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Having a ‘Mississippi Squirrel Revival’ with side-splitting songwriter Buddy Kalb

In his most comprehensive interview to date, songwriter Buddy Kalb reflects upon his lucrative 40-year relationship with country-novelty artist Ray Stevens, renowned for “Gitarzan,” “Everything Is Beautiful,” “The Streak,” “Misty,” “Shriner’s Convention,” and a slew of other hits. In the accompanying photo, “Humpty Raymone” sits on a wall and just may experience a sudden fall. Presenting the ingenuous cover of Stevens’ “Crackin’ Up!” album, unleashed by MCA Records on June 1, 1987. Charting at No. 25 C&W, the 10-song LP contains five Kalb-penned tunes as well as the televangelist-indicting “Would Jesus Wear a Rolex,” incidentally co-written by guitar axeman Chet Atkins. Image Credit: Courtesy of Lisa Guglielmo / Ray Stevens Music / Chromatics

“I don’t even know if I’d be in the record business if it wasn’t for my friendship with Ray.” Supreme songwriter Buddy Kalb is unquestionably fellow Georgia-born Ray Stevens’ right hand music man. Referred to by Stevens as a “song doctor,” Kalb has authored somewhere in the neighborhood of 132 humor-laden, red state affirming, and stone cold country tunes for his Grammy-winning “Everything Is Beautiful” buddy since 1975, often under his given name, C.W. Kalb, Jr.

Kalb’s first Top 20 Country song came five years later when Stevens waxed the up-tempo, Urban Cowboy-embracing “Night Games.” Compared to that radio pop fluff, “Mississippi Squirrel Revival” deserves its status as Kalb’s best-known song, which became another Top 20 hit for Stevens in 1984. The enduring comedy tale about a pot-stirring kid catching a squirrel and unleashing it during a typically unadventurous Sunday morning worship service at the First Self-Righteous Church in Pascagoula, Mississippi, still engenders guffaws among audiences of all ages.

In a thorough, exclusive chat with Kalb, he comes across as a good-natured, insightful, and down-to-earth gentleman who you wouldn’t mind shooting the breeze with on a sweltering summer afternoon. The good time revival kicks off right now.

An RCA Victor publicity photo used during Buddy Kalb’s largely unsuccessful stint as “Big Buddy Kaye,” circa August 1966 when “Little Black Umbrella” / “New Generation Man,” Kalb’s sole single 45 for the record label, was distributed. Songwriting obviously altered Kalb’s destiny in a big way when he hooked up with Ray Stevens. Image Credit: Courtesy of Buddy Kalb / Sony Music Entertainment

The Buddy Kalb Interview

How did your association with Ray Stevens originate?

I was born in Atlanta on July 15, 1938, and I’m six months older than Ray. We grew up outside Atlanta in semi-rural settings, so there are a lot of shared experiences between us. We share a similar sense of humor, and we’ve worked really well together over the years.

Ray and I both were in our late teens-early twenties when we met in Atlanta, recording for Bill Lowery in the late’ 50s. Lowery was the publisher in town, and if you were a young guy who wanted to be a songwriter — and you could write a little bit — you sooner or later ended up with him.

What were some of the songs that you recorded for Lowery, and did you ever release an album?

Remember the Big Bopper? [Author’s Note: Killed alongside Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens in a horrific plane crash on February 3, 1959, J.P. “Big Bopper” Richardson’s major claim to fame was “Chantilly Lace.” After his untimely passing, two of Richardson’s compositions became chart toppers for other artists. “White Lightnin’” was the debut number one single of George Jones’ career. Johnny Preston put his indelible stamp on “Running Bear,” which reached number one an unprecedented second time in 1969 for the Southern Gentleman, Sonny James].

Well, Mr. Lowery wanted me to be that kind of persona, so he released my singles as “Big Buddy K.” On some later singles it became “Big Buddy Kaye.” I just wanted to have a hit record. I didn’t like going in places with a bunch of people with a name like Big Buddy anything, [laughs] but if that’s what Mr. Lowery wanted, I was willing to do it.

I only released singles. In those days you had to have a hit before you could have an album. Everybody went fishing with singles. You’d go in and generally cut four songs — a recording session lasted three hours, and in those three hours you’d cut four songs.

You would deliver those songs to the record company, and they would pick what they thought were the best two. Consequently, they released a single with an “A” and “B” side. Based on the success of that single, they would release another one.

I wrote the majority of my singles. On my first record, Joe South played bass, his brother Tommy South played drums, Jerry Reed played lead guitar, Ray played piano, and I played rhythm guitar. All great players. Years later I recorded one of Jerry’s songs as an A-side, “You’re Young [And You’ll Forget].”

I recorded the bluesy “She Knows How to Rock Me” on the Lowery Label in Atlanta. The song was written by WAOK radio personality Piano Red [WAOK was the R&B station in Atlanta]. Not too long ago I saw “She Knows How to Rock Me” on a CD featuring black blues artists from the 50's — I had the lead track [laughs].

