Country Crooning is becoming a lost art and with the passing of Ray Price, we lose a master of the art form. That smooth rich voice that gave life to hits like City Lights, Crazy Arms, and For the Good Times is gone, but what a gift it was.
Ray Price was a veteran, serving in the Marines from 1944-46. After deciding not to pursue a career as a veterinarian, Ray dropped out of college and made his debut on radio in Abilene in 1948 (that’s where Ray first started billing himself as the Cherokee Cowboy). For a time, Ray was heavily influenced by Hank Williams. They even became friends and for a time they were roommates in Nashville. The first number one for Ray Price was the one that not only introduced Ray to the world; it made him a bonfire country music star. That song was Crazy Arms. Ray’s recording of Crazy Arms would spend 20 weeks at #1 in 1956 and would go on to become a Grammy: Hall of Fame song. Ray followed that up in 1957 with My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You (4 week number 1), in 1958 with City Lights (13 week number 1), and in 1959 The Same Old Me (2 week number 1). Altogether Ray Price had eight number one recordings, a Male Vocal Grammy for 1970’s For The Good Times, and was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996. His band, The Cherokee Cowboys, was top notch and at one time or another included future greats Willie Nelson, Roger Miller, and Johnny Paycheck. In the 1970’s and beyond, the term “The Nashville Sound” depicted an executive controlled music industry that was more about making money than it was about making music. But the advent in the 1950’s of that Nashville Sound probably saved country music from the onslaught of Elvis and Rock ‘n Roll, and there was nobody better at crooning country over strings and horns than Ray Price. Over his 40 plus years of making music there was no greater friend to songwriters than Ray Price…he recorded songs of the greats like Hank Cochran, Harlan Howard, Don Gibson, Boudleaux & Felice Bryant and Kris Kristofferson. Ray also recorded songs of Willie Nelson, Bill Anderson, Roger Miller, Mel Tillis, Conway Twitty, Buck Owens, and even George Jones. And Ray also recorded many of his own compositions, completing the musician’s tri fecta…guitarist/singer/songwriter.
So often these days our music is like much of the rest of the world, disposable. Ray Price was never something you could just pick up and throw away, you had to cherish that voice, love the way he could deliver the lyric, and long for the next time you got to hear Ray Price on the radio. Like any great gift, you enjoy it while you have it and then fondly remember it when it’s gone.