A popular novelty singer who has fame far beyond the chart performance of his many hits. Born Harold Ray Ragsdale, he spent several years performing in his native Atlanta area. He released his first single, "Sgt. Preston of the Yukon" in 1960, and received a little bit of notoriety after a copyright infringement forced the single to be withdrawn.
He didn't hit the charts again until 1961, with "Jeremiah Peabody's Polyunsaturated Quick-Dissolving Fast-Acting Pleasant-Tasting Green and Purple Pills", a novelty song about quack medicine. It was followed by "Ahab, the Arab", which took him to #5 pop. Throughout the 1960s and into the early 1970s, his presence was hit-and-miss on the charts, although he made top 10 with "Gitarzan" and had a huge #1 hit with the non-humorous pop ballad "Everything Is Beautiful".
Stevens hit his stride in 1974 with "The Streak", a novelty song about, well, streaking. This song and a bluegrass cover of "Misty" were his biggest hits at country radio, where he maintained a hit-and-miss presence for the next several years. His last song to see the pop charts was "I Need Your Help Barry Manilow", which was followed by his last big country hit, "Shriner's Convention". He has continued to record throughout the 1980s and into the 2000s, constantly releasing albums despite not having anything resembling a hit. In 2010 with the rise of the "Tea Party" in American politics, he staged something of a mini-comeback, gaining a YouTube following with his release of several songs espousing right-wing political views.
Yet, despite his success as a novelty artist, he has always balanced the comedy songs with mainstream ballads and Christian country music. In 1975, he recorded an entire album of standards from the 1920s through 1950s called Misty, of which the title track was his biggest country hit, and also had a modestly popular hit with "Indian Love Call" (one of the co-writers was Oscar Hammerstein II, Richard Rodgers' partner). His biggest hit overall, "Everything is Beautiful," was widely acclaimed as a plea for tolerance and unity, and several of his comedic releases had themes of repentance ("Mississippi Squirrel Revival") and humility ("Would Jesus Wear a Rolex"); he also has recorded an album of traditional and newer gospel hymns.
His daughter, Suzi Ragsdale, is a folk musician and occasional songwriter.
Ray Stevens and his works provide examples of:
- Affectionate Parody:
- Ambiguous Syntax: "Little League":I remember batting practice I put a baseball on a string
And I told this kid, "When I nod my head, haul off and hit that thing!"
Heh, gotta give him credit; he did exactly what I said
'Cause the second that I nodded, he hit me in the head!
- Anti-Christmas Song: From Christmas Through a Different Window:
- "Guilt for Christmas" which contemplates about giving sorrow toward everyone Ray meets.
- "I Won't be Home for Christmas", where Ray complains about how all the members of one Dysfunctional Family invading his house on December 25.
- "Home for the Holidays" is the reverse of "I Won't be Home for Christmas"; Ray gets guilt-tripped into visiting a different Dysfunctional Family since his mother cries while bringing up Daddy's heart condition.
- "The Little Drummer Boy Next Door" has Ray complaining about a neighbor's kid playing his drums late into the evening. Once the kid's father takes away his drum set, things go From Bad to Worse...Ray: Oh, no! What kind of sadistic idiot would buy a kid a set of drums AND a trumpet for Christmas?
- "Santa Claus Is Watching You" brings up the Big Brother-ish fridge logic attached to the old parental standby of Santa Claus knowing if a child has been good or bad through 24-hr surveillance.
- Author Avatar: The Streak is a cartoon version of Ray.
- Based on a True Story: In a past election, Ray's deceased grandfather was used in a voting fraud. Ray used the incident to write "Grandpa Voted Democrat" to inspire people to vote honestly.
- Bad Santa: Played for Laughs in "Santa Claus Is Watchin' You", where he's the "secret head of the CIA" and wire-taps your phone.
- Big Damn Heroes: "...and then Along Came Jones..."
- Big "SHUT UP!": In "Harry the Hairy Ape", when Ray mentions that the DJ played Harry's record, a woman demanded "What record?", to which Ray said this to avoid explaining where the record came from.