Come to think of it, Ray produced a couple of records on me in Atlanta and Muscle Shoals, Alabama [e.g. listed as AHAB Productions for 1963’s “White Sneakers and Bermuda Shorts” b/w “Lumber City”]. I don’t think he and I ever played on a session together where I played guitar and he would play piano. On my early sessions, I played on them myself.

I’m mostly a guitar player, but I can fiddle around with keyboards if I have to. I played bass years ago. In those days, one of my records might be country, and another might be light rock and roll — Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon, and Fabian were popular at the time.

Some of my singles that did okay included “Pony Tail” b/w “First Love” [Scottie Records, 1959], “White Sneakers and Bermuda Shorts” [Vee Jay, 1963], the Joe South-produced “Little Black Umbrella” [RCA Victor, 1966], and Reed’s “You’re Young [And You’ll Forget]” [ABC Paramount, 1968]. However, these were not national contenders at all, only minor regional hits. For instance, one single would be in the Top Ten — in Oklahoma City.

I had several opportunities on different labels, but I never had a big national breakout hit. I was done with my recording career by 1968.

“Moody Blue” horn and string arranger Bergen White, songwriter Buddy Kalb, Ray Stevens, Country Music Hall of Fame Senior Historian Dr. John W. Rumble, and CMHoF Public Programs Manager Abi Tappia pose during the Country Music Hall Of Fame & Museum Presents Ray Stevens Songwriter Session on July 19, 2014, in Nashville, Tennessee. Image Credit: Photography by Rick Diamond / Getty Images

After drifting apart for a decade, how did you and Ray rekindle your friendship?

My day job worked out a whole lot better than my recording career. I spent a lot of time working at Ford Motor Company. I did a number of things, starting off with unloading boxcars and ending up being a sales manager. Sort of a bottom to the top transition; fortunately, I started writing again in the early ‘70s.

In 1975 I came to Nashville and dropped three non-comedy songs off at Ray’s office while he was out on the road working somewhere. When Ray came back into town, he called and said he liked every song. Eventually he recorded or published every one of them, which was pretty unusual for unsolicited material.

The songs were “One and Only You” [Just for the Record, March 1976] and “Set the Children Free” [Feel the Music, January 1977]. You can find these two on iTunes. Cristy Lane recorded “Ask Me to Dance,” Ray was the publisher, and it became the title cut of her album [April 1980]. So we renewed our friendship then, and I’ve been working with or for him ever since.

Besides Ray, name some of the artists who recorded your songs.

Hugh Jarrett, best known as the bass singer for the Jordanaires until Ray Walker replaced him in 1958, recorded several. He later became a successful disc jockey in Atlanta nicknamed “Big Hugh Baby.” And songwriter Mac Davis cut some of mine early on.

Chet Atkins recorded three or four of my songs, including “Frog Kissin’” [№40 C&W, August 1976]. Ray got the song to Chet, played keyboards, and sang background vocals on it, too. They simulated a live concert à la “Gitarzan” and added cute “ribbit, ribbit” frog effects by Ray. It’s possible this was one of the songs I dropped off at Ray’s office as mentioned earlier.

George Burns also had a well-known version with it. Matter of fact, George loved that little song, and he sent me a picture and a nice letter. He even performed it in 1982 on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and on his NBC special, George Burns and Other Sex Symbols.

Jerry Reed cut “Concrete Sailor” [Texas Bound and Flyin,’ September 1980, also the B-side of the title song]. Country artist Mel McDaniel also recorded “The Hustler” [Let It Roll, October 1984].

“If the Good Lord’s Willin’ and the Creeks Don’t Rise:” Jerry Reed clutches an omnipresent cigarette in a striking black and white still publicizing his decidedly unsuccessful 1955–1958 rockabilly tenure on Capitol Records. Image Credit: Capitol Records

How would you encapsulate Jerry Reed?

Jerry Reed was one amazing guitar player and a great songwriter. His real name was Jerry Hubbard. Jerry was an outgoing, funny, always laughing, manic kind of guy. He was pretty much what you saw onstage. Just a fun person to be around. We were all together there in Atlanta with Bill Lowery, although I was never in Ray and Jerry’s band. They played around Atlanta a lot. On weekends they appeared on disc jockey Ray Kinneman’s WTJH radio show to promote their stage shows held at the East Point City Auditorium.

What was your first hit?

Ray cut a song of mine called “Night Games,” which went to No. 20 C&W [November 1980]. It got a lot of airplay around the country.

Now is a good time to mention that there are two kinds of hits. Radio pop fluff is when a song was a hit one year, and the next year you can’t remember what it was. But then there are enduring hits like “The Squirrel.”

“Night Games” fits the former description. It was a song I wrote while I was trying to write a good country song. As usual, I played it for Ray first and he recorded it. I was playing with the musical intro and wrote that first, and the song just seemed to follow that melodic hook. Some of them almost write themselves.

