Ray Stevens
Stevens on The Johnny Cash Show, c. 1971
Stevens on The Johnny Cash Show, c. 1971
Background information
Birth nameHarold Ray Ragsdale
Born (1939-01-24) January 24, 1939 (age 85)
Clarkdale, Georgia, U.S.
  • Singer-songwriter
  • arranger
  • comedian
  • Vocals
  • keyboards
  • trumpet
Years active1957–present
Penny Jackson
(m. 1961; died 2021)

Harold Ray Ragsdale (born January 24, 1939),[1] known professionally as Ray Stevens, is an American country[2] and pop singer-songwriter and comedian,[3][4] known for his Grammy-winning recordings "Everything Is Beautiful" and "Misty", as well as novelty hits such as "Gitarzan" and "The Streak". Stevens has received gold albums for his music sales and has worked as a producer, music arranger, and television host. He is also an inductee of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, the Christian Music Hall of Fame, and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Early life

Harold Ray Ragsdale was born on January 24, 1939, in Clarkdale, Georgia.[1] He is the elder of two sons born to Willis Harold Ragsdale (1915–2001) and Frances Stephens Ragsdale (1916–1997).[5] His younger brother, John, who died in 2020 at the age of 75, became an actor and writer.[6] While attending high school, Stevens formed his first band, a rhythm and blues group named The Barons. He began studying business administration at Georgia State College, but very quickly switched to become a music major. He left after completing three of the fours years required to obtain a degree, which he felt that he did not need.[7][8]


Early career

At age 18, Stevens signed to Capitol Records' Prep Records division in 1957,[8] and produced the single "Silver Bracelet", with a cover of "Rang Tang Ding Dong" as the B-side. The single was met with a positive review from Billboard.[9] The B-side was originally recorded by doo-wop group The Cellos in 1956.[10]

Stevens signed with Mercury Records in 1961.[11]


In the 1970s, Stevens became a producer and studio musician in Nashville. He recorded songs for Barnaby Records and Warner Brothers during 1970–79. Stevens' biggest hit in the U.S. 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 number one on both the pop and Adult-Contemporary charts, and marked his first time in the Top 40 on the country charts, peaking at number 39. It sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc.[12]

Stevens had a transatlantic chart-topping hit in 1974 with "The Streak," a novelty song about streaking that reached number one on the American and British singles charts.[13][14]

Through the late 1970s and early 1980s, with some exceptions (such as "Shriner's Convention" in 1981), Stevens focused mostly on serious material, as he felt that the novelty song was becoming less popular in the era.[15] Stevens had an adult contemporary crossover hit in 1979 with "I Need Your Help Barry Manilow," a cut from Stevens's Barry Manilow tribute/parody album The Feeling's Not Right Again.[16]


Stevens then joined MCA in 1984. Feeling that novelty songs were becoming popular again, he authorized the rush release of "Mississippi Squirrel Revival" in 1984, which reached the country top 20.[15] In 1985 he performed at the Lanierland Music Park in Georgia with Pinkard & Bowden.[17]

21st century

In February 2002, following the September 11 attacks, Stevens released Osama—Yo' Mama: The Album after the title track, which was released as a single in late 2001, peaked at #48 on the Hot Country Songs chart in 2001. The album reached #29 on the US Top Country Albums chart.

In April 2010, Stevens released We the People, a CD/DVD of political songs. This album reached Top-5 on the Billboard Comedy Album chart.[18][19]

RAY-ality TV ended its digital TV run in January 2014. In March 2014, a webisode series, also titled Rayality TV was launched. In 2014, Stevens co-starred in the movie Campin' Buddies.[20]

Stevens published his autobiographical memoir Ray Stevens' Nashville in 2014.[21][22]

In 2015, Stevens began producing and hosting Ray Stevens Nashville, a 30-minute weekly music variety show on cable TV. Since then, the show has been rebranded as Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville and is now filmed on stage at his own CabaRay Showroom, which opened to the public in early 2018. The show currently airs on PBS public television stations around the country.[23]

Stevens released the album Here We Go Again on March 24, 2015, which includes the Taylor Swift spoof single "Taylor Swift is Stalking Me"[24] and "Come to the USA".[25]

Personal life

Stevens was married to Penny Jackson Ragsdale for over 60 years, until her death on December 31, 2021, after a lengthy battle with cancer. Two days prior, he had canceled his New Year's Eve concert at CabaRay, due to Penny's rapidly declining health. They had two daughters, Suzi and Timi, and four grandchildren.[26]


Main article: Ray Stevens discography


Grammy awards

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
1970 Best Contemporary Male Vocalist "Gitarzan" Nominated [27]
1971 "Everything Is Beautiful" Won [28]
1971 Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) "Everything Is Beautiful" Nominated [29]
1971 Contemporary Song "Everything Is Beautiful" Nominated [29]
1971 Record of the Year "Everything Is Beautiful" Nominated [29]
1971 Song of the Year "Everything Is Beautiful" Nominated [29]
1971 Best Inspirational Performance "Love Lifted Me" Nominated [29]
1976 Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) "Misty" Won [28]
1976 Best Country Vocal Performance – Male "Misty" Nominated [30]
1980 Best Comedy Recording "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow" Nominated [31]
1988 "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex" Nominated [32]