- Black Comedy: Sometimes employed on his MCA albums in the 1980s. Examples include "Hugo the Human Cannonball" (see below).
- Blowing a Raspberry: He does this in "We The People":To put it in words you might understand, if you had the common sense that God gave a billy goat, you'd no doubt noticed that your constituents, the electorate - that's us, voters - are onto your pork-barrel-special-interest-tax-and-spend-scam. Or, to put it more succinctly, pffffft!
- Bring Me My Brown Pants: In "The Camping Trip", Ray's wife continuously asked where the restroom was, thinking Ray was joking about going behind a tree or bush. When Ray and his family are running for the lives after encountering a bear, his wife says she doesn't need a restroom anymore.
- Butt-Monkey: The narrator in "Deerslayer" was perhaps the biggest one in all of Ray's songs. After supposedly accidentally killing a deer that ran into his car, he decided to take it home. Turns out that it was only stunned and upon waking up, it trashed his car. To make matters worse, a pack of hunting dogs that had been chasing the deer attacked him and trapped him on top of a telephone booth. Finally, after the police he had called arrived, they arrested him for having a deer out of season and was given thirty days, during which he lost his job and his wife left him.
- Call-Back: "Dudley Dooright of the Highway Patrol" contains references to several other songs, including "The Streak", "Shriner's Convention", "Mississippi Squirrel Revival", and "The Haircut Song".
- Cerebus Rollercoaster: In The '60s and The '70s especially, Stevens freely bounced between novelty songs and serious pop tunes. "The Streak" also opened him up to the Country Music market. By The '80s he'd reinvented himself as a comedic Country performer, which is where he's mostly stayed, along with his post-9/11 move toward politically-charged humor.
- Chained to a Railway: Parodied in "Along Came Jones", which tells of a TV viewer watching a cliched Western in which a Damsel in Distress is held by a villain, and rescued at the last second by a Marty Stu named Jones. In the third verse, the damsel is tied to a railroad track.
- Chocolate Baby: "Fred", about a hunting dog who comes home with a pregnant female dog. Fred gets run over at the end of the song, and then the narrator realizes that none of the female's pups looks anything like Fred.
- Christmas Songs: Most famously "Santa Claus Is Watching You". He released a novelty Christmas album in the late 1990s which included some Anti Christmas Songs, including one where people call Santa un-PC because he smokes a pipe, wears fur, works only one day of the year, is "grossly overweight", etc. (But just to keep it from being too anvilicious, he admits that it was All Just a Dream and says that even something politically incorrect can still be right.)
- City of Weirdos: Invoked in the "Haircut Song", where he tells stories about getting haircuts in various cities. After getting a punk haircut by a skinhead barber, he claims he was lucky his next job was in San Francisco - "those people thought I was an insurance salesman!"
- Clucking Funny: He's rendered "In the Mood" and "Also sprach Zarathustra" entirely in chicken clucks. There's also "Teenage Mutant Kung Fu Chickens".
- Code Name: "Shriner's Convention" pokes fun at the titles used by the Shriners International (the dudes with red fezzes).Noble Lumpkin? This here's the Illustrious Potentate. *pause* I said it's the Illustrious Potentate. *pause* The Illustrious— Coy, dadblame it, this here's Bubba!
- Compensating for Something: According to "Power Tools", this is why men his age play with power tools:Well, some folks say that macho men use tools to compensate
For a decline in virility. Now I've thought about that, but wait
There may be some validity in what those people say
But in my case, it's just the only way I get to go outside and play!
- Confused Bystander Interview: In "The Streak", the same witness is there at every appearance of a streaker.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: "Mr. Businessman".
- Counterfeit Cash: In "Obama Budget Plan", the narrator and his family print up their own money in the basement. Naturally, he and his family get arrested at the end of the video.
- Department of Redundancy Department: The lyrics to "Greatest Little Christmas Ever Wuz" include allusions and direct mentions to several holidays at least twice throughout the song.
