On Monday (March 18), the Country Music Hall of Fame officially announced that Ray Stevens will be its Class of 2019 inductee in the Veterans Era category. The country star explained in an interview after the press conference that he couldn't help but look back at the long, and sometimes difficult, road that led him to where he is today.

"It don't get no better than this," Stevens relates. "This is the payoff for years and years of doing what you like to do. A lot of blood, sweat and tears goes into that. If you're committed, you have to pay the price. Although, I must say, you happily pay the price. This is the payoff, and it's great."

The Grammy-winning performer goes on to say that, looking back to the outset of his career, the only thing he could think of tell his younger self would be to buckle up for a crazy ride. "I'd probably give myself a bit of a sermon," he says.

"I've always been kind of a loose cannon. But thank goodness I didn't blow up any hallowed buildings," Stevens admits. "I don't know what I'd say to myself. 'Brace yourself,' maybe."

Along with that "loose cannon" outlook at the world came the important ability to do whatever he wanted, however he wanted to do it. That pioneering spirit served Stevens well as an artist who often brought comedy into his musical performances; however, he goes on to say, he never doubted that bridging the two realms of entertainment would be successful.

"I knew it would work. I was a big fan of recorded comedy growing up," he explains. "Back in the old days, there were comedy albums by stand-up comedians: There was Dave Gardner -- oh, so many that I can't name them ... Of course, the Coasters. They cut all those songs [by songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller]: "Poison Ivy," "Yakety Yak" and "Along Came Jones." So I knew it would work, I just had to get the right material."

In fact, Stevens says, comedy and country music are in many respects a natural marriage. "I think comedy is more compatible with country music than any other style of music," he says. "Look at the roots of country music, even the Grand Ole Opry. One of the biggest stars was Minnie Pearl. It's not hard to figure out."

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