  1. ^ a b "Ray Stevens just thinks funny". Ray Stevens. January 8, 2016. Retrieved February 3, 2018.
  2. ^ Friskics-Warren, Bill (October 10, 2009). "Shelby Singleton, Nashville Producer, Dies at 77". The New York Times. Retrieved October 10, 2022.
  3. ^ "Ray Stevens Comes Streaking Back With Immigration Song". The New York Times. June 2, 2010. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
  4. ^ Roy, Don (1998). "Ray Stevens". In Kingsbury, Paul (ed.). The Encyclopedia of Country Music. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 507. ISBN 978-0195116717 – via Internet Archive.
  5. ^ "Ray Stevens | Artist Bio". Country Music Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2022-02-12.
  6. ^ "Ray Stevens' Younger Brother Has "Unexpectedly" Died At Age 75". Classic Country Music. 2 April 2020. Retrieved 2022-02-12.
  7. ^ Hieronymus, Clara (December 1970). "Ray Stevens". BMI: The Many Worlds of Music. New York: Broadcast Music, Inc. p. 19.
  8. ^ a b Woodstra, Chris; Erlewine, Steven Thomas; Bogdanov, Vladamir; Erlewine, Michael (1997). All Music Guide to Country: The Experts' Guide to the Best Country Recordings. Backbeat Books. p. 448. ISBN 978-0-8793-0475-1.
  9. ^ "Reviews and Ratings". Billboard. January 24, 1957. p. 52.
  10. ^ Warner, Jay (2006). American Singing Groups: A History, From 1940 to Today. Hal Leonard. p. 100. ISBN 978-0-352-33533-3.
  11. ^ Wadhams, Wayne (2001). Inside the Hits: The Seduction of a Rock and Roll Generation (Pop Culture). Berklee Press. pp. 78–82. ISBN 978-0-6340-1430-7.
  12. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 286. ISBN 978-0-2142-0512-5.
  13. ^ Bronson, Fred (2003). The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits (updated and expanded 5th ed.). Billboard Books. p. 365. ISBN 978-0-8230-7677-2. Retrieved 2018-07-08.
  14. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 301. ISBN 978-1-9049-9410-7.
  15. ^ a b "Stevens Nuts over 'Squirrel'". Billboard. December 8, 1984. pp. 39, 42.
  16. ^ "Adult Contemporary Chart". Billboard.[dead link]
  17. ^ "Box Score Top Grossing Concerts". Billboard. June 1, 1985. p. 48. ISSN 0006-2510.
  18. ^ "Ray Stevens Bio: Ray Stevens Career". CMT Artists. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  19. ^ "We The People CD". Ray Stevens. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  20. ^ "Ray Stevens – Timeline Photos". Facebook. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
  21. ^ Stevens, Ray; Kalb, C. W. Buddy (March 1, 2014). Ray Stevens' Nashville. Harold R.Ragsdale A/K/A Ray Stevens. ISBN 978-0-6159-9308-9. Retrieved October 27, 2017 – via Google Books.
  22. ^ Betts, Stephen L. (June 20, 2014). "Ray Stevens' Nashville Details Comic Performer's Versatile Career: Comedic country legend writes memoir of good old days in Music City". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 20, 2014.
  23. ^ "Ray Stevens' Live Music in Nashville - Nashville Attractions & Events This Weekend". Ray Stevens Cabaray.
  24. ^ Billboard, March 24, 2015 – Ray Stevens Returns With 'Taylor Swift Is Stalkin' Me' – By Chuck Dauphin
  25. ^ Dauphin, Chuck (March 24, 2015). "Ray Stevens Has YouTube Hit With Pro-Arizona Song". Billboard. Retrieved October 10, 2022.
  26. ^ Dukes, Billy (January 2022). "Ray Stevens' Wife Penny Has Died". Taste of Country. Retrieved January 1, 2022.
  27. ^ "Grammy Awards: Best Pop Vocal Performance – Male". Rockonthennet.com. Retrieved October 27, 2017.
  28. ^ a b "Past Winners Search". Grammy Awards. April 30, 2017. Retrieved October 27, 2017.
  29. ^ a b c d e "Grammy Awards 1971". Awardsandshows.com. Retrieved October 27, 2017.
  30. ^ "Grammy Awards 1976". Awardsandshows.com. Retrieved October 27, 2017.
  31. ^ Arar, Yardena (January 9, 1980). "Grammy awards field a definite mixed bag". The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved April 23, 2010.
  32. ^ McShane, Larry (January 15, 1988). "Irish rockers among Grammy nominees". The Telegraph. Nashua, NH. Associated Press. p. 35. Retrieved April 24, 2010.