- Dinner Order Flub: "Gourmet Restaurant" is filled with this.So I asked the waiter, "How's the beef?"
He said "Ze steak tartar is ze best you ever had."
But when he brought it, friends, I thought I'd seen rare meat
But this wasn't even hurt real bad!
- Distressed Damsel: Sweet Sue of "Along Came Jones", targeted by Salty Sam for the deed to her ranch.
- Doom It Yourself: The subject of the song "Power Tools", who is so obsessed with the title objects that he keeps finding himself in increasingly humorous situations. In the last verse, he finds himself in the hospital, obsessing over his power bed.
- Drives Like Crazy: In "The Day I Tried To Teach Charlene Mackenzie (How To Drive)", the titular Charlene is so hard of hearing that she misunderstood all of Ray's instructions and ended up tearing across the town.
- Dysfunctional Family: The inspiration behind "I Won't be Home for Christmas".
- Elderly Blue-Haired Lady: In "A Little Blue-Haired Lady", he's stuck behind one driving slowly in an Oldsmobile.
- Elvis Has Left the Planet: According to "I Saw Elvis in a UFO", he was abducted by aliens. Also on the ship are "Colonel" Tom Parker(Elvis's manager), Howard Hughes, Liberace, and Jimmy Hoffa.
- Epic Fail: In "I Won't Be Home For Christmas", when Ray's brother-in-law messed with the Christmas lights, he ended up blowing out the fuse box, knocking out the heat, and caused all the plumbing to freeze.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys:
- "Harry the Hairy Ape"
- The title character's pet monkey in "Gitarzan", who "[...] likes to get drunky and sing boogie-woogie and it sounds real funky."
- Everything's Louder with Bagpipes: "Bagpipes (That's My Bag)", where he uses his voice to imitate them.
- Facepalm: In the "Sittin' Up With The Dead" music video, a mortician facepalms himself when Uncle Fred sits up after breaking the chains holding him down.
- Falling Bass: "Mr. Businessman" uses a chromatic variant, as the bassline in the verses (played on piano) descends by semitones.
- Feuding Families: In "Family Funeral Fight", the feud is within a single family, which was divided and had a shaky truce due to the deceased's youngest son, Earl, burning down his brother's trailer and stealing his wife. The fight in the song erupts when the wife calls out that she still loves Earl.
- Filibuster Freefall: Like an awful lot of Americans, Stevens' politics took a hard-right swerve after 2001, starting with the anti-healthcare song "We the People" in 2009, a pro-Sarah Palin song ("Caribou Barbie") after that, and the anti-immigration (well, illegal immigration, but it's not exactly friendly) song "Come to the USA".
- Freudian Slip: His song of that title is about a man who tries to impress a woman with his Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness but instead says something embarrassing. The second time he meets the woman, she's holding his job interview, and Hilarity Ensues once again.
- The "Fun" in "Funeral":
- "Sittin' Up With the Dead", in which his late Uncle Fred is so horribly bent over due to arthritis that the morticians have to use a heavy chain to straighten him out. Somehow the chain snaps in the middle of the wake, causing Uncle Fred to sit up in his casket. Hilarity Ensues.
- Also in "Family Funeral Fight".
- Greatest Hits Album: For whatever reason, Curb frequently re-releases several of his biggest songs, usually in re-recorded form, on an increasingly large set of Greatest Hits albums dating back to The '80s.
- Hand Wave: Played for Laughs in "Harry the Hairy Ape" when Ray mentioned Harry's record out of the blue, to which a woman demanded where it came from, with Ray responding with a Big "SHUT UP!".
- Harassing Phone Call: "It's Me Again, Margaret" features several of these, with increasingly dirty contentnote .
- Here We Go Again!: Done in several of his songs:
- In "Family Funeral Fight", after the law enforcement manages to stop the family from fighting, they attempt to finish the funeral service before hauling them to jail. However, Grandma is startled awake when the Honor Guards fired their rifles, causing a boy to yell out they shot her, resulting in the fight starting back up, even bigger this time.
