90 years ago today, prolific country singer and songwriter Ray Price was born in Peach, Texas. Of course, Price would become a forbearer of American country music and create a sound like no other artist before him.
Although he had a love of music from an early age, Price initially decided to go to college and become a veterinarian. His collegiate plans were interrupted by World War II, however, when he was drafted into the United States Marine Corps. After serving in the Pacific Theater of war, Price returned home to continue his studies.
But he couldn’t deviate from country music — not to become a veterinarian, not for anything. Price immersed himself more and more into the world of Texas country music. He began singing in nearby towns before joining the Big D Jamboree as a singer on Dallas’ KRLD-AM radio station in 1949. During this time, Price forged a close friendship with Lefty Frizzell and began recording a stream of demos. This eventually earned him a recording contract and spurred him to move to Nashville.
After relocating, Price ended up living with Hank Williams for a short time in the early 1950s. He went on to become the manager for Williams’ band, the Drifting Cowboys, following his death in 1953. Price then formed his own band, the Cherokee Cowboys, which featured a rotating roster of artists. Roger Miller, Willie Nelson, Johnny Paycheck and Buddy Emmons were among the most famous members of the group.
Price became one of the biggest country honky tonk artists in the late 1950s. Many of his hits featured what is now called the “Ray Price Shuffle,” which features a 4/4 beat with a recognizable bass line. You can hear the “shuffle” in some of Price’s biggest hits, including his number one hit “Crazy Arms.”
In the 1960s, Price became a purveyor of the new Nashville sound, which featured soaring ballads driven by string sections. Over the next two decades, Price earned three more number one hits 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.”
In his final years, Price released a two-disc collaborative project with Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard called Last of the Breed, which featured new renditions of 20 classic country songs. Price was working on a new album, Beauty Is…, when he passed away from pancreatic cancer on Dec. 16, 2013. Price’s widow, Janie Price, released the album for download through Amazon on Apr. 15, 2014.
Although he is gone, Price’s musical legacy will live on for generations to come. Revisit one of his biggest career hits, “For The Good Times,” by watching this vintage performance video above.