From his early days performing around Atlanta to his rise to Nashville stardom, funny man Ray Stevens never took himself too seriously. His love of country music, America and old-fashioned values remain firm after all of these years, but it has always been the guaranteed laughs that keep attracting fans to Stevens' body of work.
Although he had some big hits ("Misty," "Everything is Beautiful" and "Mr. Businessman"), Stevens' better-known songs remain his novelty material, from the simple and fun ("The Haircut Song") to the wordy and absurd ("Jeremiah Peabody's Polyunsaturated Quick-Dissolving Fast-Acting Pleasant-Tasting Green and Purple Pills," "Freddie Feelgood (and His Funky Little Five Piece Band"). Sometimes, the songs pull their topics from the headlines ("Osama Yo' Mama," "Surfin' U.S.S.R.") or popular culture ("Teenage Mutant Kung-Fu Chickens," "I Saw Elvis in a U.F.O."), but fortunately most of Stevens' material aged gracefully.
10. "The Ballad of the Blue Cyclone (Parts 1 and 2)"
Stevens' ode to beer drinking buddies and rasslin' needed not one but two parts. It's funny, plus the chorus might be the catchiest in Stevens' back catalog.
9. "Santa Claus is Watching You"
Lots of artists record memorable and funny songs, but only a certain few make an impression with a brand new Christmas song. Stevens pulled off the feat with this classic, featuring the best example of his high-pitched "frantic woman" voice.
8. "Along Came Jones"
The best Stevens song that mirrored pop culture looked to formulaic old movies and serials where a hero always saved the damsel tied to the railroad tracks. He didn't write this one, as it's a cover of an old Coasters hit.
7. "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex"
While most of these songs are purposefully silly, Stevens also went the solemn yet surreal route as a songwriter and singer. In addition to this commentary about televangelists, he also captured the same tone on the cyclist tale "Speed Ball" and young love sob-story "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow."
6. "Ahab the Arab"
Some of Stevens' hits crossed over into the mainstream, including this joke song defined in part by Clyde's irritating camel noises. The song cracked the Billboard 100 top five in 1962 and remained an integral part of Stevens' act for decades.
5. "It's Me Again Margaret"
In the days before caller ID, prank callers passed the time terrorizing unsuspecting strangers. To get this story across, Stevens becomes the most obnoxious practical joker imaginable.
4. "Mississippi Squirrel Revival"
Stevens, a devout Christian, had a little fun with stereotypes about the old country church on this classic about a "half-crazed Mississippi squirrel." If you grew up hearing this and going to church, it'll probably be funnier to you as an adult.
Many of Stevens' most memorable songs include him doing funny voices, whether he's a chicken, "Bridget the Midget (The Queen of the Blues)" or "Harry the Hairy Ape." His best and best-known impersonation has got to be that iconic Tarzan yell.
2. "Shriner's Convention"
Not even Jeff Foxworthy's imagination could come up with a better tale of a redneck out of his element. No character in Stevens' little universe endears himself to listeners quite like wayward party boy Coy.
1. "The Streak"
No roundup of Stevens' greatest hits would be complete without this mid-'70s crossover hit. It renewed interest in his career by lampooning the streaker craze. It has aged well, remaining one of country music's greatest novelty songs.
This post was originally published on April 4, 2018.