- In "The Day I Tried To Teach Charlene Mackenzie (How To Drive)", Charlene's bad hearing caused her to mistake Ray's comment "Don't rev it so much! Take your foot off the gas!" for "Hit that clutch and make it go fast!", resulting in her driving like a madwoman. After Ray gets her to stop, a highway patrol cop who was on the windshield said the same sentence, resulting in Ray going on another wild ride.
- Horny Vikings: The titular character of "Erik the Awful" has a "hairy hat, shaped like a big bullet with horns comin' out the sides."
- Horrible Camping Trip: "The Camping Trip" on the album Surely You Joust is about one.
- Human Cannonball: One of his darker songs, "Hugo the Human Cannonball", is about one who has a rather unfortunate mishap. (He splatters all over the upper bleachers.)
- Impact Silhouette: The reverend leaves one as he exits the house during the mass panic in in "Sittin' Up With the Dead".
- Implacable Man: Erik the Awful, the brutal, and tenacious. (Mercy sakes, goodness gracious!) He will not stop chasing you.
- In Mysterious Ways:
Now you've heard the Bible stories, I guess
- The conclusion of "Mississippi Squirrel Revival". After the titular squirrel is set loose in a church and causes havoc, the churchgoers assume the antics to be the doings of the Spirit, and thus undergo redemption. Stevens concludes the song thusly:
Of how He parted the waters for Moses to pass
All the miracles God has brought to this ol' world
But the one I'll remember to my dyin' day
Is how he put that church back on the narrow way
With a half-crazed Mississippi squirrel
- In "Too Drunk To Fish", after drunkenly getting him and Ray shipwrecked on a sand-barge, Harold mistakes the rescue helicopter's searchlight for the Lord, to which he prays for another chance, vowing to go sober. Harold makes good on his word and never touches alcohol ever again. Ray comments that Lord performs miracles in mysterious ways.
- In the Style of...:
- Johnny Mathis' "Misty" as a bluegrass song.
- Ray taps The Beach Boys for "Surfin' USSR".
- "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow" is a parody of Manilow's stylings, down to his blatant use of key changes.
- "Moonlight Special" is a five-minute parody of The Midnight Special, with Ray voicing a Wolfman Jack parody called "The Sheepdog", along with style parodies of Gladys Knight and the Pips, Alice Cooper, and Jerry Lee Lewis.
- Sammi Smith's "Help Me Make It Through the Night" in the style of Spike Jones.
- "Ned Nostril" mimics Johnny Cash's deep vocals and boom-chicka rhythms. It even opens with the "Folsom Prison Blues" riff and has the humming and key changes of "I Walk the Line".
- Michael Jackson's "Bad", also as a bluegrass song.
- Issue Drift: Most of his 21st century output has been a lot more politically driven.
- Japan Takes Over the World: Mocked in his 1991 single "Workin' for the Japanese":Were all working for the Japanese
Little cars and color TVs
Sending all our money overseas
To the Eastern sphere
One day were gonna lose our roots
Wear Oriental jeans and boots
And drink nothing but Kawasaki sake, Honda wine, and Mitsubishi light beer
- Jar Potty: From "The Annual Office Christmas Party"...The restroom's occupied, but there's a palm tree in the hall.
Employee: Well, excuuuuuse me!
- "Jeopardy!" Thinking Music: In the live version of "It's Me Again, Margaret", the first two bars play after the lead character spends way too long dialing the phone.
- Kids Rock: His children sing "Jesus Loves the Little Children" at the opening of "Everything Is Beautiful".
- Laugh Track: He's used one on a lot of his comedic songs, probably to make them sound more "fun". He's even used it when he produces novelty material for other artists (like "Frog Kissin' " by Chet Atkins).
- Lawful Stupid: The title police officer in "Super Cop". Upon seeing a person parked in a handicapped spot, he shoots the owner of the car in the foot and says "You're handicapped now!" Later on, he sees a grocery store patron with 10 items in a checkout lane, and demands that she drink her corn oil — the entire bottle — to get the count down to 9. Potty Failure ensues.
