Ray Price - Biography
Ray Price is a country singer, songwriter and guitarist. Among his many hits, his best-known songs include “Release Me,” “Crazy Arms,” “Heartaches by the Number,” “City Lights,” “My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You,” “For the Good Times,” “I Won't Mention It Again,” “You're the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” and “Danny Boy.”
Ray Price was born January 12, 1926 in tiny Perryville, Texas — though he spent most of his childhood in Dallas. After completing high school, he studied veterinary medicine at North Texas Agricultural College in Abilene. He joined the US Marine Corps in 1942 and remained active till 1946. It was during his years of service that he learned how to play guitar and sing. After returning from service he again enrolled in college and simultaneously began performing at clubs, honkytonks and on Abilene’s KRBC-AM beginning in 1948, where he was billed as The Cherokee Cowboy. After he was invited to join the Dallas-based The Big D Jamboree in 1949, and befriending Lefty Frizzell, Price decided to pursue music full-time. Shortly after joining the radio program’s roster, it began being televised on CBS and, with his profile rising, he released his debut single “Jealous Lies” b/w “Your Wedding Corsage” on a local independent, Bullet, in January, 1950.
After Price moved to Nashville in 1951, he befriended Hank Williams, who helped him become a member of the Grand Ole Opry, and who even briefly roomed with him. After four non-charters, “If You're Ever Lonely Darling,” “I Saw My Castles Fall Today,” “Until Death Do us Part” and Hank Williams’s “Weary Blues,” A&R man Troy Martin for whatever reason successfully convinced Columbia’s executives that Decca was prepared to sign Price. He was hastily signed despite having previously been turned down after auditioning twenty times. His first single for them, “Talk to Your Heart,” reached number three in the country charts in the spring of 1952. That fall, “Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes” reached number four. After Williams’s premature death at 29 in 1953, Price took over his backing band, The Drifting Cowboys and that year released “That's What I Get for Loving You,” “Cold Shoulder ,“ “The Wrong Side of Town” and “Leave Her Alone.” It wasn’t until the following year, however, that he returned to the charts with “I'll Be There (If You Ever Want Me),” which reached number two. “I'm Much too Young to Die” reached number thirteen but follow-ups, “I Could Love You More” and “One Broken Heart” failed to chart.
In 1955, Price formed a new backing band, The Cherokee Cowboys, hiring members of Lefty Frizzell's Western Cherokees but ultimately including Roger Miller (who wrote and supplied harmony on Price’s 1958 hit, “Invitation to the Blues”), Johnny Paycheck, Buddy Emmons, Johnny Bush and Willie Nelson (who wrote Price’s 1963 hit, “Night Life”). He released “Man Called Peter,” “Sweet Little Miss Blue Eyes” and “Can’t Go Home Like This” but didn’t return to the charts until “Run Boy,” which peaked at number five. In 1956, “Crazy Arms” provided Price with his first number one and it spent twenty weeks on the charts. Though still in honky-tonk mode, with its uncharacteristic (at the time drums were even banned from the Grand Ole Opry stage) use of drums, and its pulsating rhythm, it exemplified what came to be known as the “Ray Price Shuffle.”
Night Life (1963-Columbia) was Price's last vaguely honky-tonk record and incorporated, at the same time, his first attempts at the Chet Atkins-created Nashville sound. After its release, Price fully embraced the Nashville Sound, crooning slow ballads with lush strings and backed by angelic choirs. As a result, many of his older fans abandoned him but he was rewarded commercially when he achieved fourteen more Top 40 country hits throughout the decade which appeared on the records Love Life (1964 Columbia), Burning Memories (1965 Columbia), Western Strings (1965 Columbia), The Other Woman (1965 Columbia), The Same Old Me (1966 Columbia), Another Bridge to Burn (1966 Columbia), Touch My Heart (1967 Columbia), Danny Boy (1967 Columbia), Take Me as I Am (1968 Columbia), She Wears My Ring (1968 Columbia), Sweetheart of the Year (1969 Columbia), Christmas Album (1969 Columbia) and You Wouldn't Know Love (1969 Columbia) — almost all of which made the Top 10.
