He sings songs that rhyme “Pascagoula” with “hallelujah,” changes voices in his novelty titles and had one of his biggest-selling hits by celebrating a naked man streaking through the fruits-and-vegetables section at the local supermarket.
You can’t really fight the notion of Ray Stevens making an April Fools Day appearance on the Grand Ole Opry’s Country Classics. Ray was, in fact, just a part of the tomfoolery at the Ryman Auditorium Thursday from host Larry Gatlin, Jeff Bates, Jack Greene and comedian Mike Snider, among others.
Larry led the crowd in a round of “Happy Birthday” to Jim Ed Brown as the singer turned 76. And Larry quickly threw in a winking lyric about how his vocal work “usually costs $25,000.” Larry ribbed a Danish member of the audience for having trouble reading English, ribbed his own need for reading glasses and hammed it up repeatedly with star poses, carrying through on the Fools Day theme.
Jack Greene got a standing ovation for his classic “Statue Of A Fool,” Helen Cornelius joined Jim Ed on the 1979 hit “Fools” and Mike Snider — with Good Friday looming — ran through a litany of cornball jokes about Baptists, Presbyterians and Buddhists.
Ray was saved for a four-song finale comprised of two comedic hits and a couple of serious ones, though even “Misty” got an appropriate introduction — Ray noted he and some fellow musicians were “foolin’ around” in the studio when they came up with the banjo-and-steel take on the jazz classic, which ultimately scored Ray a Grammy for his arranging prowess.
Driving home the oddball theme, he delivered “Mississippi Squirrel Revival” (his “Pascagoula” chorus) and “The Streak.”
Opry Country Classics runs temporarily on Thursday nights at the Ryman. The traditional Opry plays the Grand Ole Opry House on Fridays and Saturdays plus Tuesdays in the summer. This weekend’s lineup includes Vince Gill, the Time Jumpers, Restless Heart, Holly Williams, Lee Brice, Connie Smith and John Conlee.