- List Song: "The Greatest Little Christmas Ever Wuz", which mentions having a man cram a year's worth of holidays into Christmas upon reuniting with his love.
- Long Title: "Jeremiah Peabody's Polyunsaturated Quick-Dissolving Fast-Acting Pleasant-Tasting Green and Purple Pills" and "Ned Nostril (And His South Seas Paradise, Puts Your Blues on Ice, Cheap at Twice the Price Band [Ikky-Ikky, Ukky-Ukky])".
- Ludicrous Gibs: The eventual fate of "Hugo The Human Cannonball".
- Mass "Oh, Crap!": The people at Uncle Fred's funeral visitation in "Sittin' Up With The Dead" have a collective moment of terror when they see him sit up, screaming "Yeow!".
- Meanwhile, Back at the... Motel: This is the transition from the verses to the skits on "Shriner's Convention".
- Microwave the Dog: In "Home for the Holidays", Ray has nightmares about seeing his nephew cooking a cat in a microwave.
- Mighty Lumberjack: "The Haircut Song" is about a variety of haircuts Stevens has received from insane barbers. Whenever he is feeling intimidated by a barber and is asked what he does for a living, his immediate response is "I'm a logger!":Now a lot of people would be intimidated in a situation like this...I was not. I am what I am, play my piano, and sing my little songs. I looked him right in the eye and I said, I'm a logger - just up from Coos Bay, Oregon. Been toppin' trees - quite possibly the toughest man in the entire world.
- Misplaced Retribution: In "The Ballad of the Blue Cyclone", when Ray's friend Virgil threw a chair into the wrestling ring, the titular Blue Cyclone beat up Ray. Granted, he thought Ray did it, but it was still unfair, especially since Virgil had gotten to the safety of the car and locked Ray out.
- Motor Mouth: The original version of "Further More".
- My Dad Can Beat Up Your Dad: Inverted in "My Dad", a cover of Paul Petersen ("My dad can beat up your dad, but he wouldn't").
- Naked People Are Funny: "The Streak", of course.
- Newhart Phone Call/Repeating so the Audience Can Hear: "Shriner's Convention" consists of a one-sided dialogue, via hotel phone, between two members of the Hahira, Georgia, delegation: leader "Illustrious Potentate" (Bubba), and member "Noble Lumpkin" (Coy), whose wild antics and failure to show up for functions are driving Bubba crazy. Over the course of the conversation we hear from Bubba about Coy's various exploits which include getting his Harley-Davidson motorcycle into his hotel room and on the high diving board of the hotel swimming pool, being in said pool with "a bunch of them waitresses from the cocktail lounge", and getting a "little redhead" (to quote Bubba) to streak through their banquet yelling out the "secret code," wearing nothing but Coy's fez ('cuz Coy's the only one that has a fez with a propeller on top).
- Never My Fault: In "Bad Little Boy", the eponymous bad boy blames the cat he superglued to a rocket for it veering off course and landing in a dog's backyard.
- Nice Hat: Parodied in "You Gotta Have a Hat", where he is told that wearing a cowboy hat is the key to being a star. This was Truth in Television at the time, given that the song came out in the wake of the "hat act" craze in the early 1990s (i.e., young hunky country singers in cowboy hats).
- Noodle Implements:
- "It's Me Again, Margaret" describes an obscene phone caller, who in the last verse uses his one phone call after his arrest to call the titular Margaret one last time, informing her that when he gets out, he's coming over with a weed whacker, a live chicken, and some Cool Whip (or peach preserves in one recording). The video goes one further, having Margaret show up at the police station with said items as she comes to bail him out.Margaret: And, uh, how much for those handcuffs?
