Ray Stevens on Country Music Hall of Fame Induction: ‘It Is Quite an Honor’
Lining the walls of the Country Music Hall of Fame's rotunda are plaques honoring the likes of Minnie Pearl, Homer and Jethro and Uncle Dave Macon. Ray Stevens has a kinship with these figures, not only as the newest inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame, but in his distinct ability to blend comedy with country music.
Stevens was a staple in the country scene in the '70s and '80s with hits including "Gitarzan" "Mississippi Squirrel Revival" and "The Streak," turning comedic situations into song, from Tarzan and Jane forming a band in the jungle to a squirrel that wreaks havoc during a spiritual service in a Mississippi church. Stevens' wit and clever lyrics have earned him a spot inside the Hall of Fame's hallowed halls alongside the comedic musicians that came before him.
"I was a big fan of recorded comedy growing up," he tells Taste of Country and other media, citing Homer and Jethro, 1950s R&B group the Coasters and Brother Dave Gardner among his influences. "I knew it would work. I just had to get the right material."
Stevens established a comedic presence in the genre beginning in 1958, penning several of his novelty songs in between acting as songwriter, producer and arranger for artists including Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Kenny Rogers and Brenda Lee. Stevens says his influences helped him identify a clear relationship between humor and country music.
"I think comedy is more compatible to country music than any other style of music. Look at the roots of country music, even the Grand Ole Opry. One of the biggest stars was Minnie Pearl. It’s not hard to figure out," he states. "You write a melody and put funny words to it. You just have to sort of feel it."
Stevens will soon stand alongside the greats he's long admired when he becomes an official member of the Country Music Hall of Fame later this year. During a press conference announcing the inductees, Grand Ole Opry host Bill Cody recognized Stevens as the most successful comedy recording artist of all time.
"It is quite an honor. It was a real thrill when I was first notified that this was going to happen. I’m still at a loss for words," Stevens remarked. "It don’t get no better than this. This is the payoff for years and years of doing what you like to do; a lot of blood, sweat and tears goes into that. If you’re committed, you have to pay the price, although I must say, you happily pay the price. This is the payoff and it’s great."
Stevens will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in the category of Veterans Era in an official Medallion Ceremony in October, alongside Brooks & Dunn and former Vice President of RCA Records Nashville Jerry Bradley.
These Artists Should Be in Next!
Here's All 139 Country Music Hall of Fame Members: