RAY STEVENS, MUSIC VIDEO COMEDIAN
BOUND FOR GAGS
You won’t see Ray Stevens in The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll, but that doesn’t mean that country music’s rubber-faced court jester isn’t a video juggernaut in his own right. Sparked by a three-year, 12 sold-out shows-a-week run in Branson, Mo., the honky-tonk pianist/comedian has been dominating the music-video sales chart with two long-form tapes on which he’ll go to any lengths for a laugh-dress up in a camel outfit, sport a white spangled Elvis jumpsuit, even break up a sincere ballad with rude armpit-pumping sounds. In an industry in which sales of 100,000 copies equals platinum success, Stevens has sold more than 3.3 million of his no-frills comedy tapes on his own label, Clyde Records. The first, 1992’s Comedy Video Classics, has been on Billboard’s Music Video Chart for 98 weeks, while 1993’s Ray Stevens Live! has racked up 45 weeks. And those numbers don’t even reflect the success the tapes had before hitting stores, when they were available through late-night television commercials. Before Stevens, 56, became a video superstar by updating and hamming up his arsenal of down-home hits such as ”I Saw Elvis in a U.F.O.,” ”Ahab the Arab,” and ”The Streak,” it was his serious side that earned him a Grammy for 1970’s ”Everything Is Beautiful.” ”At this point I’ve sort of been typecast as a singer of comedy songs,” says Stevens, who lays his hat in Nashville. ”(They) appeal to a really broad age group. A lot of young kids like the comedy songs, and they translate well into video.” Stevens calls his next project a ”video movie album,” which will incorporate 10 of his oft-recycled old songs and feature a cameo from Hee Haw’s George ”Goober” Lindsey. ”I’m not trying to get two thumbs up from Siskel and Ebert,” Stevens says. ”I’m just making a little movie, playing my little songs.” And what happens in his movie debut? ”I slip on a banana peel and go into a dream.” A banana peel? Guess Stevens really will do anything for a laugh.