- "Shriner's Convention" combines this with Noodle Incident:Oh! Hello! Coy? Where have you been? No, you wasn't at the meeting! Well, I found out that at three o'clock this mornin', you was out there in your Fruit of the Looms in the motel swimmin' pool with a bunch of them little waitresses from the cocktail lounge! I just hope Charlene don't find out about this, Coy! What? Well, how'd you get that big motorcycle up there on the high dive, Coy?
- "It's Me Again, Margaret" describes an obscene phone caller, who in the last verse uses his one phone call after his arrest to call the titular Margaret one last time, informing her that when he gets out, he's coming over with a weed whacker, a live chicken, and some Cool Whip (or peach preserves in one recording). The video goes one further, having Margaret show up at the police station with said items as she comes to bail him out.
- One Phone Call: Parodied in "It's Me Again, Margaret", which is about Willard McBane, an obscene phone caller who keeps calling the title character until he gets arrested. He uses his phone call to call her one last time before he's jailed.
- Parking Payback: Upon seeing a person parked in a handicapped spot, the title character of "Super Cop" shoots the owner of the car in the foot and says "You're handicapped now!"
- Please Put Some Clothes On: In "The Streak", the man being interviewed yells at Ethel to "[...] get your clothes on!" as she's streaking off with The Streak.
- Political Correctness Gone Mad: "Guilt for Christmas" hints at this.I hate Christmas shopping,
it makes me a wreck,
especially when the gifts must be politically correct.
Don't give an boy an army toy;
that gun could make him vicious.
Don't give a girl a doll with curls;
she'll spend her whole life doing dishes.
- Pre-emptive Declaration: In "Sittin' Up With the Dead", during the mass panic, the reverend says he's going out the kitchen door.I hollered, 'Rev, that kitchen ain't got no door in it!' He said, 'Don't worry son, it will have in a minute!'
- Protest Song: Much of his 21st century output has taken on a political bent, but the 1970 hit "America, Communicate with Me" (which addresses war protesters and the assassinations of civil rights leaders, among other things) shows that he is no stranger to the genre.
- Rearrange the Song:
- The 1984 album He Thinks He's Ray Stevens had a re-do of his 1962 single "Furthermore", changing it from a goofy Motor Mouth song to a slower country waltz. He also changed a few of the lyrics, most notably altering the last verse so that it was no longer identical to the first.
- He's re-recorded "Santa Claus Is Watchin' You" (also from 1962) at least twice: first for his 1985 album I Have Returned, and again in the late 1990s for Christmas Through a Different Window.
- Another track from I Have Returned, "The Pirate Song (I Want to Sing and Dance)", showed up in re-recorded form only six years later on #1 with a Bullet.
- "The Ballad of the Blue Cyclone" from I Have Returned was abridged and spliced together from two separate tracks (Part 1 and Part 2) for the single edit. The single edit later appeared on a Greatest Hits Album.
- There's a small debate about why the radio edit of "The Haircut Song" took out the entire second verse (about the skinhead barber). Obviously, with that verse being the longest verse, a radio edit being tough to do with only taking out small parts of a single verse with it being a comedy song, and with the first and last verses meshing well together without the second, it was only a natural omission. However, the second verse also has the most controversial barber of them: the skinhead barber. The barber uses a Nazi flag as a hair shield drape, the detailed description of the barber and the shop, and the barber being a homosexual (ironic that he would be given what is described about him beforehand). Not to mention that the song was recorded somewhat prior to when media attention towards skinheads began to rise (the song was released three years before the now infamous Geraldo skinhead episode). The omission seems like an act of PC censorship, even when the inclusion of the verse would've made the song six minutes long (as opposed to the four minutes of the radio edit). The radio edit, though, (which the video uses and which appears on his Box Set album) does has its positives. It takes out the laugh track that Ray used on a lot of other songs he had. It also adds a few acts of acting out his emotions with the other barbers (he coughs when he tells the first barber, in a squeaky voice, that he's possibly the toughest man in the entire world). The altered track does also seem to have a much cleaner sound than the original.
