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Ray Stevens Biography

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Birth Name: Harold Ray Ragsdale
Born: 1939/01/24
Birth Place: Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Years Active: 1958 – present
Genres: Country, Pop, Novelty

Ray Stevens (born Harold Ray Ragsdale, January 24, 1939) is an American country music, pop singer-songwriter who has become known for his novelty songs as well as more serious works. He was born in Clarkdale, a small town west of Atlanta.

Stevens has won two Grammy Awards: one for "Everything Is Beautiful" and one for the arrangement of his country and western version of the jazz standard "Misty" (1975). Stevens was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1980 as well as the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.

Early in his career he signed with Mercury Records with whom Stevens recorded a series of hit records in the 1960s that included songs such as "Ahab the Arab", "Harry the Hairy Ape", "Funny Man," the original recording of "Santa Claus Is Watching You", and "Jeremiah Peabody's Polyunsaturated Quick-Dissolving, Fast-Acting Pleasant-Tasting Green and Purple Pills". Most of the Boomer generation remembers a shortened version of "Ahab the Arab" reaching No. 1 on the American pop-rock charts in the summer of 1962, which was the song that introduced Stevens to most of his fan base.

In 1966, Stevens signed with Monument Records and started to release serious material such as "Mr. Businessman" in 1968, a Top 30 hit, and "Have a Little Talk With Myself" and the original version of "Sunday Morning Coming Down" in 1969, which became Stevens' first two singles to reach the country music charts. Stevens continued releasing novelty songs, and in 1969 he had a Top 10 pop hit with "Gitarzan."

He recorded songs for Barnaby Records and Warner Brothers during 1970–1979. Stevens' biggest hit in the US was his gospel-inflected single "Everything Is Beautiful" (1970). The single won a Grammy Award, was the theme song for his summer 1970 TV show, hit #1 on both the pop and Adult-Contemporary charts, and marked his first time in the Top 40 on the country charts, peaking at #39. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.

His other 1970 singles were "America, Communicate With Me" and "Sunset Strip". Each of those songs made a big impact with adults, reaching the Top-20 on the Adult-Contemporary lists. His novelty song "Bridget the Midget (The Queen of The Blues)" made #2 on the UK chart in 1971 and in the US it reached #50. Stevens had a gospel/country hit single in early 1972 with Albert E. Brumley's "Turn Your Radio On", reaching the country Top 20.

In 1974, Stevens recorded perhaps his most famous hit, "The Streak", which poked fun at the early-1970s fad of running nude in public, known as "streaking". It made No. 1 in both the UK and the USA and No. 3 on the country chart. Stevens' tenure with Barnaby came to an end in early 1976. In 1975, he released the Grammy-winning "Misty", which became his biggest country hit (reaching #3 on the country charts and #14 on the pop charts); he also entered the country Top 40 with a doo-wop version of "Indian Love Call", "Everybody Needs a Rainbow", and a ballad version of "Young Love" in early 1976.

Stevens continued to record and release music for several labels throughout the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. He is currently working on a project entitled β€œThe Encyclopedia of Musical Comedy Recordings.”