When Ray Stevens says he just thinks funny, his key word is thinks. Like many revered American wits -- from Charlie Chaplin to Jackie Gleason to Bill Cosby -- Stevens' humor is keenly observant and rich in nuance, yet he puts it across with such an unpretentious, unaffected style that it can be easy to overlook the fertile mind needed to create such guileless entertainment.
For more than 40 years, Ray Stevens has been entertaining us. From his novelty songs like "The Streak," to his socially aware pieces like " Mr. Businessman," to his tender ballads he has touched us. Besides singing and composing, Ray has produced and arranged for some of Nashville's most legendary performers. As with all outstanding writers, Stevens has a way of creating characters and situations that highlight the humor in everyday life as well as larger issues and lifestyle trends.
Ray Stevens was born Harold Ray Ragsdale in Clarkdale, Georgia in January 1939. Clarkdale was a small cotton mill town 20 miles north of Atlanta. There was no television in 1939 in Clarkdale so the radio was a major influence in Ray's life. In the village was a swimming pool. Ray, along with most of the kids, lived at the pool every summer. At the pool they had a jukebox, and there were all kinds of records they would play. In those days, radio stations played all styles of music, it was pretty eclectic.
Ray was an average seven-year-old kid taking piano lessons when one day he looked at the keyboard and, in his words, "It all made sense." From that day forward, music was his life. By the time he was a teenager in Albany, GA., he had absorbed some of the great musical influences of the South, from country to rhythm & blues, and felt at home with any style of music. He started his own high school band at age 15. His band, The Barons, played all over the area for the American Legion, the Elks, private parties, anywhere.