

A - I'll have to, to pay for it!



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