Ray Stevens

Induction Year: 1980

Birth Name: Harold Ray Ragsdale

Birth Date: 01-24-1939

Place of Birth: Clarkdale, Georgia

One of American music's most successful writers of novelty songs, Ray Stevens is known for zany hits including "Ahab the Arab," "Gitarzan," "The Streak" and "Shriner's Convention." His talents go far beyond humor, though: Stevens has also made marks as a singer, producer, music publisher and arranger, and one of his best-known songs is the uplifting pop ballad "Everything Is Beautiful."

Born Harold Ray Ragsdale, Stevens played piano as a child and began working as a DJ and a musician in Atlanta when he was 16 years old. He studied music at Georgia State University and signed with Mercury Records while still a student. His first pop hit came in 1961, with "Jeremiah Peabody's Poly Unsaturated Quick Dissolving Fast Acting Pleasant Tasting Green and Purple Pills," which chuckled its way into the pop Top 40. A year after "Jeremiah" hit the charts, Stevens moved to Nashville, where he worked as a session musician, singer and arranger when not recording his own hits.

Stevens' first pop Top 10 hit came in 1962 with "Ahab the Arab," which he wrote the night before he recorded it. Stevens created the story of Ahab, "the Sheik of the Burning Sand" who rode a camel named Clyde, and guessed during the recording session as to what kind of noise a camel might make. After the song was featured on radio stations across the country, Stevens visited a zoo in Baltimore and found that the noise he'd voiced for Clyde was in fact quite similar to what a real camel sounds like.

By 1970, Stevens was known for funny stuff, having notched hits with "Ahab," "Gitarzan" and "Harry the Hairy Ape." But he broke through at decade's turn with #1 pop hit "Everything Is Beautiful." The sing-along anthem sold more than a million copies and earned Stevens a Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.

Stevens scored another #1 pop hit with "The Streak," a novelty about the '70s fad for dashing around naked, and notched self-written country hits with "Shriner's Convention," "Nashville" and "Bridget the Midget (The Queen of the Blues)." He also had numerous hits as an interpreter of others' songs, including "Mississippi Squirrel Revival." In the 1990s, he opened a successful theater in Branson, Missouri. He has remained active as a writer, producer, music publisher and performer, even returning to the country charts in the new century with "Osama – Yo' Mama," his melodic raspberry to terrorist ringleader Osama bin Laden.

"Ahab the Arab"

Ray Stevens1962 #5 pop

"America, Communicate With Me"

Ray Stevens1970 #45 pop

"Bridget the Midget (The Queen of the Blues)"

Ray Stevens1971 #50 pop

"Everything Is Beautiful"

Ray Stevens1970 #1 pop, #39 country, #1 adult contemporary
Johnny Mathis1970  
Jim Nabors1970  
George Hamilton IV1970  
Bobby Womack1971  
Wanda Jackson1971  
Marie Osmond1973  

"Freddie Feelgood (And His Funky Little Five Piece Band)"

Ray Stevens1966 #91 pop

"Funny Man"

Ray Stevens1963 #81 pop


Ray Stevens1962 #91 pop


(written with Bill Everette)

Ray Stevens1969 #8 pop

"Harry the Hairy Ape"

Ray Stevens1963 #7 pop, #14 R&B

"Have a Little Talk With Myself"

Ray Stevens1970 #63 country, #123 pop

"Jeremiah Peabody"

Ray Stevens1961 #35 pop

"Mr. Businessman"

Ray Stevens1968 #28 pop

"My True Confession"

(written with Margie Singleton)

Brook Benton1963 #22 pop, #7 R&B, #8 adult contemporary


Ray Stevens1973 #37 country, #44 pop

"Osama – Yo' Mama"

(written with Cyrus W. Kalb Jr.)

Ray Stevens2002 #48 country

"Santa Claus Is Watching You"

Ray Stevens1962 #45 pop

"Shriner's Convention"

Ray Stevens1980 #7 country, #101 pop

"Speed Ball"

Ray Stevens1963 #59 pop, #29 R&B

"Sunset Strip"

Ray Stevens1970 #81 pop, #17 adult contemporary

"The Streak"

Ray Stevens1974 #1 pop, #3 country, #12 adult contemporary


Ray Stevens1968 #52 pop

Ray Stevens

Induction Year: 1980