Justice is about to served in tall order when Big Jacob McCandles [John Wayne] arrives at a dusty Durango, Mexico, depot to begin searching for his kidnapped grandson [real life son Ethan Wayne] in director George Sherman’s “Big Jake,” ultimately unleashed on the Duke’s 64th birthday on May 26, 1971. Image Credit: Photography by David Sutton / Paramount Pictures

“Marion Michael Morrison” [1989]

John Wayne is my favorite actor, always has been. When I lived in Kansas City, sometimes I had to drive between there and Des Moines going up Interstate 29. When you do, you drive past an exit that is for Winterset, Iowa, where John Wayne was born.

One day I was driving the car and thinking about John Wayne when I went through there. “Born in the little town of Winterset was the first line. I was thinking, ‘Gee, all those motion pictures he made had great titles and the characters that he played were so iconic.’

So I got the idea of writing a song that was full of John Wayne movie titles and character roles [e.g. The Fighting Seabees, Big Jake, the “Singin’ Sandy” protagonist from Riders of Destiny]. It fell together pretty quickly. I’ve had a lot of compliments on it from many John Wayne fans down through the years.

[Author’s Note: The sentimental song’s definitive chorus goes like this: “Here’s to you, for all our battles that you fought and won, a true American hero, a straight-shootin’ son of a gun, here’s to you, Marion Michael Morrison.” The tune appeared on Stevens’ 26th studio album, Beside Myself. Surprisingly, the composition was never released as a single, although Stevens got a terrific audience reception when he performed it on the popular television variety show Hee Haw].

Perhaps the most handsome star on the planet, a 29-year-old Elvis Presley is captured in August 1964 at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in a publicity photo depicting his 18th film, “Girl Happy.” Image Credit: Photography possibly by Virgil Apger / Elvis Photo Shoot Sessions

“I Saw Elvis in a UFO” [A-side, Beside Myself]

Ray had the idea for it, and he asked me to help on it. I basically made it more of a production, including the opening fishing part. There are a couple of songs I’ve done that on, which is why Ray calls me a “song doctor.” I’d put in my two cents worth or make my suggestions.

For instance, on “The Haircut Song” [No. 45 C&W, I Have Returned, 1985] comedian Mike Neun used to do these routines, so Ray and I helped turn one of his routines into that song.

I wrote the chorus: “When you get a haircut, be sure to go back home; when you get a haircut, get a barber you have known; since you were a little bitty boy sittin’ in a booster chair, or you might look like Larry, Moe or Curly if a stranger cuts your hair.”

Mississippi Squirrel Revival” [No. 20 C&W November 1984, He Thinks He’s Ray Stevens]

The first enduring, break-out hit for me was “The Squirrel.” I had been saying to Ray that I thought he needed to do more comedy.

Ray’s fans must have felt the same way. One day he remarked, “When I come onstage, they smile and wanna hear comedy stuff, so I should give ’em what they want.” As if on cue, he leaned in my direction and said, “Write more comedy.”

So early one morning, I was taking my family south from Kansas City to see my folks. We were going down Interstate 75 around the city of Vienna, Georgia. They were snoozing in the car, but I happened to have the radio on.

Remember comedian Wendy Bagwell? He had a song called “Three German Police Dogs and an Old Yeller Cat at the Ebenezer Freewill Baptist Church” about a blind man who brought a seeing-eye dog to church. The dog got after a cat in the service, and people didn’t know what was going on because it was all happening beneath the pews.

I heard it that morning, and I went, “Gee whiz, that’s a funny situation.” So I thought and thought about it and eventually wrote a song about a kid catching a squirrel and coming into church with it.

My wife, Carlene, helped me with it. We worked on it for a week or two, and then I gave it to Ray. I think he changed one line. It was originally “We’ve all heard the Bible story I guess, how God spoke to Balaam through an ass.” I revised it to “How God parted the waters for Moses to pass” and then cut it.

Everybody thought it was a cute song, but they didn’t tag it as one of the singles from the album, as they had already picked three singles.

A rock and roll station in Jackson, Mississippi, first started playing it. Broadcasting legend Paul Harvey later heard it in Chicago, and he talked about it on his News and Comment noon-time radio show that was broadcast on lots of country stations around the country. Those country stations picked it up and began to play it.

“The Squirrel” never got all that high on the Billboard charts, but it remained for a long time [14 weeks]. It would be a big hit in the Southeast a month or two; later it would do the same in the Southwest. The record company didn’t coordinate everything all at once, since it kept popping up here, there and everywhere.

But it’s very memorable with Ray’s audience, and they still love it over 30 years later. In the Comedy Classics Video from 1992, Harve Newman, the guy who has the squirrel run up his pants leg, that was me.

