It was in the mid-1970s on a typical summer evening that I first learned about Ray Stevens. I was with my family in the Southeast Kansas town of Independence, and we were preparing to enjoy a nice leisurely dinner at the local Pizza Hut. The pizza pie was delivered to our table and a hot juicy slice had just made it to my plate when it happened. A commotion started at the east side of the restaurant. I looked up and saw a young man, probably in his twenties, sprinting past the cashier’s counter. He was wearing no clothes! Yes it’s true. The only item this fleet-footed fellow of tomfoolery had on was a set of sneakers and one of those gasoline station bathroom keys, the kind with a chain connected to a piece of wood which most likely had the inscription “Men’s” written on it in black magic marker. The naked man ran across the street, but soon he made his way back for what my Dad called “an encore run.” I would never be one to say that there are no interesting people here in the state of Kansas, but for the most part, the majority are always clothed. As the runners “cheeks” faded into the distance, I remember asking my parents the “under-ten-year-old equivalent of “why is this so?” to understand this nude-running-man. The answer was quick and to the point. This guy named Ray Stevens had written a song about streaking. In my last bit of full disclosure, it is only fair to add that we got our pizza for free that night.
That was when I first learned about Ray Stevens, and years would follow in which I enjoyed his humorous and obviously creative songs. Whether Stevens was lamenting about adventures with out-of-control Shriners or deep breathing phone stalkers, his language was always clean, his content funny, and one never had to worry if grandmother was listening too. That would be enough for most people to buy Ray Stevens’ albums. This singer-songwriter-comedian has stayed successful with his unique product for decades. However, Stevens has one more quality that has been made public in recent years. He is without a doubt an American Patriot.
In October 2011, I had the opportunity to interview Ray Stevens on my radio show, Conscience of Kansas. Stevens was gracious and funny, but also very candid about his concern for the future of America. He told me that as he has got older, he pays more attention to what is taking place in America. The comedian is unhappy about the current direction the country is heading. Stevens said a certain amount of blame should be shared by the liberal media who, he believes, lies repeatedly to the American people about the news. He also places blame on many teachers who, Stevens feels, are not teaching children accurate history of our country. This comedian was very serious when he spoke about his rude awakening to the problems this country is facing. He contributes much of his current knowledge to listening to Fox News and conservative talk show hosts, such as Rush Limbaugh.
Ray Stevens is not a Barack Obama supporter, and his highly successful 2010 album, “We The People,” as well as his new release “Spirit of 76,” both reflect his concerns over issues such as out-of-control government spending, border security, national security, and in many ways, the arrogance and incompetence of the current President in the White House. During our interview, Stevens was gracious, humble, funny, and very honest about who he is and who he is not. This song writer made it plain that he is not a politician and made no assertions about being a specialist or an expert in the world of politics. What he did make clear was that as an American he needed to do something, and so he decided to take his song writing and singing skills and take his stand. I think he is accomplishing more than even he knows.
The truth is that taking back this country will be a long, frustrating, and protracted battle. To win in the end, conservatives must keep their morale up as well as have a strong spine. Humor has always been the conservatives’ ally but sometimes it’s in short supply. That is where conservatives with a true funny bone like Ray Stevens come in and re-energize the Americans who continue the struggle to keep conservative values. Indeed it is something worthy of a Nobel Peace prize though that award is now reserved for those who have not yet accomplished anything. That’s not to worry, however because in the greater scheme of things, Stevens will leave a much more beloved legacy to more Americans than will Obama. For me, the interview with Ray Stevens was a pleasant journey over the years, beginning with hot pizza and a naked runner and ending with an insightful, indeed delightful exchange with a comedic, patriotic icon.