Country comedian Ray Stevens has just released his brand new book, Ray Stevens' Nashville, after releasing his first Gospel album via Gaither Music earlier in the year. The book focuses on Steven's career in both comedy as well as country music. "It's a selected memoir," says the legendary comedian to Billboard. "There's a lot I left out. I wasn't trying to cover everything. Sometimes, you get too technical when you try to remember every detail of everything, but the details I did remember are actually what happened."
One person Stevens has much to thank about in the book is his own mother, who helped him start his love for music. "That was my mom's idea," he recalled. "She talked my dad into buying an old second-hand piano. She enrolled me in piano lessons when I was six, and made me practice every day. I wanted to be out playing ball with the guys, but I had to practice for an hour before. Thank God she made me practice the piano before I went out and layed baseball," he reflects. "I would have been a bad baseball player after I grew up, but you don't have to be that big to play the piano."
His path would take him north to Nashville, where he would move in early 1962. Not too long after that, Stevens was creating his classic string of hits like "Ahab The Arab," which peaked at No. 5 on the Hot 100 later that year. He says the song was a last-minute addition to the recording session. "I had my songs, but I didn't really like any of them. So, the night before, I wrote it. I brought it in to Shelby Singleton that day and told him I was going to depart from what we had said we were going to record. He said 'Ok, man, whatever you want to do.' We recorded the song at 10 a.m. that morning."
In the book he would go on to tell the stories about producing for Dolly Parton and playing for Johnny Cash on his iconi "Only Daddy That Will Walk the Line." Further, he would relate stories behind monster hits as "Everything Is Beautiful" and "The Streak," and also how he originally recorded "Sunday Morning Comin' Down" a year before the late Johnny Cash.
Stevens has also just released the first installation of his brand new Gospel collection, titled Ray Stevens Gospel Collection, Volume One, which brings back many of pleasant memories. "In the mid 1970s, I had a hit with 'Turn Your Radio On.' We put an album out, which was successful. Since then, I've always wanted to do another Gospel album. I cut twenty-four songs, and this is just twelve of them. If this one does well, we'll put out Volume Two."