- Curb Records is notorious for releasing compilation albums that feature re-recordings of some of his bigger hits such as "Ahab, the Arab" and "Shriner's Convention" (the latter of which was already re-recorded for a Greatest Hits Album in The '80s).
- Refrain from Assuming: "Mississippi Squirrel Revival" is commonly assumed to be called "The Day the Squirrel Went Berserk" (the first line of the chorus).
- Religion Rant Song: "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?" is one about the hypocrisy of televangelists asking for money while appearing to be opulent themselves.This man was preachin' at me, yeah, layin' on the charm
Asking me for twenty with ten thousand on his arm
- Rise from Your Grave: In "Sittin' Up With the Dead", the chains binding Uncle Fred snap and he sits up during a thunderstorm. Cue a Mass "Oh, Crap!" from the people attending the funeral.
- Running Gag:
- During "The Streak", each of the three disturbances has the news reporter interviewing the same man.Reporter: Pardon me, sir, did you see what happened?
Interviewee: Yeah, I did.
- Another one is invoked throughout "It's Me Again, Margaret" with the obscene caller talking to the same woman.
- During "The Streak", each of the three disturbances has the news reporter interviewing the same man.
- Running Time in the Title: His debut album, 1,837 Seconds of Humor.
- Saving Christmas: "The Nightmare Before Christmas" (from Christmas Through a Different Window, and completely unrelated to the film) shows Political Correctness Gone Mad when Santa Claus is arrested and put on trial for several different crimes, including abusing his reindeer, hiring only elves in his factory, flying without FAA approval, billions of cases of unlawful entry, and smoking tobacco. At the end, the judge, because he was one of Santa's "victims" of unlawful entry, dismisses all the charges. (Fortunately, this whole ordeal was nothing more than an Acid Reflux Nightmare).Must've been the pepperoni.
- Self-Backing Vocalist / Solo Duet: Stevens did a lot of his own backing vocals:
- In "Gitarzan", he voices the title character, his girlfriend Jane, and their pet monkey, all of whom sing together before the final chorus.
- He uses his voice to mimic a whole band in "Freddie Feelgood", making vocal impressions of the bass, trombone, and drums.
- In "Bridget the Midget", he voices both himself and the title character, whose voice is just his pitched up.
- In "The Streak", he voices a news reporter and the man being interviewed; he portrays them both in the music video.
- In "The Dooright Family", he voices an entire gospel family band.
- Many of his 1970s and 1980s songs feature a wall of female backing vocalists, which are usually backing vocalist Lisa Silver multi-tracked over herself. Some of the songs (such as "Turn Your Radio On") also have Ray singing a bass harmony under himself.
- "Sex Symbols" is a "duet" between Ray and "Julio Iglesias" (which Ray pronounces "Joo-le-oh" despite constant corrections). "Julio"'s voice is just Ray impersonating him.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: In "We The People":To put it mildly, we're harboring feelings of extreme alienation, due to copious amounts of horse manure that have been shoveled out of the White House and the Capitol Building, and we sense that we are being royally defecated upon.
- In "We The People":
- Also:Please tell Nancy Pelosi
We're gonna do the Hokey Pokey
Pull the right ones in
And pull the left ones out
- Something Completely Different: Stevens always balanced his goofy, side-splittingly funny songs with serious material, meaning ballads and gospel. Two of his biggest hits — 1970's "Everything is Beautiful" and 1975's "Misty" — are prime examples.
- His television appearances also often remind viewers and fans of his broad range of styles; for instance, a Hee Haw episode from the early 1970s saw him sing the heartbreak song "Isn't It Lonely Together" (about two people who had to get married after the man got the woman pregnant) in the earlier segment, followed up by "Gitarzan" (incidentally, the follow-up single to "... Lonely Together") later in the show. His 1970 TV series often saw him perform at least one of his comedy songs and at least one non-comedic song (either a ballad or gospel song).
- Sound Effects Bleep: In "We The People":You vote Obamacare, we gonna vote you out of there,
We the people have awakened to your tricks,
You vote to let this pass, you gonna be out on your [*foghorn*] note
Cause we the people have awakened...