Unable to evade capture, Ray Stevens is an obviously insane, cannon-riding Napoleon Bonaparte on the rear jacket of “He Thinks He’s Ray Stevens.” Released in November 1984 on MCA, the album is best known for featuring Buddy Kalb’s beloved parody “Mississippi Squirrel Revival.” Image Credit: Universal Music Group

Is there one of your songs that you thought deserved more airplay?

It’s hard for me to say — your songs are like your babies. Nobody has an ugly baby [laughs]. But “Vacation Bible School” should have clicked bigger than it did. It was distributed as the B-side of “The Ballad of the Blue Cyclone” and appears on I Have Returned [September 1985]. It’s good for a laugh and was aimed at the same church crowd as “Mississippi Squirrel Revival.” And yes, I’m part of that church crowd.

Do you attend the session or offer feedback if Ray is cutting one of your songs?

I pretty much leave Ray alone when he’s recording a song of mine. When he hears something, he has his idea of how to do it. I never say, “You should do it this way or do it that way.” I present it to him, tell him what my thoughts are, and if he takes it, it’s his from then on. Ray makes it a Ray Stevens song. On occasion he will ask, “What do you think about this?” I’ll tell him then, but otherwise I don’t interfere.

How has comedy music evolved over the years?

In a lot of ways, the genre of comedy music and novelty songs has pretty much gone away. They had a real hey-day on radio in the ’40s and ’50s. Back then, radio was very particular about how they programmed — they wanted a girl song, followed by an up-tempo guy’s song, a down-tempo guy’s song, and then an instrumental once every hour.

And every couple of hours, they programmed a novelty song. Therefore, radio was like an entertainment program, not just based on the Country Hot 40. Novelty had its place every day. It was a sad circumstance when radio dissolved into a countdown show — ‘we’ll only play what’s on the chart.’ That can be a little boring, and I think that hurt radio a lot.

Caricaturing Rome’s infamous emperor Nero, Ray Stevens imparts life-affirming advice to a well-fed brown rabbit for the cover of “Lend Me Your Ears.” Released on July 1, 1990 via Curb / Capitol Nashville Records, Stevens’ 27th studio album surprisingly did not chart despite featuring six Buddy Kalb compositions including “Sittin’ Up with the Dead” and “This Ain’t Exactly What I Had in Mind.” Image Credit: Curb Records / Tidal

Has Ray ever unleashed a parody song?

Years ago Homer and Jethro would take a popular song of the day, write new lyrics to it, and then present it in a new way. They played off the popularity of a straight song such as Johnny Horton’s “The Battle of New Orleans” and transformed it into their 1959 Grammy-winning parody “The Battle of Kookamonga.”

Weird Al Yankovic does the same thing today. Cledus T. Judd, the Weird Al of country music, took Deana Carter’s Did I Shave My Legs for This? and turned it into Did I Shave My Back for This?

The first, last, and only parody song Ray has done in his entire career is Kris Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make It Through the Night” [Lend Me Your Ears, 1990]. Ray did all the lyrics exactly as Kris wrote them, but then there are comments and sound effects between each line, similar to Spike Jones.

Clyde Records marketing guru Mike Shepherd, Don Grubbs of Absolute Publicity, songwriter-Clyde Records protégé Buddy Kalb, and a seated Ray Stevens collide on February 29, 2012, inside BookMan BookWoman in Nashville, Tennessee, as Stevens signs copies of his “Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music” box set. Image Credit: Photography by Rick Diamond / Getty Images

How did the idea for Ray’s colossal undertaking, The Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music, manifest?

Years ago when we were talking about doing a DirecTV package with another video — a 1–800 number deal — we were thinking, ‘The greatest comedy hits of all time by the greatest comedy recording artist of all time might be a nice package.’ So Ray began collecting songs going back to his childhood that he loved and thought, ‘Well, I might do this song or that song.’

Finally, he got the energy for it, and he dove in about three years before the project was distributed in February 2012. There are 108 recordings — nine CDs with the songs in alphabetical order — and he produced and arranged them all. In some cases, he tried to be very faithful to the original and at other times, he put his fingerprint on it.

We researched each song, the respective songwriters, and nuggets of info on the performers for an encyclopedic book of little-known facts which is also part of the package. Ray wrote his recollections and memories of each song, its respective era, and their impact on him. There is a photo section with cool facts about the record labels, songwriter, along with chart information about the original record.

“Ahab the Arab” narrator Ray Stevens covertly browses through the booklet of his mammoth eight-CD box set, “The Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music,” on February 29, 2012, inside BookMan BookWoman in Nashville, Tennessee. Image Credit: Photography by Rick Diamond / Getty Images

What are some of the most memorable recordings featured in the box set?

One song that comes to mind is “Three Little Fishies” aka “Itty Bitty Poo.” Originally a big hit in 1939 for bandleader and radio personality Kay Kyser, it had lines such as “Three little fishes and their mommy fishy too…and they swam, and they swam right over the dam…Boop boop dittum dattum wattum, choo.”