In the 1970s, as the Nashville Sound glissandoed into Countrypolitan, so too did Price. 1970’s Kris Kristofferson-penned “For the Good Times” provided Price with his first number one hit since 1959’s “The Same Old Me” and, as Countrypolitan was designed to do, crossed over into the pop charts, where it reached #11. It wasn’t his last number one in the decade, as he matched that feat with “I Won't Mention It Again,” “She's Got to Be a Saint” and “You're the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me.” However, as the decade wore on, the pace of Price’s hits slowed as did the schedule of his albums, which included The World (1970 Columbia), For the Good Times (1970 Columbia), Make the World Go Away (1970 Columbia), I Won't Mention It Again (1971 Columbia), Welcome to My World (1971 Columbia), The Lonesomest Lonesome (1972 Columbia) and She's Got to Be a Saint (1973 Columbia), although all were quite successful. You're the Best Thing (1974 Columbia), which reached only #24 on the Country Charts, was Price’s last record for Columbia, where he’d recorded for 22 years.
After leaving Columbia, Price moved from label to label, rarely staying with any one for long. After moving to Myrrh, Price released This Time Lord (1974 Myrrh) and Like Old Times Again (1975 Myrrh). By the end of 1975, he’d left that label and gone to Dot. Stubbornly sticking to the countrypolitan formula, his popularity continued to decline and most of his albums only reached the lower reaches of the country Top 40, including Say I Do (1975 Dot), Rainbows and Tears (1976 Dot), Hank'N Me (1976 Dot), Precious Memories (1976 Word), Reunited (1977 Dot). After leaving Dot, Help Me (1977 Columbia) and How Great Thou Art (1978 Word) were released before his signed with Monument in 1978, and released There's Always Me (1979 Monument).
In 1980, Price reunited with his former bassist Willie Nelson to record the duet album San Antonio Rose (Columbia), which spawned the number three hit “Faded Love.” The hit reinvigorated Ray's career, and in 1981 he had two more Top Ten singles, “It Don't Hurt Me Half as Bad” and “Diamonds in the Stars” for another new label, Dimension in 1982. Though he continued to release singles, they proved to be his last major successes of the decade. Price only remained with Dimension for a year, releasing Town and Country (1981 Dimension) and Somewhere in Texas (1982 Dimension). After leaving Dimension, Price signed with Warner Records, who released Master of the Art (1982 Warner Bros). In 1983, he signed with Viva and left the year after, signing with Step One in 1985. Welcome to Ray Price Country (Step 1986 One), Portrait of a Singer (1986 Step One), Revival of Old Time Singing (1986 Step One), Heart of Country Music (1986 Step One), Christmas Gift for You (1986 Step One), Just Enough Love (1987 Step One), By Request (1988 Step One), Memories That Last, recorded with Faron Young (1990 Step One), and Hall of Fame Series (1990 Step One) followed, doing little to restore his popularity. After the release of his final single, “A Way to Free Myself,” Price has primarily focused on performing gospel around Branson, Missouri. Since the 1992 release of his final single, “A Way to Free Myself,” Price has primarily focused on performing gospel music. His only studio album in the ‘90s was Sometimes a Rose (1992 Columbia). In 1996, Price was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame.
In the 2000s, often aided by his former cohort Willie Nelson, Price released more albums, Prisoner of Love (2000 Justice), Time (2002 Audium) and Run That By Me One More Time, once again with Willie Nelson (2003 Lost Highway). As of 2006, Price was living near Mount Pleasant, Texas and still performing in concerts throughout the country. His latest album, Last of the Breed, with Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson (2007 Lost Highway), reached #7 on the charts and the trio toured the US. In 2009, Price made two appearances on the FOX News show Huckabee. With the Cherokee Cowboys and host/Southern Baptist minister/failed presidential candidate Mike Huckabee joining on bass, they performed “Crazy Arms” and “Heartaches by the Number.” Weeks later once again performed with the Cherokee Cowboys, Willie Nelson and Huckabee to perform “Faded Love” and “Crazy.”