- Spoonerism: From "I Won't Be Home for Christmas":You know, it wouldn't be so bad
if all that came was Mom and Dad
but no, the whole famn damily's got to show.
- Spit Take: In "It's Me Again, Margaret", video version, the police visibly have a very Seen It All attitude about the affair until the end, when they realize he's using his one phone call to call his victim again. One spits his drink out.
- Squirrels in My Pants: Happens to two characters in "Mississippi Squirrel Revival", one more literally than the other.Now, Harv hit the aisle, a-dancin' and a-screamin'
Some thought he had religion, others thought he had a demon
And Harv thought he had a weed eater loose in his Fruit of the Looms
As the squirrel made laps inside her dress
She began to cry and then to confess
To sins that would make a sailor blush with shame
- Stalker with a Crush: Willard McBane in "It's Me Again, Margaret" repeatedly makes obscene calls to the titular Margaret. In the final verse, he uses his One Phone Call to give her another obscene call.
- Stop Copying Me: In the "Mildred Queen and the Dips" segment of "Moonlight Special", where he voices both "Mildred Queen" (a Gladys Knight parody) and her backing vocalist. They echo all of her lines, culminating in this exchange:
- Mildred: Wait a minute!
Backing vocalists: ♪Wait a minute♪
Mildred: How come you're singing everything I sing?
Backing vocalists: ♪How come you're singing everything I sing?♪
Mildred: Now cut that out!
Backing vocalists: ♪Now cut that out♪
Mildred: Stop that!
Backing vocalists: ♪Stop that♪
Mildred: Now I know why I call you guys the Dips!
Backing vocalists: ♪Now I know why I call you guys the Dips♪
Mildred: You're dippy!
Backing vocalists: ♪You're dippy♪
Backing vocalists: ♪Aaaaaahhhh~♪
- Streaking: "The Streak" is a about a streaker appearing at number of unlikely locales: a supermarket, a gas station, and a basketball playoff game.
- Super-Persistent Predator: "Erik the Awful" had Erik the Viking continuously chasing the citizens of the village he was attacking across the world until they gave in and allowed themselves to be plundered by him.
- Take That!: The Dixie Chicks song "Goodbye Earl" clashed with his values enough that he recorded a response song saying that Earl survived and was repenting for his misdeeds.
- Talk Like a Pirate: In "The Pirate Song", he voices two characters: a typical "arrrr!"-type pirate who is frustrated at a normal-voiced pirate who wants to abandon his ways to sing and dance instead.
- Thematic Series: "Erik the Awful" is this to "Ahab the Arab." The songs, which are both about a sort of wacky stereotypical foreigner, are structured very similarly, and even feature some of the same lines, though there's no direct mention of Ahab in "Erik."
- Translated Cover Version: A Cajun French version of "The Streak" by Belton Richard was released soon after the original and became a huge hit in Louisiana.
- Truck Driver's Gear Change:
- Of course, used in "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow" to parody Manilow's use of the same.
- Also shows up in Ray's cover of the theme from The Monkees, which he performs as an Austrian singing troupe. Come the key change, one of the singers (who of course, is Ray) protests that the lead singer went up too high.
- Visual Pun: On the cover of #1 with a Bullet (a term often used to describe a #1 song that's gaining in airplaynote ), he's holding an actual bullet.
- Vocal Evolution: Until about the early 1980s, he often sang his novelty songs in a nasal, goofy voice while using a smoother (albeit very strident) voice on the more serious songs. Eventually, he started using his natural voice on everything, and his more serious songs became less strident.
- Vocal Range Exceeded:
- At the end of "The Dooright Family", the titular gospel singing family asks their bass singer to drop down another octave. The result is a loud booming note that makes him explode on stage.
- Also happens to Wolfgang in the aforementioned Monkees cover — it hurts his little wienerschnitzel. He and Fritzy then proceed to argue about it.
- Your Mom: "Osama Yo' Mama".