Another one on the album is the 1943 novelty song “Mairzy Doats.” The Merry Macs had the biggest hit version, do you remember it? “The mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy…a kid’ll eat ivy too, wouldn’t you?” It’s rushing and slurring your words together to make funny words.

Ray also recorded a couple of Spike Jones’s songs, “Cocktails for Two” and “The William Tell Overture.” Spike had a unique band — His City Slickers — that embellished his songs with bells, whistles, sirens, gunshots, and all kinds of sounds.

Ray put his stamp on material by Phil Harris, the Coasters, and the genius that was Roger Miller. “I Wanna Talk About Me” [2001], the Toby Keith song, is on there. It’s an example of what’s left of novelty songs.

Of course, Ray recorded some of my songs, including “Mississippi Squirrel Revival” and “The Haircut Song.” “The Pirate Song,” “Sittin’ Up with the Dead,” “Osama Yo’ Mama,” and nine cuts on the final CD were also written by me.

Without a doubt, Ray has been a major contributor to the history of comedy music, so it wouldn’t be complete without numerous contributions from Ray Stevens. They are some of the best songs I think he’s ever done. It was a really fun and interesting project, and I still enjoy listening to it.

A dapper Ray Stevens adopts a rare cowboy hat for the book cover of “Ray Stevens’ Nashville,” distributed on August 25, 2014. Image Credit: Father & Son Publishing

Who convinced Ray to pen his 2014 memoir, Ray Stevens’ Nashville?

Ray traveled to New York in June 2011 to promote the Spirit of ’76 album. That’s where I started coming down with the shingles. Other than that, it was a wonderful trip. Ray got to meet Bill O’Reilly. O’Reilly and Fox News have been really good to Ray, as he’s aired many of Ray’s political Internet videos [O’Reilly was forced out of Fox News in April 2017 amidst allegations of sexual harassment brought by female staff members].

One of the things O’Reilly said to him was, “You oughta write a book about Nashville. You’ve been there for years, and you’ve seen a lot come and go. I bet you know a lot of stuff. I’d love to hear about it, and others would, too.” That got Ray to thinking, ‘Maybe I oughta wallow out a little time and see if I can do that.’ Ray had never written a book until Ray Stevens’ Nashville.

What is the “Nashville Breakfast Club?”

It’s a get-together for several old friends. Ray regularly attends and I do occasionally. Disc jockey Ralph Emery is there when his health permits. It’s on Saturday mornings, generally at a restaurant called Le Peep, a French expression which translates to “egg.”

A good percentage of the club’s mainstays have passed away — George “Goober” Lindsey, producer Norro Wilson [also wrote “The Most Beautiful Girl” for Charlie Rich and “The Grand Tour” for George Jones], and journalist John Seigenthaler [son John Seigenthaler, Jr. was an NBC News reporter for well over a decade]. Jerry Reed was never a member.

On March 25, 2015, “I Saw Elvis in a UFO” songwriter Buddy Kalb, Oak Ridge Boys Richard Sterban and William Lee Golden , and esteemed country radio host-television personality Ralph Emery are captured at the Country Music Association announcement proclaiming that Jim Ed Brown and the Browns, Nashville A-Team lead guitarist Grady Martin, and the Oak Ridge Boys will be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee. Image Credit: Photography by Rick Diamond / Getty Images

Name some of your favorite Ray Stevens recordings.

I can’t think of many that he’s made that I didn’t care for. I would invite people to listen to all of it. Regardless, Ray has a big faithful following that love him and his songs, including a bunch of kids.

That being said, I love his comedy recordings like “The Streak” and “Gitarzan,” but my all-time favorite in the world is “The Squirrel” [laughs]. I have lots of reasons to like it. The little squirrel and Ray Stevens have been very good to me.

I also like his serious songs very much, such as “Mr. Businessman” and “Misty.” But Ray’s made so many good records. He’s a great producer, a fine musician, and a really good singer, yet sitting behind the control board and putting it all together is where his genius comes together.

Turn Your Radio On, the gospel LP that he did in 1972, is an amazing, classic record. Ray is every voice that you hear and almost every instrument. The title song was such a great single. “Love Lifted Me” is tremendous — it was nominated for a Grammy in the “Best Inspirational Performance” category [Elvis Presley’s He Touched Me album eventually won].

Ray Stevens and good friend-songwriting partner Buddy Kalb are pictured inside Stevens’ Nashville office on September 19, 2011. Note the BMI sales certification for “Everything Is Beautiful.” Image Credit: Photography by Doug Phillips / Ray Stevens Music

How has Ray impacted your life and career?

I’m a big Ray Stevens fan, always have been. I have a friendship with Ray — I’ve stayed and worked with him since 1975. I consider myself a Ray Stevens writer. I don’t even know if I’d be in the record business if it wasn’t for my friendship with Ray.

Are you still writing?

