Ray Stevens describes himself as a "niche" artist, his niche being novelty recordings, but that barely scratches the surface of his talent or his career. His classic novelty records, such as Ahab The Arab, Gitarzan and The Streak, stand as the very definition of comedy recording for the past 35 years.
The sales figures for Ray's Comedy Video Classics collection, Ray Stevens Live and his comedy video movie Get Serious are milestones in the music video industry. His success is based on musical talent and not dependent on a funny line, as evidenced by his two Grammy awards, for one of the all-time great inspirational songs, Everything Is Beautiful, and for his imaginative, banjo-flavored arrangement of the jazz standard Misty.
In 1969, Ray embarked on a phenomenal streak of recordings that took him into all styles of music. The jungle band comedy Gitarzan returned to the pop Top 10, while on the country front he recognized the talent of a young Nashville writer and became the first artist to record Kris Kristofferson's Sunday Morning Coming Down. Later he hit the pop charts with a revival of the old Coasters pop/R&B hit, Along Came Jones.
In 1970 Everything is Beautiful won Ray a Grammy for Male vocalist of the Year. The following year he hit the country charts with a remake of the gospel standard Turn Your Radio On. In 1974 he turned a national craze into a national novelty hit with The Streak, which immortalized the phrase Don't look, Ethel.
In the 1980's, Ray's comedic commentary put an entertaining twist on such subjects as conventioneer behavior at a Shriner's Convention, rich TV preachers in Would Jesus Wear A Rolex?, southern church incidents in Mississippi Squirrel Revival and anonymous callers in It's Me Again, Margaret.
In 1992, his Comedy Video Classics ended up selling over two million copies. A video of his live Branson show sold a million copies. In 1995 he took the music video idea a step further and made a full-length video movie, Get Serious. It sold platinum from TV ads.
Recently Ray recorded another comedy album Hum It and a comedy Christmas album Christmas Through A Different Window. A new audio album Ear Candy is mostly comedy but also includes a great uplifting ballad titled Safe At Home.