I seem to write almost all of the time. Ray has been so busy shooting his public television variety series, Ray Stevens CabaRay Nashville, and overseeing the building of his state-of-the-art performance venue and recording complex, CabaRay, that he has had no time for recording new material. Ray will host the CabaRay grand opening in September.

Ray has a song I wrote called “The Coco-Cabana Band” that he loves and can’t wait to record. I have written about 80 songs in the last 18 months that I am trying to get out of my head and off of a lyric sheet into digital audio files…we used to say “onto tape.” I have not detected any unifying theme among these 80 songs — some country, always some comedy, and only two are patriotic. I write because I’m a writer, not because someone wants what I have written.

What is your perfect day?

Just waking up — waking up beside my wife and seeing my kids and grandchildren. I love any kind of weather so long as it changes every few days. Guess that’s why I liked living near the ocean. The ocean is different every day.

My interests are my family, friends, travel, golf and baseball. I also seek that Pearl of Great Price that Jesus talked about [Matthew 13: 45–46]. I hate to seem so boring but I really do enjoy playing guitar and writing songs, whether anyone records them or not. And to think I only learned to play guitar in the hope of getting a date.

As I wrote in a song lyric about songwriting, “I play by ear and I write by feel…it’s more a love-affair than a business deal.” The name of the song is “Things Have Changed on Music Row,” which I made a guitar and vocal demo for here in Nashville in 2011.

What else do you hope to accomplish in your career?

I’d love to have another hit song, but then after I did, I would want to have another one. I can hardly wait to see what comes after this life. God made this so varied and interesting I can’t even imagine what he’s got planned next.

[Author’s Note: Visit Amazon or iTunes to purchase or listen to samples from Kalb’s three singer-songwriter albums — Animals Aren’t Animals, Songs of the South, and Sunday Down South — containing acoustic, intimate arrangements of many of Kalb’s best known songs. And if you wanna experience a sweeping, exclusive interview with Kalb’s partner in rhyme, head on over to “Streakin’ Through the Hits with Witty Wordsmith Ray Stevens”].

“I play by ear and I write by feel…it’s more a love-affair than a business deal.” Songwriter Buddy Kalb poses with a trusty acoustic guitar in hand in this 2010 publicity photo distributed by Clyde Records, a label belonging to Kalb’s musical muse Ray Stevens. Image Credit: Courtesy of Buddy Kalb

He’s Guilty! The Buddy Kalb / Ray Stevens Songography

  1. “One and Only You” — Just for the Record [1976]
  2. “Set the Children Free” — Feel the Music [1977]
  3. “You’re Never Goin’ to Tampa With Me” — Shriner’s Convention [1980]
  4. “Melissa” — One More Last Chance [1981]
  5. “Let’s Do It Right This Time” — One More Last Chance [1981]
  6. “Night Games” — One More Last Chance [1981]
  7. “Country Boy, Country Club Girl” — Don’t Laugh Now [1982]
  8. “Special Anniversary” — Me [1983]
  9. “Piedmont Park” — Me [1983]
  10. “Mississippi Squirrel Revival” — He Thinks He’s Ray Stevens [1984]
  11. “Erik the Awful” — He Thinks He’s Ray Stevens [1984]
  12. “Joggin’” — He Thinks He’s Ray Stevens [1984]
  13. “Hugo (The Human Cannonball)” — I Have Returned [1985]
  14. “Vacation Bible School” — I Have Returned [1985]
  15. “Kiss a Pig” — I Have Returned [1985]
  16. “The Haircut Song” — I Have Returned [1985]
  17. “The Pirate Song (I Want to Sing and Dance)” — I Have Returned [1985]
  18. “Punk Country Love” — I Have Returned [1985]
  19. “People’s Court” — Surely You Joust [1986]
  20. “Bionie and the Robotics” — Surely You Joust [1986]
  21. “Fat” — Surely You Joust [1986]
  22. “Can He Love You Half as Much as I” — Surely You Joust [1986]
  23. “Smokey Mountain Rattlesnake Retreat” — Surely You Joust [1986]
  24. “The Camping Trip” — Surely You Joust [1986]
  25. “Dudley Dorite (Of the Highway Patrol) ” — Surely You Joust [1986]
  26. “Cool Down Willard” — Crackin’ Up! [1987]
  27. “The Ballad of Cactus Pete and Lefty” — Crackin’ Up! [1987]
  28. “Sex Symbols” — Crackin’ Up! [1987]
  29. “Gourmet Restaurant” — Crackin’ Up! [1987]
  30. “Doctor, Doctor (Have Mercy on Me)” — Crackin’ Up! [1987]
  31. “The Booger Man” — I Never Made a Record I Didn’t Like [1988]
  32. “Language, Nudity, Violence & Sex” — I Never Made a Record I Didn’t Like
  33. “The Day I Tried to Teach Charlene Mackenzie How to Drive” — I Never Made a Record I Didn’t Like [1988]
  34. “Ethelene (The Truckstop Queen)” — I Never Made a Record I Didn’t Like
  35. “I Don’t Need None of That” — I Never Made a Record I Didn’t Like [1988]
  36. “Old Hippie Class Reunion” — I Never Made a Record I Didn’t Like [1988]
  37. “Your Bozo’s Back Again” — Beside Myself [1989]
  38. “Another Fine Mess” — Beside Myself [1989]
  39. “Marion Michael Morrison” — Beside Myself [1989]
  40. “Butterfly Inside a Coupe de Ville” — Beside Myself [1989]
  41. “There’s a Star-Spangled Banner” — Beside Myself [1989]
  42. “I Saw Elvis in a UFO” — Beside Myself [1989]
  43. “The Woogie Boogie” — Beside Myself [1989]
  44. “Stuck on You” — Beside Myself [1989]
  45. “Bad Dancin’” — Beside Myself [1989]
  46. “I Used to Be Crazy” — Beside Myself [1989]
  47. “Sittin’ Up with the Dead” — Lend Me Your Ears [1990]
  48. “Used Cars” — Lend Me Your Ears [1990]
  49. “Barbecue” — Lend Me Your Ears [1990]
  50. “Where Do My Socks Go?” — Lend Me Your Ears [1990]
  51. “This Ain’t Exactly What I Had in Mind” — Lend Me Your Ears [1990]
  52. “This Is Your Daddy’s Oldsmobile” — Lend Me Your Ears [1990]
  53. “Cletus McHicks and His Band from the Sticks” — Lend Me Your Ears
  54. “Power Tools” — #1 with a Bullet [1991]
  55. “Teenage Mutant Kung Fu Chickens” — #1 with a Bullet [1991]
  56. “You Gotta Have a Hat” — #1 with a Bullet [1991]
  57. “Tabloid News” — #1 with a Bullet [1991]
  58. “The Sheik of R&B” — #1 with a Bullet [1991]
  59. “Juanita and the Kids” — #1 with a Bullet [1991]
  60. “Back in the Doghouse Again” — #1 with a Bullet [1991]
  61. “A Little Blue-Haired Lady” — #1 with a Bullet [1991]
  62. “The Higher Education of Ole Blue” — Classic Ray Stevens [1993]
  63. “Little League” — Classic Ray Stevens [1993]
  64. “Super Cop” — Classic Ray Stevens [1993]
  65. “All American Two Week Summer Family Vacation” — Classic Ray Stevens
  66. “The Ballad of Jake McClusky” — Classic Ray Stevens [1993]
  67. “The Motel Song” — Classic Ray Stevens [1993]
  68. “R.V.” — Hum It [1997]
  69. “I’ll Be in Atlanta” — Hum It [1997]
  70. “Virgil and the Moonshot” — Hum It [1997]
  71. “Sunday Morning” — Hum It [1997]
  72. “Too Drunk to Fish” — Hum It [1997]
  73. “My Neighbor” — Hum It [1997]
  74. “How Much Does It Cost to Fly to Albuquerque” — Hum It [1997]
  75. “Guilt for Christmas” — Christmas: Through a Different Window [1997]
  76. “I Won’t Be Home for Christmas” — Through a Different Window
  77. “Home for the Holidays” — Christmas: Through a Different Window [1997]
  78. “Redneck Christmas” — Christmas: Through a Different Window [1997]
  79. “Xerox Xmas Letter” — Christmas: Through a Different Window [1997]
  80. “Nightmare Before Christmas” — Christmas: Through a Different Window
  81. “The Annual Office Christmas Party” — Through a Different Window
  82. “The Little Drummer Boy-Next Door” — Through a Different Window
  83. “Bad Little Boy” — Christmas: Through a Different Window [1997]
  84. “Bon Temps Roulette” — Ear Candy [2000]
  85. “Hang Up and Drive” — Ear Candy [2000]
  86. “The Hustler” — Ear Candy [2000]
  87. “Gone for Good” — Ear Candy [2000]
  88. “The Dog Song” — Ear Candy [2000]
  89. “Injurin’ Joe” — Tom Sawyer animated soundtrack [2000]
  90. “Osama-Yo Mama” — Osama-Yo’ Mama [2002]
  91. “Hello Mama” — 2002 single; later on 2006’s Box Set]
  92. “Stand Up (For What You Stand For)” — Thank You [2004]
  93. “The New Battle of New Orleans” — single only [2005]
  94. “When the Kids Are Gone” — Box Set [2006]
  95. “Kitty Cat’s Revenge” — Box Set [2006]
  96. “Family Funeral Fight” — Box Set [2006]
  97. “Driver’s Education” — Box Set [2006]
  98. “The Cat Song” — Box Set [2006]
  99. “We’re Having a Baby (The Natural Way)” — Box Set [2006]
  100. “Ruby Falls” [2007 digital single; later on 2011’s Bozo’s Back Again]
  101. “Hurricane” — Hurricane [2008]
  102. “The Cure” — Hurricane [2008]
  103. “Bubba the Wine Connoisseur” — Hurricane [2008]
  104. “Hey Bubba Watch This” — Hurricane [2008]
  105. “Down Home Beach” — Hurricane [2008]
  106. “Sucking Sound” — Hurricane [2008]
  107. “The PSA Song” — Laughter Is the Best Medicine [2008]
  108. “Concrete Sailor” — One for the Road [2009]
  109. “Hanging Around” — One for the Road [2009]
  110. “Three Fractured Factions” — We the People [2010]
  111. “Obama Nation” — We the People [2010]
  112. “Come to the USA” — We the People [2010]
  113. “We Are the Government” — We the People [2010]
  114. “The Skies Just Ain’t Friendly Anymore” — Spirit of ’76 [2011]
  115. “Mr. President-Mr. President” — Spirit of ’76 [2011]
  116. “God Save Arizona” — Spirit of ’76 [2011]
  117. “My Uncle Sam” — Spirit of ’76 [2011]
  118. “November Storm” — Spirit of ’76 [2011]
  119. “Mi Casa Su Casa” — Spirit of ’76 [2011]
  120. “Obama Budget Plan” — Spirit of ’76 [2011]
  121. “Red Hot Chili Cook Off” — YouTube video [2013]
  122. “If You Like Your Plan” — YouTube video [2014]
  123. “Nero Fiddled” — YouTube video [2014]
  124. “Taylor Swift Is Stalkin’ Me” — Here We Go Again [2015]
  125. “Pickin’ on the Chicken” — Here We Go Again [2015]
  126. “The Baptism of Stumpy Brown” — Here We Go Again [2015]
  127. “Little by Little” — Here We Go Again [2015]
  128. “You Didn’t Build That” — Here We Go Again [2015]
  129. “Knock Him Out John” — Here We Go Again [2015]
  130. “Something’s Comin’” — Just a Closer Walk with Thee [2016]
  131. “Do You Hear Somebody Knocking?” — Just a Closer Walk with Thee
  132. “Just a Touch of Jesus” — Just a Closer Walk with Thee [2016]

*******Note: Various songs above were re-recorded by Stevens, often because he had changed record labels and did not own the original masters. These later renditions are not listed above. Tunes were written solely by Kalb, in collaboration with Stevens, or with other co-writers. Thanks to Jerry McDaniel for helping compile the songography.

Watch Ray Stevens perform the hilarious “Mississippi Squirrel Revival” in the official music video taken from 1992’s best-selling “Comedy Video Classics.” That’s songwriter Buddy Kalb as church member Harve — the squirrel runs up his leg first. Video Credit: Ray Stevens Music
Click to encounter the official video of Ray Stevens performing “The Haircut Song.” The goofy parody, released on the “I Have Returned” album in September 1985, was composed by Mike Neun, Buddy Kalb, and Stevens. Video Credit: Ray Stevens Music
In an absurd still from the “Mississippi Squirrel Revival” video, songwriter and close Ray Stevens confidant Buddy Kalb mugs for the camera. The image appears in 1992’s bestselling “Comedy Video Classics” VHS/DVD compilation. Image Credit: Ray Stevens Music
Hello, Redneck One, Redneck One, this is mission control…Buddy Kalb is the NASA Launch Supervisor in the official video for Ray Stevens’ “Virgil and the Moonshot,” taken from the “Hum It” album unleashed on September 23, 1997, by MCA Nashville Records. And you’d be correct in surmising that Kalb wrote the funny tune. Image Credit: Courtesy of Buddy Kalb
Get Gladys on the phone! Buddy Kalb undergoes an eye-catching gender transformation as Virgil’s extremely enthusiastic, hair roller-sporting wife in the official video for Ray Stevens’ “Virgil and the Moonshot,” taken from the “Hum It” album unleashed on September 23, 1997, by MCA Nashville Records. And you’d be correct in surmising that Kalb wrote the funny tune. Image Credit: Courtesy of Buddy Kalb
Buddy Kalb effectively portrays the titular protagonist in the “Dudley Dorite [Of the Highway Patrol]” official video taken from Ray Stevens’ 1995 “Get Serious!” VHS video collection. The song, entirely written by Kalb, was originally released on Stevens’ “Surely You Joust” 1986 studio album. Image Credit: Courtesy of Buddy Kalb
Years after it was unleashed on 1974’s “Boogity Boogity,” Ray Stevens and Buddy Kalb collide at the basketball playoffs for the official “Streak” video, which first saw distribution on 1992’s multi-platinum VHS video collection entitled “Comedy Video Classics.” Image Credit: Courtesy of Buddy Kalb

© Jeremy L. Roberts, 2011, 2017. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed in full without express prior permission of the author. Do not copy or paste the article text — instead share the URL or headlines with links. Thank you.

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